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Footwear for Powerlifting and Strength Training

Part Two

By Gary F. Zeolla


This article is continued from Footwear for Powerlifting and Strength Training: Part One. Pictures of all of the shoes mentioned in this article can be found at: Footwear for Powerlifting and Strength Training – Pictures.




My first bench workout wearing my new Adidas AdiPower Weightlifting Shoes went great. I did three work sets of benches, and all of them were what I am calling “50s PRs.” By this I mean the most I have lifted since I turned 50 and started training at a high intensity again after a four year period of only lifting a low intensity. Whether my new AdiPowers had anything to do with it, I cannot say, but they felt great. The heel was just right for helping me get into and hold my arch, while keeping my feet flat on the floor. And they held my feet very secure, with no slippage. 

I kept them on for close grip benches, and no surprise, they worked well. But I was then a little concerned if I could use them for my next exercise: push-ups. I’ve been doing clap push-ups as a speed exercise, and I wasn’t sure if they’d be flexible enough in the toes to enable me to get in proper position, but they were, so I kept them on for the push-ups. 

I then did curl bar rows. Here again, I was concerned I’d have a hard time kneeling down to change the weights due to inflexibility in the shoes, but that was not the case. And they gave me a solid base for doing rows, and they went well. Thus I was able to use the AdiPowers for my entire Bench workout. That is great improvement over the Nike Romoleos, for which I said that if they had worked at all, it would have only been for benches. If I had kept them, I would have had to change into sneakers for my second two exercises.




My next workout was deadlifts. I wasn’t sure if I should try them out at this time or not. I figured they would cause a change of form, and I was near the end of a training routine and thus lifting very heavy. I was thinking it might be better to wait until the beginning of my next routine when I would be doing “back-off” workouts and thus going lighter for a couple of weeks. But I was anxious to try them for deadlifts, and I am glad I did as it took going heavy to see that my concerns about using such shoes on deadlifts were correct. 

I stated in Part One that I have been wearing wresting shoes for deadlifts for a long time as they have very thin soles and no heel. Shoes with thick soles would lengthen the pull, but the AdiPowers have thin soles, so that is not a problem. But they also have heels. I have long thought that heels on deadlifts are counter-productive. They in essence tilt me forward, while I am trying to pull the weight up and back. Also, there was the concern that they were low-tops, while I was used to high-tops. I wasn’t sure how well my ankles would hold up without the ankle support with my sumo stance. 

My warm-up sets went okay. The lack of ankle support did not seem to be a problem, but I definitely noticed the forward tilt. Usually, at the top of the pull I lean back slightly, but I was only able to get straight with AdiPowers. That is not a problem as that is all that is necessary at a contest. I even thought that maybe the shoes would correct my form in that regard. 

But then I tried my first work set, and it went terrible. It was supposed to be a set of six reps, but I only got three, and all three felt awful. The pull off of the floor was hard; midrange was hard; the lockout was hard. The pull off of the floor was probably hard due to being raised up by the heel, and the lockout was probably hard due to the forward tilt. I felt like my body position was fighting against the direction I was trying to pull the bar. Thus my long-standing recommendation to not wear heels for deadlifting is correct. 

I then took off the AdiPowers and put on my Nike wrestling shoes, rested a couple of minutes, and then repeated the same weight. I pulled it for my originally planned six reps, so yes; it was the shoes that were messing me up. I then got one less rep on my next two sets than I had hoped, but that was probably due to being tired out from the extra set and probably working harder than usual on my warm-up sets. 

Now maybe if I wore the AdiPowers for deadlifts for an extended period of time, I might be able to adjust my form to them, and they would not adversely affect my deadlift. But I doubt very much they would ever help my deadlift, so why bother? Yes, it would be convenient to be able to use the same shoes for benches and deadlifts, especially at a contest. It would mean having one less thing to carry to a contest. But that little bit of convenience is not worth loosing something on my best lift. 

As such, I will stick with wrestling shoes, as I know they work. But I should mention that some powerlifting gear companies carry what they call “deadlift shoes” and claim they are not just wrestling shoes; but they sure look like it to me. But if the reader is interested in such, see for example, Crain’s Power Shoes.


Bench Assistance Workouts


I use an alternating weeks routine of having two different sets of workouts. For Bench Assistance Day, in Week A I do incline benches and dips; in Week B I do decline benches and presses. Then in both weeks I do a pull-up/ chin-up exercise, and curls or reverse curls. My first workout with the AdiPowers was Week A, and I was confident they would work well, and they did. They held my feet firmly on the inclines. That is important as I had been slipping with my Nike sneakers. 

