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Lifting Shoes: What Are They, Do I Need Them, And When Do I Wear Them?

woman weightlifting shoes smile

This is one of the most common questions we’re asked when coaching, “should I wear lifters today?”. It’s a reasonable question, seeing as we are constantly doing different movements and combinations of them! This blog will break down everything Lifters 101.

First, what are lifters?

Lifters are a specific type of fitness shoe, and I compare them to hockey skates. They’re meant for one thing – lifting weights – and feature a super stiff boot and a little extra heel lift. This provides the user with a stable pressing platform and help with tight ankles. Compare this to running shoes – typically full of foam and squishy – and you can see why lifters help users back squat and do other lifts with more power!

They are NOT good for general functional fitness. You should never run, jump, or do dynamic moves with them.

Now here are some do’s and don’ts:

Do: Wear them when lifting for heavy weight

Lifters provide stability, better range of motion and muscle activation. That means that if I’m going for big weight on Squats or Olympic Lifts (Snatch, Clean, Jerk) I would put them on. There are other lifts that could use them as well, but in my opinion they help the most on the ones above.

Don’t: Wear them when deadlifting

The best way to deadlift is barefoot or shoes with very little cushion in the shoe’s sole. Lifters also change your movement and can pitch you forward due to the elevated heel, which is counterproductive with the deadlift

Do: Wear them if you have ankle mobility restrictions

As stated above, lifters can help with ankle mobility and this can lead to better technique and safer movements. Especially with the squat and all its variations. That does not mean that you shouldn’t work on mobility, but lifters can be helpful in alleviating things in the short term.

Don’t: Rely on them too much

If you are doing functional fitness in a variety of ways, lifters can be a crutch. If you begin to rely on them too heavily then you may find you need to change shoes mid workout just to be able to do a lift. This reduces intensity and shouldn’t be necessary. You should have a solid foundation with all lifts without any additional equipment. Lifters are just a way to elevate yourself a bit further.

The bottom line is that lifters are a wonderful tool to help improve performance, but shouldn’t be constantly leaned on. You can always ask a coach if today is a good day for them and we will give you an honest answer. Make sure to have a solid foundation of strength, technique and mobility first; then use those lifters to make yourself even better!

Also worth noting, most lifters cost around $150 or more. What is the return on investment for you?

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