When you think about weightlifting shoes, Converse sneakers might be the last thing to cross your mind. Though canvas Chuck Taylor All-Stars (colloquially known as Chucks) are regarded as an emblem of creative expression with widespread and nearly iconic appeal, you'll be surprised to find that they're pretty popular among powerlifters too. The next time you're pausing between reps, scan the floor of your gym. Among the weighted plates, half-filled water bottles, and dingy towels, your little eye might spy somebody sporting a pair of Chucks. But why? For fashion? Of course! Chucks have found fans in Harry Potter and even the First Lady. However, original Converse All-Star sneakers are a decent option for resistance training. While some people prefer to lift without shoes or splurge on more expensive lifting shoes, Chucks reasonably achieve the same purpose.
Why you should consider Chucks for lifting
They aren't running shoes
Sorry running shoes, you can't lift with us. When you perform heavier lifts, it's important to ground your feet on the floor so that you can stabilize yourself. They're your base of support, as you transmit energy through your feet to lift. Padded running shoes absorb shock and thus, energy that could otherwise be used for your lifts. The more energy you transfer through your feet, the heavier you'll be able to lift (all while looking like a boss). With arched running shoes, you recruit other muscles to compensate for the lack of force you would be able to derive from grounding your feet on the floor. This can undermine your technique over time and increase your risk of injury.
They have flat soles
Chucks have thin and flat soles that don't compress under a heavy load. Because older Chucks don't have any arch support, your feet will be in close contact with the floor and you'll be at liberty to push through your heels. You'll also train the stabilizing muscles in your feet. This will eventually help to protect your lower extremities against injury and it'll make your lifts more efficient. You'll hit depth with your squats and maintain better form as you progress.
They're comfy and affordable
Chucks are light, durable (wear them for ALL the years), and their canvas build makes them fit like a sock. If you so desire, Chucks are an ideal first-step to help you progress to barefoot lifting. While Adidas powerlifting shoes sell for roughly $190 USD, you can purchase Converse sneakers for a fraction of the price at $30-50 USD.
Why you might want to suck it up and splurge on lifting shoes
The Converse All Star Chuck II isn't great for lifting
In July 2015, Converse unveiled a redesigned model of their classic All-Star shoes for the first time in 98 years. While the All-Star Chuck II looks almost identical to its predecessor, it no longer bears the qualities that make Chucks a desirable option for lifting: arch support and affordability (to some degree). A foam lining cushions the soles of the All-Star Chuck II, providing a form of arch support that would make it more difficult for lifters to exert force through the ground. Although the updated sneakers don't cost as much as lifting shoes, they do ring the cash register in at $75 for high-tops and $70 for low-tops.
Lifting shoes, on the other hand, might be worth the splurge if heavier squats are your goal. They don't have any extra sole padding, but they have slightly raised heels, which gives your ankle more mobility and allows you to squat deeper. It'll also correct potential stance deficits, keeping you upright, reducing pressure on your lower back and recruiting the right muscles to help you lift with better form and greater efficiency. But when you're deadlifting, you really want shoes that are as flat as possible.
If you do have ankle problems, weightlifting shoes will also give you more stability. Their hard soles will ensure that you're able to transfer tons of force into the ground and your feet will be able to have a tighter grip on the floor. With better balance and stability, you'll improve your technique and reduce your risk of injury simultaneously.
So, are Chucks good for lifting? While the new Chuck II shoes aren't ideal, original Converse sneakers are decent. They have flat soles that resist compression and they're affordable. But depending on your technique, ankle mobility, level of intensity, and budget, you might want to splurge on a pair of weightlifting shoes. What are your favourite shoes for lifting? Do you wear shoes at all? Let us know in the comments below!