Converse for Lifting: Are they really a good option?

meIt’s no secret that Converse is the footwear of choice for avid gym-goers. Still, the controversy surrounding flats, often mistakenly thought to be the antithesis of a gym shoe based solely on looks, resurfaces from time to time. Instead of regurgitating explanations for why you wear Converse for weightlifting, we chatted with ACE-certified personal trainer Chris Gagliardi (who is also ACE’s Science Education Content Manager) as well as nationally renowned podiatrist Jackie Sutera, DPM (who is also a Vionic Innovation Lab Member), and Suzanne Levine, DPM, podiatric foot surgeon and founder of Millennium Podiatry.

Later, find out why the Chuck Taylor All Star sneakers aren’t just cute shoes you can work out in, but the best choice for weightlifting, according to the experts.

Why are Converse so good for weightlifting?

1. Improved foot position awareness and stability

According to Gagliardi, there are a few reasons why flats like Converse are so good for lifting weights. For starters, “cushioned shoes, with softer and thicker sole material, can worsen foot position awareness and affect stability,” he says.

2. Better ground reaction force

“Also, cushioned footwear can dissipate ground reaction forces,” says Gagliardi. “When you squat, for example, you’re pushing into the ground and the ground is providing you with an equal and opposite amount of force (reduced force transfer). The more damping you have, the more force is lost in damping.”

3. Big foot and toe grip

What’s more, Sutera says flatter, less-cushioned shoes allow for better toe and foot grip, which lends itself to a firmer lift. “[Flat shoes] they are similar to when you are barefoot,” she says. “Holding onto the ground as you lift creates stability and a feeling of being more grounded.”

4. A more challenging workout

Beyond that, Gagliardi says that, from the most general perspective, the less support the shoe provides, the more your own body has to work. As a result, wearing flat shoes like Chucks will force your proprioceptors and stabilizing muscles into action, which can result in a stronger, more defined physique.

5. Best for back support

Flat shoes, like Chucks, are also better for your back when lifting weights. “If your feet or shoes are flat, then you don’t have a pelvic tilt and shear forces are better distributed through the body canal, ankles, knees, hips, and back,” explains Dr. Levine.

6. Also exercise your feet

Fun fact: There are 38 intrinsic muscles in the foot, says Dr. Levine. And just like muscles in other parts of the body, they also need to be activated and work. Using Converse to lift engages the foot, so all of those muscles get stronger too.

Converse Shoes Perfect for Weightlifting

Are there any downsides to wearing Converse to lift weights?

While Converse shoes are generally good for weightlifting, there are some downsides to be aware of. Dr. Levine notes that people with short heels (which is common among men, runners, and people over 50) have a higher chance of getting tears in that area. “With excess weight and stress on a short heel, you can tear your Achilles,” she says.

In addition, some people’s heel bones can also develop spurs. “With all the pressure on the longitudinal arch and the stress and strain on the heel, you can develop small bleeders that calcify,” says Dr. Levine. “These calcifications are heel spurs and they show up on X-rays.”

What kind of Converse are good for lifting weights?

As for which types of Converse are best for lifting weights, Dr. Levine says you can’t go wrong with high-tops in particular. “High top sneakers are great because they provide extra ankle support,” she says. “They also have a wide toe box so your foot can extend with heavy weight bearing exercises.”

What to look for in a good weightlifting shoe

While the Converse isn’t designed specifically for weightlifting, it works well thanks to its minimal cushioning. So, as a general rule of thumb, Dr. Levine recommends avoiding shoes that have too much cushioning or are elastic in the sole when deadlifting and squatting in particular. “You want to have something solid to push and pull,” she says. “If the shoes are too cushioned, you won’t be able to generate enough force.”

And make sure the shoe provides even weight distribution and stability. “If the sole is too flexible, it will allow your foot to move too much and cause a loss of stability,” says Dr. Levine.

Ultimately, “shoe decisions should be based on how the shoe affects your movement patterns and your posture,” says Gagliardi. “The type of shoe you select may also change as your level of training experience changes. Also, there is no one shoe that is best for everyone, and this means you may need to experiment with different types and brands of shoes to find the style that offers the comfort and control you need.”

Other lifting shoe options

That said, Converse aren’t the only shoes that are suitable for lifting weights. For some people, Converse will work great for squats in particular, but for others it may not be the best option. Dr. Levine says this depends on your anatomy, specifically torso versus limb length. “People with longer torsos and shorter limbs will have different biomechanics than those with shorter torsos and longer legs,” he says. “You also have to take into account the mobility of the hip and ankle flexors. If you’re having a hard time adding depth to your squat, you’re better off wearing those wedge shoes because that changes your ankle mobility so you can go a little deeper.”

This begs the question: Does it make any sense to invest in lifting shoes? According to Dr. Levine, he can if he wants to, of course, but it’s not really necessary. Specifically, he says that people with plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes) or Haglund’s heel (a bony enlargement at the back of the heel) may experience some benefit from invest in weightlifting shoes. In general, solid, flat shoes like Converse fit the bill.

Should you lift weights in non-flat shoes?

According to Sutera, flats are only really necessary when working your lower body. “When lifting lighter weights or doing more upper-body work, wearing flat shoes isn’t as beneficial,” she says. “For these exercises, your usual sneakers are suitable. It’s when you’re working your lower body and weights heavier than flat shoes can help you grip better.”

That said, even when doing lower-body exercises, Gagliardi says 0.5- to 1-inch heels can be helpful.

“This heel lift can lead to a more flexed knee position and upright posture during the squat,” he explains, noting that a slight heel can offer more balance and support a better squat compared to completely flat soles.

Food to go

There’s a better shoe for every type of training, and the Chuck Taylor has a place in the gym, but it’s more suitable for more advanced lifters and/or those with full range of motion, as it doesn’t help the knees. way that lightly padded weightlifting shoes do.

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