IT AIN’T THE SHOES
Guest Writer Chrissy Pulsinelli takes on the topic of weightlifting shoes! Taking on the sport of weightlifting as the average weightlifter, she shares her thoughts about a variety of weightfliting shoes. Included are links on where to find your favorite weightfliting shoes, as well as where to send your shoes for some added art!
Written By: Chrissy Pulsinelli
It ain’t the shoes that make the lifter, or is it? Ever have a good pair of weightlifting shoes that you loved so much you swore up and down they helped you? Kind of like a PR bar? Ever try changing the shoe and felt completely off? Clearly it’s not the shoes but there is some truth behind shoes and performance.
Read any article or blog about weightlifting shoes and you’ll see talk about heel height, toe box flexibility, sturdiness, quality, and price but very few discuss durability. That’s because people write reviews quickly after trying a shoe out. I’ll give you my honest opinion about some of the shoes I’ve owned over the years that may help you decide what difference a shoe makes for your performance.
CROSSFIT & Weightlifting Shoes
Maybe you’re like me and you started weightlifting through CrossFit. Back then, there were only a few brands on the market that everybody wore: Nike Romaleos 2, Adidas Adipower, and Reebok U form Lifter and Lifter plus (this was around 2013/2014). You remember those shoes you had to put in the oven and wear to break in? Strange, Yes. Did it work? Yes. In fact, the U form lifter was one of my favorite shoes to date! It fit snug, had a sturdy heel and a flexible toe box perfect for jerking! Sure it was odd looking but at the time I thought it was cool. It came in a variety of colors and helped bring more Cross Fitters into main stream weightlifting.
How did it perform? The shoe performed great on most lifts and provided good overall stability. However, it had its shortest shelf life out of all my shoes. I believe I went through a total of five pairs (two of which I still own, the rest I donated to charity.) Which two did I keep? The ones I baked in the oven, of course!
Some of the problems I noticed were that they wore down easily on the heel-a plastic zig zag perhaps wasn’t the best idea as it wore down in certain parts and not in others. The other problem was the coloring. Much of the colors on the shoes rubbed off and exposed black marks underneath making it look more worn down than it was. I noticed the tongue would slide after repetitive use, making it hard to tighten. Its lifespan was only one to one and a half years.
NIKE ROMALEOS 2 VS. 3
Next was the Romaleo 2. To me the Romaleo is the king of all weightlifting shoes! It was definitely worth the investment. It’s been around since 2008 with an updated version that arrived in 2012. It was lighter and came in other colors. Everybody loved the 2’s! It’s hands down the shoe you’ll see a lot of in weightlifting videos and worn at meets even to this day. Why did people love it? Because it was so well constructed, the shoe could be worn for a few years (3 + yrs.) at a time. It was solid, chunky, wide (unlike today’s narrower shoes), and it made a loud noise on the platform. It had a gradual heel and a lot of cushioning underneath. I prefer to wear this shoe on meet day simply because of the loud stomp it makes when I land. The only drawback is that it does feel heavy so I have to use more of my legs to drive. I feel the most stable in all of my positions especially when squatting with this shoe.
The only problem I’ve had is that the part of your heel where your foot slips out comes loose after repetitive use. You can try tightening the laces and even the straps, but it stays loose. This wasn’t noticeable until after a solid year and a half of use. If it’s your everyday shoe, it may have worn down faster. The bad news is this shoe has pretty much been discontinued since the 3’s replaced it. Many people lucked out and bought the shoe for $99-150 off the original $200 price when they were starting to sell out. You can find some new selling often for more than $200 on eBay, Amazon, Athlete Performance Solution, and Eastbay. I am considering paying more for a backup pair that I know will last long term.
So how do the 3’s compare to the 2’s? The 3’s came out in early 2017 and were meant to be drastically different. They were designed much narrower, lighter and more flexible. Nike constantly introduced new colors, making special edition shoes like the Americana, the Freedom, (I was lucky enough to snag a pair), and now Camo. This meant they could and would often mark down the older styles to very affordable prices (ballpark $115-150). This could explain its popularity since it’s the shoe I see the most of in weightlifting and CrossFit gyms. Unfortunately, it’s actually my least favorite when it comes to performance. The toe box is narrow which fits my foot and it offers more flexibility but it feels like there is nothing underneath the forefront. It has a less graduated heel and a taller heel height (it is .79” vs. .75” in the older model). It has a high arch or instep (I’m flat footed so this is definitely noticeable). Where the old Romaleos were flatter, these drastically rise. In my opinion, it pushes everything forward. As someone who naturally moves forward, having a shoe push my weight forward makes it hard to find balance. Since they haven’t been around too long, I’m not sure how they’ll hold up. The first pair of 3’s I purchased has made it a little over a year and is in great shape worn roughly 1-2x’s a week.
