When it comes to lifting weights, choosing the right kind of footwear is important. If you’ve been researching the best shoes for strength training, you’ve likely seen or heard Converse mentioned.
Typically, Converse shoes aren’t the first thing people think of when the subject of weightlifting shoes is brought up. However, these classic sneakers have become the go-to shoe for many lifters.
Are Converse good for lifting? The short answer is yes, but to give a slightly longer answer, they’re not always going to be the best choice.
In this article, we’ll analyze the design of Converse shoes and evaluate the pros and cons of using them versus other shoes for weightlifting.
Converse Sneakers at the Gym?
At first glance, Converse shoes seem like an odd choice for lifting. They lack many of the characteristics of strength training shoes.
Shoes for strength training are made out of durable materials and have raised or flat heels, adequate ankle support, and hard, non-compressible soles. These features are meant to give lifters stability and support during heavy lifts and allow the shoes to withstand the harshness of frequent workouts.
Converse, specifically the Chuck Taylor All-Stars, are classic canvas sneakers. They lack the durability and ankle support of strength training shoes because they were initially designed for basketball. Their minimalist design contrasts with the design of most strength training shoes, so how can they possibly be a good choice?
The simplicity of Converse is what made them a popular choice among lifters. Their flat and hard soles provide balance, stability, and good ground contact, which is beneficial for heavy lifting. Of course, they may not be suitable for everyone’s needs and preferences.
Characteristics of Strength Training Shoes
Most strength training shoes have a few things in common:
- Material: The soles of strength training shoes are usually made of hard rubber or thermoplastic polyurethane to give lifters a firm, stable base for heavy lifts.
- Heel: Olympic weightlifting shoes have raised heels that are between 0.6 to 1 inch high. Raised heels make it easier to squat deeper while maintaining good form. Powerlifting and CrossFit shoes have low or flat heels.
- Design: Strength training shoes usually have wide soles, especially at the heels. This is to provide a larger base, which enhances stability.
- Grip: The outsoles are designed to have good traction. The textures on them allow the shoes to grip the floor and help prevent slipping.
Despite Converse lacking many of the features of true strength training shoes, some lifters still prefer them. It’s important to find shoes that support your form, comfort, and performance.
Why It’s Important to Train in Good Shoes
Wearing proper footwear plays a crucial role in strength training. The shoes you lift weights in can affect your foot health, injury risk, and performance.
Wearing well-fitting shoes that provide adequate support will help keep your feet in good condition. Proper footwear can prevent common foot-related issues from developing, such as calluses, blisters, corns, and bunions. It can also prevent more severe conditions, like stress fractures and plantar fasciitis. Not only are these conditions painful, but they can even affect your mobility and gym performance. When lifting heavy weights, you want to protect the health of your feet by wearing the correct shoes.
Comfort and Fatigue Reduction
Comfort should never be compromised when choosing a pair of lifting shoes. You should choose shoes that fit properly, are comfortable, and reduce foot fatigue. Training in shoes that provide excellent comfort and fatigue reduction increases the likelihood that you’ll continue training.
If you’re dealing with a foot condition, you should lift in shoes that accommodate it. They should fit properly, be of good quality, and allow you to train without having any foot-related issues.
When lifting weights, you want to wear shoes that give you good stability, support, and traction. You also want your shoes to be sturdy enough to protect your feet from falling objects, such as weight plates, and other potential hazards.
Before purchasing new lifting shoes, look at their features, read reviews about them, and pay attention to what customers are saying about them, especially when it comes to the shoes’ stability, support, and traction.
Posture and Alignment
Wearing the right kind of footwear is helpful for your posture and alignment, which is why you want to find shoes that provide you with adequate arch support and cushioning. This can help reduce stress on your joints, and in turn, reduce your risk of being injured.
If you’re taking part in an athletic activity, you want to wear shoes designed for the activity. For example, you should wear weightlifting shoes for weightlifting. Shoes designed for an athletic activity enhance the athletic attributes required for performing the activity.
Sometimes, shoes are designed for one activity, but they’re also well suited for another activity. An example is the Converse Chuck Taylor being used for strength training despite not being designed for it.
