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The Feet Factor: Choosing the Right Shoes for Weightlifting

Posted: May 16, 2017 by Chase Schaap - Articles

We do a lot of things on our feet as humans, yet we rarely take the time to consider whether our feet are TRULY protected by the shoes we wear.

We tend to gravitate toward what’s trending or what’s available to us, and we don’t always match our shoes to our activity needs.

However, the type of shoes you wear for weight training DO matter…

Imagine performing a heavy squat while standing on a couch cushion. Does this sound safe or good for your health?

Squatting on a couch cushion is of course an exaggeration, but it illustrates what many people do every day when they’re weight lifting. Look at your shoes—particularly the soles. What do you see? More than likely, you see lots of cushion.

I’m not suggesting that you throw your shoes away. However, it’s important to know that the shoes you lift weights in every day could be limiting your performance and affecting your health, for better or worse.

Here are three factors to consider when choosing the right pair of shoes for weightlifting.

Factor One: Our Feet

If our body is the house, our feet are the foundation. In fact, our feet hold about 20 percent of all the muscles in our body. And just like every other muscle, our feet should be trained.

Bad things can happen when the muscles in our feet aren’t working the right way, putting the “house” in danger. The stress in our feet can be sent to other parts of the body including tendons, ligaments, joints, and our backs. This is why wearing the right kind of shoe is so important for your workout—it can have a huge impact on this stress.

“Most shoes act as a crutch, thus contributing to foot and ankle dysfunction,” states Joel Seedman, Doctor of Kinesiology.

This means that we usually rely too much on our shoes for stability instead of simply using the muscles that we already have in our feet, which could be troublesome down the road.

Factor Two: Stability

In our feet, we have what are called sensory receptors. These receptors communicate with our brain to help provide the stability we need in the weight room. When we’re barefoot, this communication is usually crystal clear, as our feet are in direct contact with the ground.

However, the more instability (cushion) between the ground and our feet, the fuzzier the communication gets. Like most things in life, communication is important.

In a study conducted by the Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy, Doctor van Deursen and Doctor Simoneau declared that “foam underneath the feet has been used as an effective experimental manipulation in static posturography to minimize input from the plantar surface, thereby reducing stability.”

This suggests that our shoes can reduce the amount of stability we have, which isn’t a good thing when we have weight on our back, or when we’re performing any other lift on our feet.

Factor Three: Force

Force is defined as mass multiplied by acceleration, and it allows us to lift heavier weight. This is a contributing factor to the body we see in the mirror. In the weight room force is important, specifically ground force, which exists between our feet and the floor.

And it’s a known fact that the more instability (cushion) between our feet and the floor, the less force we’re able to exert.

“[Unstable surface training] can actually interfere with the power increases athletes should experience with concurrency stable surface training,” says Eric Cressey, co-founder of Cressey Sports Performance.

This means that our shoes contribute to the amount of power our bodies can exert, which can lead to limits in exertion.

Finding the Right Weightlifting Shoes

Weight training barefoot is ideal, but many gyms don’t allow it. Instead, here are three recommendations for weight training shoes, along with their pros and cons.

Recommendation #1: New Balance Minimus Trail Running Shoe

  • Pros: They come in a variety of colors and are available to men, women and those with wide or narrow feet.
  • Cons: They cost about $100.

Recommendation #2: Vibram Fivefingers Running Shoe

  • Pros: They cost about $50, come in a variety of colors and are available to men, women and those with wide or narrow feet.
  • Cons: You may not want to wear toe shoes.

Recommendation #3: Pendlay Do-Win Powerlifting Shoe

  • Pros: They come in a variety of colors and are available to men and women.
  • Cons: They cost about $100 and are built for those with wide feet, not narrow.

Remember to choose carefully when selecting shoes for weight training. The structural integrity of your “house” depends on it!

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