Then on dips and pull-ups is where I really noticed how light these shoes were. If I had tried using the Romoleos for such, it would have been like wearing ankle weights. I use a dip belt and add weight, so that wouldn’t have been a problem as I would have just adjusted the weight as needed, but if you are someone who can only do bodyweight dips and pull-ups, then that is a consideration. Then there was no surprise that the AdiPowers provided a firm base for curls. Thus the AdiPowers work well for my entire Week A Bench Assistance workout.

However, my Week B Bench Assistance workout is another matter. For declines, I hook my toes under the base of the bench to keep from sliding down. The shoes would be flexible enough to do that, but I am concerned doing so might stretch them out and over time and break down the integrity of the shoes. I use the same setup for decline sit-ups. They would get even more stretch and wear from calf raises. As such, with the cost of the AdiPowers, it makes sense to wear cheaper sneakers for those exercises. 

Then for presses, the AdiPowers have about the same effective heel height as the Romoleos and thus would cause the same forward tilt, thus throwing me off as the Romoleos did, so I have not tried the AdiPowers for presses. But my Nike sneakers provide a firm enough base for presses without the forward tilt, so I plan on wearing them for this Bench Assistance workout.




My Crain squat shoes work great, so I didn’t need to use the AdiPowers for squats, but I was curious how they would feel. The main difference is the Crain shoes are high-tops while these are low-tops. As stated, the high-tops provide ankle support, but it also makes them a bit difficult to put on and take off, while the low top AdiPowers are easy to put on and take off, so they have a slight advantage in that regard. 

The AdiPowers are also much lighter, so I thought that would be an advantage for the walkout. And again, if I could use the same shoes for squats and benches, that would be convenient, especially for a contest. In fact, before my problems on deadlifts, I was thinking how nice it would be to be able to wear just one pair of shoes at a contest rather than three. But that ship had already sailed with the deadlift problem. 

In any case, I tried the AdiPowers for a squat workout. I used them for most of my warm-up sets. They would have worked and would definitely be an improvement over sneakers, but I much preferred my Crain Power Squat Shoes, so I switched to them for my final warm-up set and the rest of my squat work and will stick with them from now on.

The reason I prefer the Crains over the AdiPowers is threefold. First, the Crains are more supportive and give me a better “base.” That is probably because of them being high-tops. In fact, despite my initial speculation, it was actually easier to walk the weight out with the Crains, probably again, due to the high-tops.

Second, as mentioned, the Crain shoes have an effective heel of ” while the AdiPowers of ”. That extra ” might not sound like much, but it is very noticeable. With the AdiPowers, I felt like I was being tilted forward and thus my form was being thrown off.  Now again, with time, I might get used to it, but why bother?

Third, I hadn’t noticed it before, but the insteps on the AdiPowers was digging into my heels. It was not as pronounced as with the Romoleos, but definitely noticeable, and more so as the weight increased. I’m not sure why I didn’t notice it before. Maybe the angle of my feet on squats caused my feet to slide into just the right place for it to be a problem. But whatever the case, I am sure it would have become a significant problem if I had used the AdiPowers for my work sets.


Conclusion on AdiPowers


I started my experimentation on lifting shoes just to find new shoes to use for benches. And the AdiPowers are great for that purpose. As a bonus, I can use them for my entire Bench workouts and my Week A Bench Assistance workouts. Not being able to use them for squats and deadlifts is no matter to me as I already had my Crain squat shoes and Nike wrestling shoes for those lifts.

As of this writing (August 1, 2015), I have been using the AdiPowers for over three months, and they have been working great. My bench has been progressing very well, and the shoes are still in excellent condition. But as with my Crain squat shoes, I need to remember to tighten the straps before a lift then loosen them between lifts. If I forget to tighten them, my feet slip in the shoes; and if I forget to loosen them, my feet start to feel choked. But I’ve gotten in the habit of first tightening the shoe straps, then tightening my wrist wraps, then standing up and tightening my belt. Then after the lift, I do the same in reverse order.


Sneakers and Adidas Title Run Basketball Shoes


Before closing this article, for completeness sake, it would be good to take a closer look at sneakers to use for other exercises besides the Big 3. As stated, I have Nike, New Balance, and Adidas sneakers. 

