Ben Hardman has spent over 15 years lifting weights and has gone through plenty of accessories in his time – today he examines the best weightlifting shoes to help you lift safe, with proper form and for maximum growth.
I bought my first pair of proper weightlifting shoes around 10 years into my training journey. When I did, I couldn’t believe it took me that long! I definitely should have done it earlier.
From the first session, I could feel the difference between shoes designed for weightlifting and shoes designed for running. It was night and day.
The primary role of weightlifting shoes is to support your big, compound lifts. We’re talking squats, presses and cleans, as well as thrusters and snatches if they’re your thing too.
Lifting shoes benefit these movements by providing you with a rock solid base for efficient power transfer whilst improving your posture and joint alignment, and also increasing ankle mobility while decreasing lateral ankle stability.
The only trouble is there’s quite a lot of choice out there. There are lifting shoes with big heels and not so big, as well as really firm soles and others with a bit more give. How do you know which shoe is best for your needs and training style? Which shoe should you be giving a go?
It’s a case of careful research and trying them out for yourself. We’re here to help you find the best weightlifting shoe for you.
Our Weightlifting Shoe Winners
Best overall weightlifting shoe: Adidas Adipower III
Best premium weightlifting shoe: Inov-8 Fastlift Power G 380
Best weight lifting shoes on a budget: Adidas Powerlift 5
Out Top 10 Weightlifting Shoes
Adidas Adipower III
- Heel height: A precise 22mm for optimal lifting posture
- High-density TPU heel and midsole: Rock solid stability and support during heavy lifts
- Classic design: A classic but eye-catching design with integrated modern tech
The Adidas Adipower III weightlifting shoes are the perfect mixture of power, stability and classic good looks.
The Adipower III were crafted specifically for the London Olympics in 2012.
This tells us who they are suited for: serious lifters.
When you put on a pair of Adipower IIIs you can almost feel the legacy that’s gone before them. In fact, Adidas were at the epicentre of weightlifting shoes as we know it back in the 1970s, so they really do know what they’re doing when it comes to helping athletes lift weights.
The high-density TPU heel and midsole of the Adipower III give you fantastic support and stability on squats and cleans. The technical shoe set-up gives you great load bearing potential and fantastic power transfer during your lifts.
The rubber outsole is great for traction and grip on all lifting surfaces, including wooden platforms and heavy duty rubber gym tiles.
In terms of fit, the Adipower III is true to size but with a slightly narrow toe box compared to other lifting shoes. This might make them not as suitable for those with wide feet.
Besides laces, helping to secure you in is a heavy duty adjustable midfoot hook and loop strap for an extra snug feel. The canvas upper material is also heavy duty and built to take a bit of punishment. It’s also made from 50% recycled materials, which is good for those who want to limit their environmental footprint – just like me.
These weightlifting shoes are the real deal and have been built to last. This may explain the higher price tag. I see this only as an investment to give you full lifting security.
Treat them right and these Adipowers will serve you loyally for many years on the gym floor.
- Supportive and rigid heel and midsole: Provides a strong and stable grounding
- Dual adjustable straps: Ensures a secure fit for heavy workouts
- Great design: Nike’s designs are hard to beat!
The mighty Nike Romaleos 4. But are they as mighty as their famous and highly sought-after predecessor, the Romaleos 2?
First up for me, Nike have hit a home run with the design. Whilst this doesn’t directly help you lift weights, it can give you a boost in confidence. But the Romaleos 4 mean business in the weights room too.
What impresses me is the rigid heel and midsole, which are both crucial for weight lifting. Your feet are well and truly grounded with the Roms 4.
If you turn the shoe upside down, you’ll notice that Nike have gone for a wide, angled heel (as opposed to your standard curve). The idea here is to help give you even more support from an extra stable base. I think it does the job. The outsole is a grippy, durable rubber material.
The heel height from the Nike Romaleos 4 is up at 20mm. This gives a very good heel-to-toe drop, which helps bring your knees and shins into a more forward position, consequently keeping your back and torso more upright. All this of course is to improve your posture for a more optimal lifting position.
The Nike Romaleos 4 offer quite a snug fit. Lifting shoes should be on the tighter side but you want to be comfortable too. It might be best to consider going half a size up on these to find the right fit for you.
