Lifting heavy weights requires the right footwear.
Many people lift using normal sneakers or running shoes – and that’s a big mistake.
They should be using proper weightlifting shoes, like the Nike Romaleos 3 XD shown here instead.
We’ll review who makes the best weightlifting shoes for 2020, and why.
These are the best shoes for Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and the weightlifting portions of the CrossFit WOD.
Here’s the shoes we are going to review in this article.
Let’s talk about what makes these shoes the best for Olympic weightlifting, and squatting in particular.
Why You Need Proper Weightlifting Shoes
Squatting in running shoes is like lifting weights on a bed mattress.
Stop doing that, and get some real shoes for weightlifting.
Why aren’t regular sneakers or running shoes good for lifting weights?
It’s simple – running shoes have way too much padding and cushion.
This makes them great for the repeated, jarring shocks and impact of running.
But, it doesn’t make them very good for hoisting hundreds of pounds above your head or on your back.
Running shoes have many desirable qualities – they are light, comfortable, breath well, and normally provide lots of traction.
Their fundamental weakness is having too much cushion in the midsole and outsole.
And most of them don’t have enough of a heel raise to really work well for lifting weights either.
Take a look at the Adidas Power Perfect 3 weightlifting shoe here. See that sky-high heel? That helps – a lot.
What you can’t see is that it’s also rigid – and won’t deform under dozens (or hundreds) of pounds.
Lifting without weightlifting shoes?
You could be sacrificing a PR (personal record) or even worse – risking an injury.
We need something that is the opposite of a running shoe.
It should offer stable and rigid support, with a lot of heel raise, and it doesn’t matter how heavy it is – we’ll be standing in one place.
Let’s talk about why you need those things.
Features of the Best Weightlifting Shoes (Squat Shoes or “Lifters”)
Purpose-built weightlifting shoes are specialized for lifting weights.
And whether you are looking for men’s or women’s weightlifting shoes – all the best weightlifting shoes will have these things in common.
These shoes help the most when you squat heavy weight – so some people call them squat shoes. CrossFitters tend to call them “lifters” as well.
Weightlifting Shoes Have a Rigid Sole and Heel
What is the most important feature of weightlifting shoes (also called squat shoes or “lifters”)?
How solid? The heel is sometimes even made of solid wood – or another equally rigid material.
They are stable – really stable. Your foot will not sink into any of the foam cushioning like that typically used in running shoes.
That’s a big deal because it’s easier on your joints and helps prevent injury.
And it also helps to ensure efficient power transfer.
The Olympic lifts (the clean and jerk, and snatch) are done fast and it’s the power generated by the lifter that enables them to lift the weight.
Let’s not waste that power by compressing a jelly-like midsole – let’s use it to get the weight overhead instead.
But these shoes aren’t just for Olympic lifters.
The “slow” lifts of powerlifting (the squat, and deadlift) can benefit as well.
In any case, the last thing you want with a heavily loaded barbell on your back (or in your hands) is to have your foot smooshing around in a rubbery soled shoe.
The angles of compression in your knee joint shouldn’t be constantly changing as you move the weight.
There are trade-offs to having this rigid sole and heel – typically weightlifting shoes are much heavier than regular sneakers or running shoes.
But, that’s OK – we are not running, jumping, or sprinting in these shoes.
Weightlifting Shoes Have a Raised Heel
Weightlifting shoes also typically have a raised heel.
Here’s the heel of Nike’s classic weightlifting shoe – the Nike Romaleos 3.
See how tall the heel is?
This lessens the required ankle range of motion and ensures you can more easily get deep into a squat position – without rounding your lower back.
And it’s not a small heel raise – A heel raise of .75″ or more is not uncommon.
The height of the raised heel can be expressed as the offset or heel to toe drop, or just plan drop in shoe terms.
A typical classic running shoe (such as those from Asics) have a heel to toe drop of 10mm – meaning your heel is about 10mm higher than your toes. Newer style running shoes that encourage “midfoot striking” have a lesser drop of from 5 to 6mm, typically.
How does that compare to a weightlifting shoe? In a weightlifting shoe, a 20mm heel to drop drop is popular – that’s over a 3/4 inch heel.
That is 100% more drop compared to an old-school running shoe.
