Your choice of footwear at the gym can greatly influence the effectiveness of your workouts. That is why professional athletes and fitness enthusiasts spend so much time and money on their preferred kicks.
Nowadays, lifting shoes have become trendy in almost all gym circles. And no, they aren’t popular simply because they look fashionable and stylish. These shoes actually offer some stellar functional features that can help you optimize your workouts.
The results are even more encouraging when you are engaging your body in strength-based training.
For example, research indicates that wearing proper weightlifting shoes while squatting can increase knee flexion and promote an upright posture. So, experienced athletes can exploit this advantage to experience deeper squats, thereby engaging their quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes more effectively.
That is why choosing the right kind of lifting shoes become popular. But with so many options available, it becomes confusing.
One such popular choice is Vans shoes. But since they aren’t originally designed to support workouts, many people have started wondering – is using vans for weightlifting safe and effective?
Let’s find out.
Are Vans Good for Lifting?
Yes, Vans can be good for casual or recreational lifting. They feature flat and tough outsoles that can support exercises like squats and deadlifts effectively. However, they should not be used by competitive powerlifters as they lack some specialized features.
That was the short answer. Now allow us to elaborate a little.
While they are not traditionally meant to be workout shoes, using Vans for lifting can actually work because of how they are constructed. They offer minimal cushioning, zero heel stack height, and relatively thinner midsoles to maximize your natural footing while lifting.
Moreover, they are also better for the gym compared to running shoes and less expensive than specialized lifting shoes. So, they can serve as the perfect gym shoe for regular gym-goers and casual fitness enthusiasts.
But for competitive lifters, working out in Vans might not be the best idea. That is because these shoes lack some special features that are meant to support heavy-duty lifting and strenuous workouts.
To give you more detailed insights, let’s compare Vans shoes to one of the most popular weightlifting shoes in the market – NOBULL Men’s Lifter.
While Vans offer no heel support, NOBULL Men’s Lifters offer great elevated heels with stacked leather midsoles to allow for a greater range of motion and deeper squats with minimal energy loss.
Similarly, while Vans are built from Canvas, which might restrict breathability and durability under prolonged stress, NOBULL Men’s Lifters feature handcrafter construction from premium leather and their signature SuperFabric for maximum durability.
But while you can get a nice pair of Vans for around $70-$80, you will have to splurge around $250-$300 if you want to get NOBULL’s lifting shoes.
So, if you find yourself in need of a casual alternative to your regular workout shoes for some time, getting a pair of Vans can be beneficial and cost-effective. But if you are a serious lifter working with some heavy weights, it’s better to go for the more expensive but specialized gym shoes.
Why Should You Use Vans As Your Lifting Shoe? 7 Benefits
When you walk into a commercial gym, you will see a bunch of people lifting in Vans, even if they are not designed to be workout shoes.
That is a clear indication that using Vans for working out might be somewhat beneficial, even if they are not the perfect replacement for a pair of lifting shoes.
Here are the benefits of using Vans for lifting at the gym:
Improved Efficiency with Flat and Cushion-Less Soles
One of the primary reasons why Vans can serve as good lifting shoes is because they have a relatively better sole construction compared to most athletic shoes.
Unlike other conventional models with thick and foamy midsoles, Vans have flat soles. This allows the shoe to resist compression when you are lifting heavy weights.
Another advantage of thin and cushion-less soles is that they improve the wearer’s natural footing and proprioception abilities. As there is no cushy midsole to provide extra support and shock absorption, wearing Vans will almost feel like you are barefoot.
According to a study, working out barefoot can actually improve your stability during lifting exercises.
So, having relatively flatter soles can work to your advantage, but only if you are engaging in traditional weightlifting exercises like squats and deadlifts, as other exercises usually need a heel drop of 6-8 millimetres for optimal support.
Greater Stability with Zero Heel-Drop Construction
Another significant advantage is that Vans do not have any heel-to-toe drop height. While that is not always a good thing, it can be particularly beneficial in some cases.
For example, people with flatter foot positioning can wear a pair of Vans for their workouts. Exercises like deadlift usually require this sort of foot positioning.
Moreover, the lack of prominent arch support is also an advantage for experienced lifters who want their arch to do more work.
Reliable Grip and Traction
Whether you are working out on a flat and smooth surface or a weightlifting platform, your shoes need to maintain a proper grip. That is crucial for maintaining form and preventing any injuries.
Fortunately, Vans offer decent grip and traction on all kinds of surfaces.
They feature the brand’s signature rubber waffle outsole construction that promotes friction and provides a reliable grip against smooth terrains.
Before people started wearing Vans to the gym, they were marketed specifically to professional skateboarders.
If you know anything about skateboarding, you would know that the sport is not as graceful as it looks. To withstand the opposing forces, the lateral seams as well as the toe boxes of your shoes, had to be really sturdy and durable.
Otherwise, the shoe would get visible damage, wear, and tear.
Fortunately, Vans were designed to withstand the stress of such a mobile sport. In comparison, weightlifting activities are relatively more secure. So, unlike many other athletic shoes, they will prove to be more durable and longer-lasting because of their high-quality build and materials used.
Wide and Comfortable Fit
Another reason why wearing Vans to the gym can be good is that they provide a comfortable and snug fit.