The Nikes are about five years old and have a firmer sole and higher effective heel than the other two, and they used to grip the floor very well. It is for those reasons that I used them for benches. They also work well for other upper body exercises. In a pinch, I could use them for squats and other lower body exercises. As such, I would say, if you cannot afford specialty lifting shoes, at least look for sneakers with those parameters. 

However, having a firm sole is the very reason why the Nikes do not work well for jump squats and deadlifts, a form of speed work. For those, as with any kind of jumping, you need a sole with more “give” to it to cushion the landing. My New Balance sneakers have such, and I thus had been using them for those exercises. However, they are getting rather worn. I’m not sure when I got them, but it was probably sometime in the late '00s, so there are probably somewhere between 5-10 years old. 

I happened to see Adidas Title Run Basketball Shoes on sale on Adidas’s website for $60, marked down from $100. I figured basketball shoes are made for jumping and thus would be ideal for jump squats and deadlifts. They are also high-tops, which lessens the possibility of twisting an ankle while doing those exercises, something I caution about in my article on Speed Work.

The Title Runs are made with synthetic leather. I’d prefer genuine leather, but synthetic would still be better than cloth as it is easier to wipe off a smooth surface than cloth. That is important to me as shoes tend to pick up smells, which can cause me problems with my multiple chemical sensitivities, so I actually wash them occasionally. But doing so can cause them to break down faster. But with a smooth surface like leather or synthetic leather, just wiping them off removes the smell almost as well.

The Title Runs are available in four colors: solar red (which looks like orange), light onix (grey)/ orange/ white, black/ red/ white, and blue/ white/ yellow, but only the latter two were on sale. Unfortunately, the smallest size of the black/ red/ white ones available was 9.0. I used Adidas’ “Size Not Available” link to put in a request for them to find them in 6.5s. But then I used Adidas’ online chat once again to ask if they found them would I still get the sale price. I was told I would not as the sale was only for selling off their current inventory. Later I got an email saying they were not able to find them in size 6.5.

However, the blue ones were available in 6.5s, but only two pairs were left in stock, so I quickly ordered a pair. When I got them, they looked very nice, even if they were not my preferred color scheme. They seemed very sturdy, with a decent size heel and a cushiony sole, perfect for jumping.

They fit very snug along the width of the shoes, but there was about an inch of space in front of my toes. They were thus about half a size too long. When I put them on, my feet slipped slightly forward. But they are not available in anything smaller nor are any other basketball shoes as far as I could tell, so I could not exchange them for 6.0s or get other basketball shoes in that size. And besides, with as tight as they were width-wise, 6.0s might be too tight anyway, so I tried them out.

I did so first when hitting my heavy bag, and they felt very uncomfortable. But I figured that was because they needed to be broken in. Later that day I used them for jump squats. On the first set, my feet were slipping some in the shoes. But then I redid and really tightened the laces, and they fit snug with very little slippage and felt more comfortable. The rest of my jump squat sets went very well. Later I put some cloth inside the shoes in the toes to effectively shorten them, and that worked to keep my feet from slipping forward. I then used them for jump deadlifts, and they again worked very well. But they do not work very well for other exercises.

In one of my Deadlift workouts in my current routine, I am doing four exercises: platform (deficit) deadlifts, good mornings, jump deadlifts, and dumbbell calves raises. I of course wear my Nike wrestling shoes for the PDLs, but I was hoping to wear the Title Runs for the next three exercises. But the first time I did this workout, on the GMs I could feel the heels squishing in as I came back up, causing me to slightly lose my balance. Then on the calf raises, my feet were slipping some, probably due to them being a half size too large, and the high-tops made coming up high on my toes difficult. So the next time I did this workout, I moved the jump deadlifts to after the PDLs and wore the Title Runs for them, but then changed into my Nike sneakers for the GMs and calves raises. And that worked much better. That means changing my shoes twice during a workout, but it gives me the ideal shoes for each exercise. I can however keep the Title Runs on after jump squats on Squat Day when I then just do an ab exercise afterwards.

To keep the Title Runs from slipping, I really have to pull the laces tight each time I wear them, and then loosen the laces to get the shoes off. As such, they are not very comfortable. But that is no problem for the few minutes I have them on for jump squats or deadlifts and maybe the following ab exercise.  But when I again tried wearing them for hitting my heavy bag, they were just too uncomfortable to keep on for the 20 minutes that I do so. But that is no matter, as I can wear my New Balance sneakers for that.

