Equip for the Quest – Shoes Part 2

Female to another female:
“I was looking for some new shoes the other day and just so you know Dicks Sporting Goods is not dicks.com.”

I didn’t realize how many of you were still lifting without shoes. I’d like to go on record, much like I did with belts, and say that if you do not lift with a pair of shoes, then you are an idiot. Here’s why.

The two primary purposes of wearing weightlifting shoes is so that they support the foot as well as the proper mechanical positioning of the body while under a load. The metatarsal strap(s) on a lifting shoe help hold your food in place and allow the structure of the shoe to reinforce you foot properly. If you lift barefoot, you are missing out on this support, and subjecting the foot to weird stress that it isn’t supposed to experience. And trying to make the painstakingly asinine argument that “we didn’t evolve with shoes” is a reason for not wearing shoes is ignoring the fact that we didn’t evolve with barbells either. I guess we should stop pooping indoors too, then. Jackass.

The metatarsal strap helps reinforce your foot as well as holding your foot in place while it is in the shoes so it doesn’t slide around. The wide sole provides more stability via the increased surface area. The non-compressible sole ensures that all of the force that you are attempting to apply to the ground goes all of the way to the bar. Think in terms of the deadlift: the initial portion of the pull has your quadriceps concentrically contracting so that they extend the knee while your hamstrings isometrically hold the back angle in place. The majority of the muscles in the back are isometrically holding their position as the force is transmitted up the back, to the traps and rhomboids, to the shoulder blades, to the arms and hands, and to the bar. In the beginning of that pull, if your back rounds or your arms are bent prior to the pull, some of the force you are wanting to go through your system is being lost. The same thing happens when you have squishy soles on (and yes, Chuck Taylors compress). Would you rather deadlift on a solid surface or a water bed? If you are going to invest lots of time and effort in doing things that are dependent on pushing against the floor, why are you okay with half-assing this endeavor? I am not okay with your lackadaisical shit, and this is why this website exists.

The additional heel that weightlifting shoes provide is pretty important too. Some heel lift puts the foot at enough of an angle so that the shin has some forward angle which slightly allows the knee to be flexed more. This little bit o’ knee flexion allows more quadriceps to be involved in pulling or squatting. This is good because it increases the efficiency of the movement, and it adds in more muscles to the movement. As a general rule, more muscles = good, less muscles = bad, ooga booga.

However, the heel height is dependent on how you pull the bar off the ground. Conventional weightlifting exaggerates the heel lift because they want the bar over the balls of the feet along with ankle flexibility considerations. The problem is that über amounts of heel lift produce too much knee flexion which reduces the tension of the hamstrings (since it is a muscle group that crosses both the hip and the knee). Having slack hamstrings does not help the back to be maintained, nor is it something that promotes sweet hip extension (when lifting, pervert). How you pull the bar off the floor is a consideration for how much heel height you want in the shoe, but how you pull is a discussion that has been documented elsewhere.

Anthropometry, or limb lengths, can also alter heel height considerations. It just depends on how freaky your ratios are. A good rule of thumb is that a 1/2″ heel will be “about right”. This is why we featured the Rogue Fitness shoe yesterday. Some shoes have heel heights around 3/4″, and those aren’t too shabby either. I have a pair of VS Athletics that are 3/4″ and have worked well for a year and a half. I cannot, however, pull heavy in them very effectively (due to Tyrannosaurus arms), so my rack pulls or deadlifts are done in a shorter heeled shoe (I actually used the pair that was in the video , but Rip gave those to Hom). Yesterday Gant told me that he paid around $60 for his pair of VS, and then $10 to get the heel chopped down. I estimate his heel height is about 1/2″. His self-esteem is much smaller, though.

Yes, spending money on shoes may not be glamorous, but you are sacrificing useful training by doing so. If you are going to by the milk, eat the meat, lift the weight, lift the girls — it will be facilitated with improving the relationship between the ground and your foot. You can find relatively cheap shoes on VS Athletics’ website as well as some others, and you can always go to a shoe tailor to get the heel reduced. Also, as I mentioned in the video, if you can get neoprene soles on your shoe, it won’t ever slip. The soles on my shoes have worn from clean and jerking, and I slip periodically on a platform in our gym. As a general rule, slipping with 350+ pounds overhead = bad.

Summary: Lifting shoes = good + necessary. Not having them = bad + stupid. Zug zug.

———-

Kevin visited the gym. If he wants to do a write up, he is welcome to. Here is a picture of some of us. The most important member of this picture is my pup, Leda.

