What are weightlifting, training, and powerlifting?
Weightlifting is typically used to refer to weight training, colloquially, but weightlifting can also be referring to Olympic weightlifting. Powerlifting only refers to itself, so it is a bit less confusing. To be clear, weight training is lifting weights to increase your strength, endurance, and muscle mass. Technically both Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting can be forms of weight training, depending on your goals. In the end, weight training simply refers to increasing strength through the use of heavier weights.
Olympic weightlifting consists of two types of lifts: snatch, and the clean and jerk. The snatch lift uses the legs to begin the lift and gain momentum, and shifting it to the arms and upper body, bending knees to transition the weight over and above his head, and rising into a fully upright position. We are sure you’ve seen an example of this before, and likely the same is true for the clean and jerk. The second type of lift is quite similar, but the bar is only raised just under the chin and rests on the shoulders as you raise your torso. In these cases, you are judged on your amount lifted and the accuracy of your techniques.
Powerlifting has three types of lifts, and are different completely from both Olympic lifts. These are ones you’re well-acquainted with if you do weight training: bench press, deadlift, and squat. Powerlifters are likewise judges on their ability and the weight used.
Why do you need good weightlifting shoes?
If you are looking to improve your weightlifting performance either in competition or for your own pleasure, then you will definitely need a pair of lifting shoes. If you are committed to the sport, then weight lifting shoes are a key component that you will need for your peak performance. While these shoes won’t suddenly increase your personal records just by putting them on, these shoes all have lifted heels, increasing your ankles range of motion, helping you in your exercises. One such example is the squat position, as they can help you achieve greater depth, especially if you’re having a difficult time sitting all the way down during the position. These shoes are especially helpful in the Olympic weightlifting positions, as they help with hip flexion and extension, and your hip flexor muscle is vital to these positions. The solid and stable surface they provide allows you to generate more power and focus on the weight itself. If you were to wear a normal pair of sneakers, you will noticeably sink into the cushioning, in turn absorbing some extra force generated and making you work harder and less effectively.
1. Reebok Legacy Lifter
First up on our list of weightlifting shoes are the Legacy Lifter by Reebok. This is a shoe Reebok put years of studying and research into to create an amazing shoe to help you max out on your power and Olympic lifts. The lifter’s feature a ¾ inch heel height, giving you the optimal squatting position angle. It is made of a synthetic mesh upper that gives you a snug fit that is also highly durable and breathable, and also has a double-strap locking system to help keep your foot in place. In the forefoot there are flex grooves for added flexibility and upper support, designed to help increase your lateral stability and overall support when going through lifting motions. Reebok also included a removable sockliner to accommodate any custom orthotics you may want, or need, to get the best experience possible, as many people rely on third party dedicated insoles to provide top-notch support and comfort. The EVA rubber midsole is sandwiched within the shoe to give you a cushioned and low-to-ground feeling you might expect from a football shoe. As for the outsole, it is great on multi-surfaces, and is made of a high-abrasion rubber to give you exceptional durability and stability. Overall, this is a lifting shoe that is great for a whole host of weight exercises, especially squatting. It provides you with a professional and sleek look without much issue.
With that said, there are two minor issues with this shoe. Of course, the first being it simply won’t work for any other form of activity outside of weightlifting, because it is too cumbersome. The second, more pertinent issue, is that there is a break-in period associated with the Reebok Legacy Lifter, and it may take a little bit of wear before it reaches peak comfort for you.
+ Perfect heel height for squatting
+ Durable, secure double-strap upper
+ Flex-grooves in the forefoot to help you in-motion
+ Removable sockliner to insert custom orthotics
+ EVA midsole and high-abrasion rubber outsole make for a comforted and secure ride
– Not suited for anything other than weight activities
– Needs to be worn in a bit to get most comfort out of them
2. Adidas Powerlift 4
Next, we have the Powerlift 4’s by Adidas. These are a comfortable low-top synthetic canvas athletic shoe that has a more narrow fit to create additional stability, with a durable upper featuring a wide midfoot strap to keep you locked in at all times. Adidas took break-in time into consideration, employing a textile-covered EVA sockliner to give you a solid foundation of comfort and cushioning during break-in. The Powerlift 4 also has a flexible toe zone, bringing comfort along with ample flexibility during motion to give you a smooth ride during a lift. The design of these shoes also greatly increases the comfort and form of your lift, by placing your feet in an ergonomic and cushioned stance. As for the outsole, it is made of adidas’ special Adiwear compound, offering you high-wear durability and solid planting on the ground so that you never feel like you’re squirming or losing your footing under the weights. The Powerlift 4’s also come in a variety of vibrant and unique colours if that appeals to you, and you wish to stand out more in the gym. Given that Adidas took into account the annoyance of break-in times if you’re looking for a shoe that feels great out of the box, the Powerlift 4 is definitely a solid choice as they are ready to go from day 1.