Once you’ve found the right size, the two adjustable straps over the laces will lock you in for the ride and give you plenty of stability to power through your heavy lifts. These straps aren’t as heavy duty and as premium as the Adipower IIIs, but with two buckling you in, you’ll definitely be feeling secure.
At $200, the Romaleos 4 are on the steep side. But I’d put these in the premium weightlifting shoe category. If this is too much for your budget, they are some great budget-friendly lifting shoes that we’ll get on to shortly.
Inov-8 Fastlift Power G 380
- Graphene-infused powerheel: Maximises stability for heavy lifting
- Full-length powertruss midsole: Provides angled support and a solid platform
- Durable ripstop material: Conforms to your foot for comfort and durability
The Inov-8 Fastlift Power G 380 is a bit of a mouthful. It’s also a great weightlifting shoe.
First up is the graphene-infused Powerheel.
Graphene, first created in my home city of Manchester, is said to be 200 times more resistant than steel and 5 times lighter than aluminium. Impressive. You can see why it would be used in a weightlifting shoe heel.
Built up to 22mm, this heel produces a super-solid base for you to transfer all that power up through the floor and to the barbell. It’s the same height as the Adipower III and 2mm higher than the Nike Rom 4.
The Inov-8 FastLift Power 380 also features a full-length Powertruss midsole. This innovative technology provides angled support and stability, which is a great plus when squatting with a heavy load.
Graphene is also used in the rubber outsole to provide plenty of grip and traction on almost any surface.
I like a weightlifting shoe that provides comfort and this is what the Inov-8 Fastlift does. The upper is made from a durable ripstop material that’s flexible, breathable, and forms around the top of your foot. The toe box is generous too, meaning you’ve got a bit of wiggle room to play with at the top.
To make sure you’re locked in securely for your lifts, the Inov-8 Fastlift Power has laces and a broad, durable lockdown strap, which puts it more in line with the Adipowers than the Romaleos.
Despite the added technology and sturdiness, these shoes are surprisingly light. I do quite like a heavy shoe when powerlifting, but the Inov-8s give you the best of both worlds.
The price sits at $210 which puts the Inov-8 Fastlift in the high-end, premium category. That said, these weightlifting shoes pack good looks and a lot of technology to help sky-rocket your lifts.
Adidas Powerlift 5
- 15mm heel height: Slightly lower height for more versatility
- Flexible Canvas Upper: With breathable mesh for comfort and air circulation
- High-density EVA foam heel and midsole: Provides good stability without compromising on comfort
The Adidas Powerlift 5 – a very strong contender for all-round best weightlifting shoes. Not surprising, coming out of the Adidas stablehouse.
With a heel height of 15mm, these shoes are a tad lower than some of the pure-breed weightlifting shoes.
This means they’re a great choice for those who are looking to test the waters with their first pair of lifting shoes.
Keeping on the heel, the Powerlift 5 heel and midsole are made from high-density EVA foam. It’s not as rock solid as TPU, wood, or the graphene-infused heel of the Inov-8s, but it still does a fantastic job for stability and power transfer – as you would expect with a name like Powerlift 5.
The upper is made from a flexible canvas material with breathable mesh thrown in for good ventilation and comfort. I’m always a fan of this.
The fit on the Adidas Powerlift 5 does seem to run a little snug, and the width is fairly narrow too. So, if you’ve got wide feet, it’s best to go a size up.
To fix you in nice and secure, this weightlifting shoe comes with laces and a hook and loop strap in line with the instep. The strap here doesn’t compare to the heavy duty premium one of the Adipower, but this is to be expected given the lower price point and more versatile nature. Your feet won’t be moving anywhere mid-powerlift.
A major benefit to the Powerlift 5 is the price. At $120, they are very reasonable for the quality they bring to the gym floor and the fact they should last you for years.
Like the Adipower III, this Adidas shoe is unisex, with a classic, ‘I mean business’ look to them. A great buy in my opinion.
- 25mm heel height: Fantastic heel-to-toe drop for optimal lifting posture
- Solid TPU Heel: Ensures maximum stability during heavy lifts
- H-shaped carbon plate: Providing greater energy feedback during your lift
Serious lifters pay attention – ANTA 2 is here!
