Wearing the appropriate clothing is very important for lifting, anyone who has ever dropped a dumbbell onto a sandalled foot will know why. A good lifting belt, moisture wicking t-shirts, and comfortable sweatpants can all help you to exercise better. Appropriate footwear is by far the most important consideration for lifting.
There are a number of options out there. Most people wear running shoes, which are fine if you are using a leg press machine, or you just want to feel comfortable while performing a bent over row. But for certain exercises (squat, deadlift, Olympic lifts) you’ll want specialist shoes.
Weightlifting shoes are perfect for these exercises, but they are also expensive and very uncomfortable to walk around in. Enter the Converse Chuck Taylor.
Are Converse Good For Lifting?
Converse are a great choice of shoe for lifting due to their flat soles and the ankle support that they offer. There are arguably better shoes for lifting out there, but not when you take price and longevity into account.
Why Are Converse So Great for Lifting?
Converse shoes are very popular with lifters. Once you start noticing them in the gym, you’ll see them all the time. There are a number of reasons why that is:
Reason #1 Low to the Ground
This isn’t applicable to most exercises, but with deadlifts it is very important for your feet to be as low to the ground as possible. The lower you are to the ground, the shorter the distance that the bar has to travel. A shorter distance is going to make the exercise slightly easier and allow you to lift more weight (or perform more reps).
Converse shoes are typically a lot lower to the ground than many other shoes, particularly running shoes. This makes them a good shout for deadlifting and explains their popularity in powerlifting where every single advantage is utilised to lift as much as possible.
Reason #2 Excellent Ankle Support
This is only the case for Chuck Taylor high tops. These shoes have incredible ankle support while remaining light and comfortable. Hiking shoes would have better ankle support; however, they are cumbersome and keep your feet high off the ground.
Shoes with ankle support are great for deadlifting, squats, and Olympic Lifts, reducing the risk of injury and increasing security and stability.
Reason #3 Flat and Stable
When deadlifting, you want your shoes to be as flat as possible. This not only helps keep your feet low to the ground (see reason #1) but also helps to increase stability. When lifting, you want as much stability as possible.
Imagine trying to lift a weight over your head while standing on a bouncy castle, it would be very difficult right? That’s because of the lack of stability on the surface of the bouncy castle.
Running shoes are often designed to provide stability while moving and have a lot of cushioning around the heel.
Converse on the other hand, have a flat and stable sole, which is perfect for heavy lifting. This is only an advantage for lifting though, it can make running and other movements much more difficult. That is why Converse are rarely used in CrossFit or sport.
Reason #4 Comfortable
There is a reason why Converse shoes have been so popular for so long, it’s not just because they look nice. They are very comfortable and are one of the few shoes that get more comfortable the longer you wear them.
This means that you have less distractions while lifting. We’ll talk about weightlifting shoes in more detail later, but this is an area where Converse have a big edge. Comfortable shoes will help you to dedicate more energy to lifting.
Reason #5 Durable
Nothing beats a good pair of running shoes, except time. Even the most expensive running shoes will begin to fall apart after six months of use.
This is not the case for Converse shoes. Sure, after a few years they will begin to fray at the edges. But if you only use them in the gym, then you can expect them to stay in great condition for a very long time.
Reason #6 Cost Effective
While Converse shoes are not the cheapest shoes on the market, they are very reasonably priced. Couple this with their durability, and you end up with a very cost effective shoe and a great financial bargain over time.
Compare that to running shoes, which can often cost hundreds of dollars and rarely last 6 months of hard running, and you can see why we rate Converse shoes so highly in this regard.
Reason #7 Fashionable
One enduring reason why Converse shoes are so popular with lifters comes down to them being fashionable.
Schwarzenegger wore Converse shoes (when not training barefoot), Eddie Hall has been pictured with Converse shoes on while deadlifting. It’s gotten to the point where Converse shoes are seen as standard powerlifting shoes.