While they are great in a lot of aspects, the Powerlift 4 does have some drawbacks. Firstly, they aren’t the absolute best option of footwear if you’re looking for a purely Olympic lifting shoe, because the flexible forefoot detracts from the overall stability, something you’ll need in spades. On the flip side, if you appreciate a more versatile shoe, the flexibility will help. Secondly, the upper material is prone to bunching together at the top of the shoe when it is tightly laced, making for an awkward visual and feel. Apart from these two issues, though, the Powerlift 4 is still a great choice if it fits your aesthetic and needs.
+ Durable and stable upper with midfoot strap
+ Flexible toe zone to improve motion and form
+ EVA sockliner for comfort
+ Adiwear outsole with prime traction and durability
+ Variety of colors to choose from
– Not ideal for pure Olympic lifting, better as a versatile weightlifting shoe
– Top upper material bunches up when tightly laced
3. Nike Romaleos 3 Lifting Shoes
Next are the ever-stylish NIKE Romaleos 3’s. These shoes deliver the stability and locked-in fit you expect for a shoe made for an intense weight training exercise. The 3’s come with a singular wide strap in the middle of the shoe, compared to the two-strap of the previous model, as well as adding the option of two different insole types. One which is more firm and one which is softer, and if you like a lighter-weight foot it is likely you’ll prefer the softer one. If you prefer a denser but more stable foot, then the firm option would likely be a better choice. The upper is composed of a synthetic leather and mesh material, providing breathability through ridges that are perforated. Around your ankle, you’ll have some of NIKE’s flywire material to give you a more natural, sock-like feel in your ankle area which is great if you prefer a bit of wiggle room. In the heel area, you will find a TPU Heel, providing a lightweight yet firm and durable experience, with a honey-comb full-rubber outsole pattern for optimal traction while remaining fairly light. To describe the Romaleos 3’s in a word, lightweight would definitely be the most apt. They are a solid pick for those who prefer a light-on-your-feet feel, and the secondary insole option, while weighing it down a bit, may be better if you prefer a firmer underfoot experience when lifting.
As for the imperfections of the Romaleos 3, the tongue, while lightweight and breathable, has issues with wearing and tearing since it is so thin and light. Secondly, the shoes’ laces can get caught in the velcro strap system fairly often, causing them to fray, so that is something to look out for and not ideal if you’re someone who doesn’t want to pay close attention to your shoes once they’re on, and just want to get into the action.
+ Snug fit that contours to your foot well
+ Two insole options to choose from, firmer or softer
+ Flywire technology around the ankle area for a sock-like feel
+ Lightweight yet durable outsole
– Tongue is prone to tearing because it is so thin
– Laces can get caught in velcro strap causing some fraying
4. Inov-8 Fastlift 335 Weightlifting Shoes
Nowe we have the Flatlift 335’s by Inov-8. These are a synthetic upper shoe mixed in with mesh in key areas to allow for breathability, with a small strap across the middle of the foot for added security. Across the forefoot Inov-8 has employed the Meta-Flex technology to give you more comfortable movements, providing great transition from olympic style weightlifting to other movements in a routine, and the lower-set heel height is great if you’re a beginner at lifting and do not need a full-on olympic weight training type shoe. The toe-box of the 335’s are roomier than the rest of the shoe, giving you wiggle room for toe-splaying which is great for a more natural feel when you’re doing a heavy lift and pressure is applied to the foot area. Essentially, the splaying will provide a more stable base for your body. 335’s also have a more enhanced stability system, with the external heel cage as well as Power-Truss technology to give you solid lateral stability and a more stable foundation for lifting without feeling off-kilter. As for the outsole of the Fastlift 335’s, Inov-8 has used an outstanding durable rubber to hold secure on the gym floor that has a unique checkered treading across, with a pseudo-honeycomb in the heel area.
The Fastlift 335 is not perfect though, and it should be noted that they are a bit shorter and more narrow than you’d think, and for that reason, if you are interested in them you may be better off getting a half size up so you do not lose the ‘snugness’ but do not feel overly constricted with these on. The other issue is that the Velcro strap tends to come apart and wear down over time, which is by no means ideal.
