In the latest article refresh, we gave our top seven lifting shoes chart a bit of a shakeup to keep things up to date.
This included removing the slightly older Reebok Men’s Crossfit Nano 8.0 and replacing them with the high-end Reebok Legacy Lifter Flexweave, which went straight in at number one.
Success in weightlifting comes from your strength, discipline, technique and determination – but the gear you use can be the difference between crushing or flunking your PB.
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Lifting shoes – often known simply as ‘lifters’ or ‘Chuck Taylors’ – are worn to give you the edge on deadlifts, squats, power cleans or any heavy lift where stability and balance are paramount.
In this article we have lined up a chart of seven of our favorite lifting shoes, complete with short reviews of each, along with their pros and cons. We’ve included a good variety of shoes for men and women, and for both powerlifters and CrossFit athletes.
After the chart, we dive into a more in-depth look at weightlifting shoes, with a discussion on their designs, materials and more. Let’s get to it!
Reebok is a name that commands respect in the world of weightlifting, whether that’s their CrossFit shoes or – in the case of this article’s top pick – trusted Legacy Lifter collection.
These new shoes combine the stability of an Exoframe heel with the comfort and flexibility of a Flexweave upper to deliver an all-round high-performance shoe that is actually very comfortable to wear. It also looks pretty damn classy, in either the sophisticated black or more extroverted white/teal/pink variety.
Stability is enhanced by both a TPU heel piece in the midsole, along with two Velcro straps to lock in your feet. Meanwhile, the 0.75” heel drop is ideal for squatting. It’s not a cheap lifting shoe, but you are rewarded with another tool to help you crush PBs.
With the Fastlift collection, Inov-8 puts the emphasis on comfort and flexibility, without compromising on support and stability. The 335 is the most affordable shoe in the series, which naturally makes it one of the most popular.
Available in a stealthy all-black design – as well as a dark green and orange version – this traditional-style lifting shoe features a nylon ripstop upper, with an additional Velcro midfoot strap. At the back you’ll find an external heel cage with Power-Truss technology, offering a rock-solid base from which to squat.
The Meta-Flex technology on the sole, combined with a decent rubber grip, makes this shoe more flexible than some of its competitors. This is great for more explosive movements, such as Olympic weightlifting, as well as enhancing comfort when walking around the gym.
Sizes: 7 to 15
Material: Synthetic upper, rubber sole
Features: Multiple designs, removable Hyperlift insert, dual-density midsole, padded tongue, breathable mesh, medial rope grip
Our next pick is the first of several sneaker-style shoes on this chart, proving a popular choice for CrossFit and dynamic workouts, with great stability for heavier lifting.
Available in several attractive designs, this versatile Nike shoe is lightweight and comfortable whatever your activity – running, jumping or lifting. It features a 3D-printed upper, padded tongue, lockdown fit and enhanced side grips for rope climbs.
Move from the CrossFit box to the squat rack and these shoes continue to perform. They feature a dual-density midsole that is firmer and wider in the heel. When combined with the removable Hyperlift insert, the Metcon 5 provides the stability required on heavy powerlifts. Not a cheap pair, but ideal if you dabble in everything.
Sizes: 9 to 13
Material: SuperFabric upper, rubber sole
Features: Breathable SuperFabric upper, flexible sole, multiple colors, high carbon lateral grip, medial rope grip, heavy-duty sole traction
We feel these sneakers from NOBULL are the modern gym equivalent of a good pair of Chuck Taylors. They have the support and stability required for lifting, but with better comfort and looks than standard weightlifting shoes.
These trainers combine a breathable and seamless SuperFabric upper with a flexible sole that makes running and dynamic movements a comfortable experience. The shoes feature a flat and stable base, making them ideal for deadlifting, although the lack of a significant heel may not appeal to squatters.
They also look great, available in a range of colors including black, white, red and vanilla. Such appealing aesthetics combined with the overall comfort makes them a great all-rounder – ideal if you enjoy everything from traditional weightlifting to cardio.