Thus the Title Runs are ideal for jump squats and deadlifts. I would never have paid $100 for shoes for doing just those exercises, but for $60, I figured it was worth keeping them. And with only using the Title Runs for two exercises, they should last a long time. As of this writing, I have been using them for over three months, and they are still in excellent condition.

Finally on sneakers, I’m not sure when I got my Adidas sneakers, but it was probably sometime in the late '00s, so there are probably somewhere between 5-10 years old. I’ve been using them for my morning walks for some time now, but they are still in very good condition, as that is all I use them for. They are not specifically walking shoes, but they have been working well for that purpose. When they wear out, maybe I will look into getting specific walking shoes.


Favorite Brand


I mentioned in Part One that Nike was my favorite shoes brand, and my wrestling shoes and one pair of sneakers are Nikes. But I now have three pairs of Adidas shoes for working out in, so maybe I am now an Adidas fan. That could be because Adidas shoes tend to run narrower than other brands. My feet are normal width, but I like workout shoes to fit snug, and the narrower width helps in that regard.




I have seven different pairs of shoes for working out. That might sound extreme to some, but each shoe is different and thus ideal for a specific purposes. And with only wearing each pair of shoes for limited usage, they should all last a long time. That means I will not have the hassle of buying new shoes very often. But if I wore just one pair of shoes for all of these uses, they would not work very well for anything that I did with them, and they would wear out quickly and thus need to be replaced often. As such, over time, the expense would be about the same. 

These seven pairs of shoes were bought over a period of several years, but each was an investment that has proven to be worthwhile, both for their effectiveness for the purpose I bought them for and for their durability.

To close, I hope and pray my footwear experiences will help the reader to decide what to do for your footwear for powerlifting and general strength training purposes. And don’t forget to check out the pictures page.


Update: New Shoes

Sunday, October 18, 2015 was my extra day off of lifting, so I was hoping to visit my older nephew and to see his twins for the first time. But there was a mix up, and they were not home when I got there. I texted him and found out he wouldn’t be home for quite a while. I was bummed, but at least I saw his new house for the first time. Since I was out, I did some much needed shopping. I got three pairs of shoes at a deep discount at K-mart, four sweatshirts that were on sale, and some other clothing. It thus worked out well.

I got two pairs of Coleman sneakers. They were discounted more than 50%, so I couldn't resist getting both pairs K-mart had in my size, with that size being size 7. They had a pair of 6.5s, but they were uncomfortable. The 7s fit fine, as long as I pull the laces tight, which is easy to do as they have hooks rather than holes for the top eyelets. They also have really deep treads, as they are probably made for hiking.

The first workout I tried them for was my Bench Assistance Week B workout, and they worked great for overhead presses. They gave me a firmer base than my old Nike sneakers, and they have a slightly higher heal. That all enabled me to get one more rep on each set than I had planned on. However, they did not work so well for incline benches in my Bench Assistance Week A workout. They gripped the floor just fine, but they did not give me as firm of a base or have as high of a heal as the AdiPowers I had been using. I thus got one less rep than I did the previous workout with the same weights. However, that is the only exercise in that workout they did not work well for, and it was not that great of difference. I will thus still wear the Colemans for both of my Bench Assistance workouts and save my AdiPowers for the more important Bench workouts and of course for at contests.

Meanwhile, my Adidas sneakers were getting worn, so I am wearing the other pair of these new Colemans for walking, and they are working fine for that, even though I walk on roads not dirt.

The other pair of shoes were Everlasts. I got them at 66% off. They also are size 7, but they fit fine. They are not as heavy as the Colemans and do not have as deep of treads. My New Balance shoes were getting worn, so I thought I would wear them for hitting my heavy bag. But they don’t have much of a heal and felt awkward. I then tried the Colemans, but they didn't have enough bounce for the footwork. Then I tried the Adidas sneakers. They had enough bounce and worked well and are still good enough for that purpose. But the Everlasts are very comfortable and look very nice, so I will wear them when going out, along with the New Balance sneakers.

Otherwise, for my squat workouts, I now do three squat exercises, for which I wear my Crain squat shoes, then leg curls. In a recent workout, after the squat work, I meant to put on a pair of sneakers, but forgot, so I did the leg curls in my stocking feet. I didn’t even notice it until my last set. I usually do my stretching in my stocking feet, as I feel like shoes get in the way for that, so that is probably why I didn’t notice it during leg curls. But what that means is shoes are not really necessary. That is good, as it will save me a minute or two in squat workouts, which are usually long enough as it is.

