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Sadly, for vegans and veggies who want equipment not made from animals, you’re going to struggle to find weightlifting shoes not made from leather.
Still, great pairs of weightlifting shoes should be a right, not a privilege, whatever your ethics.
So, I’m going to help you find the right gear! Here I've put together this buyer's guide for vegan lifting shoes so you know what to look for! Let's get into it.
Our Top Vegan Weightlifting Shoes (2019 Updated)
OUR #1 RATED for Squats
Adidas Powerlift 3.1
OUR #2 RATED for Squats
Nike Romaleos 3
Best for Weightlifting
Adidas Leistung 16 II
Best for CrossFit
Inov-8 Fastlift 325
Best for CrossFit
Inov-8 Fastlift 370
1. Adidas Powerlift 3.1 (Best Overall for Squats)
Looking for a lifting shoe which can be used for squats?
These synthetic squat shoes are ideal if you’re looking for weightlifting shoes which support your ankles and keep you stable throughout your vegetarian weightlifting routine.
If your feet are prone to kicking off a mighty foot funk, especially when you’ve been lifting, then these shoes will give your feet extra breathability due to their open forefoot structure and flexible toe design.
These high-end synthetic shoes are the best squat shoes and every vegan squatter’s dream, providing you with support and durability whilst using only plant-based materials.
2. Nike Romaleos 3 (Good for Squats)
The Nike Romaleo model is considered by many to be the holy grail of weightlifting shoes.
And it's no wonder that this lightweight and flexible workhorse is such a popular choice among elite Olympic weightlifters and casual gym-goers alike.
It is built specifically to withstand the tremendous impact that occurs at elite weightlifting competitions, where a 300-pound man may clean and jerk over 500 pounds – meaning that it has to provide excellent stability and support.
This superior stability is derived from the supportive, durable upper materials and a contoured extremely high-dense TPU heel capable of bearing hundreds of kilos.
The fit supports the entire arch of your foot and is contoured to cup the heel, providing stability and comfort under stress. These shoes come with both a soft sole and a firmer sole, which is a nice addition for additional customization.
What's the difference between the Romaleo 2 and 3?
The Romaleo 3 is the newer model out of the two and there are a couple of distinct differences that set them apart. The newer Romaleo 3 weighs 380 grams with the soft sole and 440 grams with the firmer sole.
The Romaleo 2, on the other hand, is a bit heavier, weighing 470 grams with the soft sole. Heel height is more or less the same. The Romaleo 3 features a 0.79″, or 20 mm, heel height and the Romaleo 2 a heel height of 0.75" or 19 mm.
According to reviews, the Romaleo 2 is a better fit for those with wider feet while the Romaleo 3 runs narrower.
What model you pick will be up to personal preference.
The Romaleo 2 seems to work better as a strict weightlifting shoe, as it is heavier and sports a more stable design. The Romaleo 3 is still a great shoe for heavy lifting but is a lighter build than the Romaleo 2.
*Update: Nike can’t confirm if the glue or the dye used in this shoe is 100% vegan.
3. Adidas Leistung 16 II (Best for Weightlifting)
This new model from Adidas makes its target audience quite clear with the product statement "Shoes for squats, cleans and snatches" - this shoe is a high-performance product meant for serious weightlifters, or just about any athlete that wants a pair of damn great lifting shoes.
What immediately catches your eye is the departure from the traditional bowling shoe look. The Leistung almost looks like a traditional pair of sneakers, apart from the prominently raised heel.
Now it doesn't only look stylish; it also stacks up rather well against established models such as the Nike Romaleos.
The Adidas Leistung II features a strong and flexible weightlifting-engineered chassis with a woven synthetic upper.
Similar to the Inov-8 370, you've also got a micro-adjusting BOA lacing system which ensures a glove-like, secure fit. Furthermore, there is a high-dense TPU sole and heel, rubber outsole, and a rearfoot cradle which provide a perfect foothold and superior lockdown stability.
At a whopping 480 grams, it's quite a substantial shoe. Whilst this adds one more element of stability, it will hinder how easily you can move around, making it less suited for workouts with more dynamic movement.
One of the unique aspects of this shoe is the heel height at 1" or 24.8 mm, a quarter inch more than the standard 0.75".
You will either love this, or hate this. The raised heel is great for those with unfavorable squat mechanics, tall lifters, and/or those with long femurs and/or poor ankle mobility.
For some individuals, it may actually do the opposite and make lifts feel very awkward. If you have the possibility to try this shoe out before purchasing I'd highly recommend doing so.
Compared to the Nike Romaleos, the Leistung run quite a bit narrower (especially compared to the Romaleo 2). So if you have feet that are smaller, you might want to opt for these instead of the Romaleos.
4. Inov-8 Fastlift 325 (Best for Crossfit)
The Inov-8 Fastlift 325 is perhaps the most versatile vegan weightlifting shoe on the market. These are perfect for the plant-based athlete who enjoys Crossfit WODs or any similar activities.
