Weightlifting Shoes that the Pros Wear | Exercise.com Learn: Your Fitness Business Resource

Weightlifting Shoes that the Pros Wear

Tyler Spraul is the director of UX and the head trainer for Exercise.com. He has his Bachelor of Science degree in pre-medicine and is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist. He is a former All-American soccer player and still coaches soccer today. In his free time, he enjoys reading, learning, and living the dad life. He has been featured in Shape, Healthline, HuffPost, Women's...

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UPDATED: Aug 25, 2020

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  • The shoes worn while lifting make such a difference, many weightlifters will pay a premium price based on the noticed changes in lifting performance as a result.
  • Weightlifting shoes need to be able to support the body when the lifter is entirely focused on raising heavy resistance.
  • Aside from using weightlifting specific shoes, amateur weightlifters are advised to make sure they are practicing correct form when lifting as well as having a spotter nearby when working on weights at full or near capacity.

Weightlifting does not require a whole lot of specific equipment aside from the weights themselves. A performer doesn’t need a special outfit, a helmet, or a motorized vehicle.

However, the shoes worn while weight training are extremely important to performance. Consider them the house foundation for the lifter’s body frame. Not only do the shoes protect the lifter’s feet, but the right shoes also give a weightlifter the proper platform and surface to stand on and sustain the weight being carried.

If you’re still wearing your running shoes to lift at the gym, it’s time to get serious. Whether you’re on the Powerlifting Workout Plan or are looking for other workout routines, it may be time to ditch the running shoes when you want to lift some serious weight.

The shoes worn while lifting make such a difference, many weightlifters will pay a premium price based on the noticed changes in lifting performance as a result. While the Inzer Pillar boots below might be a little too extreme for you, read on to find out just how important finding the right weightlifting shoes really is.

Particularly in the squat lift exercise, shoes have their fans. That’s not to say when someone lifts a loaded barbell suddenly there’s a whole cheer squad hooping and hollering, dressed in matching shoe brand sweats. However, many lifters swear by particular shoes and how they fit.

With the price of brands ranging from $50 to as much as $200 per pair, weightlifters who want to see more efficiency and maximization of their workouts have their favorites among shoe types available.

Once you’ve got the right weightlifting shoes for your workout, sign up for a PRO plan for access to weightlifting-specific workout routines that will help you make gains. Go PRO today.

Which Shoe Brand to Buy?

So what do the pros use? Much depends on first understanding how the weightlifting shoe fundamentally benefits the weightlifter. Different professional lifters use different shoe types, but there is a commonality in what they are looking for in their footwear.

Professional lifters don’t just go out and wrap their feet in the first set of tennis shoes lying around before running off to the gym.

First, the sole and heel come in different shapes, depending on the type of lifting shoe worn. A set of squat-lifting shoes designed specifically for power-lifting will be designed with a very flat surface for the foot.

In comparison, weightlifting shoes for Olympic weightlifters come with an increased grade in the heel area, thereby angling the lifter’s knees just ahead of the toes when raising the weight bar.

Second, the heel compression design creates another choice factor. For a runner, heel compression takes the abuse of running on hard surfaces and the body’s weight slamming down on the heel bone.

However, a weightlifter doesn’t need this kind of foot protection. Instead, the less compression in the shoe, the better off the lifter is as their foot firmly connects with the floor. The last thing a lifter needs with hundreds of pounds over their head is an unstable pair of shoes that slightly wiggle.

Weightlifting shoes need to be able to support the body when the lifter is entirely focused on raising heavy resistance. The lifter’s body requires a solid platform on which to direct its energy produced downward when lifting, not suddenly compensating for a shoe shift forward or sideways.

Additionally, weightlifting must be a calm and controlled process; a quick, unexpected change can cause an exertion of a muscle which can then lead to serious injury (i.e. a muscle pull, strain or tear). As a result, using regular shoes or basic running sneakers are a bad idea health-wise as well.


Prior to the 1970s, the standard shoes worn by weightlifters involved very flat soles and provided significant or moderate ankle support for the lifter. Again, the goal was to keep the feet flat and connected with the ground as the body pushed upward.