Unlike other traditional shoes like Converses, Vans come in relatively wider designs and can accommodate people with large and wide feet.
Moreover, these shoes have significantly more open space in their toe boxes, leaving plenty of wiggle room.
So, Vans feel pretty comfortable and snug, especially when you are performing strength-based exercises.
Padded Ankle Support
Some Vans models come with padded ankle supports to provide more stability and support to your ankles.
Doing so can prevent injuries as ankle collars and supports stabilize the joints and restrict the possibility of an excessive range of motion.
Most lifting shoes are pretty expensive. A decent pair will cost you anywhere between $150 and $200.
A pair of Vans shoes, on the other hand, can be pretty affordable as they cost anywhere between $50 and $100, which is a bargain compared to the features and functionalities that they offer.
What are the Limitations of Vans for Lifting? 5 Drawbacks
Despite being a relatively good substitute for traditional workout shoes, we cannot forget that Vans weren’t originally designed for supporting workouts.
As such, there are bound to be some limitations.
Here are the primary drawbacks of using Vans for lifting:-
Lack of Specialized Features for Supporting Weightlifting
Vans were never marketed as lifting shoes. They were originally designed for casual wear, light sports, and skateboarding activities.
As such, they lack many specialized features that you would normally see in lifting shoes.
Some of these features include adjustable straps or laces, supportive uppers, and stable soles.
Working out without these added performance-enhancing features can inhibit the quality of your workouts.
Absence of Heel Support for Professional Lifters
While not everyone requires additional heel support for lifting, some professional athletes rely on elevated heels for squatting or performing Olympic lifts.
That is because these elevated heels offer a better ankle angle to perform deeper squats with improved mobility.
So, the absence of such heel support can be a serious disadvantage for competitive weightlifters.
Not Suitable for Advanced Lifters
While Vans can work as a decent alternative for casual lifters, professional athletes cannot rely on them.
They simply do not have the functionality and benefits offered by traditional lifting shoes. For example, advanced weightlifters often require features and tools like heel cups, secure straps, and stable soles for optimizing their performance and preventing injuries.
As such, Vans will inhibit their ability to work out at the optimal level.
Lack of Arch Support
Some experienced lifters might not want additional arch support as they rely on proprioception and natural technique.
However, casual gym-goers or people with specific foot conditions or flat feet would require this kind of support.
The absence of proper arch support, in such cases, can lead to discomfort, decreased stability, and increased stress on feet during heavy lifting.
Limited Force Transfer Capabilities
Lifting shoes are often designed to transfer force from your body to the ground, allowing you to become more stable and generate more power while performing heavy lifts.
Vans shoes, unfortunately, do not have a firm sole and lack the functional features required to facilitate the same level of force transfer efficiency. This might potentially hinder your progress in strength training over time.
Are Vans Good for Deadlifting?
Yes, Vans are perfectly suitable for performing heavy-duty deadlifts. The flat, incompressible soles keep the feet intact and stable under stress from heavy weights. Moreover, the specialized rubber waffle outsoles can improve the lifter’s grip on the platform.
Deadlifts, in particular, require a flatter foot positioning. Since Vans offer a zero heel-to-toe drop construction, the wearer will naturally get more support to assume this position.
The lack of elevated heels, however, comes with a single drawback – the degree of knee flexion will be limited during the deadlift movement. However, that can be advantageous for beginners who might risk injuries with greater freedom of movement.
A lack of elevated heels can allow such newbies to find the appropriate degrees of flexion at the knees and hips as per their body’s anatomy to efficiently utilize their deadlift prime movers.
Are Vans Good for Squats?
Yes, Vans are equally suitable for lower-body exercises like squats. The flatter construction of the soles, the presence of rubber outsoles, and the non-compressible touch contribute to the enhanced functionality of Vans when it comes to squatting.
We have already discussed some of these advantages offered by Vans in the case of deadlifts.
For example, even squats demand flat foot positioning, which can be achieved easily by wearing 0-heel drop shoes like Vans.
In addition, many people love performing squats barefoot for increased efficiency and proprioception but cannot because of safety concerns or gym policies. Since Vans imitate the anatomy of the feet by providing no additional support, it can be great for people who want to try the barefoot approach to squatting.
The presence of rubber waffle outsoles also makes the shoes great for trying out versatile squat patterns like hack squats and pendulum squats.
Are Vans Good for CrossFit?
No, Vans shoes are not suitable for CrossFit training. That’s because CrossFit involves a greater need for dynamic movements such as running, jumping, and so on.
While Vans shoes are suitable for strength-based exercises that require little to no mobility, they are not cut out to support these dynamic training programs.
The bendability and flexibility offered by Vans are severely limited. As such, joint mobility will be a serious issue. Since CrossFit training requires responsive shoes, Vans will not be able to serve the purpose efficiently.
Moreover, these shoes do not have the support features required to perform intense cardiovascular activities like running, or even jumping.
Vans shoes have been one of the most popular products in the sportswear category. But they were never designed to withstand heavy-duty applications like lifting heavy weights.
Fortunately, they do have some functional features that can make simple compound exercises like squatting and deadlifting more efficient. However, they are not enough to support the high-intensity demands of professional weightlifters.