Recently, since the weather in Delhi was pleasant, I ran to the gym before my workout. I thought hey, this takes care of my warm up and I will be able to save time. What I did not factor in was that it would mean I had my running shoes on during my workout. Is that a bad thing? Not if you are doing a fun metcon (metabolic conditioning). But it is a bad idea if you're planning to lift weights at the gym.
I am sure I am not the only one who has made this mistake. Most people, especially beginners, wear just about any shoes they have in the house for gym sessions. But wearing the wrong pair of shoes can actually do you harm. And I’m not saying this because I want you to go and spend money on expensive gear. There are proper scientific reason why running shoes should never be used while lifting weights, especially if you are lifting heavy.
Delhi-based Saaransh Tangri used his running shoes for the first few months of joining a crossfit box. “I never gave much importance to the type of shoe I was wearing, but post a few workouts at CFH where Olympic lifting is an integral part of the strength program, I realised the need of a pair of flat-soled shoes. My immediate focus went on the converse I had, so I tried them and felt the difference. My grip and the even distribution of body weight really helped. Also flat-sole shoes give a sense of security while lifting,” he explains.
A pair of converse aren’t really shoes you should be lifting in, but at least they do possess flat soles. And that’s definitely better than lifting while wearing running shoes. For those who are dipping their feet in strength training and lifting weights, a flat-soled (without cushioning) pair of shoes is the correct way to go. For those who want to be a bit more serious about it, a proper pair of lifting shoes is highly recommended. To understand the mechanics better, speak to fitness professionals, and they will tell you that they won’t compromise on their form by wearing the wrong pair of shoes.
“Weightlifting shoes have a higher heel which gives increases the range of motion (ROM)— the distance a joint can move and the direction in which it can move—for the lifter. A normal shoe or a running shoe cannot do this. Increased ROM means a lifter can squat deeper and make sure his/ her posture is fine, thereby decreasing chances of injury,” explains Pradeep Kumar Maurya, founder and coach at Noida’s BarbellBoss Fitness. Maurya has been a competitive weightlifter for eight years now, and he’s a winner of the Delhi state gold medal for the sport.
If we break it down further, running shoes are cushion-y. Most of the running shoes I own can be held and bent by hand—they’re supposed to be that flexible. This helps you to run better because that way your entire foot doesn’t land at the same time. Weightlifting shoes, on the other hand, have soles made of plastic or hardwood, making them more rigid and not flexible. A harder sole would help you to push your feel into the floor, and thereby be more stable while lifting weights. Imagine doing a squat with a loaded barbell on your back. You wouldn’t want to wobble and fall with that weight, would you?
Sometimes, if you cannot carry your lifting shoes with you, you can do some of the movements barefoot, instead of compromising your posture with by wearing your running shoes. Many people often bend ahead while doing a squat because of limited ROM. Coaches often try to assist them by using an elevated squat. This decreases the ROM at the hip but increases the ROM at the knee, and keeps the quadriceps muscles active. In such a squat, generally, people can go deeper into a squat while maintaining a straight back.
“The heels in lifting shoes are stable and helps me to grip the floor. But I have also tried to run in them, and that is not a good idea. The heels become too stiff for a comfortable run and does not bend along with the foot,” says Aishani Menon, a student and fitness enthusiast based in Delhi.
Keeping your running and lifting shoes separate has another benefit: longevity. The running shoes especially have a limited lifespan, roughly based on the number of miles you run or walk in them. By wearing them to the gym, you will only wear them out faster, and thereby be forced to buy another pair. A separate pair of lifting shoes is a good investment and will only benefit you in the time to come.