As a result, Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers, military combat boots, or leather oxford boots such as Doc Martens were used regularly in the weight gyms. The shoe or boot kept the foot stable, it didn’t have very much squish allowing slop, and the ankle benefited from additional support.

Lacing on the old weightlifting shoes ran from the toe up to the front of the lower leg. This kept the foot and the shoe snug and reduced any slippage or movement under pressure.

Later designs from Kahru and Adidas, both well-established European sport shoemakers, incorporated an additional strapping mechanism across the top surface of the foot at the metatarsal area, dampening out any sideways movement when lifting.

From the late 1970s forward, shoe designs stayed the same for a few decades, primarily because there was no further demand. Weightlifting machines made it easier to practice weightlifting without the need to compensate for free-lifting movement.

It was only twenty years later that the average weightlifter was finally being taught regularly that machines can actually be bad for a person in strength training; they only work a part of the body rather than the whole muscle network.

As a result, a person can get injured trying to free lift the same weight he may be able to move on a machine without any problems.

Modern Approach

An exercise and fitness movement back to traditional free-weights has again increased demand for specific weight-lifting shoes. The explosion of CrossFit and similar hybrid exercise/strength programs across the U.S., as well as boot camp immersion programs,  have also generated increased interest.

Adidas has continued to retain a market share of weightlifting shoes with models like the Leistung, the Adistar, Equipment, and Power Perfect models. Additionally, Reebok, Puma, Nike, and two Chinese brands, Power Firm and Do Win, are playing in the market as well.

Modern weightlifting shoes produced by the aforementioned companies today all provide sufficient support to perform necessary lifting exercising, most notably the squat lift, while still retaining sufficient foot support as well as keeping the heel stable.

A number of other shoes also exist on the market for basic gym and exercise routines. However, the primary issue of the heel is not addressed as well with these models, thus they are not recommended for actual, professional-style weightlifting exercises.

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Cost Comparisons

Price-wise the cost range still sits between $50 to $200 for a good pair of weightlifting shoes similar to professional wear. However, like many sports, working with the right equipment allows proper development and performance.

A golfer doesn’t go to a golf course and perform self-torture with a rusty kit of garage sale clubs. He buys a proper set with a good swing and matching lengths to his frame. Weightlifters are no different.

Wearing the right shoes allows proper and efficient lifting power, which then produces proper exercise and performance.

As a result, the most widely used shoes include:

  • Adidas Adistar ($150 to $190)
  • Inzer Pillar ($115 to $125)
  • Werksan ($100) 
  • VS Athletics ($50)
  • The Converse Chuck Taylor Sneaker ($40 to $50) 


Many weightlifting-specific shoes can be found at athletic stores dedicated to sports as opposed to general retail. Most large retail stores will only carry basic athletic shoes but not specialty shoes as described above.

Sport-dedicated stores can also provide experienced staff who can help with fitting, sizing, and nuances specific to design, guiding a buyer to the right shoe for their performance level, skill, and budget.


Aside from using weightlifting specific shoes, amateur weightlifters are advised to make sure they are practicing correct form when lifting as well as having a spotter nearby when working on weights at full or near capacity.

The best shoes in a sport can’t prevent an injury from bad positioning or suddenly losing control; and given the amount of weight that can be involved a sudden drop, poor lifting can cause serious injury to the body and head area. Lifters are strongly encouraged to practice safe procedures to avoid more than a bad headache.

Even if you’re not a competitive weightlifting champion (don’t feel bad, most of us aren’t), you need to consider upgrading your workout shoes for these safety reasons. Besides, it never hurts to look like you know what you’re doing.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Should I weight train in the morning or evening?

Some studies have shown that lifting weights in the early evening is more beneficial because cortisol levels are lower. With that being said, the best time to weight train is when you feel the most energized and/or have the time to do so.

Are free weights better than machines?

Free weights are better for an overall workout than machines as they require the use of more stabilizer muscles; however, machines are a great addition to a well-rounded exercise routine.

When should I go up in weight?

If your last couple of reps can be done easily and quickly (with good form), then it’s time to increase the weight of your lifts.

Is a weightlifting belt necessary?

A weightlifting belt should only be worn when it’s absolutely necessary — like when you have a very heavy load on your back.

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