Ever thought about the shoes that you wear to the gym? Of course you have. You’ve actually spent some time thinking about which shoes to wear, and you probably have a pair designated as your ‘gym shoes’. How did those shoes earn that illustrious title and serve such a noble purpose? Suitability for the task? Performance enhancement? Safety? Not usually. Comfort and looks seem to be the main criteria associated with gym shoe choice. This is a problem if your training includes any free weights at all. Most of us would never consider wearing a pair of Bruno Magli’s to play racquetball. They are built to look good, not to perform well on the court. While this may be obvious to some, many of us will make an equally poor footwear decision and wear running shoes to the gym to lift weights.
Proper footwear in the gym is important, especially if you are lifting free weights. When we lift weights we want two things to happen: (1) all the force our body produces under the bar should contribute to moving the weight and (2) the weight needs to be controlled in a safe manner. If we lift in a running shoe, it’s akin to trying to lift while standing on a giant marshmallow. The soles of the running shoes, the marshmallow, will absorb and dissipate a large amount of the force generated against the floor that should be directed towards moving the weight. A gel or air cell shoe is a great thing for reducing the impact shock that causes the repetitive use injuries associated with running. But in the weight room, shoes should provide for the efficient transmission of power between the bar and the ground. You can’t lift as much weight in the wrong shoes.
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