After reading the title, you’re probably thinking “What? Are these guys going really going to talk about picking stylish shoes for the gym?” No. Although it’s easy to find a “stylish” looking gym shoe, the purpose of this article is to enhance gym performance and safety. Yes, the shoe you choose for the gym will absolutely affect your performance. Some of you more frugal guys out there might be thinking that you can buy any old shoe and it’ll work. Well, you would be very mistaken. There are some shoes that you want in your arsenal and others you want to avoid completely.
If you’re serious about lifting, the one type of shoe you want to absolutely avoid while in the gym is any sort of running shoe – like the New Balance MX605V4 pictured above. Unfortunately, this also includes any type of Nike Free as well. I see a lot of people in the gym wear these all the time and they are awful for doing any sort of standing compound movement.
With that said, the traditional, bulkier running shoe is likely the worse option. This type of shoe is designed to absorb shock and help you transfer your weight from heel to toe as your take your running strides. The Nike Free is not much better. Although its design claims to mimic “free running” with less cushioning, if you look at the actual heel of the shoe, there’s still too much cushioning for gym as it’s quite squishy. Also, when you look at the toe bed of the shoe you’ll notice that it’s curved slightly up to help you transfer the weight from heel to toe. This is not good for weightlifting.
Why do the aforementioned designs affect your lifting? For starters, if you squat, deadlift, do any sort of standing overhead press, you need a stable base. I see many guys in the gym do their “squats” and “deadlifts” wearing these types of shoes and you can see that the weight of their body is shifting from heel to toe throughout their rep. This is a recipe for disaster when it comes to injury prevention. Imagine squatting with any substantial amount of weight while shifting forward on your feet at the same time – not exactly the safest thing to do. Or imagine yourself doing a heavy overhead press where you need to engage your glutes and trunk to protect your lumbar spine. The shift from heel to toe means that you will be unstable on your feet. This is not good.
The other issue with these shoes is that you’re bleeding power. For example, during a squat you want your legs/feet to drive hard against the floor. Basic physics here. You want to be as close to the hard floor as possible so when you exert the force against the ground, the ground exerts a force against you. When you wear running shoes the added cushioning absorbs some of the force which means you lose it coming up out of the hole. If you don’t believe me, try jumping as high as you can while standing on concrete and then try jumping as high as you can while standing on some pillows or a sofa.
The Best Overall Gym Shoes
Given what was alluded to in the previous section, the optimal gym shoe must have the following characteristics:
- A minimal or no “drop” which is the length of the heel of the shoe, or the difference between the height of heel of the shoe vs. the height of the forefoot.
- Minimal cushioning, especially at the heel.
- A hard sole in order to be able to “feel the ground” rather than feel like you’re on cushions.
- And as corollary to point #3, a shoe that allows for stability and bracing into the ground.
I own a pair of these and they’re my shoe of choice as an everyday, work horse gym shoe. The drop on these shoes is a minimal 4mm. Although this shoe has more cushioning than the New Balance Minimus, the cushioning is very minor and along with its hard sole, allows your feet to feel close to the ground in order to “spread the floor.” You’ll notice that the toe bed of the shoe is wide and flat which creates stability. The stable base and the close to the ground feel makes Reebok Crossfit Nano a suitable shoe for squats, overhead press and even deadlifts.
This shoe is also extremely versatile. Even though the shoe has a hard sole, unlike Olympic lifting shoes there’s enough give in them that allows you to do cardio type activites such as burpees, box jumps, or other exercises that require mobility such as walking lunges. I prefer these shoes over the Minimus simply because they provide a tiny bit more cushioning to my feet. The drawback to them compared to the Minimus is that although you can use them for short bursts of running, they’re not optimal for long distance jogging. But again, this article is about shoes for inside the gym.
This shoe is a favorite of Manny’s and he swears by them. I don’t own a pair but I’ve tried them on. The New Balance Minimus consists of a 0mm drop which means you’re getting the true bare foot experience. This means that this shoe satisfies all 4 criteria for a gym shoe I mentioned above. I would even say that this shoe is more versatile than the Crossfit Nano because it is designed to be used as a running shoe which the Crossfit Nano isn’t. The drawback of the Minimus is also its strength. Because of its 0mm drop, it has absolutely no cushioning. Although there’s research out there that states that bare foot running is healthier than cushioned running, some people need to work their way into the shoes as their feet, ankles, and shins are not used to minimalist shoes. Fortunately, this shouldn’t be a huge problem if you’re using them exclusively for the gym as you’re not taking too many steps anyways.
Reebok Crossfit Nano vs. The New Balance Minimus
Which one should you pick then? I’d try them both out and see which one you like. If you like slightly more cushioning, go with the Crossfit Nanos. If you’re into running and want to pursue more of a “bare foot” running style, you should strongly consider the Minimus instead. Both options are solid options for your lifting needs. You can also go with the previous versions of these shoes to save a bit of money. There’s virtually no difference between the newest Crossfit Nano 5.0 and the Crossfit Nano 4.0
What to Expect in Part 2
The next part of this article will cover the need for an olympic lifting/weight lifting shoe and which ones I recommend (you can check out part 2 by clicking on this link here). Until then, if you’re serious about lifting, I strongly urge that if you haven’t already, purchase a shoe that is suitable for the gym and lifting. You’ll be glad you did.
Here’s to staying fit!