Squatting in Chuck Taylor’s Converse shoes is a relatively new gym trend. Many prefer Converses over weight lifting shoes because of the considerably cheaper price and widespread use by powerlifters. But are you saving at the cost of your own health? Are Chuck Taylors really better than Olympic Weightlifting shoes?
Olympic shoes on average have a 2.5 cm of heel lift which adds approximately 3.5 to 5 degrees of ankle plantar-flexion. Although that may not seem like much, but 3.5 to 5 degrees of plantar-flexion equates to approximately only 18-25% of “normal” dorsi-flexion (20 degrees). Despite the decrease in “normal” dorsi-flexion, weightlifting shoes’ hard soles are beneficial in ground reaction force production. But is there any proof that Olympic shoes show better results than Chuck Taylors?
Multiple studies on this matter were conducted at The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) by Sato K and Whitting JW. Sato’s study compared the biomechanics of the back squat with training shoes vs. weightlifting shoes. They found that when squatting with weightlifting shoes subjects: had experienced no difference in thigh angle (how low someone can squat) and had decreased dorsi-flexion, but did help the keep the torso upright. Whitting JW’s study yielded similar results, where they found that weightlifting shoes did not offer any more stability in all planes, even with straps. Also did not show more ankle dorsi-flexion. However they did find that Olympic shoes allowed the knees to come forward more which allows for better form.
In conclusion, Olympic shoes are generally better for beginners who tend to struggle with maintaining proper form by allowing the lifter to stay more upright. They also work particularly well for people with a narrow squat stance. Whereas Chuck Taylors are more for the experienced lifter with good form, and a medium to wide squat stance.
References: 1. Sato, K., Fortenbaugh, D., and Hydock, D.S. (2012). Kinematic changes using weightlifting shoes on barbell back squat.
2. Whitting, J.W., Meir, R.A., Crowley-McHattan, Z.L., Holding, R.C. (2015). Influence of footwear type on barbell back squat using 50, 70, and 90% of 1RM. 3. Justin, K. Olympic Shoes or Chucks For Squats? https://www.t-nation.com/training/olympic-shoes-or-chucks-for-squats