Struggling to hit depth in your squat? Strap on a pair of real weightlifting shoes and get ready for some magic to happen. That raised heel means you need significantly less ankle flexion – which seems to be a problem for many people. Squat shoes make it easy to hit depth.
You can also improve your ankle range of motion – but squat shoes have other benefits too.
Weightlifting Shoes have a Midsole Strap
Weightlifting shoes also typically have some sort of in-step or midsole strap.
This helps ensure your foot is securely locked in place in the shoe.
The Nike Romaleos 3 XD has a slick looking strap – right at the midfoot – as you’d expect.
It is a “hook and loop” (aka Velcro) strap that you can tighten as much or as little as you desire.
Again, this is to avoid all extraneous movement – which could cause injury otherwise.
Sliding and slipping also interferes with power transfer as you jerk or snatch a weight overhead.
Weightlifting Shoes Have a High-Traction, Grippy Sole
Lastly, weightlifting shoes usually have a really grippy sole – for the maximum in traction.
A slipping foot while lifting weights could mean a nasty injury – so traction is of the utmost importance.
The downside to high traction rubber? It wears out quicker than harder rubber.
But that is OK, we’re not going to put a lot of “mileage” on our weightlifting shoes. You’re not going to wear these for a casual stroll around the neighborhood – or anywhere else.
Weightlifting Shoes are made for Olympic Weightlifting
With all these advantages – it’s a given that weightlifting shoes are essential gear for Olympic weightlifting.
Ever seen someone on the competition platform in running shoes?
Take a look at some pictures of competitors – they’re all sporting raised heel, strapped in weightlifting shoes on the platform.
This is because there’s a huge amount of squatting in the olympic lifts – because the bar always starts on the floor. Both the clean and jerk and the snatch are a lot easier with these shoes.
And of course we know that Olympic lifters do a lot of high bar, deep squatting to build strength in preparation for the competition movements.
Weightlifting shoes and the Oly lifts are a match made in heaven.
Weightlifting Shoes – Also Great for Powerlifting Squats
OK, so these are a required item for Oly lifting, but who else can benefit?
They are also great for heavy squats of any sort.
So whether you are practicing for the Oly lifts – or simply building strength with the high bar squat, low bar squat, or front squat variations – you can benefit from the solid, raised heel.
Much of the current revival of interest in squat shoes is thanks to Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength program – he’s a strong proponent of proper lifting shoes.
How about for deadlifting?
Having a stable sole is great for deadlifting, but this movement does not really require any ankle flexion – so the raised heel is of no benefit.
You will often see that many people prefer to deadlift in bare feet or flat-bottomed, solid heel shoes such as the iconic Chuck Taylors for precisely this reason.
This isn’t to say you can’t deadlift in weightlifting shoes – it’s just not an essential.
It’s also possible to develop better ankle flexibility – and range of motion. Squatting in flat sole shoes will help improve this and can eliminate some of the benefit of the raised heel. But you still need a solid heel, not a spongy one.
In powerlifting, the squat style often used emphasizes the use of the hamstrings more than the quads – and this tends to require a more upright ankle. This means less ankle flexibility is needed – and therefore “lifters” become less of a benefit.
For example, take a look at a “box squat” – the ankly is nearly always upright.
Cons of Weightlifting Shoes
Ok, weightlifting shoes are great for lifting weights.
But, they aren’t good for much else.
It can’t all be rosy – after all, every design feature is a tradeoff.
Being built for rigidity and stability, they are heavy.
And that sky-high heel raise makes running (or jumping) in them an impossibility.
Not that you would want to anyways, the minimal cushioning means that would be a frightful experience.
They also aren’t as breathable as running shoes.
There’s no light-weight, mesh knit uppers in these shoes.
They wear out quicker – particularly in the sole where all that grippy, high-traction rubber is.
And lastly, they are pretty expensive, compared to main stream shoes.
But, again, they are still the best option for serious weightlifting.
The Best Shoes for Weightlifting in 2020
Now that we know what to look for – let’s look at the best weightlifting shoes for 2020. We’ll call out those special features we explained above.
Nike Weightlifting Shoes 2020
Nike has one weightlifting shoe for 2020: the Nike Romaleos 3 XD.
