Any vegan athlete that performs the barbell lifts on a regular basis should invest in a pair of vegan weightlifting shoes.
Unfortunately for us who want cruelty-free equipment, many olympic weightlifting shoes on the market are made out of animal-derived products.
A great pair of shoes should be a privilege anyone can enjoy, vegan or not.
So to help you find the right gear I've put together this buyer's guide for vegan lifting shoes so you know what to look for!
Let's get to it.
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 squat day you bring your trusty old pair of joggers.
They are after all training shoes so they should work just fine in a training environment, right?
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 applies 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 they are a good choice for lifting weights.
In fact this type of shoe with a soft, bouncy sole thats absorbs impact with each step is an absolutely appaling 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 which 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
There are times when you should lace on 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 is a couple of movements where they'll be of help:
If you are going to participate in some activity which involves a lot 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.
Thus 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 to 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, it doesn't provide the stability and support 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 absolutely cheapest option I would advise to wait 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 what heel height will be suitable.
As a rule of thumb, a higher heel will allow taller lifters, people with unfavourable body proportions for squatting or poor ankle mobility to get into the proper bottom squat position.
On the other hand someone that naturally can produce a flawless squat an elevated heel might actually screw up their mechanics. Same holds true for the hypermobile athlete where squatting deeper not necessarily is better.
Now 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 positon and allow for quite a bit of knee travel. For 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 materal 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 in fact 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. Survey 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 peoples 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.
Luckily for us, we no longer are at the mercy of having to purchase these badboy soviet-era looking shoes.
Best Vegan Budget Weightlifting Shoes
The Adidas Powerlift 3 is a great entry level vegan weightlifting shoe - at it's low price it's a good choice for anyone that wants to throw out the joggers and invest in their first pair of real weightlifting shoes.
At a highly competitive price point the Adidas Powerlift 3 offers:
All of these features ensures you can safely lift some 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.
And 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 (not a good feature in a weightlifting shoe).
Due to the low price I suppose corners had to be cut somewhere, and in this case it was a nonoptimal choice of material used in the heel.
This doesn't render the shoe useless, it's still going to be a dramatic improvement over any casual type shoe. However 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.
Best Vegan CrossFit Weightlifting Shoes
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 WOD's or any similiar activities.
Designed with the goal of being multifaceted, you can transition with ease from doing heavy front squats or olympic lifts to doing burpees 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 your feet are firmly planted on the floor.
An old-fashioned yet reliable system of laces and a strap lock in your foot so there is no intra-shoe movement.
This is an incredibly light-weight shoe constructed from synthetic/mesh material -Inov-8 325 derives its name from its weight, 325 grams, an attribute that further sets them apart from usual weighlifting 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.
The Inov-8 Fastlift 370 is the 325's bigger brother and is similiar in many regards, but also comes with its own unique advantages.
Similiarly to the Inov-325, these are designed for the multi-faceted athlete that wants optimal performance in many different domains of training.
As such they'll be 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 similiar to the 325, with flexible mesh material that provides breathability and 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.
And the higher heel will benefit athletes with longer femurs and/or poor ankle mobility that 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 let's you dial in a perfect glove-like fit, makes it easier to get the shoes on and off and make adjustments quickly.
All in all... this is a fantastic choice for anyone that's looking for a high-end, vegan weightlifting shoe that offer functionality for both heavy lifting and dynamic movement such as CrossFit WODs.
Best Overall Vegan Weightlifting Shoes
*Nike Romaleos 2 & 3 Weightlifting Shoes
*Update: Nike can’t confirm if the glue or the dye used in this shoe is 100% vegan.
The Nike Romaleo model is considered by many as 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 - as such 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 comes with both a soft 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 sets 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 and weighs 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 sport a more stable design. The Romaleo 3 is still a great shoe for heavy lifting but is a lighter build than the Romaleo 2.
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 prominent raised heel.
Now 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 100% woven synthetic upper.
Similiar to the Inov-8 370, you've also got a micro-adjusting BOA lacing system which ensures a glove-like, secure fit.
Furthermore a high-dense TPU sole and heel, rubber outsole and a rearfoot cradle provides a perfect foothold and superior lockdown stability.
At a whopping 480 grams it's quite a substantial shoe. While this adds one more element of stability it will hinder how easy you 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 hate or love this. This raised heel is great for those with unfavourable squat mechanics, tall lifters and/or 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 to do 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.
I hope this article was helpful and that you are now better equipped to decide on a pair of vegan weightlifting shoes!
Let me know which one you prefer in the comments 🙂