Sizes: 5.5 to 11
Material: Synthetic upper, rubber sole
Features: Two color choices, external Power-Truss heel cage, Meta-Flex rubber soles, Velcro midfoot strap, wide toe box, breathable inner lining
Sizes: 4 to 19
Material: Synthetic leather upper and synthetic sole
Features: Various colors available, high-density heel, air mesh inner, ventilation holes, Velcro midfoot strap, durable Adiwear sole
We were able to hands-on test these adidas shoes – and it was a pleasure! From a brand name you can trust, the Powerlift 3.1 shoes are a more affordable alternative to some of our top choices.
However, the comfort and functionality are excellent. Available in several color choices, these shoes are made solely from synthetic materials, with a synthetic leather upper and Velcro midfoot strap for good lockdown. Breathability and fit are good throughout, with a collar, tongue and lining made from a comfortable air mesh.
The 0.6” high-density heel makes these shoes excellent for squats and Olympic movements, while they can also be used effectively for deadlifting. The heavy-duty Adiwear sole enhances the durability. Great for lifting, and walking to and from the gym, although too firm for cardio activities.
Nordic Lifting is a big name in the fitness industry, offering generally solid gear and accessories at a wallet-friendly price. Their Megin powerlifting shoes are exactly this – a strong pair of entry-level lifting shoes that don’t break the bank.
The Megins feature a design similar to the Powerlift 3.1 and Lifter PRs, with a choice of two colors. One major difference is that they offer a significantly taller heel, coming in at 1.4”. This makes these shoes ideal for heavy squats, although they may prove too steep for deadlifting.
The shoe itself is made from synthetic materials and a cotton mesh on the forefoot for enhanced breathability. There’s a completely flat rubber sole, while the inner of the shoe features a comfortable breathable mesh. Great value for a sturdy pair of lifters.
So, you’ve checked out our chart and are now convinced – yes, you need a pair of weightlifting shoes!
With them, you’ll be able to improve your form, increase your powerlifts, and generally give yourself a more stable platform when lifting in the gym or box.
However, which shoes are right for you? When it’s the difference between success and failure in a new 1RM, determining this will be worth it!
In the following section we take a look at some of the factors you should consider ahead of buying yourself a new pair of lifters. Keep these points in mind as you browse shoe stores and online marketplaces.
Gym shoes comes in several forms, all suited to different activities, whether that’s running or HIIT. However, you can usually tell a weightlifting shoe thanks to a few common traits.
The first is a stiff sole. This is primarily what sets a lifting shoe apart from a running shoe (which is built with compression and cushioning in mind).
Compression in a shoe is a weightlifter’s worst enemy. This is because the amount you lift comes down to the amount of force you can produce on the ground. Even a small amount of compression in a shoe will absorb force, which will negatively impact your lift.
You will find several designs of shoes suitable for weightlifting. However, traditional lifting shoes tend to feature rigid midsoles with very little compression.
In addition to this firm design, the upper portion of a traditional shoe usually comes with a Velcro metatarsal strap that tightens to help you lock down your foot, preventing any unnecessary movement or slipping within the shoe.
In the past, weightlifting shoes were known to be very uncomfortable, although in recent years this is less of a problem. However, due to the flat soles, low traction and lack of cushioning (not to mention the old-school design), they are not really a pair of shoes you would want to wear during leisure time.
Some manufacturers have remedied this by developing modern lifting shoes that resemble sneakers in terms of design and comfort. While these sneaker designs still don’t feature much cushioning, they prove a bit more forgiving than traditional lifters, making them more versatile for other activities.
If you are a serious powerlifter, a traditional lifting shoe is best for you. Something like a pair from Inov-8’s Fastlift collection, or Adidas’s Adipower or Powerlift Series. These will give you the stability and firmness required, at the slight expense of comfort and style.
If you lift weights, but enjoy wearing your shoes for other activities, a modern lifting sneaker may be more suited to you. This could be something from Nike’s Metcon or Reebok’s CrossFit Nano collection.
As the name suggests, these modern sneaker-style shoes are more suited to dynamic sessions, such as CrossFit, circuit training and other forms of functional cardio.
With the more modern sneaker design you do lose a little stability and feel. However, unless you are aiming for a huge 1RM or are a competing powerlifter, it may be a trade-off you are willing to make.
Note that, aside from traditional and sneaker-style shoes, you can also use other shoes for lifting with good success.