This is a weightlifting shoe that’s making waves – quite literally. Crafted by a Chinese sports company, the ANTA 2 is inspired by Taoism and nature.
Alongside the outer sole you’ll notice a cool design of undulating layers to mimic waves. Let’s hope the flow transfers to the lift!
With this more thoughtful design though comes serious stability and structure.
The ANTA 2 has a heel height of 25mm (the highest on my list) which is constructed using solid TPU. The result is a dense base for secure, power-driven lifting. The big height differential from heel to toe opens up your ankle more for better range of motion through a lift. This is particularly good if you’re a taller athlete and have reduced flexibility in your ankles.
The shoe also has great ankle and foot support thanks to the three-layer 3D insole. This unique insole is composed of breathable anti-slip mesh, nylon foam and a nylon bearing tray. This helps to wrap your foot almost, and offers a smidgen of bounce for effective power transfer.
There’s more support at the front of the shoe with a special H-shaped carbon plate to give better energy feedback from the floor.
The upper has two good straps and is very solid and functional – just like everything else about this shoe. A lot of thought has gone into it and I think the results are there to be seen. This includes the unique design, which makes the ANTA 2 a standout weightlifting shoe.
The kicker to this is the price. At over $350, it’s at the top end of premium. However, for professional and very serious weightlifters, it might be an investment worth making.
- 15mm heel height: Good entry-level height
- Crossover hybrid design: Not exclusively for hardcore lifting, but versatile for an all-round workout
- Budget-friendly: A great option for those not looking to break the bank
Nike’s second entry on the list and it’s the Savaleos, the younger sibling of the Romaleos.
If you’re new to proper weightlifting or like to mix your training up still with bodybuilding and Crossfit-style workouts, the Savaleos are a great option.
With the same heel height (15mm) as the Adidas Powerlift 5, the Savaleos are a good, all-round lifting shoe. Couple that with their eye-catching design – as you come to expect from Nike – and you can crack on with the rest of your workout without having to change shoes. This is great if you’re not doing a pure powerlifting workout.
As a bit of a hybrid lifting shoe, the Savaleos aren’t as sturdy and solid through the heel and midsole as some of the others on the list. That said, they have a flat wide sole, rigid construction and lockdown hook and loop strap, so they’ll definitely do a good job for you on the gym floor.
When it comes to fit, they’re snug with quite a narrow toe box. These might be another weightlifting shoe to consider buying up half a size.
At $120, the Nike Savaleos offer very good value for money. If you’re looking for your first pair of weightlifting shoes or if you like to mix your workouts, the Savaleos should be up there near the top of your list.
- 20mm heel height: Good height for heavy lifting
- Solid choice for beginners: Budget-friendly without compromising on quality
- Wide profile: Good for wide feet, with a spacious toe box
Do-Win – the name screams confidence and so do the weightlifting shoes themselves.
The Do-Wins are a pure weightlifting shoe with a heel height of 20mm. This is the same as the Nike Romaleo, but shorter than the Adipower, Inov-8 and ANTA 2. The Do-Win heel is packed down with hard plastic to give you a firm base to push your lift.
On top are two straps and laces to make sure you’re very stable and secure throughout your lift. Comparing the straps to the others on the list, they do appear a little flimsier and less heavy duty. But they are a lot cheaper than these models.
The upper is made from a synthetic leather material with a breathable mesh at the side. I’m no style expert, and weightlifting shoes should be functional first, but for me these aren’t the best-looking pair of shoes I’ve ever seen.
Despite my opinion here, the Do-Wins are true to size (if not slightly on the small side, so potentially go half a size up) and have a wide profile and toe box, ideal for those with wider feet.
Where these shoes really stand out compared to the rest is their price. If you’re a beginner or recreational lifter or just want a very good weightlifting shoe without breaking the bank, Do-Win is a very solid choice at less than $105.
Reebok Legacy Lifter III
- Heel height 22mm: Excellent height for weightlifting
- TPU heel clip sole: Provides extra rigidity and support
- Inflatable pump system: For a custom fit and increased stability
The Reebok Legacy Lifter III has tried to push the boundaries of your ordinary weightlifting shoe.
The most notable detail with this model is the inflatable pump system on the tongue. This is used to top up with extra support and a customised locked-in fit.
