Footwear has become a great topic of discussion as far as resistance training goes. This used to be reserved for the endurance training crowd as they tried to decide how much cushion or weight to put in their shoes. But now, serious lifters are quite concerned over the characteristics of their training shoes. Much of this concern has centered on the best type of shoe for compound movements. Specifically, many believe that movements with a squatting pattern require a special type of shoe for enhanced performance/efficiency.

Many shoe companies now sell training specific shoes, with some featuring a flat sole and others featuring a raised heel. These companies will of course give reasons as to why they chose to feature either a flat or raised heel, but despite their reasons, many people struggle with the decision of which type of shoe is best for them. Some people might tell you that a raised heel is always better for squatting. However, everyone has different characteristics and strengths which makes these blanket statements inappropriate for everyone. In reality, the best type of training shoe is dependent on each person’s individual characteristics. However, one thing for sure is that having the right training shoe can make a world of difference in your comfort, strength, and efficiency in the gym.

 

Why Have a Raised Heel?

Often times, people employ a “monkey see, monkey do” approach when choosing a training shoe. The majority of powerlifters and weightlifters wear a raised heel shoe in training/competition. Naturally, people assume they need to use a raised heel too based on what they see around them, but there are actually specific reasons you might want to use a raised heel, just as there are reasons you may want to think twice.

One of the major advantages to a raised heel is the artificial boost in ankle mobility it provides. The 1-2 inch heel provides just a bit more dorsiflexion throughout the lift. This is a big help for those whose ankle dorsiflexion limits them in a squatting pattern. Essentially, the heel allows you to stay more upright in a squat and derive more power from the quads. If you are someone who has strong legs, then a raised heel will probably help you as far as maximal strength goes. Some also claim the raised heel allows them to hit depth more easily, although this may not actually be the case depending on your structure. If you find yourself struggling with ankle mobility, or want to tap into your leg strength, raised heels may be great for you.

While there are distinct advantages to a raised heel, there are some drawbacks as well. Those with stronger hips will tend to overcorrect in a squat when the weight reaches near maximal loads. Rather than use the increased leg drive that the heel provides, they will shoot their knees back and transfer the load onto their low back and hips. This can cause some strain to the lower back and, over time, could sensitize the area to injury. Additionally, the raised heel can present a challenge as far as balance goes. Some people find that they tend to pitch forward when wearing a heeled shoe during training. This makes the lift more difficult as your body has to fight to keep the bar over the midfoot. Those with strong hips or balance issues may want to use caution in training with a raised heel.

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