Some lifters use Chuck Taylors – also known as Converse All Stars. While these iconic shoes were originally designed for basketball, their flat and relatively firm sole makes for a good lifting shoe. The fact that you can comfortably walk home or go for a coffee in them afterwards is a bonus!
In the same spirit, some lifters wear wrestling shoes. Though these are a lot less fashionable, their lack of a cushioned sole makes them feel similar to lifting barefoot.
In addition to providing a firm sole, another thing that lifting shoes often feature is a raised heel – particularly on traditional lifting shoes (sneaker-style shoes are typically flat).
This isn’t a huge heel, usually ranging from around half an inch to just over an inch, although the average height is 0.75”. It is noticeable, but nobody will mistake you for wearing stilettos!
Having a raised heel on a lifting shoe can benefit the squat greatly, as it allows you to go deeper while retaining an upright posture.
The heel size you choose will largely depend on factors including your height, your squat stance, and whether you perform a high or low-bar squat.
If you are serious about powerlifting, speaking with a personal trainer or coach about heel height will help you determine the best heel height for you. If you want to take a gamble, a depth of around 0.75” tends to help most lifters in the squat.
There is an argument to be made over whether it is an advantage or disadvantage to wear heeled lifting shoes for deadlifts. At Fitness Verve, some of us deadlift in heeled shoes, others deadlift barefoot.
It’s a personal choice, so try what works best for you – even if that means initially borrowing a pair of lifters from a friend.
We have established that compression in lifting shoes is not desirable. So, what kind of materials should be used?
These days, a synthetic heel is by far the most common and is usually made from TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) or EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate). These high-density plastic heels provide the rigidity required to transfer the most force in the heaviest lifts.
If you prefer things more natural, more traditional and more premium, some lifting shoes make use of stacked leather or wooden heels. These classic sole materials are said to allow lifters to feel the ground better and are commonly used by Olympic weightlifting athletes.
These traditional materials are just as effective as plastic in terms of non-compressibility. Go and push your hand against a wooden table and see how much it compresses – you will soon understand why it makes for a good lifting heel!
However, wood and, in particular, leather, can have durability issues down the line. If you keep them for decades, perhaps you will notice some deterioration, but this is unlikely to sway your decision.
While we have focused on the heel, the uppers of lifting shoes will usually be made from leather or synthetic material (often with breathable qualities), while the outsoles will be made from rubber to provide grip when walking and lifting.
Just as it is when buying a pair of work boots or leisure shoes, finding a lifting shoe with the correct fit is very important.
Wearing something too big will result in your foot moving and slipping around inside the shoe, which can be a disadvantage – and danger – during a lift. Equally, something too small will be uncomfortable and distracting.
Buying weightlifting shoes online is convenient, while usually offering more choice and better prices. However, the biggest problem is that you cannot try the shoes on before you buy, as you would at a sports store.
To remedy this, some manufacturers will offer clear sizing guides and measurement charts, allowing you to choose the size that will best fit your feet.
Pay attention to these. Don’t simply assume that because you take a size 10 for your work shoes that a size 10 will be suitable for your lifters. Some brands run big and some run small.
It is a good idea to browse the manufacturers’ website or marketing information, as well as user reviews, which can help determine if the shoes are on the big or small side.
Luckily, if you purchase from a reputable seller or marketplace, you will be covered by a good returns policy, allowing you to replace a pair of shoes for another size if the originals don’t fit correctly.
If you have spent some time browsing the market, you will find that some weightlifting shoes have a raised heel, averaging 0.75”. This is not random, but for a good reason.
The idea is that this heel places the ankle on an elevated surface and increases the range of motion in the joint. In turn, this allows you to achieve a greater depth in the squat while retaining an upright torso.
For squats and a range of Olympic weightlifting, this heel can benefit the lifter greatly and allows them to lift more weight.
If you are new to fitness and are finding your feet in the weights room, you may have started to wonder whether you need a pair of weightlifting shoes.
As we discuss throughout this article, weightlifting shoes are designed specifically for making weightlifting more stable.
Wearing a pair of comfortable sneakers or running shoes may be fine if you are using the leg extender or curling a few dumbbells. However, as you start to deadlift, squat and press with heavy weights, these nicely cushioned shoes won’t offer you the stability you need.
