Finding the best weightlifting shoes can be confusing with so many different options available. Obviously, you want the best for your training so getting the right pair is key.
This article goes into all the detail you need about lifting shoes. I also round up, review and recommend the very best squat shoes available.
If you have seen any of my other articles, you know I'm all about making my stuff as in-depth as possible.
This guide is going to be a long one so use the table below to navigate.
The boxes below show a quick view of the best weightlifting shoes in a few different categories. The full reviews and other shoes are included later on.
ADIDAS POWER PERFECT II
All-round value option
VS ATHLETICS WL SHOE 2
Best budget option!
POSITION USA P2.2
Sexiest looking (in my opinion)
I understand that lifting shoes are specialty shoes. Most types of specialty sports shoes are a fairly big investment.
So, that being said, I will go through some of the things you may wish to consider for you as an individual.
Firstly, I will get the Olympic lifters out of the way. If you want to Olympic lift, buy the shoes.
I’m not an expert on Oly lifting by any means but I haven’t seen a serious Olympic lifter that doesn’t wear lifting shoes. I could well be wrong and I’m sure there are a couple of exceptions but those are the outliers.
On to powerlifters, an area where I have much more expertise.
I will cover squat style a bit more later. But, If you squat with a more high-bar, Olympic style squat that requires you to be very upright, then weightlifting shoes will help.
If you purposefully squat with more forward lean in an effort to use your posterior chain and hips more, elevated heels may hinder you.
I will say that there are so many individual nuances in this, it’s almost impossible to make a set-in-stone rule for everybody. All you can do is test it out.
Borrow a pair from a friend, buy a really cheap or second-hand pair or even see how a couple of plates under the heels during squats feels for you first.
As far as mobility goes, if you lack range of motion at the ankles then a raise heel will certainly help you out.
To reach good depth in a squat, your knees must travel forwards a bit. If your calves are too tight and limit the amount of forward travel at your knees, hitting depth in a squat will be much more difficult.
Tight calves were an issue for me and my weightlifting shoes were a god send.
I have since spent a lot of time and still do spend time on improving my ankle mobility.
I recommend you do even if you decide to invest in the heeled footwear.
Lastly, general gym-goers and people that don’t compete in a sport that tests some kind of squat.
You guys can take the advice I just gave for the Olympic lifters and powerlifters and apply it to your own training styles.
You may not be competitive in one of those sports but if you are serious about progressing in the same lifts, you may want to consider getting the right shoes.
Likewise, if you have the mobility issues covered above and still want to get the most out of squats, buy the shoes.
On the other hand, if you aren’t worried about performing squats to the best of your ability or at all, weightlifting shoes probably won’t be a justified expense.
It’s up to you to decide if or not they are worth purchasing at all.
To help you make think about their value, let's talk about the real advantages of using weightlifting shoes for squats and your other lifts.
The obvious advantage of owning a pair of weightlifting shoes is that were made with the very purpose of lifting weights in mind. Hence, the manufacturers would have looked at and thought about all of the different demands that heavy lifting puts on a pair of shoes.
Those demands are not going to be met by a regular pair of shoes, especially once you start getting strong and lifting some heavier weights.
They are the tools purpose-built for the job. Just like I mentioned in my deadlift shoes article, you wear specific footwear for basketball, football and running, so why wouldn’t you wear shoes for weightlifting?
Getting into the more specific benefits of the shoes, the most stand-out feature is the raised heel. The heel is there to make reaching very deep squatting positions much easier.
A higher heel reduces the demand on ankle mobility and makes staying upright throughout a squat so much easier.
Staying upright in the squat is key for Olympic lifters but will also help powerlifters with their squat.
One example of when a powerlifter may find heeled squat shoes a disadvantage is if they like to use a more hip-dominant squat.
In some cases, a lifter that squats wider and with a bit more forward lean in order to utilize their hips more, may find that a heeled shoe throws his or her weight forward.
For the majority of lifters and gym-goers, weightlifting shoes will make squatting movements a whole lot more comfortable.
As you can see, the elevated heel is really the main feature of a shoe designed for weightlifting.
Here are some other features that can help your lifts. Note that some of these will vary from brand to brand, as I will discuss later.
