Bottom Line Up Front:
- There is a time and a place to utilize Olympic Weightlifting shoes in your training.
- If you are a back strong squatter. Oly shoes can help you develop a more balanced squat.
- If you are already loaded down with high intensity demands on your posterior chain, Oly shoes can help ease some burden.
- If your hip structure is built for a narrow stance.
Conventional powerlifting bro science would suggest that Chuck Taylors are the only footwear you will need. The concept of flat footed performance with minimal cushion is deeply rooted in strength training in general, and nothing embodies that concept better than Chucks. These days, there are other options to accomplish this same goal. Some squat in wrestling shoes, others prefer the minimalist shoe approach. Some opt only for socks, or even barefoot, to hearken back to simpler times.
A look at some of the top squatters of our time, both large and small will more often than not, show a preference for a flat shoe.
The driving force that leads powerlifters away from Olympic type footwear, is that their squat is not an Olympic type squat. Where an Olympic squat will tend to be narrower in stance, and deeper in depth, powerlifters shift towards a hip dominant wide stance. This stance doesn’t have the same knee and ankle flexion as an Olympic squat, and thus very little is gained by the footwear (who’s purpose is to give a stable platform while cheating a few extra degrees of ankle mobility in the bottom of a squat).
But there are still times when wearing an Olympic style shoe can benefit someone who is following a powerlifting training program. By their design, they function to increase the amount of flexion in the knee and ankle, which translates to an overall more upright posture in the bottom of a squat. This slight shift in posture can provide the changes in your training that will help develop more effective strength.
You Are Back Strong/Leg Weak
A common issue with many lifters of a younger training age is a relative imbalance between thigh strength and back strength. And the majority of the time, this manifests itself as the lifter having a back that is relatively stronger than the thighs. You will often see a lifter resort to the dreaded squat-morning method, where pushing out of the bottom of a squat looks more like a dirty dance move from a rap video, the hips and butt shooting up, followed by the back flattening out. When combined with a low bar position, this can become even more glaring.
The addition of better shoes in this instance will help create the upright posture. With a more upright posture, the leverage isn’t going to allow you to fold over as easily, and allow you to rely on your strong back as the driver of the lift. With this upright posture, you can:
- Develop better squat mechanics, so you can learn to actually squat the bar instead of shooting the hips up and ugly-ing out some abomination of a lift.
- Develop the actual thigh strength for a more balanced squat.
Similarly, this logic can be applied to people who are already taxed enough on their posterior chain. Whether it is from occupational work loads, or sport specific workloads, or prior injury, some folks would be better advised to take the steps necessary to ensure a more favorable posture under load.
You Have a Narrow Stance
If your hip anatomy leads to you having a narrow stance, this will inherently become a more thigh dominant movement for you. This is a more common theme for Olympic Weighlifters, as they are typically as likely to squat narrow as a powerlifter is to squat wider. But if you are one of the few weirdo powerlifters who squat this way, you may want to borrow their tactics and tricks, namely the shoes.
- The result of this narrow stance, you will be subjected to a significantly higher degree of forward movement from your knees.
- Increased ankle mobility from a raised heel will enable more efficient forward movement.
You Like Them
The final group of folks would be people who just like them. And that may be you. If you haven’t trained in weightlifting shoes, you may be missing out and you don’t even know it. Though its a “conventional” method to aim for Chucks, its not universal. And there are some freaky strong powerlifters who still squat in Oly shoes.
The one consistent thread between the two shoe camps is that both offer a solid base. The lack of squish is the more important factor. So don’t feel like you are breaking any rules that are etched into stone if you choose an elevated heel, weightlifting type shoe.