There’s debate whether this is totally necessary considering the shoe already has laces and a midfoot strap, but it certainly sets the shoe apart from the rest.
The Legacy Lifter III has an all-surface rubber outsole for good traction during your lift, which I’m a fan of, plus a neutral-sized toe box and a hard-wearing TPU heel clip. The TPU heel and midsole pieces give you maximum support and a firm base to generate power. Full sturdiness ahead.
The heel also has an impressive height of 22mm, giving you a great heel-to-toe drop so you can ensure your body is in the best position for lifting heavy. This is the same height as the Adipower III and the Inov-8 Fastlift.
The Legacy Lifter III is well suited for both high-level and recreational lifting. I’m also a fan of the look Reebok have gone for here. Not as good as Nike in my opinion, but it’s a strong, smart look.
The kicker is the price. The Reebok Legacy Lifter III will set you back $220. This is at the same end as the Adipower III and Inov-8 Fastlift. Do they reach these heights? I’m not sure. That said, they’re still an excellent weightlifting shoe.
Under Armour Reign Lifter
- Heel height 21mm: Great for a range of heavy lifts
- TPU injected heel and midsole: Supports ankle flexibility and stability
- Leather upper: Sturdy and durable material
*Sound the klaxon, Under Armour have entered the weightlifting shoe arena*
The Reign Lifters are Under Armour’s first step into this field – and about time, I say! I think they’ve built a good one here too.
In classic UA style, they’ve created a good-looking, all-black, unisex design (although they also have a surprisingly nice red and white design, too).
With a very good heel height of 21mm, the Reign Lifters are ideal for squats, front squats and cleans. This height is just short of some of the big-hitters on this list, yet 1mm taller than the Nike Romaleos 4.
Under Armour have gone for a TPU injected heel and midsole that hits the sweet spot between excellent support and ankle flexibility nicely.
The upper is constructed from synthetic leather, which I’m not a huge fan of personally.
There’s no doubt that this upper adds a sturdiness and durability to the shoe, which UA have specifically gone for, but it doesn’t win any points for breathability (despite the air holes). It also means the Reign Lifters might take a little while to break in properly for a comfortable fit. For many, this won’t be a problem.
The full rubber outsole gives good grip on most surfaces and the strap adds a nice level of midfoot security. I like the strap. It has a premium feel to it. This shoe runs true to size on the fit.
This shoe isn’t cheap at $180, but this is in line with most of the other more premium competitors. Either way, it’s a very solid investment and great to see Under Armour entering the weightlifting sector.
Reebok Lifter PR III
- Heel height 15mm: Good for everyday lifting
- Versatile and budget-friendly: A great entry-level shoe for beginners
- High-density EVA: Good construction and stability for the price
If you’re looking to have a first dabble into weightlifting shoes, you can do much worse than the Reebok Lifter PR III.
With a heel height of 15mm, it’s a versatile and flexible shoe with big plus points for squatting. This heel height is the same as the Adidas Powerlift 5 and Nike Savaleos.
The Lifter PR III looks more like a normal gym trainer than most of the other weightlifting shoes on this list. For some, especially beginners, this is a bonus as you don’t necessarily want to stand out from the crowd. The look and lower heel height also create an easier transition from powerlifting exercise to the rest of your workout.
From earlier editions, the Lifter PR III has a reconfigured EVA foam midsole to give lightweight cushioning whilst still providing a solid base still. This makes them a good shoe for bridging the gap between pure weightlifting and other workouts.
The upper is made from a breathable mesh and the laces are topped with a nice, thick single hook and loop strap to give you good foot security.
I do like the Reebok Lifter PR but at a 15mm heel height, it’s competing directly with the Nike Savaleos and Adidas Powerlift 5. In all honesty, I think the other two are better overall options considering the price difference is only $10.
What Are The Benefits Of Wearing Weightlifting Shoes?
There are many benefits associated with wearing weightlifting shoes for the relevant big lifts.
Remember, we’re talking about all types of squats, overhead press, cleans and snatches. Weightlifting shoes with a raised heel shouldn’t be used for deadlifts, which require a flat surface for maximum power generation.
