The variety of shoes in this day and age is overwhelmingly big, especially athletic shoes. Almost every sport has unique shoes with special characteristics to match the needs of the sport played. So there is no doubt that if you are a basketball player you should buy and play with good basketball shoes.

But the big question as it relates to strength and conditioning and sports performance programs is what type of shoes athletes should wear as their train or as they rehab from an injury.

My answer is pretty simple: consulting with a coach, trainer or physical therapist is a key. They will consider the athlete’s physical history, current injuries, mobility, and overall performance and fitness levels to then recommend him/her with the best type of shoes to wear.

Regardless of the recommendations the athlete would receive from the coach/trainer/therapist, I will recommend, most of the time, the athlete to invest in a pair of good weightlifting shoes.

The practice of weightlifting, as in Olympic style weightlifting (the snatch and the clean and jerk lifts or their derivatives) is the core of any strength and conditioning program these days and usually practiced during last stages of rehabilitation with athletes. As a side comment deadlift and squat lifts are also derivatives of Olympic style weightlifting.

There are many benefits to Olympic weightlifting and some of them as they relate to sports performance, and rehabilitation as well, are increases in neuromuscular coordination, explosive strength, mobility, and force production.

Weightlifting shoes are very unique in their build as you first look at them. Indeed, the wide toe box, the high heel raises, the flat bottoms, the condensed sole, and the rigid materials are the main characteristics of weightlifting shoes. Following is a short overview of these characteristics and why they are so important for the athlete.

  1. Weightlifting shoes have increased heel raise, which assists in vertical upright posture and compensates for lack of ankle mobility. As an example, weightlifting shoes can help tall athletes such as basketball players to weightlift better and protect themselves from injury. This is because of lack of ankle mobility that is found in many of these players.

  2. Weightlifting shoes are constructed from rigid materials to support the feet inside them and built to last for longer time compared to other shoes such as running shoes.

  3. The soles don’t compress under loads and therefore allow to better transfer of forces from the ground up while weightlifting. Imagine how much a sole of a running shoe will compress under a lot of weight. A lot!

These unique shoe characteristics will protect the athlete in risk of injury reduction while lifting and training, especially as it relates to low back injuries. This is mostly because of the potential to assume better vertical torso position as the athlete lifts and allow for safer transfer of forces through the low back and shoulders as a result without increasing stresses on unwanted structures.

Bottom line, different shoes can and should be used for different parts of training or rehabilitation. Having a good pair of weightlifting shoes, even if not used at all times, is wise.