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If, until now, you’ve been nonchalantly wearing your runners to deadlift and squat in – STOP THIS INSTANT, we urge you.
Why? We aren’t being fussy, honest, it’s just incredibly important that, when lifting, you don shoes that will provide you with a stable base for safe and efficient strength training.
Shopping for sports shoes is a minefield, we know, so we’ve broken down exactly what you need to look for in a pair of strength training shoes.
How to shop for the best shoes for strength training
Whilst you may search for spongy-soled trainers for running, strength training requires more or less the total opposite in a pair of shoes.
Of course, the type of lifting you intend on doing (Olympic, cross-training, or powerlifting, for example) will largely determine your ideal footwear criteria, however, generally speaking the goal is to create a sturdy base for lifting as safely and efficiently as possible.
This means you most likely want a pair of shoes with a flat base for force transfer and minimal drop from the heel to the toe (though, if you’re into Olympic lifting you might prefer opting for weightlifting shoes with an elevated heel).
Always opt for a shoe with a wide toe box where possible, which allows you to better spread your toes and improve your grip (which, in turn, can help to improve your lift, since you have created a more anchored base).
Whether a supple or stiff shoe is preferable really depends on the type of lifting you intend on doing. A little give will help you perform lunges, for example, whilst a more study shoe might help you feel more supported.
Strength training shoes can be costly, and often aren’t suited to everyday activities (therefore, probably don’t wear your Metcons on a shopping trip).
So, if you’re looking for a low-cost pair or a pair that you can get maximum wear out of, your best bet is to opt for those suited to cross-training or a classic pair of Converse.
8 of the best shoes for strength training
Sizes available: 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, 5, 5.5, 6, 6.5, 7, 7.5, 8, 8.5, 9, 9.5, 10, 10.5, 11, 11.5, 12, 13, 14
Nike’s Metcon 6’s are a solid shoe choice for Olympic lifting and cross-training.
A firm, wide, and flat base provides stability for heavy lifts, and a stiff structure offers support for many different types of movement (think: quick direction changes, jumping, lunging, and so on).
The forefoot is cushioned for high-impact exercises, and rubber tread on the sole and sides of the shoe provides grip for sled-pushing and rope-climbing (if that’s your thing, of course).
They come in an array of colours and patterns – you can even customise them to create a pair that’s completely unique to you – and a lightweight mesh helps to encourage air circulation and keep feet cool.
Something to note: Metcon 6’s aren’t for running, so if you’re someone who likes to take to the treadmill every one in a while, you’ll need a separate pair of shoes.
Primus Lite III
Sizes available: 3, 3.5, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 8.5, 9, 10, 11, 11.5, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17
Barefoot shoes aren’t for everyone (as some need more support), but benefits, if you can hack them, could include increased foot strength.
Vivobarefoot’s Primus Lite IIIs are a good shoe for both lifting and running, though they aren’t the best option for Olympic lifting.
They’re completely flat, with zero drop and a generously wide toe box for exceptional grip (crucial for performing some big lifts) and stability, and they’re flexible to enable mobility.
They’re incredibly lightweight, and have what’s called an Active Sole which, although super-thin at 4mm, provides traction both inside and outside.
They’re vegan, and come in five colours.
No Bull Trainer
Sizes available: 5, 5.5, 6, 6.5, 7, 7.5, 8, 8.5, 9, 9.5, 10, 10.5, 11, 11.5, 12, 12.5, 13, 13.5, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18
Championed by Crossfit, well, champs, No Bull Trainers were designed with classic Crossfit WODs (or, workouts of the day, to you and us) in mind. This means you can comfortably lift, sprint, jump, climb, and more, in them.
The slight heel-to-toe drop (4mm) and wide toe box mean they’re sturdy and offer stability for big lifts, and the sole was created to withstand – and provide superior grip for – both indoor and outdoor training.
Upper fabric is durable and breathable, and online reviews are full of fit folk raving about the shoes’ next level comfort (“Nike who?” says one happy customer). They come in a range of colours, and are available with high tops, too.
