Running Shoes vs Bare Feet vs Weightlifting Shoes
As weightlifting coaches we get asked fairly frequently about the benefits of weightlifting shoes, as well as how to improve the overhead squat position.
Many people struggle with the mobility and stability needed to reach a full and proper overhead squat. Most people also do not own a pair of weightlifting shoes when they start lifting.
We always recommend weightlifting shoes, particularly if you want to lift frequently and heavy! Afterall, they are specially designed to help you get the most out of your lifting.
Below we discuss the benefits of weightlifting shoes as well as the disadvantages of wearing other shoes.
Benefits of weightlifting shoes:
Weightlifting shoes have a raised heel and a solid base. This gives you 3 main benefits:
1 - Increased ankle mobility - therefore a deeper and more comfortable squat
2 - More stability in your overhead position. With the better squat position you will sit more upright and therefore keep the bar in a more secure position
3 - The ability to create a lot more force than when you wear cushioned shoes
Below we will show and discuss the differences between wearing the wrong shoes, no shoes and weightlifting shoes
Interestingly most people turn up at the club with running shoes. As you will see in the picture to the right and in the comparison photos these present the most difficult scenario for a good overhead squat. Due to the cushioning in these shoes you cannot achieve a stable position, with the weight pressing on to the cushioning of the shoes and causing the ankles to roll about, this can be very dangerous! If you have poor mobility, for example, in your ankles you also will not be able to sit very deep in to the squat. Dan shows a fantastic example of how hard running shoes can make lifting in this picture:
- Hips back and high - unable to reach a full depth squat
- Hyper extension of the spine (see Dan's back curving away from the blue line), caused by the difficulty to reach full depth
- Heels off the ground and chest pointing down resulting in the bar sitting directly above the ground in front of Dan's feet as opposed to over his mid-foot
- The bar has travelled backward and does not sit directly over Dan's head, in effort to shift the weight over his centre of gravity to compensate for the weight shifting forward
Often we will ask people to take their shoes off if they are too cushioned, or ask them to wear the flattest shoes they own next time if they are not planning on buying weightlifting shoes yet. Bare feet or flat shoes is a better option than running shoes as you lose the problems caused by the cushioning. We see lifters achieving a much more stable position in these cases, without their ankles rolling due to the cushioning. As you can see with the pictures of Dan, the newly gained stability also allows for a more upright squat position and better overhead position, as it is easier to maintain your weight distribution. Although the bar is still directly over the toes and could be further back. This is caused by Dan's heels still coming up from the floor - ankle mobility has always been an issue for Dan. As you will see in the next photo, weightlifting shoes solve this problem for Dan. We also noticed that Dan has a little 'butt wink' going on in this picture! (lower back curving in away from the blue line). Which could be caused by the core relaxing whilst trying to get lower in to the squat... But as you can see from the blue line, Dan's back is still much more neutral in this squat than the running shoes attempt and his chest remains up and facing the wall!
Dan is a fantastic example of the benefits of weightlifting shoes. As you see here he is able to reach a very upright, full depth overhead squat, with a neutral spine, chest up, heels down, bar directly over the top of his head with the bar maintaining a better line over the mid-foot. We find that when people start using weightlifting shoes they find it much easier to catch snatches lower, and maintain a stable overhead position. The extra stability throughout the lift also hugely boosts confidence, as the lifter no longer experiences rolling ankles of wobbly feet.
Of course weightlifting shoes also benefit your clean, front squat, back squat and jerk! A must buy for even the recreational lifter!