Weightlifting is not for the faint of heart or the small of muscle.
It is also not for the poorly equipped or the underprepared. One wrong move in weightlifting and you can do yourself some serious injury.
Not making those wrong moves depends as much on the equipment you use as it does on your technique, your training, or your resolve.
Use insufficient chalk and your hands could slip at a vital moment. Wear the wrong lifting belt, and your muscles could crunch or tear.
Choose the wrong weightlifting shoes, and you could slip on your lift, or your ankles could give out through lack of support.
Obviously, you need the best weightlifting shoes you can get. But which are the best? There are lots of shoemakers out there. What are you looking for in the best weightlifting shoes?
Let’s find out.
In a hurry? Here’s our top pick.
OUR TOP PICK
Yes, we know. Converse High Top Sneakers began life as the pride of the basketball court, and have subsequently become a youth fashion must-have.
But they also have everything you need in a weightlifting shoe. In fact, the very things that have driven them off modern basketball courts are what help them work well as shoes for when you’re weightlifting.
Firstly, they come with a rubber sole. While on the basketball court, that robs you of some of the suppleness and speed of motion you need, in weightlifting, a rubber sole keeps you planted. That will give you stability through your lift.
Secondly, there’s no arch support in Converse sneakers. In most shoes, street or sport, you want as much arch support as you can get. In fact, it’s a real downside of the Converse even for fashion wear that they’re lacking that support.
Weightlifters see it differently.
When you go down for a power squat or a deadlift, you need to transfer the energy through your feet. They need to be planted, and the support you need in that case is flat, rather than arch-supported. So perhaps more than in any other walk, run, jump or squat of life, the Converse Chuck Taylor All Star High Top sneakers are perfectly suited to the needs of a weightlifter from their footwear.
Strange to the point where you screw up your face and go “Huh?” - but true.
Unlike some of the other weightlifting shoes that make it onto our list, the Converse is pretty uncomplicated in its design, and about as low-tech and minimalistic as it gets short of a pair of sandals in the sunshine. There’s less to think about, less to go wrong, and, not for nothing, you can get the best power transfer for your weightlifting and still look pretty cool on the streets afterward.
Because there’s been no specific thought or money invested in making the Converse into excellent weightlifting shoes, they’re nowhere near as fussy as some of the other alternatives on the market. Available in men’s, women’s, unisex, and even children’s sizes, and a whole range of colors and designs for distinctiveness, you can make your Converse your own.
Made of lightweight canvas, rather than reinforced carbon polymers or any such thing, the Converse are light, responsive, plantable, and give you the best energy transfer through a flat support-plane.
Perhaps better than many of these elements, the Converse won’t cost you the price of a dedicated, scienced-within-an-inch-of-their-lives dedicated weightlifting shoe, either. That means, against all the odds and any predetermined likelihood, the Converse is our vote for the best weightlifting shoe on the market. Nobody designed it with that in mind, but darned if it doesn’t take the title.
- Rubber sole to stick your position through the lift
- No arch support means you transfer energy through a flat plane
- Lightweight canvas gives you a light, responsive, breathable shoe
- Priced for mass consumption, useful in high-strength lifting
- Not great as a shoe for outside use beyond weightlifting, due to the lack of arch support
The Converse are great for uncomplicated lifting, but sometimes, especially as you progress in weightlifting, you need the tech. The tech exists to help you get the most out of your lifts, your squats, and everything in between. The tech has been thought about for far too long to be healthy, by extremely clever people, just so that you can pay money to get a slightly easier or more empowered weightlifting life. For the love of all that’s holy, people, sometimes you need to embrace the tech!
Adidas gives good tech.
For a start, there’s an EVA foam heel here, which sits at just .65”. While that’s never going to give you an unsportsmanlike advantage, it can help with low-bar and high-bar squats, simply in terms of the bounce effect. It’s particularly useful in that the heel sits between the flatly-planted Converse and the traditional weightlifting shoe heel of .75”. It’s a gentle embrace of the tech, to act as a gateway to the weightlifting shoes in your more hardcore squatting future.
The Powerlift series has already made a name for itself among weightlifters, and the 3.1 could easily have found itself on this list – it was perhaps more genuinely revolutionary when it was released than the 4 which followed, pretty hotly on its EVA heels.
The Powerlift 4 though has had a series of nips and tucks to take an already-great weightlifting shoe and build on its bones to make something better. Where the 3 had mesh and synthetic leather on the outside, the 4 switches to canvas for its exterior covering. Canvas, as Converse could tell you, is durable, lightweight, and maneuverable, which are all things that pay you dividends when you’re engaged in a sport as physically demanding as weightlifting. Canvas also reduces the period of ‘breaking in’ the shoes need before they move from ‘necessary’ to ‘comfortable.’