Kevin, Justin, Leda, Gian, Rip, and Chris

Kevin, Justin, Leda, Gian, Rip, and Chris


41 thoughts on “Equip for the Quest – Shoes Part 2

  1. After reading shoes part 1 I finally decided to just spend the money. I”m lifting 4 times a week and I”ll be lifting for many many years to come. I bought a pair for 116 dollars. Just do it. You”ll be glad you did.

    PS- You will go through 3 or 4 chuck taylors anyway, which will equal the amount you could have spend on actual lifting shoes. Just drop dollaz.

  2. Good article about doing hard shit in some liberal pinko commie rag call the New York Times:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/12/nyregion/12ironman.html?th&emc=th

    Also, had my first 70””s Big nightmare last night. Justin you were there, organizing a hike up a haunted desert mountainside called only “Highway 80″. Not only was it haunted, but you insisted that we eat 70””s Big the whole way up until we reached the top, many, many days later. Like Bruegel, an absence of logic in this conception of hell. Giant, nice spiders. Angry limbs of dismembered bodies. Friends abandoning friends abandoning their brother. Loss of hope. The symbology is clear to me: Highway 80 represents the original death of the 70””s and the birth of the 80””s, or in this sense, the anti-70””s. You, Justin, are our Moses/Gandalf, leading us back up to the Zion of Big, through the Valley of the Shadow of Small, through the very eye of the demon-weakness that says we can””t do hard shit. Aye, and we shall live and awake to see the rebirth of the 70””s and It will be good. Ye but with the power of brisket, anything is possible. In brisket, all is possible.

    That’s just weird.

    –Justin

  3. dear everyone , just wanted to warn some people about these new supposedly high tech shoes that nike and adidas are making, I was just ordering a new pair of normal adidases and what should come but these weird ass shoes with a chrome arch in the middle leaving a giant gap in the middle of the shoe , they are also thinner than normal adidases and I broke the strap holding ring within the first weak , head my warning , and nike has a new shoe as well that looks pretty thin but has a plastic sole so there you go right there

  4. did anyone else at the gym try the Rogue Rips? i”m debating ordering some once they get more in… or maybe some of the VS shoes since they are quite a bit less expensive.

  5. You make some good points, but in reference to deadlifting the heel in general regardless of height will only hinder the deadlift for most people. I use VS Athletics (the white ones unaltered) to perform the other 4 competition lifts in and I like them, but deadlifts need to be done in a noncompressable shoe without a heel so that maximum hamstring tension can be achieved and you can be lower to the ground at the start causing a shorter range of motion. Which is why although a pair of weightlifting shoes is an absolute necessity for proper lifting if the person plans on competing in powerlifting then a pair of wrestling shoes might be in their best interest.

    —–
    This is not always the case. It depends on the lifter”s anthropometry, pulling style, sticking points, and other variables. ROM is an obvious choice if you only think in terms of fastest route from A to B. But the extra 1″ of ROM is offset (at least for me) by getting assistance from the quads off the ground.

    Justin and I pull in the 500s. Chris pulls way over 600. For what it”s worth, we all wear shoes.

    Try it both ways and see what works better for you.

    -Gant

  6. Justin/company,

    B-ball season starts soon. I””ve done NO conditioning for the past 3 months and find myself winded walking up the stairs… I DO NOT WANT TO GIVE UP THE RIDICULOUS GAINS I””M MAKING ON SS. With that being said, I need to add some type of conditioning into my training. Open to thoughts/ideas, but I””m thinking something like SS 2x a week and CF Football MetCons or something like that 1 – 2x a week.

    There was no question in this post. Feel free to e-mail Gant or me.

    –Justin

  7. JGalon, check out the Wichita Falls Crossfit program (written by Justin). I took a cursory look around and didn”t find the original article, so here it is copied and pasted.

    Monday
    Squat – Weight lifted x 5 reps x 3 sets, sets across (Increasing 5 pounds per workout)
    Press – 5×3, sets across (Increasing 5 pounds per workout)
    Chins/Pull-ups – 3 sets of as many reps as possible (Performed from a dead hang and with body weight initially)

    Tuesday
    Power Clean – 3×5, sets across (Increasing 5 pounds per workout)
    Met-con

    Wednesday
    Off Day or Skill Day

    Thursday
    Squat – 5×3, sets across (Increasing 5 pounds per workout)
    Bench Press – 5×3, sets across (Increasing 5 pounds per workout)

    Friday
    Deadlift – 5×1 (Increasing 5 to 10 pounds per workout)
    Met-con

  8. If you go at it hard as hell, two conditioning sessions per week will get you shipshape pronto. One session per week once you get your conditioning where it needs to be will be enough to maintain.

