Do Weightlifting Shoes Change Force Production?

One very interesting and resourceful study on forces and footwear looked at four different shoe conditions with force plates. I wish it included a barefoot condition and a very low-profile shoe like a minimalist shoe option, but it was very useful because it tossed in the old 2.5-pound plate technique coaches have used to encourage better squat depth. The study involved bilateral force plates, but it really focused on anterior and posterior forces of the forefoot and rearfoot. In addition to the force plates, the research team measured the core ankle mobility of the subjects: a wonderful inclusion, to say the least.

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There is currently no evidence to support the belief that forces are increased with weightlifting shoes, but all our athletes swear by them. It will take more research to look past peak power or peak force, as one or two numbers don’t explain the whole story. Research also needs to evaluate Olympic-style weightlifting and use advanced athletes to answer the questions most are looking for. While it was with a goniometer, and perhaps done with unknown expertise, the intent of determining whether eversion, inversion, plantar flexion, or dorsiflexion range of motion contributed to the output was better than including nothing. With ankle mobility a major factor in squatting, it’s bizarre to me when researchers leave this out of their studies.

The four types of squatting conditions were only different based on the shoe used and, of course, the inclusion of a heel elevated by the weight plate. Three models of shoes were used: the cross-trainer, the high-end powerlifting shoe, and the weightlifting shoe. The fourth condition was using the cross-trainer again, only with additional elevation to the heel. A simple conclusion was reached: All of the conditions were so similar it wasn’t worth noting the differences. All four options had elevated heel positions and materials that were close enough to each other, with not enough differences to matter statistically, for the most part.

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