If there’s a downside to the switch to canvas, it’s in the design of the Powerlift 4, rather than the fabric itself. With no holes in either the toe or the midfoot, there’s a slight “Baked potato cooked in foil” effect to look out for. The balance between maneuverability and feet-cookery is something that’s between you and your weightlifting gods, but the switch to canvas overall brings a lot to the table.
Perhaps as importantly, it brings it all to a relatively affordable table for most weightlifters. No-one would be foolish enough to minimize the importance of the right weightlifting shoe, but people have to eat too. So the Powerlift 4 is sold at a price point that seems to offer a good deal of tech with a good deal of thought behind it – but for a price that’s at least humane.
That combination is what persuades us that the Powerlift 4, rather than the Powerlift 3.1, belongs on our list of the best weightlifting shoes.
- Mid-range EVA heel at .65 inches
- Impressive maneuverability
- Upgrade to canvas exterior from the 3.1 version
- Priced for general availability, while delivering a tech-forward weightlifting shoe
- No air holes, so the shoe can get quite hot in a weightlifting setting
Despite a high-top taking the leading spot on our list, high-top shoes are by no means the norm for weightlifting.
That just makes the achievement of the Otomix Stingray Escape Bodybuilding MMA & Wrestling shoe even more impressive.
Breaking through a field that is generally full of serious, planted shoes, the Stingray gives those with weaker ankles some support and versatility in their weightlifting shoe.
That may sound like nothing much, but if you have weak ankles, and you’re doing weightlifting, you’ll know it’s a thing you constantly have to block out of your head – that constant whisper in your head of “If your ankle wobbles now…” followed by a vivid disaster fantasy.
So anything that can help people achieve the confidence they need in that situation has got to be worth looking at if that’s you.
Interestingly, the Otomix shoes steer away from the canvas option but instead go with a suede and synthetic mix, to balance comfort, flexibility, and durability through the shoe.
For extra support in the ankle when you squat and lift, you can lace the Stingray from the forefoot to the mid-ankle. Thin soles and outsoles with rubber grips mean you can both plant your feet firmly and push the power through a relatively flat plane, for more effective squats and lifts.
While mostly focusing on delivering an effective weightlifting shoe with some useful ankle support, there’s also a degree of style in the Stingray’s tail. You can choose to get them in black, red, green, or blue, to color coordinate with the rest of your weightlifting outfit. Get the effectiveness of a helpful weightlifting show, with a great feel through the thin sole, some additional support for any ankle weakness or wobbles, and a dash of personal style too.
Also, as the name makes clear, the Stingray is not just a weightlifting shoe. It has enough height and potential dazzle for wrestling, mixed martial arts, and bodybuilding work too, so you can use one shoe to rule them all, and leave your mark on anyone watching, while keeping your ankles supported.
- Multi-functional shoe
- Ankle support
- Ability to lace the shoe from the forefoot to the mid-ankle for more support
- Thin soles with rubber grips
- Mixture of suede and synthetic fabrics
- Color options for dazzle
- Multi-functionalism lessens the dedicated focus on weightlifting enhancement
The original Adipower was developed for the London Olympic Games in 2012. Weirdly, that feels like decades ago already, which makes the update – the Adipower Weightlifting II Cross Trainer – feel like a shoe whose time has well and truly come.
As with the Powerlift 4, which builds on the revolutionary platform of the Powerlift 3.1, the Adipower II finds ways to be a better weightlifting shoe not by reinventing the heel, but by finding a zen place of simplicity and bringing more of the Inner Cross Trainer out so you can reap the benefits.
The AdiPower II uses a “regular fit” which will suit most feet, and a heel height just a bumblebee’s whisper short of .8 inch. Why .8”? Because people at adidas with clipboards and iPads have determined that’s the heel you need to maximize the effectiveness of your clean and jerk. It’s notably more heel than the likes of the Powerlift 4, but it’s also just a little more than most standard weightlifting shoes – and you should feel some improvement in your clean and jerk technique as a result.
In the AdiPower II, you get a fully locked-down midfoot, with a combination strap and laces system. If you previously owned the original AdiPower, you’ll know that support, stability, and comfort were more or less baked into that design. Nothing has happened here to take away from any of that, but you now get a Thermal Plastic Unit (TPU) midsole. Both the heel and the forefoot have been reinforced for this upgrade, and the rearfoot padded.
While it’s available to amateurs at the right – or at least the right-adjacent – price, the AdiPower II gives every indication that if you want to go all the way to the top of the sport, it can help you get there. That combination of refinement through essential simplicity and an ambition that reaches up to meet your own makes the upgraded AdiPower an easy choice for our list of the best weightlifting shoes.