Designed with the goal of being multifaceted, you can transition with ease from doing heavy front squats or Olympic lifts to doing burpees all in the same workout, hence the label 'cross-training shoes.'
The versatility comes from the combined flexibility of the mesh material used in the forefoot, along with the stability of the external heel cage and Inov-8's power-truss technology.
A sticky rubber outsole material makes sure that your feet are firmly planted on the floor.
There’s an old-fashioned yet reliable system of laces and a strap lock on your foot, so there is no intra-shoe movement.
This is an incredibly light-weight shoe constructed from synthetic/mesh material -Inov-8 325 - deriving its name from its weight, 325 grams, an attribute that further sets them apart from usual weightlifting shoes that tend to be quite heavy and clunky.
The Inov-8 325 features a high-density TPU heel that won't budge and the effective heel height is 0.65″ (6.5 mm).
In summary, this is a great choice for someone that wants a budget-friendly vegan weightlifting shoe that bridges the gap between weightlifting and functional fitness.
5. Inov-8 Fastlift 370 (Good for CrossFit)
The Inov-8 Fastlift 370 is the 325's bigger brother and is similar in many regards, yet also comes with its own unique advantages.
Similarly to the Inov-325, these are designed for the multi-faceted athlete who wants optimal performance in many different domains of training.
As such, they are perfect for any CrossFit WOD where you have to go straight from heavy barbell lifts to box jumps or burpees.
Structurally, they're also quite similar to the 325, featuring a flexible mesh material that provides breathability and a great in-shoe feel as well as a high-dense TPU heel; providing both sturdiness and versatility.
Compared to the Inov-8 325, this model is slightly heavier at 370 grams and also has a higher heel at 0.75″ or 19 mm. Due to the higher weight, these will provide more stability than the 325 model.
Also, the higher heel will benefit athletes with longer femurs and/or poor ankle mobility who want to squat with proper form.
The biggest difference, however, from the 325 is that the Inov-8 370 features a double BOA lacing system used for tightening the shoe - this allows you to dial in a perfect glove-like fit, making it easier to get the shoes on and off and make adjustments more quickly.
All in all, this is a fantastic choice for anyone that's looking for a high-end, vegan weightlifting shoe that offers functionality for both heavy lifting and dynamic movement such as CrossFit WODs.
6. Adidas Powerlift 3 (Best for Budget)
The Adidas Powerlift 3 is a great entry-level vegan weightlifting shoe - it's a good choice for anyone that wants to throw out the joggers and invest in their first pair of real weightlifting shoes.
All of these features ensure that you can safely lift heavy weights whilst comfort is maintained. The heel height on this model is 0.6" (15 mm) which is slightly lower than the standard 0.75" (19 mm). This lower heel height can make the transition to a weightlifting shoe easier for those new to the dedicated equipment.
The Adidas Powerlift 3 offers:
It also makes it slightly more versatile, as it'll work well with both high-bar and low-bar squats, and perhaps even deadlifts. However, athletes with longer femurs and/or poor ankle mobility might want something with a slightly higher heel.
Now one drawback of this shoe is that the heel does actually compress to some degree (which is not a good feature in a weightlifting shoe). I suppose corners had to be cut somewhere, and in this case, it was a non-optimal choice of material used in the heel.
This doesn't render the shoe useless; it's still going to be a dramatic improvement for weightlifting over most casual purpose shoes. However, an elite-level lifter would probably want to invest in a shoe with a denser heel.
Whilst this shoe is advertised as having an "extra-wide design," the shoe actually runs narrow and is a snug fit for those with bigger feet. So Bigfoot, if you're reading this, do grab another pair of shoes.
Why Invest in a Pair of Weightlifting Shoes?
You might not give too much thought about the type of footwear you decide to bring to the gym.
So on a squat day, you bring your trusty old pair of joggers. They are training shoes after all, so they should work just fine in a training environment, right?
Wrong. Stability is built from the bottom up.
This is why the tallest trees have robust trunks that are impossible to wrap your arms around. Otherwise, they couldn't support the weight up top and inevitably fall over.
These same physics apply to human anatomy – you're only as stable as your base. And when lifting heavy weights, you want to lift from a base that is as stable and rigid as possible.
Running shoes are great on the running track as that is their intended purpose, however, that does not mean that they are a good choice for lifting weights.
In fact, this type of shoe with a soft, bouncy sole that absorbs impact with each step is an absolutely appalling choice when you're squatting or performing Olympic lifts with any significant weight.
When there is a layer of squishy gel or foam material between your feet and the floor, a percentage of the force generated will get absorbed by the runners sole.
Squatting in running shoes is like squatting on your Ikea bed, stupid. A weightlifting shoe, on the other hand, has a sole/heel that doesn't compress under load and hence ensures superior foot stability and allows for an optimal power transmission efficiency.
Not only does this improve performance in the gym - lifting in the safest and most efficient manner will also keep you injury-free and produce the best muscle gains!
Benefits Over Regular Shoes
What about minimalist shoes i.e Vibram five fingers or even a pair of Chuck Taylors?