- Almost perfectly flat soles to increase ground contact, which can help maximize power production as you lift.
- Solid soles. Having a sole that is firm and not spongey or compressible helps with stability and balance. You will notice this much more as you lift heavier.
- Reinforced and durable uppers. Due to the demands of lifting, most standard shoes or trainers would not last very long at all. A lot of force is put against the upper part of the shoe during the lifts, weightlifting shoes are strong enough to cope with this.
- Metatarsal straps. The straps across the foot are the to keep your foot snug and secure inside of the shoe. You do not want any lateral movement of your foot in your shoes while you are lifting.
There are some variances between the different brands and styles of lifting shoes, but there are some minimum standards that I think you should look out for.
I have taken the features from above and made a quick checklist. Go through it to make sure you're chosen shoes meet the minimum requirements.
This one may vary a little between shoes. Some shoes may feature heels that compress a bit under heavy loads so you need to consider your strength levels.
If the shoes you are looking at don’t match up to all of those three points, then you need to search elsewhere.
On the other hand, if you can check them all off then you are off to a good start.
To help you make your final decision, I have written up a more in-depth piece on each of my chosen products for the seven best weightlifting shoes.
In no particular order.
Originally released for their 2012 Olympic range, these shoes became crazy popular and are still going strong in 2017.
They were originally only available in the bright red colourway but Adidas have now introduced a few more options. The latest option, the all-black, look super sexy in my opinion.
The shoes have the now common heel height of 0.75inches. This height for heels is pretty much the norm now and should be perfect for most people.
I know some Olympic lifters may prefer a higher heel and those with seriously tight ankles might need more as well.
The material of the heel on these is a seriously hard plastic. It means, these heels will not compress to a noticeable degree, even under some seriously heavy weights. A definite plus.
I have owned a pair of these for the past 3 or 4 years and they are still in very good condition. They are a bit narrower on the foot than some of the competitor’s shoes but for me, that’s a good thing.
I like the feeling of a super tight fit around my foot but if you have wide feet, these may not be for you.
Overall, I honestly don’t think you can go wrong with these. The only reason to look elsewhere would be if you do have quite wide feet or if you really need a higher heel.
Since the adipowers, Adidas released a version called the Adidas Leistung, which I was not overly keen on. However, they have updated that with the Adidas Leistung 16.ii. This updated version may be worth a look but I am yet to review it properly.
These are kind of the step down from the Adipowers. Not quite as good but still a very good shoe.
The price reflects the slight drop in quality. These are a good alternative if you feel like the Adipowers are too expensive.
The power perfects only come in the one colour way, which is obviously annoying if you hate red and white.
The heel on these is around 0.6 inches, slightly lower than the other shoes in this guide. These heels are also made from a high-density foam material. It will compress very slightly.
Due to this compressive heel, I would rule these out for Olympic lifters. You guys really need a more solid sole.
For general gym use, these are a great option, the price is much lower and you will still get most of the benefits of a decent weightlifting shoe.
Many powerlifters might even consider these. Dan Green has used them to squat over 800lbs in the past, so they can't be too bad.
I actually started with these and then upgraded to my Adipowers. I'm somewhat ashamed to say, the reason for the switch was mainly vanity.
I just preferred how the Adipower shoes looked.
If you want a good pair of shoes for squatting at a reasonable price, these will do just fine.
Nike have now released the Romaleos 3 weightlifting shoes so you can check those out if you wish.
I, however, am including the 2s because they are so popular and have been the direct rival to Adipowers over the years.
On another note, I actually hate the look of the Romaleos 3 and really like the look of these.
In many ways, these are very comparable to the Adipowers. Same heel height of 0.75 inches, same kind of material and quite similar in overall performance.
These shoes do differ in a couple of big ways, though.
Firstly, they are a bit wider and have more room in the toe-box. If you were put off the Adipowers by my comments about them being narrow, then these could be the shoes for you.
Secondly, they include an extra metatarsal strap to keep the fit as tight as possible. I think this was a very wise move, it allows the shoe to cater for the wider foot but also provide a snug fit for people with narrower feet too.
