My personal experience with shoes and fitness has been somewhat varied. Having done mixed modal work for the past seven years, having several pairs of Nike TR’s to start, then getting into Inov-8s and then into Nano’s. I’ve owned 3 pairs of Olympic lifting shoes, starting with a VS Dynamo, working into a Pendlay, then into a pair of Adidas Adipowers. Running shoes have gone solely from New Balance and into Brooks the past 2-3 years.
In this article, I’ll start by discussing why each shoe needs to be in your bag. From there a simple jump into whom each shoe is for, what types of shoes are offered, and when you should wear each specific shoe. Next some advice on when not to wear specific shoes and some much-needed advice on what to look for when purchasing each type of shoe.
All Purpose Shoe
Why: This shoe does it all! You can wear it while lifting, jumping, running, etc. The all-purpose shoe typically has a minimal heel to toe drop, which allows for SOME stability during the big lifts. This wouldn’t be a shoe to wear exclusively during lifting or heavy squatting. These shoes allow for all of your needs to be met while training in the mixed modal fitness without having to change in or out of them that often.
Who: I’d recommend a pair of these shoes for anyone that truly wants a performance based shoe that allows them to switch gears easily. Running into power cleans, wear the all-purpose shoe.
What: Inov-8 – F-Lite 195’s, Reebok Nano’s, Reebok Compete, Nike Metcon, New Balance Minimus
When: Most workouts that require mixed modal training. Think a typical “WOD”. 15 min amrap of KBS and Burpee, rock the “go-to”.
Not advised for: Not on long runs. Not during strength biased work (Olympic lifting, squatting)
Advice: When purchasing this shoe, find one that fits your foot. Each one will fit a little differently, too narrow of a shoe can cause discomfort, same thing with a wide based shoe. If you’ll be rope climbing in them, find a shoe that has more protection.
If you’ll be doing more jumping or bounding, find a semi-cushioned shoe that allows for some extra support compared to the minimalist all purpose shoe. These shoes tend to have a minimal heel-to-toe drop, allowing for a great feel for contact with the ground while doing the Olympic lifts in during mixed modal work. Understand each person’s foot is unique and each shoe is designed to be somewhat different as well!
Olympic Lifting Shoe
Why: This shoe is designed for Olympic lifting: the Snatch and Clean and Jerk. It has a very high heel that aids in keeping the torso upright during these lifts. You’ll notice this immediately when doing a set of squats or perform a few air squats for the first time in lifters. The upright torso allows for a better-receiving position in the bottom of a clean and the bottom of your snatch! It is also imperative for transferring strength from the front and back squat to the snatch and clean and jerk.
Olympic lifting shoes cup the heel, allowing for a great base of support while getting the weight into a stable position overhead. Appropriate levels of ankle flexibility also transfer well to the receiving positions, which the “lifter” enhances. These shoes can, over time, limit your flexibility if solely relying on them for getting to depth.
Who: The serious to semi-serious trainee looking for stability while Olympic lifting. If you are doing these lifts 2-3x a week with any sort of intensity, I’d recommend having a pair in your bag.
What: Nike Romaleos, Reebok Lifters (more forefoot flexibility) & Lifter Plus (two straps), Adidas Adipower & Powerlift (90$), Inov-8, Risto, Pendlay
When: During training for the Olympic lifts, front squats, back squats and overhead squats. You could purchase these every 1-2 years depending on the frequency of use. If you’re Olympic lifting every day, you might go through them quicker (I’ve gone through 3 pairs in about 6 years of lifting).
Advice: Finding the right fit for this shoe is a must. Some run big, some run small. Each company has put some R&D into each one of their products, so you need to spend time researching the fit of the shoe prior to purchase. Cost on these shoes ranges from the intro level $90 pair up into the $200’s with a pair of custom lifters.
Not advised for: during running, a fairly mixed workout, and deadlifts. During the deadlift, we look for heel contact and posterior chain activation, so the raised heel is counterproductive to this type of pursuit.
** A caveat: Powerlifters typically go with a flat shoe as their squat style differs from that of an Olympic lifter (low bar vs. high bar respectively). The goal with a low bar squat is to support the weight on the upper ridge of your scapula while the high bar is high on the trapezius while trying to maintain an upright torso.
Why: When running longer than a mile or so and or you don’t have a great forefoot striking pattern while running. These shoes can have a lot of technological features, controlling specific mechanical issues at the foot (overpronation control). Whether you believe that all people should run a certain way, there are some issues that may or may not be able to be corrected with a certain type of shoe.
Common issues with running will be seen as a flat foot, high arch, or neutral arch and from there it goes on to pronation control, shoes for heavy runners, and latest trends such as extra-cushioned shoes. Each person runs differently, so a different shoe for each person would be advised.
Who: Anyone that runs for any sort of mileage throughout the week. Training for a 5k? Get a pair of runners in your gym bag. 400m repeats while getting your 1.5-mile run time down? Definitely own a pair of running shoes.
What: Adidas, Asics, Brooks, Mizuno, Newton’s, New Balance, Nike, Pearl, Strike Mvmnt– find something that works for you. If you’re an experienced runner, you should know what works for you and hasn’t hurt you in the past, so stick to it. If you’re getting into running make sure you try on a few pair, do a little running in them and see how they feel. While picking your runners out at a store, it’s imperative you wear them while running on a treadmill. This will give you a great idea on the fit of the shoe and if it will work for you. The selection process in store allows for real time evaluation to go on so that you get the shoe that fits great. If you’re planning on quite a bit of mileage then look at getting a few pairs.
Advice: There is a lot of research on running shoes, but most of it is inconclusive on how to prevent injuries while running. The trends with new shoes come from the world of research. This research has lead to minimal footwear, overpronation control shoes, extra cushioned shoes(Hokaoneone), and others styles of runners. When we get into prescribing footwear while watching someone run, we can run into issues.
For instance, a foot in a shoe can deviate 5 to 20 degrees while in the shoe, but the shoe stays at the same position. That data came from the study that concluded: “The current study further substantiates the notion that markers positioned on the shoe do not represent true foot movement when contrasted against markers placed onto the skin. 1”*
So there you have it, 3 types of shoes you’ll want to have in your gym bag. Start by looking at which activities you plan on doing, then find a pair in each category that fits you best.
(Image courtesy of blog.finishline.com, cdn.shopify.com, 40.media.tumblr.com)
*Sinclair, J.,Taylor P.J., Hebron, J. & Chockalingam, N. (2014, June 30). Differences in multi-segment foot kinematics measured using skin and shoe mounted markers. The Foot and Ankle Online Journal 7 (2): 7. Retrieved from http://faoj.org/2014/06/30/differences-in-multi-segment-foot-kinematics-measured-using-skin-and-shoe-mounted-markers/
Randise, C. (2013, Dec 05). The Big Three: Why Powerlifters Love Chuck Taylors. Retrieved from http://ca.complex.com/sneakers/2013/12/big-3-chuck-ts-benefits-chuck-taylors-powerlifting