The main benefits of proper lifting shoes include:
- Less ankle flexion
- More upright trunk
- Better knee and hip alignment
- Reduced stress on lower back
These are mainly achieved through a number of features that were developed in the 1960s and 1970s when the sport of weightlifting was really starting to take off.
As you may already know, professional weightlifting revolves around two main moves: the clean and jerk, and the snatch.
No squats or deadlifts? Nope, these aren’t weightlifting events in their own right. But they are powerlifting events, with the third being the bench press.
Despite this, the squat and deadlift movement play a crucial role in weightlifting, forming key parts of the snatch and clean movements.
Features Of A Weightlifting Shoe
You’ll notice that weightlifting shoes don’t really look like normal gym trainers. They’re pretty distinctive-looking!
But this is for good reason – weightlifting shoes aren’t like normal trainers.
To give you the necessary stability and support when you’re squatting twice your bodyweight or lifting a heavy mass above your head, a weightlifting shoe abides by a few key features.
Common to most weightlifting shoes are:
- Raised heel
- Hard, rigid sole
- Grippy outsole
- Single or double strap over the laces
- Lateral ankle support
Most of the other design elements you find in all shoes are up for grabs. That said, there are other beneficial features you often find in weightlifting shoes depending on the make and model.
These can include a larger front toe box area to allow your toes to spread during the lift, and some form of breathable material or features for the upper part of the shoe.
A lot of these points were discovered during the experimental years of the 1960s.
Weightlifters started trying out different forms of footwear to see if they could gain any extra advantages. Boxing shoes and heavy work boots were sometimes used, but weren’t quite right.
Lifters soon realised the benefit of having a raised heel for moves like the squat. It helped to keep them grounded and it benefitted their posture.
Soon, the Soviets nailed a thick wooden heel onto a leather sole. Primitive, yes – but it did the job. The period of weightlifting shoes had begun.
This basic form was developed much further by Mr Adidas himself, Adi Dassler.
He worked with Olympic weightlifters to hone in on the design for maximum performance impact. It’s no surprise that Adidas are still at the top of the game when it comes to lifting footwear.
The Science Behind Weightlifting Shoes
Ok, so you’ve heard about the features, but what’s the science behind this? Have weightlifting shoes been shown to improve performance on the key lifts? Or is it just something that weightlifters now wear out of habit?
Yes, weightlifting shoes are legitimate performance enhancers! Studies over the years have backed up the fundamental design principles associated with weightlifting shoes.
One study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found weightlifting shoes helped reduce forward lean, increase mobility, and improve knee extensor activation during the barbell squat.
The key feature that does most of the heavy lifting (pardon the pun) for the benefits is the raised heel.
Raising the heel so it can sit on and push off a hard surface brings a number of positives to the lifter’s body position. It also helps to keep your feet grounded during the lift which is really important for power transfer during the movement.
According to the science, the raised heel of a weightlifting shoe helps to align your torso with your thigh and shin in a more preferential position for shifting weight.
It does this in two main ways. Let’s take a look.
Firstly, a raised heel increases ankle mobility. You might read up on this as dorsiflexion, which is the movement of your toes and foot towards your shin to create a smaller angle.
Dorsiflexion, or ankle mobility, is a crucial factor for squat depth. The better your dorsiflexion, the lower you can squat down.
If you have tighter ankles by the grace of your genetics, you won’t be able to squat as deeply. Reduced ankle mobility stops the shins and knees from coming any further forward as your body lowers down. The result is your body stops moving towards the ground and your squat depth isn’t as good.
Helping to level up the playing field here is the raised heel of a weightlifting shoe.
A good lifting shoe won’t alter your biomechanics directly, but it will naturally increase the angle of your ankle joint. In turn, this will improve a lifter’s range of motion.
The act of raising the heel also plays another important role. Rather than biomechanics as such, this is to do with your lifting form.
The benefit of weightlifting with the right form should be clear. In short, you will maximise your performance (lift more weight) whilst reducing the risk of injury.
What the raised heel of a lifting shoe does is help your body stay more vertical. And by this I mean not leaning forwards at the hips.
This might seem slightly strange. Usually when you raise your heels and shift your weight onto your toes, you lean further forward.
This is true, but remember, the weightlifting shoe is designed to still keep weight going through your heels rather than pushing it on to your toes.
