By now, we think we’ve made a pretty good case for why you should invest in a pair of weightlifting shoes. When compared to your plain old Chuck Taylors (which, to be fair, are pretty great for powerlifting), the elevated heel makes it easier to maintain proper postures throughout lifts, the hard base (usually made of plastic or wood) makes a solid foundation for catching weights, they’ve got a lot of extra ankle support, they can assist with shortcomings in ankle mobility, the list goes on.
[Looking for the best pair for your needs? Check out our guide to the best reviewed weightlifting shoes.]
So how do you know when you need a new pair? Since weightlifting shoes are generally not worn for anything other than weightlifting, it takes a long time for them to start breaking down from wear and tear. That said, there are a few things to look out for.
1) Cracking Where the Heel Meets the Shoe
The majority of the impact is where the heel meets the shoe and if there’s any kind of cracking, or if the glue is coming apart, that’s a clear indication you need to think about a new pair. (Or consider sending them to the manufacturer, a service that many companies offer if you’re within your warranty.) While it may not immediately affect lifts, it could be detrimental when you need their stability the most, like sitting back under a heavy clean.
[Learn more about heel height in our ultimate guide to lifting shoes!]
2) A Broken Front Strap
Outside of the heel, the single strap on a lifting shoe is one of the most defining features. Sometimes the metal loop can break or the Velcro can lose its grip, which obviously results in a shoe that’s less tight and more prone to slippage. While it might seem strange to take lifting shoes to a cobbler, they can probably help remedy the issue, however a new strap may limit your ability to pull them as tight as you could when they were out of the box.
3) Peeling Glue
The average weightlifting shoe is soled with “cemented construction,” also known as “stuck on construction” in the United Kingdom. This is about as inelegant as it sounds: the sole is attached to the upper with some form of adhesive. It makes sense for gummy soles but the glue can peel, which puts the upper at risk for detaching. Pay attention to the inside and front of the shoe, where moisture and gait can make them more likely to peel.
4) You Need a Specific Characteristic
A lot of folks like to say that a weightlifting shoe is a weightlifting shoe and there’s no need to obsess over different brands. But if you’re trying to become as good as you can possibly be, it’s worth weighing the differences between kinds.
Weightlifting Shoe Care
“My Adidas Adipower lasted almost five years with a lot of use,” says Bo Babenko DPT, a New York-based physical therapist. “In fairness, I did a lot of CrossFit-related activities in those. In retrospect, I would avoid anything outside weightlifting and the big three lifts, which also means you should take them off for accessory work where they are likely not needed.”
It’s also a good idea to minimize dampness: let them air out and invest in some odor absorbent tools to keep them fresh and dry.
Finally, don’t wear them outside. Swap them out when you’re leaving the gym and they’ll last as long as possible. If you don’t plan on doing that and you’d rather wear the same shoes all the way through a functional fitness workout, consider a pair of hybrid shoes like the Metcon or Nano instead. Happy lifting!
Featured image via @weskitts22 on Instagram.
Thanks to Jake Boly for his help with this article.