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What are the best gym shoes for weightlifting? The answer is purely subjective. The last thing you want while hoisting a 200-pound barbell over your head is feeling unstable or off-balance. Fortunately, there are plenty of great weightlifting shoes to choose from these days.
The best part is, you don’t even need lift-specific shoes for weightlifting. Cross-training shoes are generally ideal for the task, and even your favorite sneakers might work. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable and stable, with plenty of grip.
Lifting shoes generally fall into three categories. The most recognizable are shoes designed for Olympic lifts (the snatch, and the clean and jerk), which have thick soles and high, solid heels. “The raised heel allows for a deeper squat while still staying upright through the torso,” says Luke Pelton, C.S.C.S., the head powerlifting coach at Hofstra University in New York.
On the other end of the spectrum are flat-soled shoes, which are ideal for deadlifts and good for low-bar back squats because they maximize a lifter’s contact with the ground, reduce the range of motion in deadlifts, and improve balance. “The flat, thin sole allows force to be evenly spread through the foot, allowing for maximal force production,” Pelton says. “The flat sole also removes the possible issue of falling forward.”
The third category, designed for powerlifts like the low-bar back squat and bench press, fall somewhere in between. Their raised heels help accommodate low squat stances, but they’re slightly shorter than the heels on Olympic shoes, so they help you stay back and better engage your posterior chain, says Sean Collins, C.S.C.S., a powerlifting coach, competitive powerlifter, and owner at Murder of Crows Barbell Club in Brooklyn.
But even if you don’t want a lifting-specific shoe, there are plenty of cross-trainer kicks that will do the job just fine. At the end of your session, the most important thing is comfort and stability. Any of these options would be a great pick.