As resolutions have petered out and summer approaches, it’s a good time to visit a gym… and look at shoes. Gym shoes for years have been your classically overbuilt, heavily cushioned, smelly sneakers. Recently, however, fitness experts have been praising the use of minimalist shoes in a gym setting—especially when it comes to weight lifting.
Strength training is a growing part of many people’s fitness routines and a place that good footwear can offer a number of benefits. The zero-drop and minimal cushioning found in minimalist shoes have a lot to offer.
When your shoes mimic being barefoot, your toes are given room to spread out, improving your balance. The stable, grounded connection that you form with the surface under your shoes is incredibly important. With minimal interference between the ground and your feet, you not only get maximum feedback from the ground, but also energy transfer. The energy that you are exerting to lift is not being absorbed by extra-cushioned soles, but rather is transferred to the ground, letting your body make use of that force.
Arnold Schwarzenegger lifting barefoot
The zero-drop sole allows you to use some of your body’s biggest muscles (thighs, glutes, back.) Shoes with raised heels shift some of the weight from those large muscles to the balls of the feet, making your body less efficient. Many exercises, such as kettlebell exercises, are meant to be full body movements. By keeping your feet engaged in your lift, you are able to more effectively engage the rest of your muscles as well. This helps to prevent “powering through” a lift using mostly your upper body, which puts you at a higher risk for injury.
For those of us who spend more time on the track than in the weight room, minimalist footwear can still be a good shoe choice. Solid contact with the ground beneath you and the ability to use more of your muscles more effectively are benefits that can be applied across your workout. Not to mention the lightweight shoes let them move around just as fast (or as deliberately) as you do.