    But hard as hell means something that will really be demanding, like working with a prowler. I””m also fond of doing the 100-burpee challenge (yes, it is done for time, but the time pressure is really just there to prevent you from standing around resting too much) and then doing sandbag sprints (shoulder the sandbag and sprint with it, drop it, clean to the other shoulder, sprint back, repeat until you begin hearing dead relatives speaking to you).

    This may or may not be applicable. It is too individualized when preparing for a sport. It will depend on how close this season is.

    –Justin

  9. Just wanted to throw my 2 cents in on the topic of shoes.

    When I started lifting again a couple years back I was using my cross trainers… they worked but I wasn”t really doing that much weight. After reading a little about shoes I decided I would go get some Chucks. Those felt a little better. Felt like I was in better contact with the floor. After a few more months I decided to buy some proper lifting shoes and got the Rogue”s with the 3/4 inch heel. My first set of heavy squats with those shoes is probably as close as I will ever get to a religious experience. It felt like my feet were encased in concrete. No movement, no squish… it was amazing. Like the man says, get some shoes for the squattin”.

    However, I also agree with NolanPower about the deadlift. In my personal experience it is still easier for me to pull in my Chucks. 95% of the time I train the deadlift in my Rogues, but if I am going for a PR I put on the Chucks. I got 510 last night in them and I know I would have had a harder time of it in the Rogues. I”m curious about the new ones with the 1/2 inch heel and might pick up a pair in the future. In the meantime, anyone have any thing to say about the wrestling shoes? I have no experience with them… are they more or less squishy than Chucks?

  10. To Gant””s response to me:

    I””d say that the situation is pretty rare where a person would be a better puller in weightlifting shoes than in wrestling shoes. This would require an extremely significant degree of quad dominance that would more than likely not be seen on somebody planning to compete in powerlifting. The optimal strength for pulling comes from a position where the hips are slightly raised, and the bar is directly against the shins rather than mid foot for most people. This is why when people more focused on olympic lifting attempt to do a deadlift its generally a very small gap between that and their squat.

    I have tried to deadlift in heeled shoes and found even my warmups to be extremely awkward and slow so I for one will stick to my wrestling shoes as they””ve worked for me for years now in getting my deadlift to where it is.

    You said you have a pair of VS Athletics that are unaltered. Of course a 3/4″ heel is not going to feel good for pulling lots of weight. Lots of people will pull better with a 1/2″ heel than no heel at all. This depends on all of the factors that Gant pointed out to you previously. You can’t shoot down something you have never utilized before. And even if you did try it to PR, it may not be successful acutely because this is dependent on the chronic use of the slight heel instead of using it in one session.

    Removing the quads from the beginning of the pull would be silly, because less muscle = silly. If you involve a little bit of quads, this doesn’t mean you are suddenly “quad-dominant” in your pull.

    Furthermore, I guess you are suggest that pulling the bar off the floor from a position behind the middle of the foot is advantageous. Regardless of where you want the bar to be, it will not come off the ground unless it is underneath the scapulae, and your hips and back angle will adjust to this position when it is a heavy rep.

    Again, as Gant said, try and see what works best. However, take into consideration the training effect of using a particular method. The adaptations of one way over another are more important than how you feel.

    –Justin

  11. I agree with NolanPower.

    I use socks for deadlifting. Lower down, allows me to “fall backwards” to help at lock out.

    At competitions since socks arnt allowed, swimming shoes are very stylish and practical.

  12. There”s nothing to agree with, as I said that some people will pull better with shoes and some without. I used to pull barefoot or in Chuck”s until I had a WTF moment when I left my Do-Wins (stripper heel) on for DL warmup sets. It worked a lot better for me. Since then, I have pulled in my VS that are cut down.

    It also depends on how you lift. Guys who use the “push with your heels” probably do better in flat soles. People who mash their toes into the ground and transfer to the heel on lockout seem to prefer a slight heel. Again, find what works for you.

    Rip has already hashed this out in an elitefts interview.

    http://www.elitefts.com/documents/deeper_into_deadlift.htm

  13. vs athletics…email Richard Benoy @ rbenoy1323@yahoo.com and he can get you their shoe for $45

    You have a few hours to verify this, because this may or may not be true. I’d prefer to hear it from Richard. If now I’ll just remove the post. No sense in putting Richard in a weird situation.

    –Justin

    P.S. Richard, or a representative can e-mail me.

  14. Off the topic I have a question about squats. My shoulders are very tight, yes they should loosen up over time, my flexibility in general is quite poor. However, in the meantime is it better for me to have the bar higher on my back with my arms in and my upper back tighter, or have the weights in the lower position with my arms out upper back not as tight? I am just starting the linear progression so the weights will not be too much.