+ Highly durable and breathable upper
+ Meta-flex tech gives more ergonomic movement and transitions
+ Roomy toe-box allows for stable toe-splaying
+ External heel cage and Power-Truss tech allow for more overall stability with these on
+ Durable and unique rubber outsole
– A bit short and narrow; maybe better to get a half-size up for optimal comfort
– Velcro breaks down faster than we’d like
5. ASICS Lift Master Lite
At our halfway point is the Lift Master Lite by ASICS, a definite staple in ASICS’ power category, meeting the demands of Olympic lifting and dedicated weight-training. The upper features a synthetic no-sew overlay and a light mesh vamp to provide breathability and a lightweight feel, with a midfoot strap securing your foot in place and keeping it stable during an Olympic lift. Internally there is a wider midsole base platform, with TPU Heel componentry to offer you enhanced stability through flatter and smoother forefoot experience. This in the end helps in ease of movement and improving body alignment, ideal for lifting in the best possible way. As one would expect, the toe-box is fairly roomy, allowing for toe-splaying to make your footing more secure. To increase the overall smoothness of the ride, ASICS uses the MonoSock Fit system to give you a buttery-smooth feeling in-shoe and make sure there is the least amount of friction as possible. Overall, the Lift Master Lite is a tough option to beat if you’re looking for an affordable weightlifting shoe that allows for not just Olympic but also CrossFit training.
With that said, there is a minor issue you should be aware of before diving in. Namely, the Lift Master Lites are a bit on the narrow side, meaning if you have a wider foot they might be a bit uncomfortable at your true size, and you are likely better off getting a half size up to mitigate the design choice.
+ Synthetic overlay and mesh upper make for a durable and breathable combination
+ TPU heel and wide midsole provide stability and smooth experience
+ Toe-box very roomy
+ MonoSock Fit System provides a smooth ride
– Rather narrow, best off getting a half size up to get the best fitting experience
6. Reebok CrossFit Lifter Plus 2.0
Now we have the Reebok CrossFit Lifter Plus 2.0 trainer. This is a full-grain leather upper with perforation across to add breathability, giving you a good comfort, fit, and not leaving your feet sweltering. There are two hook-and-loop straps to lock your foot in, ensuring stability and improving overall response of the shoe. Internally, there is an anti-friction lining, reducing moisture, and a heat-activated U-Form midfoot wrap that molds to your foot for a custom fit, meaning no break in period. Also included is a wide toe-box that gives you more stability at the front of the foot. The outsole is made of a high-abrasion rubber, PowerBax, that increases durability and maintains stable footing for when you are trying to set new personal bests. The price of the Reebok CrossFit Lifter Plus 2.0 is reasonable, it is a style of shoe that can be used for a variety of exercises, not just olympic lifting, and has top quality craftsmanship. For these reasons, it is a tough shoe to beat.
With that in mind, the Lifter Plus 2.0’s have their own design hiccups. Firstly, if you have narrower feet, you’ll find that you’ll need to tighten the strap to the point that it may end up dragging on the ground. This is a sign that the velcro strap is just too long, and should be dialed down. Secondly, the straps can often come undone, which is never ideal since you want to maintain that tight responsiveness all the way through a workout. Finally, the Lifter Plus 2.0’s may feel too stiff for some, and if you aren’t a fan of a firm shoe, it would be hard to do more movement oriented tasks like crossfit without becoming frustrated.
+ Durable leather upper that remains breathable through perforations
+ Dual straps to keep you locked in
+ Heat-activated midfoot wrap molds to your foot shape
+ Roomy toe-box
+ PowerBax outsole is durable and grippy
– Strap too long for narrow feet, often enough comes undone
– Construction may be too stiff for some
7. Adidas Powerlift 3.1
A testament to the notion that sometimes older models can still keep up with the newest addition, the Adidas Powerlift 3.1’s are a precursor to the previously covered 4.0’s on our list. These shoes have a lot of foundational similarities that make it just an all-around great shoe. Firstly, the upper is a synthetic leather that is highly durable, it features ample upper-ankle support and has perforations around the collar, tongue, and lining, to maintain air-flow. Next, there is an open forefoot structure and a flexible toe area to give you the room and range of motion your toes naturally need to get the best spread possible without any hindrance. The midsole is a weightlifting-engineered, high-density, die-cut wedge that adds lightweight stability, and it is as effective as it is a tongue-twister. There is also a leather velcro hook and loop strap to keep you firmly placed inside the shoe without compromise or give during high intensity sets. The outsole, like the 4.0’s, is the Adiwear ultimate high-wear durability rubber that keeps you planted in place on gym surfaces with ease. Finally, there is a wide range of colours to choose from, so you can be as vibrant or muted as you like with your choice. Overall, this is a great, affordable trainer that works in a variety of circumstances, durable and flexible enough to be used in more than just olympic lifting, but crossfit too.
