After seeing a lot of improper use of lifting shoes by people at our recent Battle of the Boxes competition, it dawned on me that it might not be super clear as to why, or when, O-lifting shoes might be used. Hopefully this will clear up some of the confusion.
Who can use them?
Everyone! Anyone can benefit from the use of lifting shoes. If you have a bad squat, it’ll give you a good squat. If you have a good squat, it’ll give you a great squat (you get the idea). Those with hip and ankle mobility issues are especially encouraged to give lifting shoes a shot when practicing the clean and the snatch.
What are they exactly?
Lifting shoes are special shoes designed specifically to enhance the performance of the Olympic lifts (squat clean, squat snatch). A wooden wedge is attached to the bottom of the shoe, placing an athletes heels roughly 1.25 inches off of the ground.
When are they appropriate?
Lifting shoes are extremely useful during any of the Olympic lifts. They are also incredibly useful during the individual component squats used during the Olympic lifts (front squat, overhead squat). Basically, anytime you need to stay as upright as possible, lifting shoes are helpful (thrusters, wall balls, push press, push jerk). This makes wearing lifting shoes incredibly appropriate and useful even during WODs like Fran and Nancy.
Where should they be used?
Anywhere! Preferably a flat, stable surface.
Why do we use them?
Olympic lifting shoes are designed to keep you as upright as possible during the Olympic lifts. The wedge beneath the shoe reduces the angle between the shin and the foot, limiting tightness in the achilles and the ankles, thus making it easier to get really deep. It is absolutely essential to maintain an upright torso in order to receive heavy snatch and clean loads. O-lifting shoes will give you the best opportunity to do so.
I find the best real world example of a lifting shoe to be a woman in high heels. Ever see a woman do a high-heel squat before? Every time I see it, I’m immediately reminded of an Olympic squat. High heels help to put the power of lifting shoes into perspective. It’s easier to get deep and to stay upright when the heels are elevated off of the ground. Please don’t attempt to Olympic lift in high heels! This is merely an example of what a raised heel has to offer. Women can stay at the bottom of a squat, while in heels, with extreme ease. Olympic lifting shoes have the same effect (but with way more stability!).
When Not To Use Lifting Shoes
“Lifting shoes” is short for “Olympic lifting shoes”, as in the Olympic lifts (snatch, clean). An upright torso must be maintained during these lifts. Upright torsos are not required during power lifts like the deadlift and the low-bar back squat. Instead, an angled torso is expected and encouraged in order to maximize posterior chain recruitment (see my blog High-Bar vs Low-bar for why that’s important). Lifting shoes would shift the emphasis from the hamstrings and glutes over to the quads, thus defeating the entire purpose of those movements.