Keen to know what to look for in the best weightlifting shoes? Are the same as the best gym trainers or, well, do you need strength-specific support?
FYI, the shoes that support your body best for strength training are a far cry from the best running trainers. When strength training, you'll need a sole that's flat and sturdy, unlike trainers designed for cardio which are often cushioned and bouncy.
Wearing the right trainer is important because? Well, as you want your feet, arches, and heels to be able to spread and grip, in turn providing a solid foundation on which to push and pull. All of the weight on the bar or dumbbell will first and foremost move through your feet — and in turn, your shoes.
"Being asked about the best weightlifting shoes is one of the most common things I hear as a coach," says Jess Rosart, gym manager and coach at WIT Fitness. "In my opinion, they're one of the most important pieces of kit to invest in."
Research from Reebok shows that 71% of women are weight training in their running shoes, while 65% run in their gym trainers. Other studies show that squatting in running trainers reduced knee flexion — meaning you don't squat as deeply — and led to a less upright posture.
So - where to start with so many options out there? Know that if you can't afford new shoes right now, barefoot training has heaps of benefits. Plus, you'll likely see the pros practicing heavy, heavy lifts in shoes with a slight heel raise, too.
But as for best weightlifting shoes for recreational movers, we've got you. Below, Ally Head, Marie Claire UK's Health and Sustainability editor, offers a controversial favourite that's seen her through strength training, freelance writer and fitness trainer Chloe Gray shares the shoes that have got her through her PB's, alongside CrossFit athlete and winner of the Fittest Women In The UK 2022, Lucy Campbell, and Crossfit athlete, Aimee Cringle, sharing their favourites.
What should you look for to find the best weightlifting shoes?
- The footbed: it's goodbye to cushioning and padding and hello to minimal insoles that allow you to feel grounded and spread your feet.
- The sole: Think flat shoes, with every corner making contact with the ground at all times (unlike running trainers that are often turned up at the toe). Look for a grippy base, too.
- The ankle: like in running, you've got to protect your ankles when you lift. Ensure your shoes feel sturdy around the joint but still allow enough room for free movement.
- The price: it goes without saying that you have to shop within your budget. Luckily, some of the best weightlifting shoes are surprisingly affordable.
8 best weightlifting shoes, according to experts
Although she prefers raised-heel weightlifting shoes, Lucy Campbell, CrossFit athlete and winner of the Fittest Women In The World 2022, still squats in her Metcons.
Pros: "I find they provide a good amount of stability which is great for when you have to lift weights in a workout," says Lucy.
Cons: Lucy says that if you struggle with your mobility and have stiff ankles (poor dorsiflexion) a higher heeled shoe may suit you better as it will make it easier for you to get into the bottom of a squat.
Bet you weren't expecting to see converse on this list, were you? If you're looking for a flat and supportive sole, you don't need to look much further than your beloved converse, says Health Editor Ally Head.
Pros: They're aesthetically universal — that is, you can wear them everywhere and aren't spending loads on a shoe option you will only wear to workout in. They last forever (I've had mine for near ten years) and they are supportive for deadlifts, barbell hip thrusts and so on.
Cons: They're not great for anything other than your day to day activities and weight lifting — don't, I repeat, don't! — wear them for HIIT exercises, as you'll give yourself shin splints pretty pronto.
These are Lululemon's all-rounder shoe, and they're a great option if you're after a pair of weight lifting shoes that you can also do HIIT in, says Ally Head. She's worn them for weight training classes, strength sessions and more, and they're supportive, and keep your ankle steady, too.
Pros: They keep you stable for squatting but are also springy enough for things like high knees and jumping lunges. They also have a flexible yet super-charged outsole which is supportive for both strength training and HIIT session.
Cons: The double logo is quite noticeable, and if you don't like an overly-branded shoe, you'll notice it. Plus, do go half a size up, as they run small.
For Aimee Cringle, one of most talked about UK female athletes within the European CrossFit scene, it's Nike Romaleos for weight training.
Pros: "They’re an incredibly stable shoe which you want for lifting and have an adjustable strap across the mid-foot to provide with further support," she says.
Cons: The heel is on the larger end of the spectrum for weightlifting shoes, which might not be right for everyone, but works for Aimee due to her longer-than-average quads.
Another hybrid shoe, the Nano is sturdy and flat enough to be used for weightlifting but also packs a little bounce in case you want to finish off your training with a sweaty HIIT circuit, says Chloe.
Pros: A wide, flat base that allows you to spread your feet out and feel grounded. There are so many versions of the shoe so you can find the style that best suits your feet and your colour palette. They're also super grippy on the bottom for safety too.
Cons: The latest versions aren't quite as flat as the original Nano Xs, IMO.
Yes, another Lululemon recommendation. What can we say? Those lot know what they're doing. When it comes to Strongfeel, the shoe is designed speficially for, well, feeling strong — and that involves lifting weights. Since trying them, Chloe Gray wears nothing else to the gym on leg day.
Pros: The flat base gives loads of room for foot spreading but doesn't feel too hard under foot, which is nicer if you're spending a while in the gym. They look good for day-to-day wear too, and are sturdy enough to be used for functional fitness that includes explosive moves.
Cons: The only downside is that they're not exactly cheap — but relative to other lifting shoes and cost-per-wear, they are worth it.
Lightweight and sturdy aren't two things that usually go together, but somehow these UnderArmour shoes have done the impossible. Their unique 'TriBase' design optimises ground contact so you can push off all corners of your feet.
Pros: Chloe found these breathable and light while being strong and supportive. They have low soles to encourage connection to the floor — basically helping your feet and ankles do what they should do, only better.
Cons: They have quite a strong design, so might not be to everyone's taste, but if you're into them then we'd say you can't get much better.
If you feel weird about taking your shoes off in the gym for barefoot training (look, we get it) then try these shoes that are designed to not feel like shoes. They're foot-shaped, rather than shoe shaped, so your feet can actually spread very thin to allow you to get feedback from the floor below.
Pros: Eco-friendly credentials and a 4mm sole really puts you back in touch with nature, shares Chloe. They're also incredibly flexible shoes (you can roll them into a ball) which makes transporting them easy but, most importantly, means they'll travel with you wherever and however you want to move.
Cons: The USP of this show is that everything about it is different to what we are used to. That's good in the long run, but does take some getting used to.
Why should I buy weightlifting shoes?
Short answer - because it's key to not only improving your gains, but protecting your posture, too.
"The most important thing to remember is your foot is meant to have all its toes completely flat on the ground when strength training and weightlifting," explains says Jess Rosart, gym manager and coach at WIT Fitness. "Your toes anchor your entire foot and enhances stability. Think about when you are squatting or deadlifting — you want to feel as stable as possible. If your feet are able to grasp the ground, this will provide stability for the entire body, putting you in the best possible position for your lifts."
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Chloe Gray is a freelance journalist who writes and talks about health, fitness, and wellbeing through a feminist lens. She was part of the launch team for Stylist magazine's fitness brand, Strong Women, and has written for i news, Women's Health, Red magazine, Good Housekeeping, Refinery29, and more. She's all about building mental and physical strength, eating delicious food that fuels you well, and making the fitness industry more accessible and enjoyable. She's also a qualified fitness trainer and research nerd, so you can be sure everything you read is backed by proper science.
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