Tuesday, February 8, 2011
If the shoe fits, THINK before wearing it...(Pt. I Converse All-Stars)
Lately I've found myself speaking with a lot of you guys on shoe preference in relation to weight training, olympic lifting and crossfit in general. I've even gotten many of you to convert to a more performance-based type of shoe. Those same people have seen immediate improvements in their lifts, their workouts and even to go as far as their joints, ligaments and lower body musculature by simply changing the type of shoe they're wearing during workouts.
I'm not an expert on which or what shoe to wear or when to wear it. I don't know the specifics on sole thickness, sole density, heel thickness or angle, and flexibility of the shoe, but what I can give you is a personal opinion on why I think certain shoes suck and why others are awesome as well as my experience with a few of the ones that you may see laced up at a box nearest you.
With style and fashion aside, let me remind you that these posts are based predominantly on performance and comfort in shoe selection. Once we find a shoe that helps us perform comfortably at our best...we can then consult with style, model, lace color as well as matching outfits and attire (you're welcome lulu lemon).
So, first and foremost, take your tennis shoes and just donate them to a retirement home or give them to your mother, your father or even your grandparents. They're better orthopedic supports than they are athletic shoes at best. They do not belong in a crossfit gym. I've worn them one time and felt like I was overhead squatting on two memory foam pillows. The soles in the shoes are extremely padded and do not benefit you in a workout that consists of anything more than simply running and/or standing. Most crossfit-style workouts consist of more body weight movements, weight lifting and Olympic lifting than they do running, so the detriments of choosing tennis shoes in this situation greatly outweigh the benefits. Over time, the build up of repeated movements and pounding on an unevenly cushioned surface (sole of tennis shoe) can lead to aches, pains, inflammation and sometimes injury, not to mention insufficient workouts , failed lifts and even the restriction of one's own potential. This is no bueno for your lower half. Through crossfit workouts, we want to prolong the strength and well-being of your legs not the opposite. So, if it is as easy as switching shoes to better protect the health of your stems, then let's make that conscious effort to do so.
Now let's jump into a couple of the most popular brands that can be seen around your local box.
Converse All-Stars or the infamous "Chuck Taylors".
I personally am a huge fan of the "chucks". I was converted early and have since then purchased
several pairs and have yet to look back. The flat sole allows stability through my lifts and movements as well as provides me with a stable base when jumping, landing and repeating. It's the closest thing that comes to barefoot for me. People may feel differently about the All-Stars, but if you are skeptical or on the edge about switching sneakers, I recommend you start with the Converse All-Stars. Why? Because they're cheap (40$), effective and so far everyone I know that has made the switch has yet to regret their decision. In most crossfit workouts, you're spending most time in a confined area where you will be performing a variety of different exercises that don't necessarily involve too much actual "running" or moving long distances. Barbell and kettlebell work, burpees, double unders, wall-balls, rowing, gymnastic movements, etc. can all be performed effectively and efficiently while wearing a pair of Converse.
To put this into perspective, imagine wearing a thick soled, heel-strike absorbing pair of Nike's Free's while performing an exercise like the deadlift. In a movement like the deadlift, we must maintain extreme core stability and elevate a loaded bar by forcefully driving through our heels and into the ground. During this lift, the sole of the Nike Free is going to perform just like it was created to do. The sole will compress as tension is being applied to it and must completely compress before any force is actually applied to the bar. This is what we call "deadlifting on a mattress" because that is basically the equivalent. Sound stupid? Well it is. Now imagine repeating this action on a moderately heavy load for repetitions? Not fun and not productive whatsoever. With any sort of power movement, you want a thin, flat, hard-soled shoe that will allow us to apply the greatest amount of force directly through the heel. Now that is fun. That is smart. And that is moving large, heavy loads efficiently.
Overall, chucks are awesome for strength movements yet well-rounded enough for indoor/stationary workouts and surprisingly with proper form and technique (POSE Method), they aren't bad running shoes either. Buttttt that's another blog post for another time...
Up next Pt. II the hideously versatile Inov-8's, stay tuned...