Weightlifting Shoe Buying Guide (For Beginners)

If you’ve stepped in the gym at least a few times in your life, you’re probably seen these weird and whacky things called weightlifting shoes.

AKA squat shoes, because essentially that’s what they do, give you more depth on squats.

However there are a few things you need to know before getting some for yourself.

Things like heel height, security straps, stability etc, and several other things, all determine the type of weightlifting shoe you need.

Some of you may not need to use them at all.

Just because your new gym bro told you to get some, it doesn’t mean you need them.

Here’s some important things you need to know before diving in and making that investment.

Heel Height

Summary: Heel height is very important. It’s the most important factor for the type of lifting shoe you need. Generally speaking, tall people should opt for a higher heel, shorter people for a lower heel. But I recommend checking out the table below so you know exactly what you need.

Heel height is the staple of your weightlifting shoes.

The industry standard is 0.75″, but some go down to 0.5″, or as high as 1″.

The correct heel height for you is determined by leg length, torso length, ankle mobility, hip mobility, and your lifting goals.

Here’s a table from barbend.com outlining the most effective heel height for your body type.

Weightlifting Heel Height Table

> means .75″ or more

< means .75″ or less

A field test you can do right now is place something under your feet and elevate your heel.

If you can do it in the gym, even better. A 5 pound plate is good.

Does the increased height help or worsen your form?

If you can hit more depth without much stress on the knees, then you know a lifting shoe is for you.

Now whether or not you need .75″ depends on your body type.

Use the table above for a basic overview.

Boot Height

Summary: The extra ankle stability from the boot height will help you stay balanced and keep you tight as you perform heavy lifts. Generally this is better or heavy people.

Boot height isn’t THAT important.

It’s mostly personal preference.

Although your body weight does play a role in the boot height you need.

Essentially boot height is added security.

And if you’re a heavier or tall person, you are the most vulnerable for injury.

Stiff Heel

Summary: The heel material is not that big of a deal and you can’t go wrong with the standard TPU.

The heel is the platform you stand on. It’s what you will be pressing off of to drive through the floor.

Nowadays the most common is TPU, which is a hard and durable plastic.

Actually it is the most durable out of all heel materials.

Although some shoes have wood, stacked leather, and EVA.

Not the most durable, but gets the job done and does offer a different feel.

So again, this one comes down to personal preference.

Shoe Strap

Summary: If you’re looking for ultimate security, you’ll want to opt for two straps on your weightlifting shoes. This is more than enough to lock your feet in place.

The shoe strap is kind of a big deal.

Two straps offer lots of security so your feet stay locked in, while one strap may struggle.

Although there are one-strap weightlifting shoes that outperform those with two straps, but that comes down to design.

For the most part two straps are better than one.

One thing to look for is a strap that comes up too high. They can put too much pressure on the midfoot and make it uncomfortable.

Also some lifting shoes adopt the BOA technology.

It’s a an adjustment system that you can use to tighten or loosen shoes just by turning it.

These are known to have flaws and don’t come close to being as tight as straps.

Toe Box

Summary: The toe box needs to be snug with some wiggle room. A tight toe box will hinder performance and cause problems later on if used for long periods of time. Make sure the shoe you’re buying has a big enough toe box to accommodate the natural spreading of the toes.

The toe box, again, another big deal.

You don’t want a lifting shoe that doesn’t allow you to spread your toes out naturally.

Yes you want the ankles, heels and midfoot to be tight, because that keeps you stable.

But the one thing you don’t want is tight toes.

If you’re looking at a shoe to purchase and there are too many complaints about the toe box been narrow, run for the hills because that is a big problem.

Cheap or Expensive?

One question I get asked a lot is: Do I need cheap or expensive weightlifting shoes?

And unless you’re looking to compete in competitions, you can get away with going cheap.

That doesn’t mean buying a cheap ass, low quality shoe.

There are cheap ones that are high quality (more on that soon).

The affordable weightlifting shoes are good for beginners and the average gym bro.

A pair for $100 works wonders.

Premium lifting shoes, those that weight $200+, are not required unless you plan on competing.

Then it’s worth the investment.

Benefits of Weightlifting Shoes

Increased Squat Depth

Weightlifting shoes have an increased heel height that allows lifters to squat deeper.

Sometimes people might have poor hip flexibility or ankle mobility, thus causing terrible form.

You know, those people that go halfway down.

Because we all know, the deeper you go the more gainssss you make.

Improved Stability

Stability is incredibly important for all lifts, especially Olympic lifts like cleans, snatches and squats.

The flat and wide outsole ensures a solid base to lift off of.

Think of it as an extra line of defense against injuries.

Maximum Lockdown

Security includes straps along the midfoot, a flat and wide outsole that covers more surface area than traditional shoes, and a tight ankle and midfoot.

All these together create immense lockdown abilities.

They keep you planted to the ground so you don’t twist, sway or lose power.

Top 3 Industry Favorites

Now with all the important stuff out of the way, it’s time to showcase 3 of the top weightlifting shoes among the lifting community.

I have personally reviewed all 3 and like every one of them.

1. Nike Romaleos 3

Nike Romaleos 3

First off lets start with the trusty Nike Romaleos 3.

This shoe has been a fan favorite for many years. Nike tried to upgrade it with a 4 and it was short of disaster to say the least.

The Romaleos 3 is affordable, flexible, versatile, and has received thousands of great feedback from the community.

Read my full review

2. Adidas AdiPower

Adidas Adipower Side

The AdiPower offers extreme lockdown and stability performance.

The one-strap design has been praised by many users, as it actually locks you in place and stays locked.

Usually one strap is not enough, but in this case it is.

It’s a little on the expensive side ($200) but certainly worth it.

The biggest downside is the lack of room for wide feet.

Read my full review

3. Adidas Powerlift 4

adidas Men's Powerlift 4 Weightlifting Shoe

The Powerlift product line has been a fan favorite for many years, and the Powerlift 4 is no exception.

These weightlifting shoes are cheap yet effective.

They’re proven to hit bigger PRs, they are good for beginners and veteran lifters, and they’re flexible but durable.

The biggest downside is the long break in period, but performs flawlessly once that happens.

Read my full review

Wrapping Up

Weightlifting shoes are not mandatory, but can certainly up your weightlifting game if you lack the proper depth, cannot stay stabilized, or perform heavy compound lifts on a frequent basis.

Remember they are a tool and that’s it.

They’re not going to magically make you lift heavier and make you a pro.

But remember, they will take a while to get use to.

In many cases they are not even needed.

Read next: Are weightlifting shoes necessary?

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