If you’re not familiar with weightlifting shoes, here’s the least you need to know:
For every sport, you need the right equipment to get the best performance. Even for those of you not competing in sport, having the right gear can make activities safer and more effective. That’s why we wear weightlifting shoes in the gym and go through the trouble of swapping footwear during a workout. They make lifting safer and better.
It’s not as simple as just getting the cheapest pair, or even the best pair. Weightlifting shoes are all made with different goals in mind, and not all of them are ideal for a CrossFit practitioner. Below are the best shoes for each training focus, from the serious lifter to the longevity-focused CrossFitter.
Best Shoes for Maximizing Performance in the Squat, Snatch, and Clean+Jerk
Nike Romaleos 2.
The third iteration of these is coming out soon, so this model is on sale across the board. They’re durable, almost bomb-proof. They’re stable, and make all of your lifts feel much more solid.
The main drawback is that they’re heavy. During gymnastics movements like toes-to-bar or muscle ups, they definitely take away from your performance. In addition, a lot of stability comes from the stiffness of the sole, which makes most athletic movements feel, well, rigid. Even things like burpees get a little harder when you’re wearing Romaleos.
These are best for ONLY squatting or Olympic lifting, so if that’s your focus, you can’t do better than this shoe.
Best for mixed modality training and lifting
The Inov8 FastLift.
They’re stable enough to squat heavy, and they have a heel raised to the same standard height as other lifting shoes. The main difference between these and most other lifting shoes is their light weight.
These are built like Inov8's trail runners, but with an ultralight heel and a bunch of lateral padding on the ankle. They also also feature a ridiculously flexible forefoot and toebox. This is what you want if you need some extra support and flexibility in deep squats, but also want a shoe for gymnastics, burpees and double unders.
I really like the Inov8 FastLift for this “Mixed Modality” category. I think they feel a little wobbly, but some amazing athletes swear by them (and, admittedly, I just tried someone else's on, and his feet are minuscule).
Best Shoe for CrossFit Competition or If You Need to Run At All
Nike Metcon 2.
Don’t run in any kind of dedicated lifter. The heel will hurt you if you're some kind of heathen heel-striker, and no weightlifting shoe’s midfoot is built for any speed greater than a deliberate trudge up to the bar.
If you need to mix movements like running with any kind of lifting, you want a shoe built for CrossFit. The Reebok Nano is fine (go for the 2, 4, 6, or maybe the 7), but I’m partial to the Nike MetCon family. They’re stable all around, and flexible in the forefoot. They’re built for your feet to splay out and work hard during training, so the support is minimal (which is a good thing) and they’re super durable. Plus they look like a normal person’s shoe and don’t have “CROSSFIT” emblazoned across them anywhere.
On the negative side, they have a 4mm drop in the heel. I’d prefer 0mm, but the world isn’t ready for that I guess. As it is, the heel height doesn’t help enough with lifting but it still chronically shortens the heel chords. But that’s the minor qualm. The real problem with these is that they squeak. Like, they sound like pleather jeans when you walk around in a quiet room. Gyms are loud most of the time, so it’s rarely a problem, but man, are they squeaky.
With the MetCon 3 coming out recently, you can find some great deals on the 1s and 2s on most sites.
What are your favorite lifting shoes? Post in the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to start a shoe debate!