    Any input would be great

    You need to become more flexible. Some times people need to high bar in order to squat in the beginning. The best way to get more flexible is to find someone to do a very violent release massage.

    –Justin

  15. Justin (or anyone else),

    I””m sorry if this question has been answered elsewhere and I missed it. What kind of programming do you use for intermediate trainees? I””ve been looking at templates like the Texas method and Wendler””s 5/3/1 and I””d love to get some opinions; the possibilities just seem endless.

    I think it goes without saying that I””m trying to get 70””s Big, specifically I want to get ready for an informal powerlifting meet that my college lifting club is hosting in the spring.

    This is covered in Rippetoe’s “Practical Programming for Strength Training, 2nd Ed.”. I’m not going to detail the content of the book. An intermediate is someone who adapts to stress on a weekly basis, and to get to this point a linear progression (or what internet folk simply call “Starting Strength” — the name of the book) is exhausted.

    The 5/3/1 program is an advanced routine as it will benefit someone best if they adapt to stress on a monthly basis. It works well with people that have scheduling considerations, or people that are more advanced lifters who need some conditioning. Oh, and it works well for the layman who just wants to do some lifting and conditioning work (older guys typically).

    Hope that helped.

    –Justin

  16. Jake, good to see you hear man. I think TX Method is a great program after SS – you don”t have to transition everything to TX Method right away if you can still get linear gains. It”s a very flexible, easy transition. I”m personally doing 5/3/1 right now, as it allows me to focus on some weaknesses, but strength gains will be MUCH slower than TX Method or Starr”s stuff.

  17. I”ve googled this and am having trouble finding an answer, does anyone know the heel height on the original Adidas Ironwork shoes? The ones with the white leather and the blue stripes specifically are what I”m wondering about. I”ve felt some knee strain during and after squatting with depth using these and I”m wondering if this might be related.

    Anywho, thanks if anyone knows.

  18. Question,

    I have the standard Rogue Fitness shoes 3/4″ heel. Some of you said you have modified the height of your heel. Is this a DIY operation with a belt sander or did you take them to a shoemaker to get done?

  19. “If you lift barefoot, you are missing out on this support, and subjecting the foot to weird stress that it isn’t supposed to experience.”

    I””m sure there is more to this quote that wasn””t explained in the article, but as it stands, it sounds far too much like the unsubstantiated claims that folks out there are spewing out against barbell training.

    I””m honestly curious what these “weird” stresses are that we subject our feet to when we lift barefoot. Any help? For the record, I lift with VS athletics weightlifting shoes.

    I like to rationalize things with logic. My logical rationalization for barbell training: to get stronger, I will move heavy things with my body.

    While I agree that weightlifting shoes are nice, I can””t find any logical reason why essentially standing barefoot, albeit while holding/supporting additional weight, is bad for our feet.

    I hope my comments don””t sound sarcastic or bitter; I find that comments made over the internet often come across as insulting even when the author didn””t intend them to be so.

    I just would appreciate a little more explanation as to why lifting barefoot (which I don””t do) is so bad.

    I guess the best thing to try is some power cleans barefoot.

    –Justin

  20. Gazer-
    Look up “fallen arches” (Pes planus). It sucks because it began happening to me before I used shoes. I lifted barefoot for a while. The bones in the foot start to slip without arch support. SUPER painful. So that is my answer, but I am sure people have many more. The foot is a really complex mechanism (26 bones, over 30 joints, and many more muscles). It is not something to be screwed with because it will screw you in the end.

  21. Justin,

    Thanks for the help, I””m going to get my hands on a copy of PP as soon as I can. I””m sorry if this is a stupid question: is there any room in the programs outlined in PP for conditioning sessions (hill sprints, prowler, etc.)? If not, would another program be better for an intermediate who wants to keep up some conditioning while increasing strength?

    I am adding this topic to the list of things to cover. PP2 is concerned with programming strength training, which is far more important than conditioning.

    The demand for material concerning “conditioning for the strength athlete” is rising. This may be an important article. I will keep you posted.

    –Justin

  22. Werd. I”d toss in 1-2 conditioning sessions a week, right after your intensive squat/dead days, and really up the recovery (food/sleep/etc) before the next workout. You”re much fitter than I am, but I had to do a fair amount of tapering before my meet.

  23. I””ve done all my lifting barefoot so far, but I””m open to the idea that I shouldn””t. I guess the part that confuses me is that the idea that the foot would be the one part of my body that does not adapt to linearly increasing stress.