But it’s not just in the gym where Converse shoes are popular, they are worn on the street by millions of people. Converse shoes are one of a few shoes that can be worn in the gym and socially and look equally good.
Converse vs Weightlifting Shoes
We know why people enjoy wearing Converse shoes in the gym, but what about weightlifting shoes? The weightlifting shoe as we know it today has its origins in the Soviet weightlifting shoes of the 60s and 70s. Before that, most weightlifters used boxing shoes or similar.
The problem with boxing shoes was that although they offered a high top (to protect the ankle) and a flat sole, they weren’t flexible enough for Olympic weightlifting. If you are only performing deadlifts and squats, then you could probably wear boxing shoes today and be pretty happy with the results. Though Converse would obviously be a better option.
But Olympic weightlifting requires split squats, and a lot of mobility. Snatches, squats, and lunging movements are best performed with a raised heel, which is what weightlifting shoes offer.
The sole is still flat, but there is a slight wedge that raises the heels off the ground. This makes it easier to squat very low. Flexibility in the midfoot can also be important, and some weightlifting shoes offer decent flexibility too.
Interestingly, not all squats or squat styles suit weightlifting shoes. If you have a low-bar squat stance, then weightlifting shoes tend to force you into a position where you lean forward too much. Whereas front squats or high-bar squats are much more suited to weightlifting shoes than Converse.
The biggest downside of weightlifting shoes is that they make it almost impossible to do any movement other than squats, deadlifts, and Olympic lifts. You can walk in them for short distances, but running in them is as difficult as running in high heels.
So, you aren’t going to want to wear weightlifting shoes during a chest workout (for example), and you definitely can’t wear them during circuit training, or a CrossFit class. Weightlifting shoes have a very specific use, and they are also quite expensive.
They are a great investment if you are serious about hitting new squat personal bests. And they are crucial for Olympic weightlifting success. But if you are just a regular gym goer who doesn’t plan on competing in powerlifting competitions or Olympic Weightlifting, then Converse shoes would be a much smarter investment.
Converse vs Running Shoes
When it comes to deadlifts, running shoes are not ideal. That being said, millions of people perform deadlifts while wearing running shoes in gyms around the world. Running shoes are extremely comfortable, can be bought cheaply, and are seen as standard gym attire.
While they may not offer the stability of Converse shoes, nor the ability to squat deeply like weightlifting shoes, running shoes are incredibly versatile. They allow you to run, change direction at speed, jump, skip. Plus, they are fine for almost any resistance machine exercise, and the vast majority of free weight exercises.
Are Converse better shoes for deadlifts? Absolutely. They provide better stability, a flatter sole, and they offer more protection for the ankles. But running shoes can still work well. They have excellent grip, which can be very useful. And due to the massive range of running shoes available, it is possible to find shoes that fit your feet perfectly.
A good gym option would be to own a pair of running shoes for general use, and either a set of weightlifting shoes or a set of Converse shoes for deadlifts, squats, and Olympic lifts.
That way you get the best of both worlds. If you have the space and the budget, then a pair of all three shoes could be perfect. This would suit people who squat with a high bar, but don’t like raised heels during deadlifts.
Converse vs Vans
We’ve talked a lot about how popular Converse shoes are with powerlifters and gym goers, but Vans are another incredibly popular shoe choice with lifters too. They look almost identical, and they are around the same price. But which is best?
The first difference between the two shoes is the height of the base of each shoe. Converse shoes are slightly closer to the ground making them ever so slightly better for deadlifting.
Another difference is the availability of high top Converse shoes compared to high top vans. Sure, there are high top vans for sale, but they are nowhere near as common as Converse high tops. Vans do tend to fit better than Converse shoes though.
The truth is that both shoes are incredibly similar, and it won’t make any real difference which shoes you wear in the gym.
What Converse are Good for Lifting?
This is essentially a question about whether high top Converse or low top Converse are better for lifting. Both shoes offer a number of similar benefits (as discussed above), the main difference is ankle support vs mobility.
