About the Shoes

This is a revised repost from our old blog.

Running shoes seem to be the default shoe for all general athletic activities. Going to get some exercise? Put on your running shoes. But as many of you have noticed, running shoes may be your poorest choice for the weightlifting we do at CrossFit. Let’s examine why.

Think of setting up for a deadlift. You bend down to grip the bar, set your back properly, and get ready to drive your heels hard into the ground to lift this heavy weight. You want the force generated by your legs to be transferred directly into the ground. If you’re wearing running shoes, however, that force is being partially stolen by the big old, squishy heel cushion. That heel cushion was made to absorb shock while running, but now it’s absorbing the energy you need to lift the weight.

Now picture yourself doing heavy jerks. Dip, drive, push yourself under the bar…and land, solid, with the weight locked out overhead. Same issue: you want that drive to be strong, you want to push off the ground and force that weight up! In this case, though, not only has the squishy heel stolen some of your power, but it’s also given you an unstable surface to land on. Instead of landing on hard ground, you land on the squish. With heavy weight over your head. Sound safe?

So what shoes do you want to wear while weightlifting? You want a shoe with a thin, non-compressible sole. And if you’re doing Oly-lifting, a wedge heel is preferred. Here are some of the options:

Weightlifting Shoes
You’ve seen these at the box, stacked in the cubbies. And you might think they’re ugly, but they do the job right. Weightlifting shoes have a non-compressible sole with a wedge heel. Keep in mind that weightlifting shoes can not be used for running, and aren’t so great for high rep box jumps and some other CrossFit exercises. (You’ve probably noticed that those of us with weightlifting shoes put them on and take them off depending on the workout.) If you want an all-purpose shoe for your time at the box, this isn’t it. But if you’re getting into Olympic lifting – lovin’ the Clean and Jerks and Snatches- or you have poor ankle flexibility or a hard time getting deep in your squat without rolling forward, consider investing in a pair of weightlifting shoes, as they will improve your performance. Check out the Do Wins available from Muscle Driver, which is offering some great deals or Rogue, two styles from VS Athletics- this one and this one, or the Adistar or Ironwork made by Adidas. They all do the job.

Men’s Dress Shoes
If you’ve got a pair at home, feel free to bring them to the box and try them out when we’re squatting, cleaning, and snatching. They’ve got a hard sole and a wedge heel – just what you need.

For an all purpose CrossFitting shoe, here are some options:

Low Profile Sneakers
“Low profile” simply means that there’s no big squishy heel, but rather a thin, even sole. Plenty of running shoe companies now make a low profile model, including Saucony, Adidas, Puma, and New Balance, calling them their “classic,” “original,” or “retro” lines, as the shoes are modeled after old school racing shoes from the 70s and 80s. Several people in our ranks wear the Nike Frees or something similar. There’s no one right shoe here; you’re just looking for something with a thin, even sole for a stable surface to land and push off from.

Converse All Stars, aka Chuck Taylors
These are a favorite of CrossFitters, and they’re what Thomas often wears. They’re cheap, and have even, non-compressible soles.

Indoor Soccer Shoes
Not as cheap as Chuck Taylors, but if you’ve already got a pair, these are perfect for CrossFitting.

If you show up for class wearing the running shoes with the big squishy heels, and we’re doing deadlifts or overhead squats that day, you can bet we’ll suggest you take your shoes off. This is an entirely acceptable option.

The bottom line?
We don’t want you going and spending a bunch of money on a new pair of running shoes. If you’re going to spend that money, invest in some weightlifting shoes. For basic CrossFitting, a pair of cheap, flat shoes like those described above is going to serve you just fine.

Have a question or experience to share about shoes? Post in comments.