Progress is made one step at a time, but you can make the journey shorter with the right shoes.
Those brand new Nike trainers have still got that new shoe smell as you walk into the gym, but are they actually stalling your progress?
You're in the gym dressed head to toe in the latest kit. Santa was good to you and you've got a brand new pair of high-end trainers to strap on to your feet as you strut into the gym for the first day back after the holidays. You walk around the gym floor, chest puffed out like McGregor on fight night and you're ready to start lifting.
But are those shiny new boots holding you back from your progress? Are they in fact the antithesis of what you need to achieve your fitness goals?
Buying the right gym shoe can be quite a confusing process and more so than it probably should be. The last time I went to by some trainers it felt like there was a pair of shoes for every possible step I might take in life. Shoes for running, shoes for crossfit, shoes for boxing, shoes for wrestling, shoes for weightlifting, shoes for brushing your teeth, and shoes for wiping your ass. Well, maybe not the last two, but you get what I mean...
And the complexity doesn't just end there. It gets worse!!!
Once you've picked a type of shoe, there's a plethora of sub-types to choose from. How is the average person, particularly a beginner expected to find their way through the minefield.
So in this article, I'm going to give you an insight into what has worked for me. If it works for me, there's no reason it can't work for you.
A good pair of gym shoes has nothing to do with following the latest trends and fancy colour schemes. Proper footwear helps you lift more weight. That's a fact. And more weight generally leads to more muscle. Save the fancy trainers for outside the gym and get some decent shoes.
Without any further ado, let's get right into it...
#1. Powerlifting Shoe
Running shoes are for running and should not be used for those heavy sets under the barbell. The soft padding in the shoes is designed is dissipate the force coming through your foot when you're running. For weightlifters this is the exact polar opposite of what you want. You want to utilise all the force available and drive you feet into the floor to ultimately generate more power.
Imagine yourself for a second in the squat rack preparing to go for a 200kg PB. With the weight across your shoulders, you begin the movement. At the bottom of the squat you want to drive up with all the force and power available to you. In that scenario what would you prefer to have on your feet? A soft, squidgy, sponge-like running shoe, or a hard, firm, solid-based weightlifting shoe? I know which I'd prefer!
Your main shoe should be something with a flat sole and a raised heel. This will be perfect for squatting movements as you will get a firm base from the stiff, flat sole. The raised heel will result in more advantageous ankle flexion, allowing you to squat deeper. This is a bit like the guys you'll see in the gym squatting with small weight plates under their heels. However, the shoe is much more secure and effective.
My shoe of choice is the Adidas Powerlift 2.0. They're fairly cheap and has served me well over the years. They still look like new now, so treat them well and you'll get years of use out of them.
Now the internet will probably barrage me for saying this, but I actually use these for all of my lifts except for the deadlift. I simply find them a comfortable firm sole shoe for weight lifting. I'm sure people will say they're just for squatting and that I'm committing some form of fitness faux pax, but hey who cares. They've served me real well over the past 2 years and seen more through PB after PB, so you can't argue with the facts.
#2. Deadlift Slippers
The second pair of "shoes" I recommend are ones that I rarely see in the gym these days. In fact I don't think I've seen anyone with a pair for a couple of years (if you don't count when I where them).
What am I talking about? Deadlifting slippers. OK, so they're not quite shoes, but they go on your feet and that's good enough for me. I recommend these because they allow you to get that bit closer to the ground, which doesn't sound like it'll make much of a difference, but trust me, it does. As the blurb on the website says, "The lower you are to the ground, the less distance you have to travel to grab the bar, and the shorter the distance to lock-out." Simple!
Now you could say that lifting in your socks are just as good, but in my gym the deadlifting platform has a wood effect floor where you stand and cushioned areas to the side for when those weights come crashing down. My experience is that socks are too slippy and leave me feeling uneasy, which means I'm not 100% focused on lifting.
This video from Layne Norton (one of the industry kings in my book) also extols the benefits of these babies.
For the small cost of £12 you can start shifting more weight and gaining more muscle. Sounds like a good deal to me.
What About Alternatives?
These were the shoes I used for many months before I switched out to the Adidas. They certainly served a purpose and they provide that flat sole, which is great for lifting (and they also look) cool. I decided to move to the Adidas shoes when I realised I wanted to squeeze out every last drop of progress from the effort I was putting in the gym. Plus the fact that they had taken a massive beating (as you can see from the pic).
I found that even though the shoe was good, cheap, and served a purpose, I wanted something a bit more, errr 'professional' for want of a better word.
If you're just starting out and don't want to spend a lot of money then these are a great all round option.
What About Shoes for Cardio?
I'm sorry. What's this thing called cardio you speak of???
Hahaha. Only joking. In terms of a shoe for cardio, you probably won't go far wrong with a decent pair of running shoes. You want to opt for something with a bit of padding in, so that if you're pounding the treadmill you can hopefully save your knees from the same pounding. There's a massive amount of choice out there, so go for what you like and what feels comfortable. If you want to know what I use, it's a pair of Nike Flex Experience, which look like this. I've only been using these for a couple of weeks, but so far I'm loving them!
There you go. Your quick and simple guide to getting the right footwear for maximum gains. Let me know what you think and remember to send me your questions, so I can answer them in a future blog /vlog.