Most workout routines involve a succession of workout exercises that target the upper and lower body as well as improve cardiovascular health. For most individuals, fitness and health mean exercising multiple muscle groups rather than focusing on a specific muscle group during their trip to the gym. It can become troublesome to transition from using specialized weightlifting shoes to running shoes for cardiovascular exercise.
While running in weightlifting shoes is possible, they won’t provide a comfortable or productive experience. Fitness enthusiasts and experts alike do not recommend running in weightlifting shoes.
There is a reason why there are various designs of training shoes, catering to different fitness needs and objectives. Taking advantage of these designs can lead not only to a better overall workout experience, but also safer, more efficient workouts.
Difference Between Weightlifting Shoes and Running Shoes
Weightlifting shoes provide stability, balance, and power. These shoes have non-compressible, flat rubber soles for rigidity and balance. They also have ankle support to prevent sudden loss of balance when weightlifting.
The raised heel is a staple feature in many weightlifting shoes. These shoes have a half-of-an-inch to one-inch heel that creates leverage. Specifically, the raised heel allows for deeper squats with better form from the hips and torso.
Weightlifting shoes provide a greater range of motion than regular training shoes. This allows optimal stance and posture before the lift and allows better energy transfer on the lift itself.
The primary difference between running shoes and weightlifting shoes is the material. Generally, there are three common shoe materials: ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA), polyurethane (PU), and thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU).
Running shoes are mostly made with EVA, which creates a lightweight and breathable foam for spring-like action and shock absorption. Weightlifting shoes, on the other hand, use TPUs as durable synthetic plastics create a non-compressible soles. Some, however, use high-density EVAs to create non-compressible soles.
Weightlifting and running involve different mechanics and kinetic chains that engage different bone and muscle groups. Shoe manufacturers create their products bearing this kinesthetic motion in mind. Thus, using running shoes for weightlifting can cause sub-optimal lifts, and even injuries.
Lightweight soles provide bounce during the running motion which reduces the stress on the knees when running and allows more fluid motion. In weightlifting, the athlete needs power to transition between lifts. Planting the feet into the ground is a necessary part of the exercise.
Weightlifting shoes allow the lifter to generate more force from the ground to transfer towards the lift. Non-compressible soles allow better energy transfer from the ground to the lower body and the upper body. It also enables the recruitment and activation of more muscles during the exercise.
Weightlifting shoes, through the non-compressible soles and the elevated heels, allow the weightlifter to position better for the exercise and increase lifting power and muscle hypertrophy, leading to deeper squats, better ankle flexibility, and greater muscular capacity. Research shows that the increased heel elevation in weightlifting shoes leads to an improvement in joint and muscle activation and torso lean during weightlifting exercises.
Other parts of the weightlifting shoes are also essential for the improvement of the exercise. The flat soles, the metatarsal straps, and the ankle support all engage in providing a solid base with no wiggle room for better momentum towards the lift while reducing dorsiflexion because of the increase heel-to-toe angle.
Why You Cannot Run in Weightlifting Shoes
The traction in weightlifting shoes makes it unsuitable for running. Running requires shoes have loose, soft material and structure to enable a smoother heel-to-toe motion. It also requires shock absorption to dampen the force generated between the feet and the ground.
Running shoes are specifically engineered to withstand repeated contact between the feet and the ground. Its EVA cushions provide the shock absorption and bounce capability necessary to reduce the impact on the leg joints.
There is also a drastic difference in the heel elevation between running shoes and weightlifting shoes. Running shoes typically have a 10-mm heel-to-toe drop while weightlifting shoes, as discussed previously, can have as much as an inch of heel-to-toe drop. With that disparity, running using weightlifting shoes can feel very different and uncomfortable.
Weightlifting shoes are also typically bulky, heavy, and often have Velcro metatarsal straps to snug-fit the feet into the shoes and prevent loose movements during the lift action. The soles of these shoes were also previously made with wood until they were replaced with hard plastic.
Overall, it can become impossible to run using weightlifting shoes because of their weight, lack of shock absorption, rigidity, and grip. Weightlifting shoes create force maximization whereas running require force absorption.
Are Weightlifting Shoes Necessary?
Weightlifting shoes are not necessary for casual weightlifters. There is a trend where weightlifters do their training barefoot because it allows them to engage more muscles during the lift. This shows that weightlifting shoes should only augment the execution and make lifting easier to target certain muscles better.
Research from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning shows that using weightlifting shoes can affect squatting form and allow safer execution with less risk of injury and stress on the lumbar area. It also promotes greater use of the leg muscles.
Weightlifting shoes can also help people with poor ankle flexibility and people with mobility problems due to long femurs. Generally, people with long legs have difficulty doing squats in the ideal form. Weightlifting shoes allow them to gain leverage by focusing more on form and execution.
For most people, weightlifting shoes should only be supplementary. If the normal gym workout routine involves full-body exercises that include both weightlifting and cardiovascular exercises, it would be best to go with normal training shoes instead of specialized weightlifting shoes.
CrossFit shoes are hybrid crossover shoes that allow cross-training from weightlifting to cardiovascular exercises. These shoes take the middle ground between running shoes and weightlifting shoes, making them ideal for people who are interested in a more diverse workout experience.
However, CrossFit shoes can compromise on certain beneficial parts of the weightlifting shoes to accommodate more movement for CrossFit. It can reduce ankle support or provide more foam into the sole to allow CrossFit athletes to engage in a wider range of activities.
CrossFit shoes, however, are better for running than weightlifting shoes. It can also pass for weightlifting exercises. Still, the compromise in creating CrossFit shoes could spell the difference in performance for more advanced athletes.
Running in weightlifting shoes can be both uncomfortable and unsafe given its materials and construction. The high heel elevation in weightlifting shoes supports energy transfer from the ball of the foot to the upper body contrary to the energy absorption necessary for running.
Running shoes provide the shock absorption that allows better, safer, and more comfortable running motion. For people who want to mix weightlifting and running exercises in their workout routines, CrossFit shoes could provide comfort and efficiency when jumping between these two types of exercises.