If I had a dollar for every time I’d been asked “What sort of shoe should I buy for………….?” I’d have about 5 bucks! No seriously, I get asked this every week. The answer is very simple but probably not what you’re after.
Buy whatever footwear suits your foot and the activity you are performing.
We are all totally different and have totally different needs. Fortunately there are about as many makes, models, styles and sizes of footwear out there as there are needs. You just need to find out what suits you.
Ask yourself some questions.
1) What activity do you need this footwear for? E.g. Running; road/trail, weightlifting, power lifting, CrossFit, all of the above?
If you need something for all of the above and think you can get one shoe that will do the lot, sorry but I’m going to burst your bubble. Generally, whenever anyone tries to make one versatile tool that promises everything you tend to get a tool that’s not very good at anything.
2) What sort of foot do you have? Wide, narrow? Flexible, stiff? How do you know what you have? Look at your feet. Are you a Roo or a Duck?
Can you open a stubby with your toes? Fair chance your feet are flexible, not to mention damn handy!
When I refer to weightlifting, I’m talking about Olympic weightlifting. There is no argument, no ifs or buts here. You need a specialized weightlifting shoe. There are loads around. I personally use Adidias. Think they’re Ironworks II or something. I’ve had them for about 5 years.
The benefits of a specialized weightlifting shoe are:
- They have a solid, non-compressive sole. This ensures no power is lost through the ground.
- They have a raised heel. This enables many people with poor dorsi-flexion to get into a better position in the receiving positions of the clean and snatch.
- They have a strap across the top of the forefoot. This holds the foot snug and prevents movement, particularly when jerking.
Once you’ve lifted in a pair of weightlifting shoes, you’ll never go back.
Here I’m talking about the Back Squat, Deadlift, Press and their variations. I like to see my athletes in something like a skate shoe or old-school Chuck Taylor for these lifts. Not Dunlop Volleys. They’re just too flimsy. When you are performing the back Squat, you need to be focusing on “spreading” the floor with your feet. Skate shoes or Chucks have gummy soles and good solid right angles at the sole wall. They don’t wield much to the lateral pressure from the feet pushing out.
Weightlifting shoes can tend to angle people forward towards the toes a little. Or should I say, people get lazy and lean forward a little too much when wearing weightlifting shoes. You don’t want to be on your toes in any of these lifts. They are infinitely better than running shoes though. Don’t ever let me catch you wearing running shoes whilst doing these lifts. And don’t take your shoes off and just wear socks when squatting! Get those off too if you’re going to go barefoot. How can you possibly “spread” your feet whilst wearing socks? Trust me, you don’t want to do the splits with 100kg on your back!
I wear old school Vans Authentic’s for all barbell work. Although occasionally I’ll be seen squatting in my weightlifting shoes because I couldn’t be arsed changing.
Let me start by saying that regardless of what shoes you wear, or if you run barefoot, changing your shoes will not make you a better runner or fix your injuries. The only thing that will do that is cleaning up your technique and fixing shitty movement patterns. Don’t just buy some new shoes and start running mega miles because you want to do that fun run, marathon or triathlon. Get some coaching on your run technique and then worry about the sort of shoes you have.
In my experience, people who go straight from a “standard” running shoe like an Asics Gel Kayano to a minimalist style of shoe, without paying attention to run technique, get injured. There are the occasional freaks that don’t have a problem, but most people develop some sort of foot or lower leg issue pretty quickly. I know I did!
So what should you do? Focus on technique first. Then look at new shoes. There is no need to go to a totally zero or 3mm drop style of shoe. There are plenty on the market that are somewhere in between. I use Mizuno Musha and Inov-8 Road-X 255 (above) on the road and Innov-8 Terra-Fly GTX and New Balance MT110 (below) on the trails. I arrived at these shoes after a few misses trying other brands and styles. What I found was that I needed something with a bit of drop, that is, the height of the sole from the heel to the forefoot, usually expressed in millimeters. Mine are all around 7mm.
I have what I refer to as ducks feet so I need a wider shoe. You can also have a look at your old shoes. Do they wear through near the little toes? Or when you have them on, do you notice your little toe area bulging out over the sole? That’s a pretty good indication you have wider feet than your shoes are built for.
So work out whether your feet are narrow or wide, do you need more drop or less? Then buy a pair or two and try them out. Now I may upset a few people here by not supporting shop local but seriously when the local running store wants to slug me $189 for my Musha’s and I can get them online for $55, I know where I’m going. Sorry running store dude. You’ve got to at least be competitive. I generally shop at www.runningwarehouse.com. Shipping can set you back about $40, but I got 5 pairs of shoes shipped for that price and they arrived in a week. Best I’ve heard is order went in on Friday; shoes hit the doorstep on Monday! No, I don’t get any kickbacks from referring them. Wish I did!
Your shoes need to be constantly varied and functional for the movements. It’s that simple. There is no shoe that does it all. Although I’ve been told the Reebok|CrossFit Nano goes ok. It does look like the closest we’ve come to a true all-rounder but even so, if you’re doing Grace or Isobel, put your weightlifting shoes on. If you’re doing Diane – skate shoes, if you’re doing Cindy – wear whatever you like and if you’re doing Eva – doesn’t matter what you wear, shoes will be the last thing on your mind!
You get the idea. Whatever you’re wearing on your feet has to support the movements you’re performing.
Here’s my rule of thumb: If I’m running any more than about 800m, and running is a dominant part of the WOD, say Murph, I’ll go to a running shoe. What about something like Nancy?? 2km of Running and a bunch of Overhead Squats. Well, because the Overhead Squats are light, I’d go a running shoe, as running is the dominant activity in the WOD.
Let’s say you have something like:
3 rounds for time of:
3 Rope Climbs
For a start, that’s a MOFO of a WOD! I’d go skate shoes or if I had them, the Reebok|CrossFit Nano’s. From what I’ve seen, they’re pretty good for climbing ropes. Most shoes get torn apart, except my skate shoes. They stand up to the rope pretty well. But that’s about as far as I’d run in my Van’s. There are a bunch of variations on the above examples because there are literally thousands of WOD’s that you could find yourself doing. Look at the movements contained in the WOD. What’s dominant? What shoe best suits that activity?
In a nutshell, here are my recommendations…
Weightlifting: weightlifting shoe. No question.
Barbell/Power Lifting: skate shoe, Chuck Taylors or similar
Running: work that shit out yourself. But fixing your run technique is key!
CrossFit: activity dependent