The Big Three: Why Powerlifters Love Chuck Taylors

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Complex Original

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Sport: Powerlifting

Star Feature: Flat Rubber Sole

Next time you’re in the gym, take a quick look around at some of the older, more experienced meat heads and check out what's on their feet. There’s a good chance they are wearing Chuck Taylors. Maybe you think he’s only got them on because he grew up on them – that’s all they had and why change what’s not broken? But it turns out a nice pair of Chuck Taylors is one of the best shoes for your big 3 lifts: the squat, bench press, and deadlift.

Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars are a pair of shoes that have withstood the test of time. Dating back to 1917, the Chuck Taylor silhouette have made it almost 100 years without any major changes – that’s pretty impressive. Originally a basketball shoe, the Chuck Taylors have made their way into the world of powerlifting and some of the greats in the business stand by them. From basketball to powerlifting – how do these classic Converse shoes thrive?

Some say the best powerlifting shoe you can own is a sock. Being barefoot forces you to use every inch of your foot, allowing you to feel and grip the ground in a way you can’t with shoes. But if you’re looking for the next best thing, then look no further than your old pair of Converse. A nice pair of Chuck T’s can actually serve a number of different benefits in the gym. They have a flat sole and keep your foot extremely close to the ground, allowing you to become planted. This lets you feel the ground and really push through your heels. Your heels have a better sense of weight than the rest of your foot and since there’s no heel cup in Converse, you can exert your energy straight into the ground helping you lift heavier weight. When we drive our heels into the ground, it forces us to contract and squeeze our legs harder throughout the lift. This leads to better technique and better form over time. Converse are also extremely light and very simple. They’re made of an all canvas upper with about an inch thick rubber sole. This gives them a sock like fit, especially because you can lace them as a high top, allowing for ankle compression and support. They also won’t break your bank. Depending on the style, Chuck T’s can be found anywhere from $30 - $50 and they take years to wear out.

For those wondering why it’s important to have a flat sole when powerlifting, it's simple. The closer you are to the ground, the easier it is to exert energy into the ground. Running shoes have a raised sole/heel and are cushioned to help absorb shock. Because of this, your foot sits high and you can’t firmly plant your feet. You also lose a lot of the energy your exerting because now it needs to travel through the padding, then into the floor, and then upwards with the weight. Another potential risk of a raised padded sole is the potential of rolling your feet. As we push down through our legs and into our feet, our feet have the natural tendency to flare out. When your feet flare out in a running shoe, there’s no side support above the sole. Running shoes are usually made with a thin, lightweight mesh and your feet can easily roll. A flat sole helps prevents this.

As pictured above, some of the big names in powerlifting can be found setting PR’s in Chuck Taylors. When Arnold wasn’t squatting barefoot, he had on Converse. The 71-year-old Pete Bennett also set a world record for the squat in his age class at 465 lbs in a pair of Converse. World champion female powerlifter Laura Phelps Sweatt chooses Chuck Taylors as her shoe of choice. And lastly, Louie Simmons, maybe one of the most respected opinions in powerlifting today, says “Chuck Taylors are the best. Don’t have $100 shoes and a 10-cent squat” in his article, “How to Do the Squat.”

Bottom Line: Converse Chuck Taylors have withstood the test of time, are cheap, versatile, and will without a doubt help you better your performance in the Big 3 lifts. When it comes time to drive your feet into the ground and lift some heavy-ass weight, do it in a pair of Chucks.


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