Stability starts from the ground up—
And, if your platform is unsteady, so will be the rest of your body!
If you want to be your strongest, having the right footwear can be a game changer for your fitness.
Proper footwear for your training will improve your force production, strength & stability, while wearing the wrong footwear will limit your performance and put you at risk of injury.
What’s wrong with regular old tennis shoes?
General tennis shoes are designed with heavy cushioning for shock absorption. This is beneficial when running as it prevents injury. However, while weightlifting, this actually creates an unstable surface, decreasing force production and increases risk of injury. With heavy arch support and cushioning, the general tennis shoe is designed to tip your body weight forward, this does not create a solid or stable base for lifting.
So why does this matter?
Your feet are essential in activating the involuntary muscular contraction, “the stretch reflex”, which occurs when you're attempting to push through the bottom of squats and other heavy lifts. The further your feet are from the ground, the less muscular contraction that can occur, which decreases your movement efficiency . By keeping your feet stable and in one position, as close to the ground as possible, the minimalist shoe provides improved movement efficiency, and enables optimal force transfer from the ground into the a movement. The raised heel on the weightlifting shoe improves torso position and enables a pelvic tilt, which favorably alters center of gravity. This helps you reach depth and stay more upright when lifting.
In terms of the best type of shoe for your general training, multiple footwear companies, such as Nike, New Balance, Adidas and Brooks, have all concluded that a minimalist shoe is the best for general training as it offers your feet more flexibility and stability than typical running shoes, due to their specific design based on foot structure, rather than shoe structure.
Minimalist shoes are "Footwear providing minimal interference with the natural movement of the foot due to its high flexibility, low heel to toe drop, weight and stack height." In other words, minimalist shoes have a flat sole and allow your foot and ankle to function like it would naturally.
Minimalist shoes reduce the amount of force absorption that occurs through the shoe. Therefore when you are lifting weights, jumping, swinging a kettlebell, the minimalist shoe allows you to direct more force into the ground, and resultantly produce more force upwards into the movement.
Minimalist shoes also improve your balance and stability, due to reduced ankle mobility with the shoe. Thus, providing you with a more stable base for movement. By stimulating the proprioceptive response, which is the body’s sense of balance and coordination, it:
- Increases activation of one’s gluteals and midsection
- Increases stabilization of the hips
- Can alleviate lower back pain.
Minimalist shoes decrease your risk of injury.
This type of shoe will help strengthen the muscles around your ankles and in your feet, and create a situation of optimal stability in the foot and ankle. According to the laws of physics, the impact forces on our joints and tissues actually increase in more cushioned shoes.
Minimalist shoes, which are flat-soled and flexible, allow our feet and bodies to feel everything about the ground, and therefore become more aware of our movements and how we are performing. Over time, when wearing these shoes, we naturally adjust our movements to reduce impact forces on our joints. Thus reducing risk of joint injury.
Minimalist shoe users tend to adopt a mid-foot strike when making contact with the ground, this allows the ankle to better contribute to shock absorption. With more joints handling the shock, the forces get more evenly distributed between the lower extremity joints.
So what shoe should you get? In terms of purchasing, if you have a wider forefoot, then New Balance or Brooks minimalist shoes will feel more comfortable to you. If you have narrow heels and high arches, Nike Frees and Adidas Adipures will be best.
Weight Lifting Shoes
If you’re serious about your squats, then upgrading to weightlifting shoes can improve your performance through increased force production, strength and stability. Weightlifting shoes function like a lifting belt for your foot.
Weightlifting shoes are beneficial for foot support and protection. Your feet will be fully strapped into the shoe, with an actual strap that wraps around the shoe to allow your feet to be snug and optimize stability, and your arches fully supported. The optimal foot support enables you to use all the force your body is able to produce, to help move the weight you are lifting. It also ensures that you have a strong and consistent base which is important for performance and injury prevention.
The design of the weightlifting shoe includes a raised heel. This increases the range of motion at the ankle, which forces the shin to incline forward. This shin movement produces a small knee angle, which in turn increases the recruitment of the quads and can improve your overall position, resulting in greater force production in lifts such as the squat and deadlifts. This raised heel also enables those with mobility or stability deficits to reach greater depth in their squat, due to the increased ankle mobility.
The flat sole of a weightlifting shoe is designed to be stiff and inflexible, to allow your foot to be a single unit against the floor. This stiffness provides increased stability of the foot, allowing you to be more stable and comfortable during your lift. The flat, stiff sole stability allows optimal force production from the ground up. As the foot is in optimum condition, no force is lost, and 100% of the force produced is used for movement.
So what weightlifting shoe should you buy? Weightlifting shoes designed specifically for barbell training include brands such as:
- VS Athletics
- Rogue Do-Win’s.
The sole of these shoes are flat and stiff, allowing optimal force production from the ground up.
Converse’s Chuck Taylors are also a common choice for training due to their flat, stiff sole and stability that can optimize force production.
Two things to keep in mind when purchasing weightlifting shoes:
Firstly, weightlifting shoes will stretch over time. The key to the shoe is optimal stability, if your shoe stretches and your feet can move in the shoe, stability is decreased, so some brands even recommend going down half a size when purchasing weightlifting shoes.
Secondly, heel height. The height of the heel of the shoe will vary depending on the brand. For people with normal anthropometry (those who don’t have abnormally long/short tibias and femurs), a half inch net height heel will be optimal for quad recruitment and optimal force production. If you ares someone with long tibias and short femurs, then a taller heel will be more suitable for optimal force production.
Stop putting yourself at risk of injury. Stop holding yourself and your performance back.
Invest in the right footwear and see the difference it makes for yourself, today!