If you are lifting heavy weights on a regular basis, a pair of weightlifting shoes can be a great investment.
Powerlifters and those sticking to the weights room will be best suited with a traditional lifting shoe – those with a slightly raised heel, firm midsole and additional midfoot support. This kind of shoe is well worth it for the increased stability on offer.
On the other hand, if you are interested in CrossFit or using your lifting shoes for some light cardio, then a modern sneaker-style lifting shoe will be more appropriate. While less suitable for heavy powerlifting, these shoes are a bit more forgiving and versatile.
Since its arrival on the fitness scene in 2000, CrossFit has spawned all kinds of gear tailored to the athletes participating in the high-intensity fitness regime.
This includes shoes. CrossFit shoes differ from traditional weightlifting shoes in that they are more flexible, more comfortable and – let’s face it – more stylish.
But are they good enough for standard weightlifting, or just a glorified sneaker?
In a CrossFit WOD, you may be deadlifting, then performing burpees, then running. Your CrossFit shoes therefore need to be able to offer enough comfort and flexibility to allow you to move with speed, but equally enough stability and rigidity to allow you to produce the force required to hoist heavy barbells.
CrossFit shoes – such as those in Nike’s Metcon collection and Reebok’s CrossFit Nano series – are built to cope with the demands of squats, power cleans and deadlifts.
So yes, CrossFit shoes are good for weightlifting, even if they lack some of the firmness that traditional lifters offer.
Of course, weightlifters who aren’t interested in CrossFit or similar regimes will be better off with a traditional pair of lifting shoes – something with a rigid plastic, wooden or leather sole.
Sticking to the squat rack, you won’t need the enhanced comfort or flexibility of a CrossFit shoe, so going for a sturdier pair will benefit you more in the long run.
Walk into any serious gym – especially one with a deadlift platform – and chances are you will see somebody lining up for a heavy lift with no shoes on.
Did they forget their shoes? No, they have simply taken them off and are training barefoot.
As with pretty much anything in the world of fitness, training barefoot splits opinion with several perceived pros and cons.
Those advocating barefoot lifting – which includes many lifters, trainers, physical therapists and podiatrists – claim that it helps you grip and feel the ground better than you would while wearing shoes.
The idea is that, by making use of the nerves in your feet, you become more stable and have more control over your lifts, which can lead to better form.
It can also lead to more power produced. With moves such as the squat and deadlift, barefoot lifting allows you to exert more force into the ground. As there is no shoe between you and the ground, no force is being leaked, which – in theory – should allow you to lift heavier.
Training barefoot is also a way to train your feet. It may sound odd, but while we train our entire bodies with compound and isolation movements, our feet – usually tucked away inside shoes – miss out.
By peeling off those shoes, you train your feet to become stronger, which can help you avoid and correct injuries to both your feet and legs.
Finally, barefoot lifting can help expose weaknesses in your range of motion. This is because, without shoes, your feet are flat on the ground. In squatting moves, this flatness will challenge and eventually improve your ankle mobility – or, at least, highlight what needs improving.
Other groups are less positive about training barefoot.
One apparent problem is that, by lifting heavy weights on feet that aren’t used to it, you can damage the bones – in particular, the fragile second metatarsal.
Some also argue that lifting barefoot doesn’t provide the protection required if you were to drop a weight on your foot. However, dropping a heavy barbell onto your foot is likely to damage it, regardless of whether you are wearing a shoe of not!
We say that, if you are going to train barefoot, just use caution – don’t jump straight in and attempt a 1RM without any shoes!
If you have never done it before, chances are your feet are much weaker than you think. Start incorporating barefoot training in your warmup and cool down. Then take your shoes off for a few lighter sets, before working up in weight.
Just like there is no one-size-fits-all shoe, there is no perfect lifting shoe for everybody. Heel height, material, design, flexibility and fit – everyone will benefit from something different.
Our chart offers seven excellent choices for lifting shoes, regardless of your style and activity. Whether you want something with a rigid heel for heavy squats or a bit more flexibility for CrossFit, we hope this chart has offered some inspiration.
However, there are many others worth checking out, so do some browsing and research of your own before you settle on a pair. It may be the best thing you ever did for your lifting career!