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Which shoe do you like?

Your next blog post should be about what shoes you recommend wearing in the gym. I know it's a question I've pondered from time to time, especially this week, as I left my gym shoes at home and borrowed a pair of running shoes from my father and loved the extra support I had with them while squatting.

There has been a lot of discussion about which type of shoes are “best” for lifting over the past couple of years. I think it is a tough debate due to the fact that, like everything, there is a lot of individuality in foot and ankle control and comfort.

Some strength coaches feel that lifting shoeless is optimal. I am generally not a fan of this as I feel there should be some support (especially when lifting heavier weights). Also, for those that have a tough time controlling the arch of their foot they can have a difficult time lifting in a shoeless environment. This can causes faulty or dysfunctional movement and possibly stress structures that are trying to compensate for lack of joint alignment. It has been argued that this type of training can help to teach those individuals how to properly control their foot and perhaps “correct” some of the issues that they currently display. This may be so for athletes who have a functional issue with foot control and may need corrective exercises. However, corrective exercises are not the same as all out lifting.

Other coaches seem to favor the Nike free trainers, which put our foot into pretty much the same environment as the shoeless option. The soles of the shoe are segmented to allow for free movement of the foot, while giving us some padding (as opposed to standing in bare feet). I have tried the shoes and I don’t mind them for training. However, these shoes are not for everyone. Some individuals who have problems with their foot or ankle are going to benefit from something that offers them a little more support. It is hard to use a “one-size-fits all” approach (no pun intended) and just say that everyone should train in these shoes.

Chuck Taylor’s and the Adidas soccer shoes are popular amongst lifters as well. These shoes don’t have much support, like the free trainer, however differ in the fact that the bottom of the shoe is not segmented, but is one long sole. I like to lift in Adidas soccer shoes personally. I find them comfortable. As with the other options, your individual foot may not lend itself to training in these shoes though.

Training in running shoes, as you suggested, is pretty popular if you look around the gym. Some strength coaches feel that training in running shoes is not optimal as the soles are thicker and padded, which absorb some of the force we push into the ground with, ultimately decreasing some of our force out put. How much? I don’t know. I don’t think it is enough to actually make a HUGE difference to someone training in the gym, as I have seen guys clean big weight in nothing more than sneakers. If you were a competitive lifter, obviously this wouldn’t be an option for you, as you are going to want to get the most out of your body/equipment as possible. Also, running shoes can be purchased with different support structures, to allow us the option to buy a shoe, which works properly with our foot type. This can be extremely helpful for those who need the support in the foot and ankle to ensure that everything up the kinetic chain is properly in line.

Picking shoes can be tricky. Not everyone will be able to use the same shoe, as there are many differences in foot type and preference. Having your foot evaluated and taking the proper steps to train or “re-train” the muscles of the foot and ankle can help to correct some impairments that you may have developed along the way. The more strong and stable you can make the foot and ankle complex, the less you will need to rely on getting this stability via external sources (special running shoes, orthotics, etc). Some may have structural problems with their foot, which can’t be changed through corrective exercises; causing them to lean more towards a shoe which gives them optimal support for their individual foot.

Happy Shoe Shopping,