SHOULD I BUY WEIGHTLIFTING SHOES TO IMPROVE MY SQUAT?
Weightlifting shoes have become more popular with gym users within the last decade as a fashionable trend and not for their functional purpose. As the name implies, weightlifting shoes are to benefit an individual during the performance of a lift and became popular with the performance of technical explosive movements such as Olympic weightlifting many decades ago.
For those of us who are serious about lifting, are they worth the purchase?
Before delving into how weightlifting shoes could benefit an individual, we must consider the individual unique structures that could influence our movements during lower body exercises such as the squat. Hip structures are unique (1) and play a big role in how our bodies can get into a squat position, as the individual shapes of the hip socket and femur (thigh bone) can influence the form of a squat. The hip joint is crucial to athletic and daily activities involving the lower body (1,2).
Ankle mobility also influences lower body movements and sufficient dorsi-flexion (foot towards the shin) can benefit the range of motion and balance during a squat (3). Furthermore, an overlooked part of the body that can affect performance is the feet, and the foot should have an arch shape creating three points of contact like a tripod helping to create a stable platform creating an arch shape (4).
How could weightlifting shoes benefit you?
Weightlifting shoes help increase dorsiflexion (foot towards the shin) of the ankle, providing a greater range of motion and a benefit to preventing forward trunk lean, leading to a potential reduction of potential injuries (3).
Muscle Activation & Reduction Of Lower Back Stress
A study in 2012 suggests that wearing weightlifting shoes seems to be beneficial in reducing the overall trunk lean and this position is believed to reduce the amount of shear stress in the lower back area. Moreover, the quadricep muscles (knee extensors) have higher activation when compared to running shoes during a barbell back squat (5). However, this may be an individual response as another study in 2016 suggested that no significant difference in muscle activation with barefoot squatting was compared to squatting weightlifting shoes (6).
Weightlifting shoes can be a great accessory to compliment your performance in the gym. A solid platform which can help with confidence, as well as stability during a lift, has the potential to influence our performance. Weightlifting shoes will most likely provide a greater benefit in improving dorsiflexion (foot to the shin) and reduced forward trunk lean during squat movements. If an individual does not need any improvements in these areas, it may not be a beneficial investment. Additionally, if the purchase of weightlifting shoes are simply to fix mobility issues, then it may be a case of focusing on mobility exercises to benefit an individual's long term performance.