The Best Gym Sneakers for Lifting Weights

Are your sneakers helping or hindering your gym workouts?

This is a topic that most gym members never even think about. But the next time you are at the gym just take notice of the footwear that people are wearing… You’ll see everything from running shoes, to flip flops, to those funny looking vibrams that are like rubber gloves for your feet.

When it comes to workout sneakers you have a lot of choices. And each style of sneaker has it’s own specific purpose that it was intended for. But unfortunately many people choose the wrong sneaker for their weight training workouts.

A lot of people look for sneakers that have soft cushion, arch, and padding – similar to what is found in a typical running sneaker. And while this certainly works well for making your feet feel comfortable and cushioning them from the impact of running, it’s NOT ideal for providing a good grip and support when standing in place lifting weights.

Not only that but all that soft sneaker padding will compress under heavy lifting and take away from some of your strength and power. Especially when doing heavy squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses.

Unique Gym Footware

Now you can order specialized weight lifting shoes. If you ever go to watch a powerlifting or weight lifting meet you’ll see a lot of lifters wearing these. And for competitive Olympic Weight Lifters and Powerlifters this is certainly the way to go.

The only draw back is the price tag… Specialized Weight Lifting Shoes are very expensive – usually costing over $200 a pair. They are definitely not a low budget gym sneaker.

A less expensive and more practical alternative for the recreational lifter is to wear skateboard sneakers. Skateboard sneakers are ideal for lifting because they are wide, flat, they have no arch and no thick padding, but they provide really good grip that will stick to the gym floor.

The purpose of a skakeboard sneaker is to grip the board and keep the feet planted solidly in place. And that’s exactly what a good workout sneaker should do – grip the floor and keep your feet planted while you lift.

Olympic Weight Lifting Shoes

The actual brand of skateboard sneaker isn’t as important as the style. I usually wear Chuck Taylor’s Converse in the gym and they have been my all time favorite lifting sneaker. If you’ve watched a lot of my YouTube videos, than no doubt you’ve seen me wearing them. And a lot of top level powerlifters and bodybuilders will wear them as well because they are a great all around gym sneaker.

Lee Hayward Deadlifting in Chuck Taylor Converse

However, just the other day I went shopping for new workout sneakers and I decided to go with a pair of VANS skateboard sneakers because I feel that they are a little more study and the rubber in the sole is a bit thicker compared to the Chucks that I normally wear.

Now the reason I wanted to go for a slightly thicker sole is because I’m going to use the sneakers as both a lifting sneaker for in the gym and a mountain bike sneaker. And I’ve found that Chuck Taylor’s don’t have thick enough rubber in the sole for mountain biking because I can feel the spikes from the peddles through the bottom of my feet when wearing the Chucks, but not with the slightly thicker skateboard sneakers.

So there you have it, some things to keep in mind when you’re in the market to buy new sneakers. Make sure to choose the appropriate sneaker for the sports and activities that you’re going to participate in. Your sneaker choice should not be based on what looks cool, what’s in fashion, etc. Get footwear that suits your specific training purpose.

If you have a favorite workout sneaker, please let me know in the comments section. I’d like to hear your feedback.

About The Author

leehayward

Lee Hayward is a competitive bodybuilder and muscle building coach who has been online helping people build muscle, lose bodyfat, and get in shape since 1999. Lee was selected as one of the Top Fitness Trainers Online through YouTube's Next Trainer Program and his work has been featured in several international magazines such as: FLEX, Muscle Insider, Muscle Mag International, Testosterone, Ironmag, and Forbes.

5 Comments

  • Converse cannot even withstand the load from walking around. How should they be a great shoe for lifting weights? But they are old school though and they look cool even they are out-fashioned from where I come from 😉

    I prefer shoes like Nike Free which allows 100% flexibility and a little absorption to avoid to much load on your joints. Nike Free was designed for the feel of “bare feets” and I think that fits well into the gym. Just my opinion 🙂

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  • Abbe:
    Converse cannot even withstand the load from walking around. How should they be a great shoe for lifting weights? But they are old school though and they look cool even they are out-fashioned from where I come from 😉

    I prefer shoes like Nike Free which allows 100% flexibility and a little absorption to avoid to much load on your joints. Nike Free was designed for the feel of “bare feets” and I think that fits well into the gym. Just my opinion :)

    This is explained in the first few paragraphs of the post.

    “A lot of people look for sneakers that have soft cushion, arch, and padding – similar to what is found in a typical running sneaker. And while this certainly works well for making your feet feel comfortable and cushioning them from the impact of running, it’s NOT ideal for providing a good grip and support when standing in place lifting weights.

    Not only that but all that soft sneaker padding will compress under heavy lifting and take away from some of your strength and power. Especially when doing heavy squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses.”

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  • Kurt

    Reply Reply

    I’ve tried chucks and my feet slip around in them; I guess I have narrow feet. I’ve tried the Nike free, but they still have too much padding for me. I always end up going back to wrestling shoes. They’re flat, have just a bit of arch support, have ankle support, and grip to floor real well.

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  • Ali

    Reply Reply

    Hey,
    Big fan of the chuck taylors, especially for leg and back day. However mine are starting to fall apart and im debating between the original Chuck Taylors, and the Chuck Taylor ii for a replacement.

    Do you have any experience or thoughts on which would be better? I know the 2s have a bit more padding from a Nike foam insole, but will this be a massive downfall when it comes to weight lifting?

    Thanks

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    • I’m sure the CT2 version will be fine as they still have a flat sole. But the best thing to do is try them both on and see which ones you like the best.

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