THE LEGACY LIFTER
The Legacy Lifter was introduced to upgrade the Lifter Plus and rival the Romaleos. It had a cool name and it came in cool colors! It was also $25 more expensive than their older model ($175) and was seldom sold at discount. Each year Reebok introduces new lifters around the time of the CrossFit games (July/August). People can see the athletes wearing the new gear and decide what they want to buy. Reebok had pretty much phased out all of their older shoes at this point so fans were excited to purchase it. When CJ Cummings came out with his design of it with the shiny black and silver heel, I fell in love! If a serious weightlifter was endorsing the shoe, it would appeal to both weightlifting and CrossFit audiences. Smart move!
What did I think of it? The Legacy Lifter is currently my new favorite! It has a graduated heel but a sturdier toe box than the 3’s. Not only does it look good but it performs well. It isn’t as flexible as the 3’s but something about it feels more stable when landing in a jerk. It actually feels very stable in all squats and Oly positions. Perhaps this is due to the more gradual heel and the amount of padding offered underneath. I like the dual straps (as opposed to the 1 strap Nike offers) that can be adjusted to tighten around different parts of your foot. It keeps everything really snug.
The only complaint I have is that the tongue moves around a lot and I am constantly readjusting the laces as they come loose. This is more annoying than anything but a good distraction between sets as it has become part of my ritual. I noticed Reebok recently corrected the problem by making the tongue a little longer on their summer releases (Good news!). The rubber on the heel also seems very small next to the plastic part of the heel which has me concerned that it may wear down and potentially become hazardous over time. I have had these shoes at least a year and a half, and so far everything has held up.
What about a wooden heel? Could it be the solution for not having to buy new shoes every couple of years? Companies like Asics and Position USA make custom weightlifting shoes with wooden heels. These have a flat design with a lower heel height that can be replaced by a cobbler. They’re made of suede which moves easily with the foot and hugs the foot tightly. Unfortunately, it also stains easily if not taken care of (keep away from rain and too much sunlight). The Asics 727 seems to be a cult classic in the weightlifting world. A lot of top lifters have them. At $300+ each and only produced in Japan, they are hard to find! John Broz sells them out of his gym, Average Broz, in Las Vegas. He travels yearly to Japan and stocks up. You could order them online but because they are handmade you will need to make sure it is to your exact specification. This is definitely a shoe you’ll want to try on before purchasing.
A great weightlifting shoe should build confidence and enhance movement, not hinder it. One of my coaches believes that changing his shoes played a significant role in a career altering knee injury. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
So how should you look for a good weightlifting shoe?
Here’s where to start:
(1) First, decide what’s its purpose? Is this your 1st pair to own or is it a second, third pair, etc.? How often do you train? What is your lifting style? What is your personal style like? (Some people love Position USA for its uniqueness). Is the shoe mainly for squatting or is it for lifting? Will it be for practice, meets, or both? Helping to define why you are purchasing the shoe should help you determine its purpose. From there you can decide on price.
(2) Try before you buy! In most weightlifting gyms people leave their shoes there. If possible, ask to borrow some and see how they feel during a workout. You might also consider buying second hand before investing in a new pair! I paid less than $40 each for two pairs of U form lifters that ladies no longer wanted. They were only gently used and had a ton of life left in them!
(3) Third, consider function over fashion. Just because a shoe is cheap doesn’t mean it’s good. Likewise buying a shoe that looks good but performs poorly could leave you with regret. Make sure you consider function, not just fashion.
(4) Choose customization. If you’re like me, you want to stand out from the crowd. If that’s the case, buy a shoe that fits your personality. Maybe you already have a favorite shoe and you buy another one on discount. Take it to a shoe artist like @chadcantcolor or @bstreetshoes to personalize your design. They do amazing work from super heroes to comic books, almost like a tattoo! It’ll be something no one else has! You can even design your own shoe on Reebok.com from the color of the heel, to the laces, the tongue, everything. You should see the shoe I designed. It is amazing! I hope to wear it someday!
(5) Remember the big picture. Don’t get razzle dazzled with the look of a shoe. Things to bear in mind are construction, materials, quality, comfort, fit, stability, durability, heel height, price and overall weight. Serious runners get their feet fitted before selecting a shoe that’s right for them. They invest in a good pair. Purchasing a weightlifting shoe should be no different. Keep in mind that what is right for someone else may not be right for you. Take your time, and consider all of your options. Remember that shoes aren’t meant to last forever. If it makes it two or more years, it’s probably lived a good life. Don’t risk injury if the shoe no longer fits.
(4) Last-Have fun with it! The weightlifting world is growing. Companies are making new shoes as it drives profits while giving consumers more variety. Whatever you choose, allow the shoe to be an extension of you!
Happy Lifting Everyone!
Thank you Chrissy for this review and if you're interested in purchasing any of the weightlifting shoes above, please know there are a few places.
If there are places that need mentioning, please comment below!