New members often come into the gym wearing running shoes. It makes sense. I get why people do it. Running is exercise. They are coming to exercise. They should wear running shoes. Makes perfect sense. There are a couple of flaws to this kind of idea though and I have a couple of different solutions.
First, let’s talk about why this is an issue. Running shoes are really good at decreasing the amount of force going into your heel when you run. Most people do a heel to toe stride, so a lot of the force goes from the ground up into your foot at the heel. Your running shoes are designed with a big foam pad there to absorb that force. This is great for runners.
The issue is when you’re NOT running and instead trying to squat or deadlift or do something else athletic inside Core Blend (or whatever non Core Blend gym you’re mistakenly going to) your goal is to put force into the ground. The same material that is keeping your body from feeling the impact from the ground is now keeping your body from being able to exert force into the ground. You may have a coach repeatedly telling you to get your weight on your heels during the squat, but if you’re in running shoes they’re missing the point and so are you. You are instinctively going to feel like you can’t push through your heels (because you can’t, at least not very efficiently), so of course you are going to lean forward and push through your toes instead.
So now you’re stuck in a lose lose situation. Squats feel unnatural, your coach tells you you’re doing them wrong, but it doesn’t really feel like you can do it the way they’re telling you to. So what’s the answer? I have a few different solutions:
- Go Barefoot.
- This is by far the cheapest option. No additional steps are needed to do this. Just slip off your shoes after getting loose and then put them back on after your last set.
- This works incredibly well. Here’s Jordan Clarke deadlifting 650 pounds barefoot. Here’s a photo of me squatting 435 barefoot. You would be shocked at the number of people i’ve worked with that hit large PR’s just by me cueing them to push through their heels after taking their shoes off.
- It can actually make coaching the lift easier because you can see whether or not the athlete is rooting into the ground properly and pushing through the foot in the right way.
- You can’t transition as seamlessly from one exercise to the next. If you’re doing a superset of Squats and Box Jumps, this wouldn’t work nearly as well. If you were doing a squat or a deadlift as part of a larger circuit, it’s not realistic to take shoes on and off constantly.
- People will worry that you will hurt your foot if something gets dropped on it. You will have to endure this completely unfounded concern, as if the person offering this advice is wearing steel toed shoes in the gym. That 45 pound plate is going to crush a foot whether you’re barefoot or wearing running shoes. This isn’t really a con…it’s just a pet peeve of mine.
- Get Lifting Shoes
- Easily slid on and off for lifts. Just put your running shoes back on for the rest of your workout.
- These shoes should be the best option for big lifts. That’s what they are explicitly designed to do.
- As Louie Simmons says “Don’t have $100 shoes and a 10 cent squat.” At least in the beginning that money might be better spent on additional coaching time with an expert. Barefoot works well enough for a long time.
- The shoes might not be the most comfortable way to lift for you. Some people prefer a raised heel, some prefer a flat sole.
- You might need/want different shoes for different exercises. I’ve met guys that deadlift in one pair of shoes, squat in another, and have a third pair for cardio. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it can get expensive.
- Get Multi-Purpose Shoes
- These shoes work really well for a wide variety of exercises. I squat, bench, olympic lift, row, ski, push a sled, and play sports in mine. You wouldn’t need to change shoes during your workout and they would work very well.
- These will be about the same price as a pair of running shoes, so if you just buy these instead of running shoes next time, you’re not looking at an additional expense.
- Examples of these would be shoes from No Bull, Nike Metcons, or Reebok Nanos. I’m sure there are more. If you’re confused, pop me an email or swing by the gym and I’ll answer questions.
- These shoes are by definition not THE BEST at any one activity. That shouldn’t be an issue for most people though. For the broad fitness done in warehouse style gyms, these will be fine.
So there you go. Hopefully this helps your lifting and fitness.