Then for my deadlift workouts, I now do three deadlift exercises, then calves work. I wear my Nike wrestling shoes for the three deadlift movements, but I wasn’t sure what shoes to wear for calves work. I don’t want to keep the wrestling shoes on for calves work, as that tends to break down shoes. Instead of ruining any of my new shoes, I wore my old Nike sneakers, and those worked fine.

Update: Rugged Outback Boots for Squats


      As indicated in this article, I had been using Crain Squat Shoes for the past decade. They are great shoes, and I would highly recommend them. But after over a decade, they had gotten worn out, so I was going to order a new pair. But the problem, is, Crain no longer carries sizes smaller than 7.0, while I wear a size 6.5. I thus had to look for an alternative and ordered Pillar shoes from Inzer. From the pics on the website, they look identical to the Crains and cost the same, $125.

      I ordered my normal size 6.5. But when I got them, they were too big. I thus returned them for a smaller size. But then a week later I got a call form Inzer telling me they are discontinuing the Pillars, and they no longer had the smaller size in stock.

      I looked around and could not find a good alternative. Titan sells squat shoes, but they cost twice as much ($250), and I did not like the design. They are mid-tops, not high-tops. Elite Fitness has lifting shoes, but they have thin soles and no heels, more like deadlift shoes than squat shoes.

      I then figured I could go back to what I wore in college, regular boots. I checked Amazon for some ideas, but I would probably buy them locally so I could try them on. But as I looked over the boots I realized I already had what I needed.

      Many years ago, probably back in the 1990s, I bought a pair of black boots at I believe Picway. The brand name on the soles is Rugged Outback, size 5.5. I had only been wearing them on my morning walks when it is raining and cool. It if it is warm and raining, I wear sneakers as usual. If it is cold and snowing, I wear similar boots that are insulated, while these are not. That means that despite being so old, these boots are barely worn out at all.

      I put these boots beside my Crains, and they were identical in terms of the thickness of the sole, the height of the heel, the height of the shoes itself, and even the size. The only difference is there is of course no Velco straps, but they do have eyehooks instead of eyeholes for the next to top two holes, so they are easy to tighten and loosen. The sole and heel thickness is important as my *foam squat box is set so that while wearing my Crains, when my butt just taps the box, I know I am at depth.

      But when I wore them for a workout in mid-August 2016, I noticed when I racked the weight after my first set I was hitting my power rack a bit higher, so they raise me up a bit higher, probably about - ”. But that is better than them being lower, as it means when I hit my foam box, I am definitely below parallel.

      Another difference is the Crains are flat, toes to heel. That is to have as much contact between the shoes and the floor as possible to increase traction. But these boots, as with most shoes and boots, bend upward slightly at the toes. That is of course to aid in walking. But I figured they might help with the walkout.

       In any case, that first workout went very well, with these boots seeming to provide even more support than my old Crains, but that could be due to the Crains being so worn. The walkout did seem a bit easier, and I had no problems at all with the shoes slipping. But I did have problems hitting my foam box and a bit with form, until I got used to them. But once I did, I really liked them and have been using them for squats ever since, including at my recent contest. At that contest, I went 3/3 on squats, getting all with white lights, so with these shoes forcing me to go lower, I had no problems with depth.

      I would still recommend the Crains for squats. But a less expensive alternative would be some kind of boots. Either of these options would be far better than sneakers that many wear for squatting. That is foolish, as sneakers simply do not provide the support or firm footing that squats require.




 My shoes are set for all of my exercises. They can be summarized as follows:

Bench Assistance workouts: Coleman sneakers (first pair)
Squats and look-alike lifts: Rugged Outback boots
Bench workouts: Adidas AdiPower lifting shoes
Deadlifts and look-alike lifts: Nike wrestling shoes

Jump squats and deadlifts: Adidas Title Run basketball shoes
Calves work: Nike sneakers
Leg curls and stretching: stocking feet

Heavy bag: Adidas sneakers
Walking: Coleman sneakers (second pair)

Don’t forget to check out the pictures page.

Footwear for Powerlifting and Strength Training - Part Two. Copyright 2015 By Gary F. Zeolla.

The above article was posted on this site August 1, 2015.
The last update was added December 17, 2016.

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