Risks of Lifting in Improper Footwear
As stated above, there are risks when lifting in improper footwear. They include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Foot pain and discomfort
- Injury due to improper lifting mechanics
- Reduced performance
You must wear proper footwear at the gym to avoid these risks. Over time, your shoes might wear down. If this happens, you should purchase a new pair of lifting shoes because continually wearing worn-down shoes will expose you to the risks listed above.
A Final Note About Good Training Shoes
Strength training shoes are designed to support and enhance the biomechanics of lifting. They usually have non-compressible midsoles, outsoles with good traction, and good ankle support. Converse makes no claims about their shoes’ suitability for lifting weights.
Strength training shoes can enhance your performance and reduce your risk of injury, however, these benefits don’t necessarily render other footwear options useless. For new or casual lifters, Converse can offer a good balance between comfort, performance, and affordability.
Converse are relatively inexpensive, but their quality can’t compare to that of true strength training shoes. Adidas, Reebok, Nike (which owns Converse), and ASICS make high-quality strength training shoes that are available at athletic shoe stores.
Choosing Good Strength Training Shoes
So far, we’ve explained what the characteristics of strength training shoes are and why it’s important to train in good shoes. Here are the things to consider when choosing a pair:
A good pair of strength training shoes should fit well, providing you with enough room to move and flex your toes. You should never wear shoes that are too tight because doing so can lead to many issues, such as discomfort, blisters, and even deformities over time. Shoes that are too loose can lead to instability – which can increase your risk of tripping or falling.
Good Stability and Traction
Lifting in shoes that provide good stability and traction is important. The shoes’ midsoles should be non-compressible because compressible midsoles don’t provide a strong base and aren’t stable enough for lifting weights. The shoes’ outsoles should provide enough traction to prevent slipping.
The Right Heel-to-Toe Drop
A shoe’s heel-to-toe drop is the difference in height between its heel and toe. A heeled shoe will have a larger heel-to-toe drop than a flat shoe.
Olympic weightlifting shoes have a large heel-to-toe drop because the elevated heels make it easier to perform Oly lifting exercises, such as the clean and jerk and Olympic squats.
Powerlifting shoes either have a short heel-to-toe drop or no heel-to-toe drop because many powerlifters prefer to wear flat or low-heeled shoes when performing powerlifting exercises, such as the deadlift and powerlifting squats.
Similar to powerlifting shoes, CrossFit shoes also have a low or non-existent heel-to-toe drop. Having a raised heel wouldn’t be useful for the wide variety of exercises that CrossFitters perform in their workouts.
The optimal heel-to-toe drop for you will depend on the type of lifting you’ll be doing.
Good airflow will reduce excessive sweat and moisture buildup. Look for shoes made of breathable materials, such as mesh or perforated panels, to help your feet stay dry during hard workouts.
You want your strength training shoes to be durable so they can withstand regular wear and tear. Choose shoes that are made of high-quality materials, have reinforced stitching, and are well-constructed.
Benefits of Lifting in Converse Shoes
While most athletic footwear touts specific design elements that improve performance, Converse shoes are simple, unassuming sneakers. The simplicity of their design is what some lifters find attractive, but they lack the specialized features of true strength training shoes. Here are the main arguments lifters use when defending their choice to wear Converse:
Flat, Firm Soles
Flat, firm soles provide a solid base for lifting and are the main reason Converse appeals to lifters. Flat soles allow your feet to make solid contact with the floor, which provides you with a stable base, improves your balance, and minimizes instability. These factors can improve your lift mechanics and allow you to efficiently transfer force, potentially allowing you to lift more weight.
Lack of Cushioning
The absence of cushioning is beneficial because padding can cause instability when lifting weights. Since your feet need to be firmly planted on the ground while lifting, the compressible material found in the soles of many athletic shoes would be deleterious. Non-compressible soles enhance control and stability, which are paramount for safe and effective lifting.
While Converse’s no-frills design may make you think twice before wearing them to lift, their simplicity paradoxically plays a part in their appeal.
Converse shoes are fairly inexpensive, making them a good entry-level shoe for beginner lifters and a good “beater” shoe for experienced lifters. If you ever need to replace a pair, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. You can find low-priced Converse shoes at your local athletic shoe retailer or online stores like Amazon.