High tops offer a lot of ankle support and can increase stability. This comes at a small cost though, as it can reduce mobility for other movements. Ankle support can be very helpful during squats, but it can hinder Olympic lifts such as the split squat.
On the other hand, low top shoes will allow a lot more mobility but won’t protect your ankles. It really comes down to what exercises you are planning on performing. If you are just a regular gym goer then you can pick whichever shoe looks cooler!
Can You Olympic Lift in Converse?
As we mentioned earlier, Olympic lifts are best performed in weightlifting shoes. But that does not mean that you can’t use Converse at all. They have their downsides, but if you are a beginner you won’t need to worry too much.
Converse are very stable, the uppers have enough flexibility to allow you to perform split squats, and they should be good for most beginners.
The lack of a wedge is an issue though. Converse won’t allow you to squat as deeply as weightlifting shoes.
Before the invention of weightlifting shoes, everyone lifted in boxing shoes which are very similar to Converse high tops in design. So, it is certainly possible to perform some big lifts while wearing Converse. But it isn’t optimal. If you can’t afford weightlifting shoes, then Converse shoes are better than running shoes.
Are Converse Good for Lifting? Final Thoughts
Converse are a great shoe and have many benefits. They are excellent value for money, supremely comfortable, and they can be very durable when looked after properly. But are they good for lifting? The answer is yes, Converse shoes can be very good for most types of lifting:
- Free weight exercises (bench press, bent over rows, overhead presses)
- Resistance machines (leg press, chest press, lat pulldown)
- Cable machines
- Low Bar squats
But there are many exercises that they are not suited for. If you prefer high bar squats or front squats then weightlifting shoes would be better.
If you want to perform Olympic lifts then weightlifting shoes are a better choice.
If you want to run, jump, or perform any athletic movements, then running shoes are a better option as they will provide more cushioning and protect your feet better.
The best option would be to own a pair of Converse, a pair of running shoes, and a pair of weightlifting shoes. That way you would have the right shoes for all occasions.
But if you don’t have that option, then Converse shoes are the best compromise shoes, depending on what type of training you are following.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Converse Good for Running?
Not particularly. Converse are flat and have no cushioning. It is certainly possible to run in Converse shoes, but it won’t be as comfortable or as efficient as it would be in proper running shoes. They are also not waterproof or breathable, so would be unsuitable to long runs in most weather conditions. Use running shoes instead.
High or Low Top Converse for Lifting?
High top Converse will allow you to squat and deadlift with a little more stability around your ankles. Low top Converse are better suited to Olympic lifting. It’s not too big of a difference though, so find which suits you best.
Is it Good to Squat in Converse?
That depends on your squatting style. If you squat with a high bar technique (bar resting on top of your shoulders) or you want to perform front squats, then weightlifting shoes are a much better choice. If you squat with a low bar technique (bar resting on upper back) then Converse work well. If you aren’t squatting with too heavy a weight, then it won’t make much difference.
Are Converse Good for the Gym?
Converse are great for deadlifts, some squats, and any form of free weight exercise. They are fairly durable, look great, and are great value for money. But they aren’t great for running, jumping, or changing direction (agility). For that, you want running shoes. Converse also aren’t going to offer much protection if you drop a weight on your foot.
What Shoes Do Olympic Weightlifters Wear?
The most commonly used shoes are Nike Romaleos and Adidas Adipower Weightlifting II shoes. There are no non-weightlifting shoes used, certainly not Converse or running shoes! Remember, Olympic weightlifters are often paid athletes whose career is based on small percentages. A regular gym goer does not need the same level of investment to see good results.
Should You Deadlift in Weightlifting Shoes?
Probably not. They tend to make you lean too far forwards over the bar which can cause balancing issues. They also raise your heels off the ground and increase the range of motion. As you know, the larger the range of motion, the further you have to pull the weight.