Want to learn how to choose weightlifting shoes? We’ll be doing just that today as we go over what makes a good pair of weightlifting shoes. Weightlifting shoes are not like any ordinary shoes, their unusual design actually serves an important purpose. They are a lot more effective than running or tennis shoes, which is important if you’re dedicating yourself to lifting weights. But there are a few things to look for in a good pair of shoes. The most important factors to consider include non-compressible soles, heel height, support, comfort, and fit. Of course, you can also look toward more minimal options to fill the role of weightlifting shoes. With that said, let’s learn how to choose weightlifting shoes already.


How to Choose Weightlifting Shoes Infographic

How to Choose Weightlifting Shoes - Infographic - Athlete Audit


How to Choose Weightlifting Shoes: In-Depth


Step 1: Learn the Anatomy

Non-compressible sole – The sole of a weightlifting shoe is flat and very stiff, which creates a stable platform with which to lift from. Avoid heavily cushioned running shoes which are designed to absorb impact.

Raised heel – A heel wedge helps to reduce the amount of dorsiflexion needed from the ankles when lifting and can improve posture. A heel’s height can range anywhere from .3″ to 1″.

Support and security – Most weightlifting shoes have an ankle strap or two alongside laces to securely lock the foot down and prevent it from moving. Additionally, a stiff upper adds lateral support and improves stability.

Ventilation – Perforation holes and mesh panels help to make a shoe more breathable while eliminating excess moisture.


Hard Soles - How to Choose Weightlifting Shoes - Athlete Audit


Step 2: Find the Right Heel Height

A raised heel is crucial for maximizing force as it puts you in an upright squatting position. Normally when you are squatting, the knees are pushed forward and the torso must be upright. But with raised heels, it reduces the amount of dorsiflexion required allowing you to perform deeper squats. Most weightlifting shoes will have a heel height anywhere from .3″ to an inch and is typically made of either wood or plastic. Even a quarter inch heel raise will have you noticing a big difference, but you’ll want to try on a multiple pairs with different heel heights before deciding on what’s best for you. Some weightlifters may even want more heel raise and can add additional height to their shoes either by inserting heel lifts or by getting it done by a cobbler.


Lower heel (< .75″) Standard ( .75″) Higher heel (> .75″)

Generally best for:

  • Athletes with short legs and torso
  • Those with high flexibility and ankle mobility
  • Wide stance or low-bar squats

Generally best for:

  • Athletes with a longer torso than legs
  • Those with decent flexibility and ankle mobility
  • Versatile enough for most weightlifters

Generally best for:

  • Athletes with long legs and torso
  • Athletes with longer legs than torso
  • Those with low flexibility and ankle mobility
  • Narrow stance or high-bar squats


Heel Height & Lift - How to Choose Weightlifting Shoes - Athlete Audit


Step 3: Consider Other Options

Although shoes with a raised heel are optimal for squats and Olympic weightlifting, flat shoes with a hard sole are more ideal for deadlifts. On the other hand, cross training shoes are versatile enough for exercises other than weightlifting.

Chuck Taylors – A favorite of many weightlifters, Chuck Taylors feature a flat, rubber sole that doesn’t compress. This makes them popular for many deadlifters, and are comfortable, affordable, and surprisingly durable. Besides that, they can be worn out of the gym and high-top versions are also available.

Cross trainers – Perfect for the athlete that does a variety of exercises beyond lifting. Often featuring a lower heel, cross trainers are versatile and often more flexible in the forefoot.

Indoor soccer – Have an extremely thin & flat sole, also making them great for deadlifts. They also offer superior traction and ground-feel, with a good amount of support to top it all off.

Minimal (Vibram Fivefingers) – Wearing Fivefingers for lifting is almost like lifting barefoot, all while remaining lightweight and keeping your feet clean.

Barefoot – For more experienced lifters, you can also try lifting barefoot. Many people enjoy lifting barefoot as they claim it helps to strengthen foot muscles while offering better stability and control.


Minimal Weightlifting Shoes - Athlete Audit


Step 4: Find the Right Fit


Signs of a Perfect Fit

  • A snug fitting heel with no lift
  • No more than 1/8″ of room between your longest toe and end of the shoe
  • Adequate width and volume to accommodate your feet
  • No pain, discomfort, or restriction of blood
  • Your feet should not be able to slide around
  • No pressure points from the closure system


How to Fit Weightlifting Shoes

  • Shop for shoes in the evening as feet swell up throughout the day
  • Leather shoes tend to stretch as they break in; synthetic materials don’t
  • The toe box in most shoes will mold to your feet over time
  • Try shoes in-store or order similar sizes online if free returns are available
  • Simulate lifting movements and squats in shoes to ensure comfort
  • Wear socks while fitting shoes for a better fit