You may have already spotted me wearing my lifting shoes on Instagram or you may have even seen others at the box at the box wearing them, and wondered what exactly these shoes are for. Essentially, they create a sturdy platform in order to do dynamic Olympic lifts, and they also raise the heel, meaning you can squat lower to get underneath a heavy snatch easier.
The clothes do not make the man, though, just as the kit doesn’t necessarily make a CrossFitter – so do you really need a pair of these weird-looking shoes in your kit bag? It’s totally up to you, of course, but read on to find out more about weightlifting shoes and make your own decision on whether they will be of benefit to you and your training.
What are weightlifting shoes?
Weightlifting shoes have very stiff soles for stability on an Olympic platform, and usually have a solid, high heel (around ¾”) to assist with ankle and hip mobility to get lower into a squat. The higher heel means the ankle has a smaller degree to move to attain the same depth of squat than you would have to do in a training shoe, like the one below right. Try squatting with small weight plates under your heels and you’ll see how much deeper you can get; this dept of squat helps the lifter get deeper underneath a snatch or squat clean, potentially lifting more weight.
The stiff sole also helps with energy transfer – in contrast with a running shoe, below left, which are made with lots of cushioning so the sole absorbs a lot of energy when it makes contact with the ground. This is great when you’re running long distances, but when you’re doing explosive Olympic lifts you want as much energy from your legs going into the lift as possible, and the hard soles allow you exert maximum force into the ground as you lift.
You’re also really well strapped in so your foot isn’t going to slip around in the shoe at an inopportune moment, and they’re rubbery on the bottom so the sole won’t slip on the shiny platform, either.
Are weightlifting shoes worth it?
Weightlifting shoes on their own won’t make me a better athlete, improve my form or help me lift heavier, unless they help me to get underneath a dynamic lift. Since wearing mine, though, I’ve found weightlifting on the whole a better experience, especially anything involving a squat, and I also feel more stable in anything explosive or overhead.
But is it all in my head? I’m not sure. When I try to squat without them on, my mobility stops me from getting any lower, so I’m not getting the full benefit of the lift. I know that when I wear them I have the confidence to get my bum back further and get down deeper.
When it comes to Olympic lifting in them: my clean, jerk and snatch weights have increased recently, but I believe that with my new shoes came a whole new focus on weightlifting, training consistency, and supplementation of things that have helped me recover and get stronger, so maybe they were part of an overall change that has benefited my lifting. I do know that I’ve been working on my snatch technique a lot recently, especially my launch and finish, and I’ve done that as I’ve enjoyed wearing my lifting shoes so much!
Nike Romaleos 2 – are they the best?
I think I’ve made it pretty clear already that I love my lifters. I nagged my boyfriend to get me them for Christmas as I decided these were the ones for me – after all, I will forever be a Nike girl! Besides that, the Romaleos seem to have the highest heel out of all lifting shoes available, which was a big USP for me: the higher the heel, the deeper my squat would be able to get. They look kind of weird, but I love their slightly robotic look and the black and white colourway looks sick, plus the two velcro straps are super secure (you don’t even really need the laces) and the velcro sticks all the way down to the sole.
However, these are the only lifters I’ve tried. I have friends who swear by Inov8 Fastlifts, which also seem to have a higher heel and cool colourways, and cost a mere £130 compared to Nike’s £180. I’ve even spotted them for as low as £60 in sales before, so perfect if you want a great shoe for a decent price.
Adidas and Reebok both make lifters too, though both have a lower heel. This lower heel makes them look sleeker, so if you’re more concerned about how they look and don’t have any issues with your squat depth, these could be for you. The Romaleos are a wide shoe, so if you have a narrower foot you may not get the stability you need – the Adipower (like my friend Pip‘s black and red pair, above) is narrower so may be better suited.
Apart from the heel height, they all seem to be much of a muchness, so before you invest in lifters I’d recommend you try a few pairs on – you could always ask a couple of friends from the gym if you could have a squat or two in theirs. It’s a lot of money to invest to find that you need a higher heel or a wider footbed – or even to find that they make no difference in your weightlifting whatsoever!
Don’t expect miracles though – anything that seems too good to be true usually is, remember, and though weightlifting shoes can make you feel a lot more stable in lifts, they won’t do the work for you. They’re a part of working towards getting better at weightlifting and CrossFit overall.