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Great feats of strength, start at the feet

OVERVIEW

Regardless of whether your goals are fat loss, strength or athletic in nature, lifting in appropriate footwear is an important consideration for any trainee. Just like you choose the right type of tyres for your car, choosing the right shoes will set you up for success in the gym.

Selecting the appropriate footwear will provide you with  more stability which will not only  increase your ability to get stronger but will also  decrease your risk of injury.
 
The type of shoe that you should be wearing is one with an incompressible sole. This may be a minimalist or a weightlifting shoe but you must ensure the shoe holds shape and isn’t soft when you drive force through the floor. The type of footwear not to wear are your typical runners built with support for long distance running. These shoes have too much soft foam in the heel and do more harm than good. 
 

I'd like to explain this by using the analogy of squatting on a piece of foam, similar to the image below. Imagine standing on the foam with a heavy weight on your back. As you squat down, you experience instability, which causes inversion (rolling in) at the ankle. This causes the knees to dive in and a loss of tension in the musculature around the hips.

It doesn’t take a trained eye to realise that this is poor lifting technique which will negatively effect progress and dramatically increase the chance of injury.

FLAT VS WEIGHTLIFTING SHOES

When it comes to selecting which type of shoe to choose, you must take your goal into consideration. Both flat and weightlifting shoes have different benefits:

Pros of Flat Shoes

  • Increased recruitment of the posterior chain.

  • Decreased range of motion (ability to lift a greater load).

Pros of Weightlifting Shoes

  • Increased recruitment of quadriceps.

  • Increased range of motion.

  • Decreased stress on the lumbar.

Generally, flat shoes are the preferred shoe for low bar squatting and a weightlifting shoe for high bar squatting. 

Keeping the following benefits in mind, choosing one or the other should become more simple. Below are two different scenarios to help with your selection.

SCENARIO ONE

"Are you using the squat as a stimulus to strengthen the quads?"

If the answer is yes, squatting in weightlifting shoes is a good idea. The increased elevation of the heel allows for greater dorsiflexion, increasing the  recruitment of quadriceps, particularly the vastus medialis oblique (VMO).
 

SCENARIO TWO

"Are you looking to move the most amount of weight for your sport?"

If the answer is yes, selecting a flatter sole shoe will be more advantageous. The flatter shoe will allow for greater recruitment of the posterior chain as the torso angle will be less upright in the squat.

If the goal is to lift as much weight as possible, it makes sense to use the technique (low bar, flat shoes) that allows you to lift the greatest load.


Thanks,

Ben Thompson


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Ben

About Ben Thompson

Ben Thompson is the Founder of Movement Enhanced. After first starting in the industry back in 2011, he has many years of experience in strength and conditioning. Ben is uniquely qualified as a soft tissue therapist and exercise scientist. He has traveled around the world to learn from the best in the industry and continues to develop his craft and skillset. Read More.

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