As for its flaws, simply put the only serious flaw that the Powerlift 3.1’s have is the fact that the insole is not as hefty as we’d like, being a bit too flimsy and soft for its intended uses. Fortunately, this can be remedied by removing it and inserting another, more firm option, inside.
+ Durable and breathable leather upper
+ Mesh in ankle collar, tongue, and lining
+ Flexible and wide forefoot for ample splaying ability
+ Weightlifting engineered midsole that provides great stability
+ Durable adiwear outsole
– Insole could be a bit firmer for lifting, as it is a little flimsy
8. NoBull Trainers
NoBull as a company is founded on the premise that its products are for people who train hard and “don’t believe in excuses”, and that shoe gimmicks do not make or break performance. This also encapsulates their design philosophy well, as these Trainers are durable and tough, good for hard sessions, but add no extras. The upper is made of a one-piece mesh material, SuperFabric, that also has tiny rubber textured guards across the entire upper, increasing its overall durability slightly. The tongue is made of a perforated suede, feeling soft and breathable. There is also a rigid and stable heel counter, with an external heel to reinforce and reduce wear-down. The sole also provides an equally tough and solid experience that doesn’t easily compress when you’re lifting heavy weights, which is ideal. The outsole is made of carbon rubber, just barely wrapping around the medial and lateral sides of the shoe, protecting your shoes from wearing down if you do rope climbs. This is also where most of the aesthetic flare comes from, with many designs and colour schemes being focussed on the outsole.
As unique as the NoBull Trainers are, they do have their share of issues. Most importantly, frayed laces and ripped tongues are not uncommon, being a mixture of design choice flaws and quality issues from this being the first shoe model of the brand. On top of this, we mentioned that the sole was stiff, and that is great for lifting, but not ideal for other activities like walking, running or other movement-focussed exercises. Over time the stiff sole can get to you. Finally, the price-point is fairly high, akin to a staple luxury lifting shoe, which can be a serious barrier for some.
+ Provides the essentials, no unnecessary bells and whistles
+ One-piece SuperFabric mesh that is aided by textured rubber guards
+ Heel counter and sole are fairly tough and sturdy, great for weights
+ Carbon rubber outsole that is designed to be aesthetically pleasing and practical
– Lace fraying and tongue ripping is common
– Rigid sole not ideal for walking or running exercises
– High price point
9. Adidas Leistung 16 II
Our final weightlifting shoe of the list is the Leistung 166 II. by Adidas. These shoes feature a fully leather and textile upper that focusses on form and stability over all else. You’ll notice the 25mm heel height, that helps improve your ankle mobility and overall posture during lifting exercises, like squatting. It is also configured for olympic snatch and clean and jerk disciplines. Unique to the Leistung is the BOA system, an ultimate fixture for your midfoot that features steel laces, doing away with adjusting and lacing your shoes for good. It is a one and done experience that is hard to go back from. Internally, there is a strong TPU midsole that provides great stability and in tandem with the wide platform and heel lift, you’ll have uncompromised stability at all times. If you are also concerned for your favourite pair of third-party insoles, fret not, as the Leistung allows for the default insoles to be removed. The Leistung 16 II is overall a sleek, flexible, and highly convenient pair of weightlifting shoes that holds itself to the highest standards in the field. The grip, comfort, and style are all on-point with these shoes, there is little to dislike.
With that said, they aren’t perfect. As you may have already guessed, the lack of ample ventilation makes these shoes run a bit hot during a workout, unless you’re already in a very well-vented gym. On top of that, because it holds itself to its high standards, and employs cutting edge technology, it also costs a high price. For some, this high-end pricing may be too much, especially for a shoe that isn’t a must-have.
+ Great stability from the heel lift, wide platform, and midsole
+ Durable leather/textile upper
+ BOA system is completely unique and very convenient for lacing up
+ Grip of the outsole is hard to beat, you will feel planted
+ Sleek design
– Lacks ventilation, so you may run hot at times
– High price may be too big of a hurdle for some
To conclude, we have covered the differences between weightlifting and powerlifting, provided you with the reasons why dedicated weight-lifting shoes are your best bet for peak performance compared to a regular runner, and a comprehensive list of what we think are the best weightlifting shoes for 2021. Each of these shoes is great for a host of activities from Olympic weightlifting to CrossFit, with their own quirks, price points, and aesthetics. Within our list should be at least a few options that are the right combination of each for you. We leave the rest up to you and hope you continue to raise your personal records.