CrossFit athletes often ask, “Are Weightlifting Shoes a Crutch?”
The quick answer is, no. I explain this in more detail through the video and breakdown below.
Not all shoes are created equal. We seem to understand this when it comes to a boot vs. a high heel pump. What shoes we wear for exercise isn’t something we often ask ourselves.
A weightlifting shoe has two key attributes that help us in the snatch, clean, and jerk.
A solid sole provides us with a solid foundation to land on. When we do a snatch, clean or jerk our feet move. It is vital that when our feet reconnect with the floor that we have a solid connection with no squish, sway or give.
When you first feel a weightlifting shoe you’ll notice the sole is rock solid. And if you listen to weightlifting you’ll often hear the “crack” sound as the athletes’ feet land.
Any softness in this solid foundation when we catch the weight is detrimental! A poor landing of the feet will contribute to a missed lift (not being able to stabilize). A soft landing causes athletes to use more energy on each lift (the body uses more effort to stabilize) When you're hitting 30 snatches you don't want to use any more energy then you have to.
The raised heel provides a little more mobility to the ankle. It does this by allowing the knee to come over the toe a little easier. This allows an athlete to reach a good upright position with a flat back easier for the lifts. When you’re in a good upright position with a flat back you’re both in a stronger, and safer position.
The raised heel is what makes most CrossFitters ask, “Is it a crutch?” And then the argument goes, “Well, I want to be able to have that mobility without the shoe. I don’t want to have to always use it or need a crutch.”
I would have thought the same myself if I wouldn’t have learned over time it is false. An athlete will gain mobility using a weightlifting shoe. This benefit comes from moving through the correct full range movement over and over.
A weightlifting shoe is helping a new athlete reach correct positions under load. They also help new athletes build mobility in those correct positions. A new athlete who doesn’t use a weightlifting shoe should keep the following in mind.
“Am I in the correct positions, or am I compensating under load since I don’t have the mobility in this moment?”
I beg you to look at a weightlifting shoe as a “tool.”
- A tool to help you reach good positions under load in training
- A tool as you develop the mobility and stability
- A tool to give you an edge in a competition when it makes sense
This is no different than a sprinter wearing track shoes or a baseball player wearing cleats. Use the right tool for the job!
I’ve put together a Weightlifting Shoe Buyers Guide with a breakdown of pros and cons for different goals. Weightlifting shoes can be expensive and they can be well worth the investment. I hope the buyers guide can save.
This is a guest post from Drew Dillon, a coach and gym owner who is a personal coach to 2012 Olympian Holley Mangold. Drew is the creator of Olyeye - a teaching tool that has helped coaches and athletes understand "causes" vs "symptoms" when it comes to weightlifting technique. You can follow Drew on Instagram and YouTube.
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