Chuck Taylor All Star Classic
Sizes available: 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, 5, 5.5, 6, 6.5, 7, 7.5, 8, 8.5, 9, 9.5, 10, 10.5, 11, 11.5, 12, 13, 14, 16
What makes Converse’s Chuck Taylor All Star Classics (perhaps curiously) an excellent choice for strength training – and, in particular, powerlifting – is their flat and supportive base.
Their stiffness and lack of instep help to provide stability, whilst little eyelets encourage breathability.
Interestingly, Chuck Taylor All Star Classics were created over 100 years ago, and the design hasn’t veered all that much from the original in the years since.
The canvas provides comfort, whilst the OrthoLite insole provides cushioning. And, best of all? They’re ideal for everyday wear, too.
We probably don’t need to tell you that they come in a wide range of colours and designs (you can also create your own), and with high or low tops.
Nano X1 Shoes
Sizes available: 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, 5, 5.5, 6, 6.5, 7, 7.5, 8, 8.5, 9, 9.5, 10, 10.5, 11, 11.5, 12, 13
There’s a reason Reebok’s Nanos are rated by weightlifters.
Featuring a low heel-to-toe drop and a soft, breathable, and flexible upper, they’re ideal for jumping, lifting, and sprinting, and the grippy, rubber sole provides traction for climbing and sled-pushing, too.
They’re lightweight, though don’t lack stability, thanks to a heel clip that provides anchorage and allows for quick changes in direction, and cushioning in the forefoot helps to soften landings when doing plyometrics.
They’re easy on the eye (and can be personalised, if wearing your name on your shoes is something you’re into), and come in a wide range of colours.
TriBase Reign 3 Training Shoes
Sizes available: 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, 5, 5.5, 6, 6.5, 7, 7.5, 8, 8.5, 9, 9.5, 10, 10.5, 11, 11.5, 12, 13, 14
Under Armour’s TriBase Training Shoes tick all the boxes for cross-training. A low, close-to-the-ground construction and minimal heel drop provides a stable base for power transfer, and rubber under the toe box improves floor grip.
The mesh upper allows the shoe a reasonable amount of give (so, ideal for push-ups, lunges, and so on), whilst rubber that wraps the sides and exterior sole of the shoe provides traction for rope climbs and sprints.
All in all? A quality shoe for CrossFit – and comes in a few different colours.
361 Quest TR
Sizes available: 4, 4.5, 5, 5.5, 6, 6.5, 7, 7.5, 8, 8.5, 9, 9.5, 10, 10.5, 11, 11.5, 12
We’ll cut to the chase: they don’t quite have the cuteness of Nike’s Metcons or Reebok’s Nanos, but you can’t fault the function of 361’s Quest TRs.
It’s a versatile shoe that can see you through sets of snatches, box jumps, kettle bell swings, and more, and is therefore a fan favourite in the CrossFit community.
It has a fairly low heel drop and a sticky sole which both help to maintain stability during lifts, whilst cushioning in the forefoot helps to lighten landings during sprints, and such. The fabric is supple and breathable, though there’s external support around the heel.
We particularly rate the mono-sock feature, which effectively gives a slightly more snug fit around the opening of the shoe, and reduces movement and prevents tongue-slips (actual – not figurative – ones) from occurring mid-workout.
Powerlift 4 Shoes
Sizes available: 3.5, 4, 4.5, 5, 5.5, 6, 6.5, 7, 7.5, 8, 8.5, 9, 9.5, 10.5
Powerlifters, Adidas’ Powerlift 4s are for you (though, so surprises there). They have next level stability, thanks to the sturdy, flat base, an elevated heel, and an instep strap that keeps feet firmly in place throughout lifts.
The upper fabric is made from canvas – it’s lightweight, hard-wearing, and encourages airflow to keep feet as cool as possible during workouts, and the rubber outsole offers grip and anchoring for when you’re performing big lifts.
They are designed to fit fairly snuggly, so those with wider feet might not find them the most comfortable shoes to lift in. They also tend to run a little small, so we recommend upsizing by half a size or so.
We’ll be clear: if you plan on sprinting, bounding, or climbing, these probably aren’t suited to your workout style – they’re strictly for weightlifting.