You have a great range of colors to choose from here as well. I like the red and black. Just be warned, these shoes are getting harder to get hold of. Probably due to the release of the new version so get in quick if you want a pair.
Reebok have been hitting the weightlifting community hard in recent year with all of their products.
Mostly under their crossfit brand. As a result, most of their products have tried to cater to crossfitters. Nothing wrong with that, but it has meant that they haven’t really released a proper pair of dedicated weightlifting shoes.
Until Now. The release of the Legacy Lifter, means that Reebok have a proper specialist lifting shoe.
I think the Legacy lifters can be grouped among the Adipowers and Romaleos.
All three feature the same heel height of 0.75 inches and are all made of quite similar materials.
Like the Nikes, these are a bit wider than Adipowers and feature the double foot straps. You certainly won’t get much lateral movement of your feet inside these shoes.
Honestly, if you are choosing between these and the Romaleos, you just need to go with what you prefer the look of. I do like the black and gold version of these.
You might want to stand out from the crowd a bit, since everybody seems to have the Nikes now. In that case, grab a pair of these.
The Do-wins have been very popular in the Oly lifting community. The Do-win weightlifting shoes by Pendlay has a more classic look to the upper than most on the list.
However, for all of the classic looks, this shoe gets away from traditional Olympic weightlifting shoes by opting for a hard-plastic heel instead of wood.
The height of the heel is 0.75 inches, the more common height nowadays.
The Do-Wins are very wide so will certainly be suitable if you have wide feet. The manufacturers actually recommend opting for half a size below your usual.
The double strap does mean you can tighten them up nicely around your forefoot.
I have seen some reviewers say that half a size down is even still too big. So, if you have narrow feet then you probably want to stay away from these ones to avoid sizing headaches.
They are some very sturdy and hard wearing shoes and should last you a good while. The pricing is reasonable too.
With a few colour options to choose from, you should be able to find a style that suits you. I actually quite like the classic-looking white version.
These are the cheapest shoes out of my picks. I have included them, for that reason but they still perform well.
I would call them a perfect entry-level shoe. Good features but falls slightly behind the top brands. Then again, for the price, they represent excellent overall value.
The heels on them are a little higher than most at 1 inch, a good thing if you need that extra height due to limited ankle mobility.
The only downside, as far as the heel is concerned, is that they are made of a very hard rubber on the bottom.
Obviously, rubber is going to compress more than the plastic or wooden heals available.
To tell the truth, for an entry-level lifter, it probably won’t be noticeable.
Looks-wise, I think they look alright. Nothing too flashy about them but not ugly either.
I have heard a couple of complaints about the material not being breathable so if your feet get rather hot when you train, comfort might be an issue at times.
If you are looking to "test the waters" and want to try some cheap squat shoes, these are certainly an option.
I have to admit, I didn't know a huge deal about the technical side of these shoes.
I had heard some good things, seen them before and just really loved the look of them.
Instead of recommending them on looks alone, I did do a bit more research to help you out.
Position USA are an Olympic weightlifting brand so it stands to reason that these are my top choice for Oly lifters.
The wooden heel is a feature that I think the Olympic lifter will appreciate more than a powerlifter or general gym trainee.
The heels are also a little higher than most of the other shoes I have reviewed. They have an effective heel height of about 1 inch so they make staying upright in a squat quite a bit easier.
Vibram rubber soles and the tapered heel, provide grip and added stability
I have been extremely tempted to get myself a pair of these for a long while now but my Adipowers are still in perfect working order and have served me well.
I have to say, writing this review has tempted me further towards these.
If I got more into Olympic weightlifting, I would certainly snatch a pair (ha! See what I did there?).
Seriously, they look stunning. That blue suede sitting on top of the hand-crafted and stained wooden heel. I think they are damn sexy!
For the majority – Take your pick between the Adipowers and Romaleos based on how wide your foot is and which shoe you prefer the look of.
For Olympic lifters – Position USA P2.1 all day!
For the new lifters or the budget conscious – VS Athletic Weightlifting shoes 2 are the way to go.
If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment and I will do what I can to help you out.
Finally, if you do think this was a useful guide, help out your fellow-lifters by sharing it around social media!