The sport of bodybuilding was growing and so was my love for it. Lifting was no longer a way to reshape my physique and strengthen my mind; it was becoming a way of life. A passion that ran deep. Getting up at 4am every morning to eat an hour before heading to the gym was the daily routine. Protein, carbs and caffeine got me going for my 5x5 routine. I was squatting three times a week. I feel if you're going to do something you have to do it right. That’s why I was started searching for the best weightlifting shoes. After reading a ton of reviews and digging into the details here's what I ended up buying and why.
This post goes into lots of detail about weightlifting shoes, but here’s the short version of my recommendation. It’s worth spending a little more to get the best shoes you can. If you're serious about getting into some heavier moves like barbell squats then I would recommend the Adidas Powerlift 4 weightlifting shoes. Those are the shoes I wear and I’ve been extremely happy with the value and quality of them.
There’s a shoe for every occasion. Strength training is no different. Ideally squats should be done in a flat soled shoe. Something like Chuck Taylor’s lets you fully ground your feet. For a while I was squatting and lifting in something similar. The version I had was a bright red pair of Puma Benecio Canvas. It was actually pretty good, flat, stable and could be laced tight enough to provide the right amount of support. They just ran their course. Unfortunately when I went to get another pair I found out they were discontinued which is what led to me researching the best current weightlifting shoes.
Why consider a weightlifting shoe?
I began to consider a weightlifting shoe on the premise that I would begin to take my training to the next level. I had reached a squat of 315lbs (142kg) and wanted to continue my progression. One main problem I started to notice was that my foot began to slip in my other shoes and I felt I was losing strength whilst trying to fight for stabilization.
One could argue that this was due to weak glutes and potentially some under-active abductor muscles. As well as a lack of mobility in my ankle. However I’m the type of person that has to have the tools for the job so a weightlifting shoe was going to be the answer as they’re designed to increase ankle mobility.
I didn’t just jump into any weightlifting shoes. I did my research. I read what others had written about them. I looked at what athletes in weightlifting, powerlifting and strength training were wearing. I began to wonder why were they wearing these? Where did they come from? What benefits would I gain? All the questions I began to ask. It turned out a weightlifting shoe actually gave the athlete a slight advantage.
The evolution of a weightlifting shoe
Marxist philosopher Engels, noticed the balance in nature between form and function. That same balance is critical in sport and athletic footwear. Athlete’s shoes, their design and functionality vary based on whatever sport they play. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that a shoe for weightlifting exists. The weightlifting shoe has evolved over the years as has the evolution of weightlifting techniques.
The weightlifting shoe came about based on how a weightlifter would set up to complete a lift and move their body under the barbell. Initially, international weightlifting competitions existed of 5 lifts but were later reduced to 3. One for power and two for speed. Those lifts were the press, snatch and clean and jerk. It was the two speed lifts that started to shape what an athletes footwear would be like.
In order to lift heavier weights athletes figured out that the faster they got under the bar and the lower they were able to get meant they had less of a distance to travel. Original techniques consisted of different foot placements.
With these techniques boxing shoes or sneakers were good enough. It wasn’t until weightlifters figured out that they could get even lower under the bar by significantly pushing the front shin forward which would cause flexion in the ankle. However it was hard to keep the foot flat on the floor with this new technique. In comes the heeled shoe.
The heel on a weightlifting shoe was designed to enable greater movement in the ankle. Flat boxing shoes and boots just weren’t cutting it. That’s when specialized shoes began to be created. The first weightlifting shoe was a high top with a heel. However it was found that the high tops were too restrictive and eventually chopped down to a low cut shoe.
That’s when Adidas decided to begin working hand in hand with weightlifters to find the perfect harmony in form and function. Adidas was the first and only manufacturer of weightlifting shoes for nearly 40 years. They’ve since gone on to establish the standard in which a weightlifting shoe is designed.
Benefits of a weightlifting shoe
As stated previously the balance between form and function is what’s necessary in a weightlifting shoe. They’ve been designed for the sole purpose of improving mobility, increasing stability and enhancing lifts. Their main benefit is flat out increased performance.
When you wear a weightlifting shoe you increase the height of your ankle slightly which allows for greater mobility. The increased mobility allows for greater flexion of the ankle and a further forward lean in the shins. Thus enabling a lifter to gain greater depth underneath the barbell.
What to look for in a weightlifting shoe
When you set out to grab a pair of weightlifting shoes it might get a little confusing. Even though they are simple in design they are quite complex. You’ll want to consider a few things. The main decision making factors are going to be heel heights, straps/ tightening, heel material and lacing.
A good weightlifting shoe has an upper boot that is typically a little higher allowing for me stability in the ankle area, at least one strap or some sort of tightening mechanism, more room in the toes, a slightly elevated heel around ¾’s of an inch and stiff heels made from wood, EVA or leather.
Your body’s makeup will come into play when choosing the right heel height though. The average heel height is about ¾’s of an inch. This is okay for most but might need to be increased or decreased if you have a long or short torso. Taller heels will however increase the range of motion in the ankles.
Securing mechanisms using come in the form of a strap or two with typical laces but a more modern version of a weightlifting shoe might incorporate BOA technology. BOA is a securing mechanism that allows you to dial in on the exact tightness of the shoe. It’s a little dial you turn to increase the tightness of the cable. A standard single strap shoe will suffice though.
Heels come in a variety of materials. The basic element you’re looking for is stiffness. You don’t want them to have any give whatsoever. That’s the whole point of the shoe, increased stability. The standard variety is a form of EVA or extremely hard plastic. There are other options like wood or stacked leather. It’s all preference really as they initially do the same thing.
If you buy a weightlifting shoe just make sure it’s gonna be stable and secure, that’s it honestly.
Why the Adidas weightlifting shoe?
As a loyal Adidas fan I must admit I bought the Adidas Powerlift 4 Weightlifting Shoe out of pure brand preference. as they are the brand with the most history in weightlifting shoes. There were a few other shoes on the market at the time like the Nike Romaleos but I couldn’t be swayed by the neon green. I also figured that since a lot of Olympic Weightlifters wore them they must be pretty good! What I did find was that they had high rated reviews and for the most part others who had purchased them were happy.
The Adidas Powerlift 4 weightlifting shoes are without doubt very sturdy shoes. Since buying them I've not had any issues with them and I now don't worry about my foot slipping or not being stable enough. The sole is mad of a really grippy rubber and the wedge at the back of the shoe is made out of a much more solid hard rubber. The upper is a lightweight canvas making this an all round, very high quality weightlifting shoe.
When wearing the Adidas Powerlift 4 weightlifting shoes I've gained mobility in my ankles and have been able to get lower with my squats. That slight wedge makes it so my tight calves can be stretched. In retrospect I really should have worked on my flexibility as that was the main issue, but these shoes did help out a lot. I worked up from 315lbs to a current 405lbs.
I did use my Adidas Powerlift 4 shoes for lifts other than the squat. Initially I kept them on for my full day’s worth of training except for deadlifts. However I was also incorporating olympic style lifts into my routine since my gym buddy was an Oly lifter. The shoes naturally helped a lot in the basic olympic lifts.
They have so far lasted well. I've been using them for over 2 years now and they are still in excellent condition. If I was in the position to purchase another weightlifting shoe I probably would go back to them even though there are many more brands on the market now. My experience has been great. I got what I expected out of the shoes and do see a real value in having them.
My experience with the Adidas Powerlift 4 weightlifting shoes has been above and beyond what I expected. Truthfully they really did give me the advantage I was looking for. If I you are considering a buying weightlifting shoes then I highly recommend them.