This is definitely a step in the right direction. In fact, it is an immensely better option than what you jog in.
They lack the quality that makes running shoes so horrible for lifting weights (i.e the soft, bouncy sole). You'll have a more stable foundation to push from and the force generated can be directed towards the weight being lifted instead of getting absorbed by the squishy sole.
However, there are certain perks to weightlifting shoes that makes them superior to say a pair of basic Chuck Taylors.
When Should You Use Weightlifting Shoes
A 187 kg clean and jerk performed by female weightlifter Zhou Lulu. That's badass.
There are times when you should lace up your weightlifting shoes, and there are times when you should leave them at home. The original purpose of this type of footwear was to assist athletes in executing the Olympic lifts.
However, today, there are many models that cater to other needs i.e general weightlifting or even CrossFit. Basically, you'll benefit from using weightlifting shoes whenever you're in a situation that demands foot stability and where a higher heel is advantageous.
Below are a couple of movements where they'll be of help:
If you are going to participate in some activity which involves a lot of running, jumping around, dynamic movement and so on, a more flexible type of shoe will likely serve you better.
Remember that the lifespan of your shoes correlates directly with the amount of usage. As a result, it's advisable to use your pair only when it's necessary, and not use them when you go to the beach or go out clubbing (you'll also look really silly doing so).
Factors To Consider When Shoe Hunting
Vegan vs Non-Vegan
The difference between vegan and non-vegan weightlifting shoes is the choice of materials used. Luckily there are quite a few alternatives that are made from synthetic material/leather/mesh only.
Just watch out as not all are vegan-friendly. Adidas Adipower, as well as the Reebook Legacy Lifter, are fantastic shoes, but both are designed with a leather upper, hence they're excluded from this buyer's guide.
As with all situations where you trade your hard-earned money for a product, price is an incredibly important factor. When it comes to weightlifting shoes, I feel like being an utter cheapskate is not the best route to take.
Compare these two examples
A: Buying the absolute cheapest shoes you can find on the market (where the fit seems a bit off from the beginning) doesn't provide the stability and support that a more high-end shoe would, and after a couple of months of hard use they start to disintegrate.
B: Spending a bit more and getting a product that fits beautifully, anchors you down like a tree attached to an expansive root system, which will last for years if you care for them?
If you want to save $50 by buying the cheapest option, I would advise waiting until you can afford a pair of good shoes.
In the same token, it's not necessary to splurge and go straight for the most expensive item - do you really need a shoe that is built for the needs of professional Olympic weightlifters?
The standard heel height for weightlifting shoes is 0.75" or 19 mm. However, models range from about 0.5" to 1" or 10 mm - 25 mm. As mentioned, the purpose of a raised heel is to achieve ample squat depth with an upright torso.
Determining one optimal heel height for everyone is quite impossible, as we all are structured differently. Factors such as individual anthropometrics, i.e length of your femur and torso, and your squatting style will predict which heel height will be suitable.
As a rule of thumb, a higher heel will allow taller lifters, people with unfavorable body proportions for squatting, or people with poor ankle mobility to get into the proper bottom squat position.
On the other hand, someone that can naturally produce a flawless squat in an elevated heel might actually screw up their mechanics. The same holds true for the hypermobile athlete where squatting deeper is not necessarily is better.
Now the choice of heel height also depends on what style of squatting you're striving for. For a low-bar squat, where the knees do not need to travel much forward and the focus is not staying upright in the bottom position, a lower heel is recommended.
On the other side of the spectrum, during high-bar and front squats, you want to stay more upright, sink deep into the bottom position, and allow for quite a bit of knee travel. When it comes to these squat variations, a higher heel is ideal.
Durability & Quality
Durability is another essential aspect of weightlifting shoes. You want a pair that can take the beating of hundreds of sessions being exposed to high impact lifting and wear and tear. The quality of the material used as well as the build will determine how your shoes will perform and how long they will last.
Obviously, all companies will claim that their particular shoe is indestructible.
So the best way to get a sense of the actual resilience and build-quality of a product is to look at what customers have to say. Look through the reviews of the product and see if they still are in good shape after months or even years of lifting.
Now for the final and most vital aspect of the weightlifting shoe: other people’s opinion of your shoes in the gym. Jokes aside, some people value having not only a pair of functional shoes but ones that also look sleek.
Obviously, this point is highly subjective, so you will have to browse the selection of shoes and pick a pair that you personally think look good. There are plenty to choose from, we’re spoiled for choice nowadays,, no longer are we at the mercy of being forced to purchase these badboy soviet-era looking shoes (unless that’s your style and if so crack on).
Vegan Weightlifting Shoes: The Bottom Line
If I’ve done my job as a vegan writer correctly, then you are now better equipped to decide on a pair of vegan weightlifting shoes!
Let me know which pair you prefer in the comments section below!
Apart from shoes, to really propel your lifts, your next step would be to get yourself a great vegan weightlifting belt. We just so happen to have written a guide about that too, so make sure to check it out.
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