The timing for this article could not be more germane. This past Sunday’s class (11/10/13) featured one rep max back squats, which capped off a three month squatting program. We will now transition into an Olympic lifting program which will take us through the next month, and will end in – you guessed it – one rep max testing for our collective Olympic lifts.
Now, when it comes to Olympic lifting and squatting, there’re a few questions we as coaches get asked a lot which pertain to Olympic Weightlifting Shoes. Of these questions, there are two that are most important to address:
Should I get a pair of weightlifting shoes?
What kind of shoes should I get?
In this two part series, we’ll do our best to provide responses to both questions which are based on our experience, as well as our opinions. Feel free to ask follow-up questions in the comments section, and we’ll answer them as best we can.
First up: Should you get a pair of weightlifting shoes?
There are lots of posts out there about why you should consider getting lifting shoes (such as this article from Cody Burgener at CrossFit Invictus entitled “Benefits of Olympic Weightlifting Shoes”). Here, however, we want to focus on when you should consider getting lifting shoes.
The short of it is this: You should get Oly shoes when you’re ready for them.
More specifically, you should think about getting Oly shoes only once you’ve achieved both proficiency and consistency in your lifts (i.e., you’ve not only learned how to squat, snatch, or clean and jerk with proper form and technique, but are able to do so on a regular basis). This includes adequately addressing your own personal limitations in mobility and/or flexibility before you reach for a pair of weightlifting shoes.
Still front curling your cleans? Unable to properly overhead squat half your body weight, let alone pull under a snatch? Then Oly shoes shouldn’t really be a consideration. Not yet.
To paraphrase something powerlifting coach Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell once said, “don’t have 100-dollar shoes and a 10-cent lift.” Oly shoes are NOT meant to help you work around bad movement patterns or deficiencies in mobility/flexibility. If you suffer from inflexible ankles or ultra-tight hip flexors, and you reach for a pair of lifting shoes rather than spending the time to improve your mobility, you’re avoiding the problem, not fixing it.
Gear is meant to advance your abilities, not sidestep shortcomings. It’s counterproductive to upgrade your equipment until it’s the equipment that’s holding you back, rather than the other way around. Take the time to learn the movement, address your limitations and build a more sound foundation in ability and execution. Once you’ve achieved the proper level of proficiency, then it’s time to figure out which shoes will be best for you.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Oly Shoe discussion, where we’ll break down the brands, and help guide you to an informed purchase decision (should the time be right, of course!).