This is where a hard, rigid sole and tight fit to keep you grounded come in. It will still take a little getting used to, but your body will quickly adapt and rebalance the weight distribution.
To reduce the transition period if you’re new to weightlifting shoes, it might be better to start with a smaller heel height. Something like the Adidas Powerlift 5, Reebok Lifter PR III or Nike Savaleos all come in at 15mm and are great shouts to start off.
The act then, of raising your heel, helps your form by shifting your knees and shins forward. This then brings your ankles closer to your hips for a tight, strong, more balanced and upright position. Just what you want when weightlifting.
By reducing the amount your torso leans forward, you can also reduce the chance of lower back stress and therefore injuries.
Couple all this with the additional benefits of a lifting shoe, such as ankle support and foot stability, and your lifting game will be on the up.
Things To Consider When Choosing A Weightlifting Shoe
When choosing the perfect weightlifting shoe for you, it’s important to consider a few primary aspects. Let’s take a look so you can make the most informed decision for you.
The heel height of a good weightlifting shoe will range from 15mm to 25mm. The height that’s perfect for you will depend on personal preference as well as your own body mechanics.
Generally speaking, the taller you are, the higher the heel you require. This is because tall people tend to have longer shins and torsos which can make deep squats difficult. Increasing the range of motion at the ankle with a higher-heeled shoe will help with the angles to create a more upright body position.
If you’re not sure about the height, try experimenting at the gym with some weight plates and a light barbell. Start off with the smallest plate and move up. See how each one feels. You might have to take your tape measure though to see how high each plate is!
An easier way is to buy heel inserts that you can use with your current shoes. Bear in mind though that this won’t be the same as a weightlifting shoe, which brings extra benefits to feel, comfort and security. Sticking a heel insert may make your current shoe feel very tight.
With most modern weightlifting shoes, the heel tends to be constructed from two main materials: TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) and EVA (ethyl vinyl acetate).
Both are highly durable, lightweight materials that will give you a really solid heel base.
TPU is used for pure weightlifting shoes. This is because it’s a harder material with little to no compression.
EVA is slightly more compressible, which means it’s often used in hybrid-type shoes designed to be used for weightlifting, as well as other types of training.
Price is a key factor for most. The cost of the shoes listed above range from around $100 all the way up to $350.
Is the price differential worth it?
All things considered, the premium shoes do tend to bring more quality to the table in terms of the materials used, manufacturing standards and the support they give a lifter.
However, all have been tried and tested by weightlifters. There’s no doubt that even the most budget-friendly shoe here (Do Win) will do a good job for you in the gym.
Lifting Shoe Novice
It’s possible you’ve never worn a pair of lifting shoes before. If this is the case, the raised heel does take a little getting used to.
To make the transition easier, it might be an idea to go for a shoe with an intermediate-sized heel. Something around 15mm would be good.
This is how I made the transition. I wanted a shoe with more support that would help my lifts. I also wanted to continue using the shoe for the rest of my workout, so I went for a hybrid lifting shoe. After I used these for a while, I realised the benefit of the raised heel for squatting, so I decided to get a fully fledged pair of weightlifting shoes.
Of course, it’s entirely possible to make the leap straight across. Just consider that it might take longer to get used to the shoes to then reap the benefits.
Weightlifting shoes will come with either one strap or two straps. Strap thickness can also be a variable too.
The role of straps is to increase foot security and create a snug fit. This is because you don’t want the bottom of your foot to come away from the sole during the lift. Foot contact is important to generate as much power as possible.
A single strap will be across the midfoot. For most lifters this will be more than adequate.
Double straps offer another level of security across the bottom and top sections of your foot. You might want the flexibility to adjust the straps to different levels on certain lifts; for example, if you follow a split jerk technique.
All in all, weightlifting shoes will benefit most of your strong lifts. Choosing the right shoe can take a bit of time, but it’s worth it. In my view, you can’t go far wrong if you go for one of the weightlifting shoes from the list above.
The effect of weightlifting shoes on the kinetics and kinematics of the back squat – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27096286/
Heel-Raised Foot Posture Does Not Affect Trunk and Lower Extremity Biomechanics During a Barbell Back Squat in Recreational Weight lifters – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30789547/