Sneaker Trends

A Podiatrist Confirms That Converse Makes Some of the Best Shoes for Weightlifting

Photo: Brian Hall
It’s no secret that Converse are the shoe of choice for avid gym-goers. Still, the concept of wearing flat sneakers—which are often mistakenly thought to be the antithesis of a gym shoe solely based on looks—while lifting resurfaces every so often. Rather than regurgitating amateur explanations about why to wear Converse for weightlifting, we chatted with ACE-certified personal trainer Chris Gagliardi (who happens to also be ACE's Scientific Education Content Manager), as well as nationally renowned podiatrist Jackie Sutera, DPM (who is also a Vionic Innovation Lab Member). Ahead, learn why Chuck Taylor All Star sneakers the best choice for a gym shoe, according to experts.

Why are Converse so great for weightlifting? 

According to Gagliardi, there are a few reasons why flat shoes like Converse are such great weightlifting shoes.

“Cushioned footwear, with increased softness and thickness of the sole material, may worsen foot position awareness and impair stability,” he says. “Additionally, cushioned footwear may dissipate ground reaction forces. When you perform a squat, for example, you are pushing into the ground and the ground is providing an equal and opposite amount of force back to you (reduced transfer of force). The more cushioning you have the more force may be lost in the cushioning.”

What’s more, Sutera says that flatter, less-cushioned shoes allow better toe and foot grip, which lends to a more grounded lift. “[Flat shoes] are similar to when you are barefoot,” she says. “Gripping the ground while lifting creates stability and the feeling of being more planted to the ground.”

Beyond that, Gagliardi says that, from the most general perspective, the less support provided by the shoe, 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 lead to a stronger and more defined physique as a result.

Choosing the right shoes for weightifting

While Converse aren’t specifically designed for weight lifting, they work well for it thanks to their minimal cushioning. That said, they’re not the only shoes suitable for lifting.

“Decisions about footwear should be based on how the footwear affects your movement patterns and your posture,” Gagliardi says. “The type of footwear you select may also change as your level of training experience changes. In addition, there is not one shoe that is best for everyone, and this means that you may need to experiment with different types and brands of shoes to find the style that offers the comfort and control that you need.”

Should you ever weightlift in non-flat shoes?

According to Sutera, flat shoes are only truly necessary when working your lower body. “When lifting lighter weights, or doing more upper body work, it isn't as beneficial to wear flat sneakers,” she says. “For these exercises your regular gym sneakers are adequate. It's when you do lower body and heavier weights that the flat shoes can help you to grip better.”

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

“This heel lift may cause the knees to be in a more flexed position and upright posture during squatting,” he explains, noting that a slight heel can offer greater balance and support a better squatting form compared to completely flat soles.

The takeaway

Chuck Taylors have a place in the gym but they’re best suited for more advanced lifters and/or those with a full range of motion, as they don’t assist the knees the way that slightly-cushioned weightlifting shoes do.

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