Should you wear Converse shoes while training?
Have you ever seen athletes in the gym lifting heavy weights wearing nothing more on their feet than a pair of Chuck Taylors?
It's become quite common these days, but why are people choosing to wear the popular sneaker over a more "athletic" shoe such as runners?
Believe it or not, runners are not a great fit for lifting weights.
The large amounts of padding on the bottom of runners will serve you well for absorbing forces while running, but they can interfere with the sensory input on the bottom of your feet while trying to lift weights. Our feet are incredibly sensitive areas of the body, a sense that is dulled over time when we constantly wear shoes that "feel like clouds".
Now, not every body part is made equal in terms of sense. There are some areas of the body that are very sensitive and some that are somewhat dull in terms of feeling. You will already know about the sensitive parts if you have ever been tickled, and you'll know about the dull areas if, like me, you had a friend in high school who would try to lick your elbow without you noticing (seriously, not a lot of feeling there). Feet, however, are one of the most sensitive areas in the body.
Now this image is a little bit disturbing, but I had to look at it for my studies, so now I'm going to make you look at it. It represents the amount of motor control we have over certain body parts, and the amount of sensory input we receive from body parts.
On the left is a representation of the brain space dedicated to motor control. The bigger the body part, the better control we have over the muscles. The diagram on the right represents the amount of space in the brain dedicated to the sensation of different body parts. Notice the feet are matched only by the hands and mouth.
Robbing your body of one of your biggest sensory inputs while lifting heavy weights is NOT a good idea.
Weightlifters wear Chuck Taylors because there is very limited padding in the sole, allowing weightlifters to get more feedback from the ground, granting greater sensory feedback and therefore, greater potential to lift heavier things!
Chuck Taylors are better than runners for weightlifting
Chuck Taylors aren't the best choice...
Chuck Taylors and most flat sneaker-style shoes have a tight toe-box, which prevents the toes from spreading out and gripping the ground properly. This can limit your base of support, which makes it harder to balance.
The solution is to lift barefoot!
By taking shoes out of the equation entirely, the toes are able to act as they were naturally intended, gripping the ground like the roots of a tree digging in, allowing for more weight to be lifted.
The number of times I've had people come to me, saying they feel off balance on a squat or deadlift, only for their problems to evaporate as soon as I get them out of their shoes, is equal to the number of people signing up for tv show "Married At First Sight" - too many!
As soon as you get people out of their restrictive and comfy shoes and teach them how to grip the ground using a tripod foot - using the heel, base of the big toe and base of the little toe as a base of support - their balance increases immediately.
In my experience even people using orthotics for issues such as "flat arches" get immediate benefits from going barefoot in the gym.
So next time you're going to the gym to lift weights, don't take your runners. Find your flattest shoes or better yet, take them off once you get there to make sure you're optimising your positioning when lifting weights.
Now, going barefoot has its own risks, mostly around stubbing toes and dropping weights, but these can be minimised by buying barefoot shoes.
As you probably know by now, I've been a big advocate for barefoot shoes ever since I began working as a personal trainer.
My favourite barefoot shoes are Vivobarefoot, which I've been wearing in the gym since 2019 and it has changed everything for me. No more revealing stinky gym socks when I took my shoes off for every set! I wore the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite shoes as they were the perfect gym shoe, and I've since upgraded most of my shoes to the minimalist barefoot style since then.
If you're interested in my story with barefoot shoes, I've written up my journey in a more detailed blog here.
Vivobarefoot shoes are all the things your feet will love: wide, thin, flat and flexible. This allows your feet to function as feet while in the gym and they also look pretty snazzy too. Did you know they also increase the size of the muscles in your feet just by wearing them?
I've been promoting these exact shoes for years now, but I'm stoked to announce that I have entered into an ambassador program and can now offer you guys a code for 15% off all shoes if you head to Sole Mechanics in Hampton or shop online at www.solemechanics.com.au.
Use the code: ROCKMANFITNESS for 15% off the advertised price!
If you were thinking of picking up a new pair of gym shoes, there is no better time and no better shoe to do it with than a pair of barefoot shoes!
Keep those feet strong!