Why are Converse Shoes Worn By Powerlifters?

In the sport of powerlifting, an athlete’s choice of footwear isn’t just for vanity, it can have a significant impact on their squatting mechanics. More often than not, lifters will choose between either traditional squat shoes or Converse shoes.

So, what is it about Converse shoes that make them such an attractive option for lifters? 

This guide will take an in-depth look at some of the reasons why, the similarities and differences between a Converse model and a specially designed squat shoe, and some of the important variables to take into account when selecting the best model for you.

We’ll start by taking a look at nine of the most common reasons why Converse shoes are so popular amongst powerlifters of all ability levels.

1). Comfort

No matter what you’re using your shoes for, comfort is always one of the most important considerations, and converse shoes are incredibly comfortable.

In general, powerlifting shoes don’t tend to be all that comfortable, with many people complaining about how they make their feet feel. This is why for many powerlifters, Converse are better for lifting weights than shoes specifically designed for powerlifting.

Also, if you have wider than average feet, Converse shoes can fit you much better than the majority of traditional powerlifting shoes.

2). Flat Soles

Most shoes are typically equipped with curved soles in order to support the feet. This makes them ideal for walking, running, and just general wear. However, powerlifters need something a little flatter in order to properly support them.

The flat soles provided by Converse shoes allow lifters to feel better connected to the floor, making it easier to efficiently push off the ground into a lift. They also improve balance and reduce the overall range of motion, especially during deadlifts.

Converse usually come with good support up to the ankle. They’re also made out of canvas, which give them an extremely lightweight feel. This is just one of many reasons why powerlifters, both casual and professional, love wearing them.

Note, keeping your feet stable with appropriately-shaped soles is essential for proper muscle alignment and good posture. Therefore, it’s important to get good shoes for both inside and outside of the gym.

3). Proximity To Ground

As touched upon above, the bottoms of Converse shoes are significantly thinner than most other shoes. For lifts such as the deadlift, this is really important as it can provide you with an advantage over other powerlifters.

Deadlifts consist of a lot of bending and squatting in order to get the weight off the ground. Once you’ve achieved this, you’ll also need to straighten your body and stand back up.

Wearing Converse will keep you closer to the ground during the exercise. This will make it significantly easier because you’ll have less of a distance to lift the weight. As a result, you may be able to advance to heavier weights and an increased number of reps.

Many shoes will give you more lift from the ground due to their thick rubber soles. However, Converse have super-thin soles which still give you all the support you need. This can make a huge difference to your workouts.

4). Reduced Cushioning

Unlike normal shoes, Converse have considerably less cushioning. While this may sound like a bad thing, having a high amount of cushioning in your shoe can actually hinder powerlifting performance.

For example, imagine performing a heavy squat on top of a mattress. That’s essentially what it feels like to try and wear heavily-cushioned shoes for a deadlift.

Whether you’re performing a squat or a deadlift, you’ll need to push up off the ground with your legs and feet. If however, you’re wearing a pair of shoes with a lot of cushioning, you’ll be exerting most of your energy pushing down on the cushioning before you even get to push off the ground.

Converse, with reduced cushioning, allow you to immediately push off the ground, creating a quicker and more stable lift.

5). Protection

Your feet have a big role to play to ensure good overall posture, flexibility, and lifting form. Therefore, it’s obviously important to have good shoes such as Converse that will protect your feet from any damage when coming into contact with the ground.

If you choose the wrong pair of shoes, then your overall form and health may suffer as a result.

In addition, Converse have a breathable, lightweight canvas material - which even when you’re sweating during a workout - won’t feel uncomfortable on your feet.

6). Aesthetics

Perhaps not quite as important as many of the other reasons on this list, but nevertheless a handy pluspoint.

Converse have a timeless, unique design which is instantly recognizable. Pretty much everyone recognizes Converse and they can be bought in a wide range of different designs and patterns.

If the way your shoes look is an important factor for you when lifting weights, then a pair of Chuck Taylors is a great option.

7). Affordable

The majority of weightlifting and powerlifting shoes can get very expensive, which is why Converse are such an appealing option.

Not only are they well-designed for most lifting needs, they can also be purchased from pretty much anywhere for as little as 50-60 dollars.

