Why Wear Weightlifting Shoes?
There are 3 reasons to wear weightlifting shoes:
The lifted heel effectively increases ankle range of motion, allowing a deeper and more upright squat position.
The thin, hard soles absorb very little force, which means more of the force you produce goes into moving the bar.
The relatively wide, square-edged and hard soles create a more stable base.
These things mean lifting more weight and less risk of injury.
The primary argument against wearing shoes is that they’ll limit mobility. Bear in mind that the lifted heel is not preventing the ankle from dorsiflexing significantly—it will in fact still be flexing nearly maximally. The shoes allow the hips to move farther forward for a more upright posture by adding to the ankles’ end range, not reducing dorsiflexion.
Mobility demand may be reduced slightly for the hips, but by moving the hips under the shoulders more, we’re reducing the need to hyperextend the back to bring the chest upright, which means a safer spine. And of course, mobility can and should be improved or maintained in ways beyond simply squatting.
Related is the argument that if a lifter is already mobile enough to sit into a good squat position, lifting shoes are unnecessary. In my experience, these athletes are typically far overestimating the quality of their positions, but more importantly, this argument fails to take into account the force transfer and stability qualities.
These have nothing to do with mobility, and offer a significant advantage in performance and safety over other shoes, which are like lifting while standing on a pile of marshmallows in an inflatable raft.
If you do switch to weightlifting shoes, don’t be surprised if you initially feel weaker or somewhat awkward. Like making any other change in position, it’ll take a bit of time to adjust and train the body accordingly. Take a few weeks to ease into your full training intensity and volume.
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