While he used to be a super minimalist lifter in a world that’s saturated with lifting gear (that may or may not be necessary), PK has very few favorite pieces of his own gear for lifting. This still remains true, and the thing he cares about most is just getting under the iron and doing some damage against mean ‘ol gravity (especially with our Bomba bar and black bumper plates), but after 15 years of lifting, there is actually one piece of gear that he can live without, but prefers not to.
What is PK’s favorite piece of lifting gear? Besides his shorty shorts (we know he loves those), it’s his weightlifting shoes.
So, as a minimalist lifter, why does PK love his weightlifting shoes (especially the ones he designed) so much? Well, it really comes down to two different, and major, things.
Number one: stability. You can hear the flat surface of the shoe hitting the floor. The shoe is completely flat, and the heel has zero compression.
Now, we’re sure you’ve seen quite a few Nike commercials in your lifetime, and with that, you’ve seen a lot of their technology and the latest and greatest versions of their shoes, like “air,” “foam,” “gel,” and everything in between.
These things are BAD for weightlifting.
That’s because while you’re weightlifting, and you’ve got heavy as heck weight on your back, the last thing you want is “foam” or “air” or “gel” underneath your heels to be compressed and create an unstable surface to lift on.
Additionally, when you’re squatting and you want to make complete contact with the floor to drive hard out of the bottom, the “foam” and “gel” and “air” under your heels is going to do you no good. This is because those materials cushion and dissipate power. When you’re running, and your feet are hitting the pavement time after time, you do want dissipation of power and cushion as your feet make contact with the ground.
When you’re trying to get some work done under a barbell and drive out of a squat like your life depends on it, you want all of your energy driving through your feet into the ground, and not dissipated into anything else.
The shoes that Peter wears in the video feature a stacked leather midsole. Stacked leather doesn’t compress much, if at all. What other weightlifting shoes have are stacked leather, sometimes wood, sometimes hard plastic or composite, but they also don’t compress. A true weightlifting shoe has some sort of extremely flat sole. The sole also tends to be fairly broad to keep you from wobbling side to side.
Side to side motion in your shoes might be good for tennis, but for weightlifting, it’s NO good. Can you imagine wobbling with weight on your back, and what that might do to your spine? Ouch!
Number two: an angled, elevated heel. If you’re new to the weightlifting world, this might surprise you. We do, in fact, want a bit of an elevated heel in our weightlifting shoe. We’re not talking about a heel as high as a high heel, but we’re also not looking for something as flat as a ninja’s sneaky feet… we want something in between.
Normally, a weightlifting shoe is about a half inch, or sometimes even higher, in its lift. What that lift does is get your spine in an amazing position to squat, and your biomechanics are then in a better position to exert effort against the bar.
PK first read about the raised heel concept in one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s books where he suggested taking the book itself and putting it under your heels. That works too, but if you don’t have weightlifting shoes, a change plate under your heels works beautifully.
Weightlifting shoes give you better mechanics under the bar when you’re doing squat movements. When you’re doing deadlifts, these shoes actually arc your body in such a way that it becomes a poor position for lifting (and terrible for your spine). Weightlifting shoes are not so beneficial for bench pressing, either. For squat based movements, these shoes are wildly helpful.
You might be like PK and not believe in having a ton of gear to lift with, but if there is one piece of gear you might try, we highly recommend a weightlifting shoe (like our liftopus shoes since you can’t get PKs… so sorry!)
Have questions about weightlifting shoes, what it might do for you, or how you should be using them? Let us know in the comments below. We’re happy to help!
Have a friend who’s not so into tons of gear in the gym like PK who hasn’t tried weightlifting shoes for themselves (maybe you’re that friend…)? Send them this blog and video and see if you can convince them to get better mechanics under the barbell and more power in their squats. (More power = higher PRs ;) ). We think those might be pretty convincing points.