Drawbacks of Lifting in Converse Shoes
Some lifters swear by Converse shoes, while others give them the side-eye. The features that make Converse appealing to some can be seen as drawbacks by others. We’ve gone over the advantages of lifting in Converse shoes, so let’s go over the drawbacks.
They might provide a stable base, but flat-soled shoes lack the elevated heels found in weightlifting shoes. Some lifters may struggle to reach proper depth on certain lifts without elevated heels.
Lack of Cushioning
Though beneficial for stability and force transfer, the lack of cushioning in Converse shoes can be inadequate for some. Prolonged weightlifting sessions without adequate cushioning can cause muscular discomfort and strain. The lack of cushioning can be particularly hard on lifters with sensitive feet or existing foot conditions.
Lack of Ankle Support
Converse shoes provide little to no ankle support, which is necessary for some lifters. A lack of ankle support can increase the risk of an ankle injury occurring, especially for lifters prone to ankle instability.
For better ankle support, some lifters prefer the high tops over the low tops. However, the support provided by the high tops is minimal and basically non-existent. If you’re looking for ankle support, you should look at other strength training shoes.
Wide Standard Fit
Another potential issue with choosing Converse for lifting is their wide fit. If you have wide feet, this might not seem like a problem, but a snug fit is generally better for lifting weights because it provides better control and stability.
Durability can be an issue since Converse shoes are made of canvas. The Converse All Stars’ canvas fabric isn’t very durable and will rip and tear over time. The rest of the shoe holds up well, but there are more durable options. With this shoe, you’re basically trading in durability for a low price.
Lack of Versatility
Although Converse shoes are a good entry-level lifting shoe for powerlifting and bodybuilding, they’re inadequate for activities like CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting. They lack the cushioning necessary for CrossFit, and they lack the heel-to-toe drop necessary for Olympic weightlifting.
Things to Consider Before Lifting in Converse Shoes
Lifting in the proper footwear plays a crucial role in a lifter’s gym performance, and individual differences can determine whether a shoe is appropriate. If you’re still wondering if Converse are good for lifting, here are some additional things to consider:
How’s Your Squat Form?
There’s a proper way to squat, but it’s important to remember that everyone is different. Maybe you have a high arch or flat foot, which will dictate how effectively your feet can push against the floor. In that case, you might need more arch support than Converse can offer. If you have the necessary mobility to properly perform a squat, a pair of Chucks may suit you just fine. If you don’t, an elevated heel can spare your ankles and back from unnecessary strain.
How Are Your Ankles?
The wide base of Converse sneakers can be a double-edged sword. Sure, they give you more lateral stability, which can make it easier to maintain your balance, but they don’t provide ankle support. They don’t have cells, gel pods, or anything else to reduce your risk of an ankle roll-over injury.
If you’re worried about ankle stability or you’ve already had an ankle injury, you might want to choose a shoe with better ankle support.
How Varied Is Your Workout?
If you plan on doing other forms of exercise besides weightlifting, such as HIIT or plyometrics, and don’t want to bring an extra pair of shoes to the gym, Converse shoes aren’t the best choice.
Of course, some people run in Converse shoes and love the minimalist feel, but the sneakers’ lack of arch support can potentially lead to injury.
Low Top vs. High Top Converse for Lifting
If you’ve decided to invest in a pair of Converse for lifting, you might need help deciding whether to get the low tops or high tops.
