The Best Shoes for Weight Training

Proper shoes lead to more effective lifts and a reduced risk of injury.
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Some women fear that weight training leads to a bulky body shape. Lifting heavy weights as part of a regular strength-training program, however, actually leads to an increase in muscle definition and an improved capacity for burning calories. Getting into weightlifting requires plenty of planning and preparation, from program design to learning proper form. Like other forms of exercise, you'll need to invest in the right equipment, including weight training shoes. While no particular brand of shoe stands out as the de-facto “best,” your weightlifting shoes should meet a certain set of standards.


Much of a weightlifting shoe's quality boils down to its sole. Although athletic shoes typically boast highly compressible soles, effective weightlifting shoes are just the opposite – a thin, non-compressible sole provides greater stability during weight training exercises. Wedge soles with neoprene or crepe traction fit the bill, according to former U.S. national weightlifting champion Lon Kilgore. Rubber soles also offer non-compressible support and plenty of traction.


Just as the best weight training shoes have a non-compressible sole, they also feature incompressible heels. Weightlifting shoes with elevated heels prove especially effective, as they place the ankle in a upward position. This position facilitates hip flexion – essential to common weight training exercises such as squats and deadlifts – and helps you avoid leaning forward as you lift, a common cause of lumbar stress.

Other Factors

Your weight training footwear should have a snug fit, so go for the smaller option if you're in-between sizes. For additional lateral stability, seek weightlifting shoes with straps across the mid-foot. These straps also help prevent your toes from shifting forward as you lift, thus preventing discomfort. Shoes designed for powerlifting or competitive lifting will serve you well when working with free weights, but standard athletic shoes will suffice when using weight machines.

What to Avoid

Avoid wearing shoes with thick, highly padded, compressible or cushy soles, such as running shoes. Cushioned soles – such as gel or air soles – inhibit the transmission of power from your heels to the bar as you push from the ground to move weight, as these types of soles focus on absorbing force. Due to this effect on your transmission of force, thick-cushioned, shock-absorbing shoes also exert a negative effect on balance and stability.

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