This is considered a classic weightlifting shoe.
First, you can see the raised heel. It gives a 20mm offset – which is right where we’d expect it to be.
Is it rigid? Yep.
But, Nike has done things the smart way. The heel is built from a honeycombed TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) structure.
This gives a maximum of firmness and stability with a minimum of weight.
TPU is a hybrid material – a mixture between hard plastic and soft silicone.
Weightlifting shoes are pretty heavy, when compared to normal shoes, and so we welcome the use of advanced materials to lighten these up.
Nike claims a pair of size 10 weigh 14.4 ounces/408 grams.
The midfoot strap is there for a locked in feel – and it looks sharp because it is emblazoned with “NIKE”.
But the Romaleos 3 XD takes things a step further.
This shoe also incorporates Nike’s Flywire.
Flywire are light-weight, but tough, polymer filaments that run through the upper of the shoe and integrate with the laces. When you tighten the laces the Flywire tightens up the structure of the shoe.
Both things together take locked-in fit and feel to a whole new level.
Another unique selling point for these shoes – they come with two interchangeable insoles for soft or firm support, as you desire.
These simply drop right in to the shoe – find the one you like the most, and stick with it. Or switch them up.
Get a close-up look at the Romaleos 3 XD from our YouTube channel:
Here’s our biggest piece of advice if you buy the Romaleos 3 XD – Go 1/2 size up from your normal shoe size.
These are really narrow shoes. Take a look at this photo.
By the way, last year’s model is an excellent shoe as well.
With the XD having just been released, you might be able to find the Nike Romaleos 3 for a steep discount.
But, these won’t last long.
Quantities are limited and soon it will be hard to find your size.
So, if you want an outstanding weightlifting shoe on the cheap – grab a pair now.
Nike’s options are all high-end – because there is only one option.
Let’s look at what Adidas has to offer.
Adidas Weightlifting Shoes 2020
Unlike Nike, Adidas has several weightlifting shoe options.
There are options across the board to fit any budget.
First, we’ll start with a legend – or the newest version of a legend.
The Adidas AdiPower II Weightlifting Shoe is the second version of a classic Adidas lifting shoe.
Shown here in the Collegiate Royal / Core Black color combination, you can see that it is a good looking shoe.
But, more importantly you can see the raised heel. Adidas claims the 20.1mm heel to toe drop is optimal for Olympic lifting.
We can see a mid-sole strap as well – to make sure the shoe fits perfect.
The woven upper also makes for a comfortable and breathable fit.
It is also available in Core Black.
Let’s look at the the Adidas Leistung 16 2.0 Weightlifting Shoe.
Leistung is German for “power”.
First, these are a premium pair of weightlifting shoes.
Let’s start with the upper (the “top” of the shoe.) You can see it is constructed of a breathable mesh (“Powerweave”) – this is a unique feature amongst weightlifting shoes.
And of course it has the classic Adidas three stripes design.
How about the midfoot strap?
This shoe has the “Boa” closure system.
It is the equivalent of the strap on other shoes, and supports micro adjustments.
That’s “boa” as in “boa constrictor”.
The midsole is made with TPU – which means you’ll have the firm and stable support you expect in a squat shoe.
The rear foot cradle also helps with the stability of this shoe.
Adidas calls it a “Weightlifting-engineered chassis.”
How about the heel to toe drop?
It is 24.8 mm – nearly a full 1″.
This shoe is one of the best options for those looking for the maximum in heel raise.
By the way, the specs list the heel height as 37.5mm. That’s because that includes the height of the insole as well.
These have a flat rubber sole for maximum surface area.
The sole provides plenty of traction – and is made for indoor surfaces, as you’d expect.
And that is Adidas’ most advanced weightlifting shoe for 2020. But it is also the most expensive.
Let’s move on and look at budget-friendly options, if you are looking for a budget weightlifting shoe option.
The Adidas Power Perfect 3 is a new weightlifting shoe from Adidas.
A quick glance shows just what you’d expect from a weightlifting shoe: a high raised heel and a hook-and-loop (aka Velcro) instep strap.
It’s also got an integral heel support for additional stability.
What’s the drop? 25.9 mm.
Weight is 17.9 ounces.
