Weightlifting Shoes: The Buying Guide
By Derek McDermott

Weightlifting Shoes: The Buying Guide

A month ago, two of our Master’s Weightlifters competed in a USAW sanctioned meet in New Haven. We had a bunch of CFR folks come down to show some support and I could tell it quickly gave some of us the competitive fever. Not only was there discussion of participating in the June 11th meet (we wound up with 4 competitors!), but the hot topic centered around weightlifting shoes. Like many sports, weightlifting has its own equipment. However, unlike running shoes or even CrossFit shoes, “Oly Shoes” tend to last a very long time if you take care of them.

Not long ago, there were only a few companies who make a tried and true “Oly” Shoe.  Adidas, Nike and Do-Win were pretty much the biggest names around. The Nike Romaleos 2 revolutionized the market with a lighter, stiffer and very stable shoe that is still widely regarded as the best shoe around. Luckily for you, they’re on sale now that Nike has released the Romaleos 3 (but I’ll get more into that later). Adidas has their “Adipower” which is also very highly rated and like the Romaleos 2, which are also on sale now that Adidas has released a new model/version.

Due to the CrossFit boom in the mid 2000’s, Reebok released a shoe that was widely pegged as a hybrid CrossFit + Weightlifting shoe. The shoe was not as stiff as the Nike/Adidas versions; however, it was lighter, more comfortable and even allowed users to wear them during some workouts if it included movements such burpees, box jumps and rowing. Traditional Weightlifting shoes are far too stiff and not designed for CrossFit types of movement. Since then, Reebok has come out with various models to meet both demands.

Below I will quickly outline a few common shoes. While this list is not complete, this is meant to give an overview if you’re considering buying or if you’re already in market for a pair.

  • Nike Romaleos 3: $190-200. Nike’s newest model, Romaleos 3, is not just an updated model, it’s a completely new shoe compared to the “2.” The “3” is 25% lighter than the “2” and the look/feel and materials used are completely new. The Romaleos 3 has a single and wider mid-food strap compared to the two straps that the Romaleos 2 has. Also, instead of leather, Nike developed this shoe with their Fly Wire fabric which saves weight and makes it more breathable.  As for stability, the Romaleos 3 excels as the Romaleos 2 does. Both versions have a 20mm heel.

Since the release of the “3,” Nike Romaleos 2 versions can be found anywhere from $120-$160 depending on size and color. For the budget conscious CrossFitter, you cannot go wrong saving $40 dollars or more by getting the previous version. Truth be told, some folks like the 2 better than the 3 for a few reasons. One potential issue is longevity. While the leather of the Romaelos 2 is known for being essentially bulletproof, the Fly Wire fabric may not be as durable; only time will tell. Secondly, the arch support is very distinct and is very solid, however to some, it feels a smidge “off” compared to what they’re used to. Furthermore, Nike provides you with two insoles, one soft and one firm, to allow for personalization. Either way you go, the “3” and the “2” are both fantastic weightlifting shoes that will get the job done.

  • Reebok Legacy Lifter: $200. Reebok recently came out with the Legacy Lifter as a true weightlifting shoe, a large improvement over previous versions. Previous models were seen as hybrid CrossFit/Oly Shoes however there is no mistaking the Legacy Lifter for anything but a weightlifting shoe. Reebok added a 22mm heel (+2 mm over Nike/Adidas models) as well as two mid-foot straps which provide a superbly stable and comfortable feel. Unlike previous Reebok Lifters, the Legacy Lifter is noticeably heavier, and comes with a better anatomical shape than previous attempts. Reebok upgraded the shoe with new look/design and mixes in leather with breathable fabric in its construction. If you currently are a Reebok Nano fan, I believe you will like the feel of the foot bed in the Legacy Lifters, even though the insoles are firm.

Reebok also has a model called the Lifter PR ($90) which is specifically designed to be a hybrid CrossFit/Oly shoe and is VERY different from the Legacy Lifter. The Lifter PR is less than half of the price and has a 15-16mm heel, one mid-foot strap and is made of synthetic leather, all while being a much lighter shoe. If you’re looking for an all-around shoe that can be worn for some workouts as well as weightlifting, this may be the shoe for you.

  • Adidas Adipower $160-200. Adidas has been in the weightlifting shoe game for quite some time. Like the Nike Romaleos 2, the Adidas Adipower was and still is a fantastic weightlifting shoe that will perform admirably for novices and Olympians alike. The Adipower shoes have a 20mm heel, same as the Nike counterparts, and are extremely stable, while not being as heavy. The ventilated outsole and cuff provide breathability while the single strap keeps the mid-foot locked into place. The classic look and proven performance are what make this shoe extremely popular. Furthermore, those of us with narrow feet may have found weightlifting shoe nirvana. The Adipower is known for being slightly narrower through the toe box which creates a snug feel which many people enjoy. However, if you have a wider foot, it can seem too snug.

Like Reebok, Adidas has multiple models such as the Powerlift 3 ($90) which is very similar to the Reebok Lifter PR. The Powerlift3 comes with a 15-16mm heel height, synthetic leather, single strap and a flexible toe box meant to be a great all around shoe as well. This shoe is popular amongst power lifters, CrossFitters and Weightlifters alike. Truth be told, you will see some world-class athletes wearing the Powerlift model at competitions around the globe.

While Nike, Reebok and Adidas may have some of the most popular models in use today, Do-Win, NoBull and Inov-8 all make Weightlifting shoes as well. Like all things in life, there are pro’s and con’s to each. Lastly, while Olympic weightlifting shoes are not a “must have” piece of equipment, they are nice to own. While they may be expensive, a good pair of Olympic weightlifting shoes can easily last 5-10 years and should be considered an investment.

All in all, “Oly shoes” can be a great tool in your arsenal, and can greatly help improve some positioning within your lifts. But if anyone tells you that you NEED to own “Oly Shoes,” politely forward them this video of Rich Froning Snatching 305 in Nano’s.

See you in the gym.
-Coach D-