You’ll be better off in high top Chucks if you:
- Need ankle support (even though what you get with high tops is minimal)
- Want a more durable shoe (high-tops tend to hold up a bit better than low-tops)
- Find them more comfortable
You’ll be better off in low top Chucks if you:
- Don’t need ankle support and prefer shoes that feel less restrictive
- Want to cool off faster (less material covering your feet and ankles means they can breathe easier)
Best Converse Shoes for Lifting
Converse Chuck Taylor All Star High Tops
- Very flat, non-compressible soles
- Great for deadlifts
- Look better with use
- Less expensive than other shoes
- Not designed for lifting
- Minimal ankle support
- Poor durability
- Not for Oly lifting or CrossFit
Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Low Tops
- Flat, sturdy midsoles
- Good for deadlifting in
- Minimal design
- Low price point
- Isn’t a dedicated lifting shoe
- No ankle support
- Lacks longevity
- Not good for some types of lifting
Alternatives to Converse for Lifting
Maybe you’ve decided you don’t want Converse shoes after being informed about all their drawbacks. Or maybe you don’t like their minimalist design. Regardless of the reason, if you’re looking for different shoes, here are some options:
Vans, another popular shoe among lifters, are flat and have a non-compressible sole like Converse. Also similar to Converse shoes, they’re inexpensive. If you’re going to be deadlifting and doing non-Olympic weightlifting exercises, a pair of Vans could be a good option for you. Just know that these shoes aren’t constructed for strength training, so if you’re looking for something geared more toward that, look elsewhere. We recommend the Vans Unisex Old Skool Classic Skate Shoes.
Deadlift slippers are another alternative to Converse shoes. They’re basically the equivalent of deadlifting barefoot. You can’t get closer to the floor than being barefoot, and the closer you are to the floor, the more beneficial it is for deadlifting.
A major drawback to deadlift slippers is that there isn’t much protecting your feet should you drop a weight on them. It would be like dropping a weight plate on your bare foot. In a sumo deadlift, your feet are closer to the weight plates, so there is an increased risk of smashing them if your feet slip. It’s for this reason that we don’t recommend sumo deadlifting in deadlift slippers. The LiftingLarge Black Ground Lock Deadlift Slippers are a good option.
Olympic Weightlifting Shoes
If you’re going to perform Olympic-style squats or participate in the sport of weightlifting, you should get a pair of Olympic weightlifting shoes. Their raised heels will make Olympic exercises, such as the squat and clean and jerk, easier to perform. Olympic weightlifting shoes are the most expensive type of strength training shoes, but that’s because they’re usually high-quality. A good option for a weightlifting shoe is the Adidas Powerlift 5.
If you’re going to be doing CrossFit workouts, we recommend buying a pair of CrossFit shoes. They’re designed to be durable enough to withstand whatever type of exercise you throw at them, whether that be rope climbing, squatting, or anything else. We recommend the Reebok Nano X2.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Converse Good for Lifting?
If being used as entry-level or “beater” shoes, yes, Converse are good for lifting. However, they can’t compare to true strength training shoes when it comes to things like durability, stability, and performance.
Which Are Better for Lifting, Vans or Converse?
Like Converse, Vans weren’t designed to be lifting shoes, so they can’t compete with a true strength training shoe. They’re similar, and we wouldn’t say one is better than the other for lifting.
Are Converse Good for Olympic Lifts?
For Olympic lifting, it would be better to use a shoe with an elevated heel. It’s okay to use Converse shoes if you’re new to the sport and learning how to properly perform the Olympic lifts, but at some point, you should invest in a pair of Olympic weightlifting shoes.
Can I Run In Converse?
It’s not recommended to run in Converse shoes because they lack the necessary cushioning and shock absorption for doing so. You could potentially injure yourself running in Converse shoes.
The Bottom Line: Are Converse Good for Lifting?
There is no single, easy answer to the question, “Are Converse good for lifting?”. It’s going to depend on your skill level, your aesthetic preference, the shape of your feet, your susceptibility to ankle injuries, how comfortable you want your shoes to be, and the kind of lifting you’ll be doing.
Depending on your training style, Converse shoes can be a good entry-level shoe for lifting. However, they may not be the best long-term solution. Once you become more experienced at strength training and are able to invest more in it, you should buy better, higher-quality shoes.
At the end of the day, the best strength training shoe for you is one that allows you to lift safely, confidently, comfortably, and effectively. Whether that’s a Converse or not is up to you.
Jay is not just a writer; he’s a seasoned strength enthusiast with two decades of dedicated training under his belt. Whether he’s crafting engaging articles, reviewing cutting-edge equipment, or sharing his personal fitness anecdotes, Jay’s writing resonates with a diverse audience, from seasoned gym enthusiasts to beginners eager to embark on their own transformative fitness paths.