That being said, it’s still important to ensure the shoes are of a high quality, even if they are relatively cheap. Not every expensive shoe is guaranteed to provide a quality experience, with many reliable products such as Converse available for a fairly cheap price.

As mentioned above, the price for Converse is usually around the $50 mark, however, in some places you can get them for as little as $30-35.

It’s worth noting that they also come with free shipping and returns so if you aren’t happy with them or they don’t fit quite right, there’s no need to worry.

8). Easy To Find

You can walk into pretty much any shoe store or browse any shoe website, and you’ll be sure to find a pair of Converse. They’re everywhere, which makes it incredibly easy to purchase a pair.

The vast majority of shoe stores don’t typically stock traditional powerlifting shoes, and if they do, they’re usually expensive or poor quality. Online stores are the same, unless you’re browsing a specific powerlifting site.

9). Reputable Brand

Founded in 1908, Converse is an established and well-trusted brand in the market. They’re renowned for producing high-quality shoes and not a lot has changed about them in the past 100 years.

As the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Converse certainly know what they’re good at and they’re not afraid of sticking to it. They continually get the job done, and have deservedly earned a global reputation of excellence and reliability.

Converse VS. Squat Shoes

Now that we’ve taken a look at some of the key benefits of Converse shoes for powerlifting, it’s useful to closely compare Converse with a more traditional squat shoe. It’s an age-old debate, with many differences between the two.

Below I’ll look to explain some of these differences in greater detail, as well as reflecting on their optimal uses. To do this I’ll use the Adidas Powerlift 4 as the squat shoe and the Chuck Taylor All Star High Top as the Converse model.

Durability and Construction

Both the Chuck Taylor and Powerlift 4 models feature canvas construction which is great for people who care about maneuverability and breathability.

When it comes to durability, the Chuck Taylors excel. They come with double stitching and rubber toe-caps which reduce the likelihood of tearing. Just make sure that you don’t fall into the trap of buying knock-offs as these will probably rip within the first month.

In contrast, the Powerlift 4 doesn’t come with double stitching, nor any supportive rubber parts. Nevertheless, Adidas have still managed to guarantee some durability with this shoe due to its thicker, denser canvas. This does, however, slightly reduce its breathability.

Heel Height

Heel height is a preference with many advantages and downsides. When taking this factor into consideration, your pick should be based on your individual needs rather than just going with the highest number.

Adidas’ Powerlift 4 comes with a heel height of 1.1”, which in principle, seems reasonable. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that many customers' reviews have said that the heel height is actually 0.6”, the same as the previous version, the Powerlift 3.1.

In comparison, the Chuck Taylors obviously rank much lower with its completely flat heel.

Support

Adidas have equipped their Powerlift 4 with a single mesh strap over the midfoot. This is double-stitched, ensuring maximum tightness. In terms of ankle support, this shoe doesn’t feature any special tweaks. However, since they’re constructed with thick canvas, the ankle support of the Powerlift 4 is more than sufficient.

Chuck Taylors don’t feature any support straps. The high-top design, however, provides eight eyelets which can be comparable to a traditional support strap. This high-top design is also incredibly efficient at stabilizing your ankles throughout powerlifting movements.

Midsole Rigidity

The Adidas Powerlift 4 comes equipped with a high-density ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA). This material is extremely compressible, making it the ideal choice for lots of running shoes. While Adidas have made some changes to make it a bit firmer, it’s still not as efficient for powerlifting as rubber.

Chuck Taylors, on the other hand, are well-known for their incredibly rigid rubber midsole. While some people may find it a little uncomfortable, it’s certainly of value to powerlifters.

Important Variables

In this section, we’ll look to highlight some of the most important variables that are worth keeping in mind. These can dictate which type of shoe is the best option for you.

Taller Lifters

If you have a long stature, it’s likely that you’ll have a disproportionately long femur. In terms of squatting, this means that your hip and trunk will often be pushed backwards.

In order to offset this, you’ll automatically lean forward to achieve a stable balance. This however, can put you at a greater risk of picking up a serious back injury.

By wearing a pair of traditional squat shoes with a raised heel, your knees will be pushed forward, which in turn, will bring your femurs forward by extension. This helps to keep your hips in their natural position and your trunk upright, thus minimizing the risk of injury.