    I have no idea how common this is, but progressively adding weight upwards of 400, 500, and 600 pounds to an arch that is collapsing would not be a good thing.

    I am no foot expert, but Olympic lifting barefoot would be stupid.

    Somebody go find a statistic showing how many elite powerlifters train barefoot (not deadlift in socks).

    –Justin

  24. I can tell from watching hundreds of videos that almost all elite powerlifters (single ply/raw) use a heeled shoe to squat in whether its some brand of olympic lifting shoe or the inzer pillar squat shoes. Generally bench is in whatever shoe they please but something that grips the floor very well, and most use an ultra thin flat soled shoe of some sort to deadlift with (deadlift slippers, wrestling shoes).

    You’ve given me some interesting things to think about as far as pulling with a heel goes and as much as I believe most people will deadlift better in as thin of shoes as they can get you do make some good points. Odds are that I probably won’’t give it a shot as I’ve had too much success to change from my wrestling shoes, but with a 1/2 inch heel it doesn’t sound as bad as I have made it out to be.

    —–
    Keyword is “most.” And you’re absolutely right. Most PLers, including the current DL record holder, pull in flat shoes. But we””””re not exclusively a PL community here. Most of our readers do the lifts to get stronger and aren’t going to specialize in the DL. The additional DE work, GMs, and reverse hypers would make an athlete even more GH-dominant, which would make the shoe choice easier.

    The first time I pulled in heels was by pure accident (forgot to switch my shoes). And that was with stripper-heeled Do-Wins. It just worked better for me (especially since my sticking point is always the break from the floor), and I haven’t looked back. A 1/2″ heel should help a lot of people pull better, especially if are using it in a mixed program or for athletics.

    Whatever works.

    -Gant

    ———

    Some other points:
    – Strength training is not elite level powerlifting
    – Training is not competition
    – People have different segments lengths and body types.

    –Justin

  25. Re: barefoot lifting…

    First, I must explain that Justin is nicer and has more of a need to understand and make other people understand things than I do.

    I like what works. Any mild curiosity about why they work is usually satisfied by my decent knowledge of mechanics and excellent common sense. This is the first thing that anyone should rely on when considering such things.

    I admit that when Justin posted this, I got preemptively angry, knowing that some CrossFitter was going to extol the virtues of barefoot lifting.

    If you”re a 160 pound guy and want to run barefoot to the tofu stand, fine. If you want to overhead squat 95 pounds barefoot, fine. We evolved to handle repeated (bare)foot strikes and light loads. We did not evolve to handle static forces 500 pound back squats on a complex system of small bones. And if this isn”t bad enough, what kind of forces do you think are involved in catching a 200kg clean?

    Foot stability and heel lift (thus putting the ankle and shin in proper position to assist the knee) notwithstanding, the shoe provides better stability and protection when moving big weights, especially dynamic movements like the Olympic lifts.

    You can screw cabinet together using a car key, but you”re much better off with a Phillips screwdriver. If available, always use the right tool for the job. Always.

  26. I””ve been lifting in VS Athletics for about a year (the blue patent leather ones, they””re discontinued so I can””t find specs on them online but I think they””re the same heel height as the white VS) and have been doing CFWF programming for about 2 months. Lately on squats the bar has been drifting over my toes rather than midfoot–not bad enough to make me miss any reps, but still annoying. It almost feels like my shoes are throwing me forward. Or is it just laziness and lack of attention to form on my part? If the heel height has anything to do with it, would cutting it down to 1/2″ be beneficial for squats?

    Oh, and is it 1/2″ difference between heel and forefoot height, or just 1/2″ total heel height?

    Think about the bar moving in a slot up and down over the middle of your foot. This is your fault, not the shoes.

    –Justin

  27. I got all up in my shopping this week. New shoes and belt (PR for both as it will be firsts for each).

    Adistar Ironwork III”s from Dynamic Eleiko and a belt from bestbelts.net.

    Looking forward to fancy pants Monday.

  28. Hey guy, good post, got a question.

    “Some shoes have heel heights around 3/4″, and those aren’t too shabby either. I have a pair of VS Athletics that are 3/4″ and have worked well for a year and a half.”

    How do you know that the heel height on the VS Athletics is 3/4 of an inch? I have been asking around, and the sales reps are dumb-shits, and on the boards I”ve heard varying responses and arguments, frequently relating to not knowing what the fuck a sole and a midsole are.

    I would buy those VS Athletics in a second if I knew the difference between the balls of the toe and the heel is .75inches. For some reason the company is too dumb to figure out they should post this info. Christ Almighty.

    Thanks again,
    Charlie

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