And you can’t see the die cut wedge midsole, which is high density and offers plenty of support
User reviews indicate these fit wider feet better than the older Adipower shoe – so, if you had problems with that, you may want to give these a try.
Let’s look at the next weightlifting shoe from Adidas.
The Adidas Powerlift 4 is a slightly more affordable option.
Besides being less expensive these are a better option for those needing a narrow fit
Otherwise, we see what you’d expect to see – raised heel, instep strap, etc.
The upper (the part that covers the foot) is synthetic leather with an air mesh collar and tongue.
The Adidas Powerlift 4 is brand new for 2020.
You can still get the previous year’s model at a slight discount – but act fast as inventory will dry up quickly and your size will be hard to find. The Adidas Powerlift 3.1 is still an excellent weightlifting shoe – and a great bargain.
Let’s look at options from Reebok.
Reebok Weightlifting Shoes 2020
Reebok offers the Legacy Lifter shoe.
Reebok’s premium entry in the field has a 22mm drop and the heel clip is extra firm TPU – this helps make the shoe a rock-solid platform.
Surprisingly, the grippy outsole rubber has been tested and it is claimed to last up to seven years.
Here’s the outsole (or just plain sole):
You’d get a lot of use out of this pair of shoes.
For weight, these clock in at just over 20 ounces.
That’s pretty heavy.
Reebok also has a budget weightlifting shoe – the Reebok Lifter PR.
These have a very mild heel to toe drop of only 15.5mm.
So, you can see that the best weightlifting shoes have a lot in common, and now you know what important features to look for.
Let’s switch gears now and talk about how you use these shoes.
Gym Backpack for Weightlifting Shoes
Ok, we’ve looked at some great weightlifting shoe options.
But, as we mentioned they are really specialized and you don’t want to wear them out.
Nor are they comfortable for every day wear.
We recommend you pack them in the gym bag and put them on when you need to lift, and then back off again.
The Backpack II from King Kong apparel is the perfect solution.
First, this is one tough backpack – made from Mil Spec 1000D Nylon.
But, what we like most are the dedicated shoe compartments.
These are intelligently designed to help preserve valuable internal space.
These external compartments also help ensure the shoes dry out after use.
Available in a variety of colors, this is a great gym backpack or gym bag solution.
This is the best way to transport your weightlifting shoes to and from the gym or box – and keep the “mileage” off these specialized shoes.
The other thing we LOVE about this bag – it’s a lay flat packing bag.
Stop trying to jam your weightlifting gear into a laptop bag – a duffel style, flat packing bag is a better choice.
And by the way, you can still pack a laptop in it, if you need to.
Ok, let’s get back to the shoes.
Do-Win Classic Lifter – Weighlifting Shoes 2020
We’ve got one more option for you. It’s a brand you might not have ever heard about, but they make an excellent, no-frills weightlifting shoe.
The Do-Win Classic Lifter, shown here in red, is a great weightlifting shoe.
Heel to toe drop is .75″ (19mm).
This “classic” show eschews modern composite material for the heel – it’s crafted from layers of stacked leather.And it looks great.
Midfoot strap with hook and loop (“velcro”) closure is in place.
And we have a super grippy sole as well.
The Do-Win Classic Lifter is available in red, blue, or black.
In Summary – Best Weightlifting Shoes
If you are doing serious Olympic weightlifting training a proper pair of weightlifting shoes is essential.
Adidas, Nike, and Reebok all offer shoes with the features we need – solid, rigid sole, raised heel, and midsole straps.
Nike makes only one weightlifting shoe – the Nike Romaleos 3 XD. But it works so well there’s not really a need for another model.
Adidas has more options to accommodate any budget. The Adidas shoes tend to have more heel to toe drop.
Lastly, Reebok has two options for weightlifting shoes.
Grab a pair of weightlifting shoes today and see your technique and lifts improve.
Photo and Image Credits
- Some additional product imagery is courtesy of Reebok, Adidas, and Nike.
- Some product imagery on this page is property of Rogue Fitness and provided by Rogue Fitness.
- We are an affiliate of Rogue Fitness and King Kong Apparel. If you purchase gear through the links in this article, we receive a small commission fee at no additional cost to you.
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