Ankle Mobility

For those with very limited ankle mobility, Converse shoes aren’t really an option. So, if your ankles are restricted, and subsequently limiting your squat depth, it will be an almost impossible task to perform a squat in a pair of Chuck Taylors for example.

Wide-Stance Squatters

In a typical wide stance, your knees and toes will both point outwards. For this reason, traditional squat shoes don’t provide much value.

Wearing them in a wide stance will push your knees forward which can deactivate your quads. As a result, your ankles will often bear a higher lateral force, exposing you to the risk of ankle sprains or fractures.

In a wide stance, your feet need to remain in close contact with the ground in order to stay stable. This is why Converse shoes are ideal for wide-stance squatters. Of all the models, the high top version is the preferred option because it splints your ankles in place.

High Bar Squats

With the bar positioned over the highest part of your traps, your trunk will need to stay upright in order to balance the weight. Also, an upright torso should keep your hips positioned close to your heels.

With this stance, the squat depth you should be aiming for will require a considerable amount of ankle mobility. As explained earlier, traditional squat shoes are the ideal solution for limited dorsiflexion.

Low Bar Squats

For low bar squats, the bar is positioned over your posterior deltoid. While this may seem like a fairly insignificant change for beginners, it can alter the whole mechanics of the movement.

It’s near-on impossible to maintain an upright torso when performing a low bar squat as doing so would place a huge amount of stress on your arms. Alternatively, your back leans forward, pushing both your knees and hips backwards.

In this stance, there isn’t too much of a demand on your ankles to flex as much. So, technically speaking, a pair of traditional squat shoes can be suitable here. However, for those who tend to rotate their toes outward, Converse are a much safer bet.

Posterior Chain Muscles

With your feet positioned flat on the ground, your glutes, hip muscles, and hamstrings will be the primary contributors to your squat depth.

If, however, you want to activate them further, you can use a wide stance as you squat, with your toes pointing outwards. As mentioned earlier, Converse shoes are the most suitable option for a wide stance.

Quads And Shin Muscles

If you feel that you aren’t pushing your quads hard enough, a traditional pair of squat shoes will be your best bet. Opting for a higher heel will subsequently push your knees in front of your toes during lifts.

This position forces your quads and shin muscles to fully contract, which in turn, will increase their gains.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Converse are best for lifting?

The Converse Chuck Taylor shoe is one of the most popular and suitable for lifting. It provides a simplistic and flat, firm outsole, which is ideal for lifters trying to limit their range of motion throughout a deadlift. The Chuck Taylor also promotes a strong tripod foot positioning in squats.

Is it best to wear shoes or not when squatting?

It’s often beneficial to go barefoot when squatting. This is because it allows your feet to naturally connect with the floor, which in turn can improve your form while lifting.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that many gyms forbid it, so barefoot lifting isn’t always a viable option. In addition, lots of gyms are often dirty so you may not feel comfortable going around barefoot.

What’s the best method of washing your Converse?

If you need to clean your Converse, just use a damp cloth with some mild soap and warm water. Avoid putting them in the washing machine as this can damage the shoe.

When scrubbing around the toe cap and rubber base, it’s best to use a toothbrush or another similarly-sized brush. Be mindful not to scrub too hard as this is very rarely necessary.

After washing you may be tempted to put your Converse in the dryer, but the manufacturer recommends leaving the shoes out to air-dry. Also, avoid using a hair dryer.

What size Converse should I get?

When scouring the market for a pair of Converse, it’s important to keep in mind that the shoes are a little bit longer than most. Therefore, many wearers recommend buying a size down from your regular size to ensure that you’ve got the right fit.

The last thing you’ll want when completing a deadlift in the gym is to wear oversized shoes that make you look like a clown.

Can you run in Converse?

While Converse are a great option for lifting, they aren’t quite as beneficial to runners. Running shoes need to provide support for your feet and absorb the shock as your feet rapidly connect with the ground. These are qualities which Converse shoes don't offer.

So, if you’re looking for a pair of running shoes, it’s definitely best to look elsewhere to avoid causing yourself unnecessary injury. There are plenty of options available on the market so it shouldn’t be too difficult finding a suitable pair.

Kevin Harris

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