Hello fellow CrossFitters! Short on time? Not a big reader? Don’t sweat it–I’ll do the heavy lifting for you. I’m on a mission to find, read, and summarize the best CrossFit shoe/footwear related articles I can find. All you need to do is come read the cliff notes.
This first article summary was take from an article I found via the (Free!!) CrossFit Journal. Go to www.crossfit.com to sign up for a subscription. If you have the time you should read it yourself because the author, Richard Grimes, is pretty funny.
The article is titled “If the Shoes Fits” and is from the April, 2010. You can follow this link to get right to it http://journal.crossfit.com/2010/04/if-the-shoe-fits.tpl
Before I dive in to the summary, let me offer a couple observations from my first couple weeks of research. We all have to keep our critical thinking caps on. If we hope to avoid the herd mentality that runs headlong into every up-and-coming fad and craze, we must think for ourselves. As much as I like what CrossFit’s founder(s) have created I’m not going to drink the Cool-Aid if it doesn’t pass the smell test. That said, let’s keep the following items in mind:
- A tremendous amount of what you’re going to come across in forums and even in formal articles is going to be conjecture and personal preference.
- My initial search for decent, quality articles has uncovered that there’s limited scientific evidence available. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult to find objective and conclusive guidance on what shoes to wear for specific athletic disciplines and how to avoid injury.
- Die-hard CrossFitter are really in to what Chuck Carswell (see below) calls “forced comfort” (i.e., learning to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations). This “be ready for anything, regardless of your circumstance” philosophy is deeply ingrained in the CrossFit psyche. And, while I get the idea behind the theory, we have to remember that it’s more theory than science. So, as with most things in life, we need to strive for balance. By this I mean, embrace the philosophy but take care not to unnecessarily injure yourself.
And finally, to our article summary!
Richard Grimes spoke to a number of experts and conducted an informal survey to determine what shoes they wear when they CrossFit. Below you’ll find who he spoke to and what he learned.
The Running Expert (Daniel Lieberman, evolutionary biologist and Harvard professor)
- In his recent studies he noticed that barefoot runners tend to land on the forward part of their foot, using their arch as a kind of spring (if you’ve ever looked at a the foot’s bone and muscle structure, it’s almost like an up-side down trampoline).
- He also noticed that people running in standard running shoes tend to strike the ground heel-first, greatly increasing the amount of force their bodies must endure (i.e., shoes may actually inhibit anatomical structure and biomechanics, thereby increasing the likelihood of injury.
- Lieberman is hesitant to recommend a specific running shoe but admitted to running one of his two marathons in minimal shoes and running barefoot 3-5 miles per week . He also expressed a preference for doing the majority of his running in minimal shoes
- Lieberman said, “I find it quite remarkable how little work has been don on the relationship between shoes and injury…”
The Top Coaches
Mike Bergener, Olympic weightlifting coach who runs Mike’s Gym, a regional training center for USA Weightlifting
- Author asked him his thoughts on an all-purpose CrossFitter shoe vs. specialized shoes (for running or lifting)
- Bergener advocates wearing Olympic shoes if you’re working on Olympic lifts. His reasoning, the stability they provide.
Louie Simmons, legendary powerlifter and strength coach at Westside Barbell
- Advocates the ubiquitous and timeless Converse Chuck Taylors for powerlifting
- “For powerlifting you want to wear Chuck Taylors, and for specialized sports you should use specialized shoes.”
- Why? Because, “To squat, you must push your feet apart, never downward,” Simmons says. Regular shoes will lack stability and Simmons says they, “…will roll over. With Chucks you can apply force on the sids of the shoe without the shoe coming of the ground for squatting and sumo deadlifting.”
- Author points out that wider stances used in powerlifting require more traction whereas Olympic lifters will be driving their feet down into the floor rather than apart
Chuck Carswell, HQ trainer and flow master for Level 1 and Level 2 CrossFit certifications…
- “I like Chuck Taylors for general WODs, Nike Frees for running, and Oly shoes for heavy days-even bench press.”
- His general thought is that CrossFitters should, “wear what they feel comfortable wearing.”
- He also suggests basing your decision on your numbers, even going so far as to recommend running in Oly shoes if they make you faster.
The Champion (2007 CrossFit Games champion Jolie Gentry)
- She won the games in 2007, placed 5th in 2008, and 7th in 2009
- She deadlifts close to 300lb at a weight of approixmately 125lb
- Has completed a Fran in less than four minutes!!
- According to Gentry, “I pretty much wear my Adidas Iron Work III weightlifting shoes every day I train unless I’m going to be running.”
- Has several pairs of running shoes she alternates between
- Not a fan of the barefoot craze, but love her Inov-8s for trail running
Local Gym (Christine Castelli and Tommy Orr of BGI Fitess in Jupiter, FL)
- According to Orr, “A couple of our member use Vibrams, but most just use some type of regular excercise shoe.”
- And, when it comes to weightlifting shoes, “If we’re weightlifting and the client doesn’t have weightlifting shoes, then we just have them do it barefoot.”
What to make of all this? Well, first off, kudos to the old veteran Chuck Taylor. Those classic kicks were mentioned as a great candidate for both powerlifting and for all-purpose use. Secondly, there seems to be real merit to the idea of using specialized shoes, primarily for the stability and protection they provide. Injuries stink, especially when they cut your progress short. Do you need four pairs of shoes, probably not. But if you want to go heavy in powerlifting, you should at least consider the inexpensive Chuck Taylors. And along the same lines for the Olympic lifts, you may want to think about something with a very stiff sole so that your energy is driven more directly to the floor.
I hope you found this helpful. Be on the lookout for my next post.