Just about every sport has the necessary gear and equipment that goes with it. From fancy gadgets with the latest technology to useless accessories made by companies only to earn your dollar. You can spend money on fluff or you can spend it on something that will give you real world feedback. Either way, my first instinct upon seeing someone decked out in their gear is, "Wow, they must be really really good."
Think about it. If someone whips out their own bowling ball from a personalized monogrammed bag, I’m willing to bet they spend way more time bowling in a week than I do in a year. The same thing goes to the guy that pulls out his own cue stick from a black leather case as he’s sizing you up while slowly twisting the two ends together. Not someone I want to bet against in a game of pool. Both are universal signs that says, "Hey buddy, I know what I’m doing."
I thought the same thing when it comes to weightlifting shoes. The fancy straps, the wooden heel and the funky designs that looks like bowling shoes on steroids.
"I don’t need those shoes yet," I thought.
"I will buy some when I get stronger."
Waiting to get stronger before you buy weightlifting shoes is like waiting to get in shape before joining a gym. By the time I finally broke down and bit the bullet, I quickly discovered why these shoes were such a big help and why I should have purchased them a long long time ago.
Keep in mind that when I write about Weightlifting shoes, I am referring to shoes specifically developed for the Snatch, Clean, Jerk, and Squatting out of those positions. Not to be confused with Powerlifting or traditional weight training.
The purpose of the shoe is pretty simple: weightlifters need tons of support in their feet. Gravity is an unforgiving force that can easily break us mentally and physically if things are not just right. Extremely heavy loads come crashing down on the front shoulders and in the hands of stretched out arms. This all happens within fractions of a second and catching the weight just right is crucial. The feet are the foundation of each catch and squat so a slight sway in any direction outside of the balancing point by fractions of an inch and the weight will all come crashing down.
A weightlifting shoe offers more stability and support to the lifter than any running shoe or athletic shoe ever could. The stiff leather upper coupled with a center strap(s) braces the foot while jumping and landing to catch the barbell. During a lift, the forces from the legs can stay direct, vertically pressing into the bar instead of shifting side-to-side and struggling to find stability laterally. In essence, less force is spent minimizing foot roll during the lift.
To accomplish this, the heel of the shoe is raised and super firm. Usually made up of wood or a hard plastic, this creates a solid platform that improves one’s energy transfer. Imagine trying to jump while standing on a thick foam pad. The feedback you would feel is far different than jumping while standing on a hard wooden surface. The lifted heel helps weightlifters find their full squat depth. The 3/4" lift requires less ankle flexion from the lifter, thus minimizing the achilles tendon’s tug of the the calcaneus, which could pitch the athlete on their toes. This greater ankle flexion also directly translates to a more upright torso position. Any weightlifter knows that having an upright spine is exactly what is needed when catching the clean or snatch under heavy load.
Don’t make the same mistake I made and wait too long before purchasing a pair of your own. It is a necessary part of your fitness career. For guidance on which shoes to buy, click here for Weightlifting Shoes: A Buyer’s Guide for some direction on finding the perfect shoe for you.