- Based on an already impressive shoe, the original AdiPower
- Heel optimized to help with your clean & jerk
- Addition of a TPU midsole
- Reinforced heel and midfoot
- Padding on the rearfoot
- Gives a sense of confidence to your lifting
- Arguably just an original AdiPower with minimal enhancements
That’s a name that feels immediately like a promise of bringing better results and happier living through footwear.
It also puts the onus on Reebok to deliver those results. Happily then, the Legacy Lifter does everything you could hope for from a weightlifting shoe, combining the security and support to let you lift with greater clarity and precision.
There are elements in the Legacy Lifter that might seem old hat by the time you get this far down our list. A combination lace and strap system to boost stability and lateral support, for instance. We’ve seen that already on this list, but that shouldn’t diminish the Reeboks’ possession of such a system.
Rubber outsoles for mud-stuck grip and traction? Yep, they’re here too. In a neat blending of elements, there’s a unique midsole here, but rather than go TPU, Reebok chooses EVA to fill that midsole, which allows for foot flex without weakening the stance of the weightlifter.
The rearfoot here is cushioned for support – and to avoid any potential slippage that makes it past the lace and strap system. But the heel in particular is prominent – giving a boost to your compression on lifts.
And while there are fewer color options than the Stingray, you get a choice that amounts to a personality test. Red and gray for the more sober, focused weightlifter, or black and gold for the potential peacock with a kickass lift.
While there feels like there’s less history here than in either of the adidas weightlifting shoes, Reebok is a company with a strong reputation across track and field, and this entry into the world of weightlifting is less scattergun than it might seem. The company has chosen elements that boost the essentials of weightlifting performance, and swathed them in comfort and foot-easing elements, for a shoe that can perform at a high level, but carries a zero-stress attitude about its business.
- A combination lace and strap system for security and support
- Rubber outsoles and grips for foot-planting
- An EVA midsole
- The heel is prominent to boot compression on lifts
- Feels like an easygoing shoe that still delivers at a high level
- Feels less thought-through than some shoes on our list
Best Weightlifting Shoes Buying Guide
Buying a weightlifting shoe can have important consequences for your performance in the sport. Consider a few things before you click the ‘Buy’ button.
Reinventing The Heel
The kind – and the height – of heel you need in a weightlifting shoe is important. While the likes of adidas give you options on a heel that can help with the spring of your squats, bear in mind that in weightlifting, you’re pushing power through a flat plane, so sometimes, you don’t need a heel at all – as in our list-leader, the Converse. Decide which is right for you, and be guided by the heel.
To Tech, Or Not To Tech, That Is The Question
There’s an argument for going as tech-lite as possible when it comes to weightlifting shoes. The whole process is about elemental bio-physics – the movement of muscles and bodies in reaction to heavy weight. Some weightlifters want their lifts to feel as ‘authentic’ as possible, and will go for a shoe like the Converse precisely because it’s low-tech. That means they always know that their results are their own, rather than being boosted by a fancy shoe.
On the other hand, there’s little doubt that elements like EVA and TPU can give you more comfort and bounce. That a combination lace and strap system can keep your feet from moving around inside the shoe. Or that a high-top shoe with a lot of lacing can give you significant ankle support. All of these things, while technical boosts to performance, are well within the rules and could help you not to crumble at important moments. Decide where you stand, and buy the shoes that feel most like your decision.
Factor Yourself Into The Equation
When choosing the right shoes for your weightlifting, remember it’s you that will have to wear them. If you feel claustrophobic when wearing shoes that don’t let your feet move, maybe avoid a dual lace and strap system, however good it is at keeping you planted through your lift. If you have weak ankles and you know it, make sure you address that by getting shoes that support your ankles under stress. If you have a little peacock in your soul, let it out – get the brightly-colored boots you really crave. Buy for safety, for comfort, for performance, but always buy for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the most important factor to look for in a weightlifting shoe?
There’s some individuality to that. You’re always going to need a shoe that can plant you firmly and not slip – so look for a rubber sole or rubber grips. If you have weaknesses in your ankles, keep them safe by buying supportive shoes. Look to the heel and buy one that gives you what you need to improve your performance. These are some generic pointers, but what’s most important in a weightlifting shoe will depend on your own circumstances and your own feet.
2. Is canvas the best material for weightlifting shoes?
Canvas certainly gives you durability, flexibility, and maneuverability, so it makes a good case for itself as the best material for weightlifting shoes. But a lot also depends on the design of the shoe. As we’ve seen, canvas with no air holes can leave you with overheated feet, which would be a distraction while weightlifting.
3. Which is more secure – a dual lace and strap system, or long lacings?
Again, the answer to this is individual. If having very little wiggle-room makes you uncomfortable, you might stay away from dual systems, even though they’re probably objectively more secure. Lacing from the forefoot upward can give you some strong support without feeling like it’s burying your feet. So the real answer is probably the dual system, but adjust for your own personal taste.