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For lifters on a budget, turning to a pair of Vans is the go-to solution when in need of good yet affordable shoes for lifting, particularly squats and deadlifts.
But is it true? Are Vans good for lifting? Yes, Vans are good shoes for lifting. This is because Vans feature flat, tough soles that work excellent for lifts like squats and deadlifts. Vans perform better than running shoes and cost less than specialized lifting shoes, so they’re ideal for a casual lifter but not for a competitive powerlifter.
Still, Vans aren’t the best out there. They don’t match Converse, for example, or specialized lifting shoes. In this article, I’ll be discussing why Vans can work for lifting, when not to use them, and what to consider before wearing Vans at the gym.
6 Benefits: What Makes Vans A Good Shoe For Lifting?
There are six benefits that make Vans a good shoe for lifting:
- Vans are zero-drop
- Vans feature a flat, non-slip sole
- Vans are breathable
- Vans are durable
- Vans are available in high top or low top
- Vans are affordable
Vans are zero-drop
Since the ’60s, Vans has been designed with a “zero drop”. If you don’t know what zero drop means, it’s a term that refers to the absence of a drop in the sole of the shoe from the heel to the toe.
This is beneficial for lifters because a no-drop sole provides great stability as it maintains the natural positioning of the foot.
Many lifters actually like working out with less arch support since it pushes the arch to do more work and allows them to “feel the floor” a lot more, which is important in exercises like squats and deadlifts where balance and stability are critical.
Vans feature a flat, non-slip sole
The selling point of Vans when it comes to lifting weights is the flat, firm, non-slip sole. The signature honeycomb zero-slip sole is hard enough to let you push against the ground in deadlifts and squats.
Granted, the sole of a Vans shoe isn’t as firm as that of the Converse, but it still offers decent friction and comfortable performance. The increased friction of a flat sole boosts ground reaction force which gives you a more substantial training response.
Vans are breathable
Vans are made out of a premium quality canvas, which is a plain-woven fabric. It’s very durable and rugged, designed to keep your foot locked in place while still having some level of flexibility. Not to mention, Canvas offers good breathability to prevent the interior from heating up too much during lifts.
Vans are durable
As you might already know, Vans was originally designed to be worn by skaters when skateboarding. If you’d romped around on skateboards as a teen, or still do, chances are you’ve worn a pair of these while doing your thing.
But here’s a piece of information you may not be familiar with: when you’re thrashing, you’re traveling through the lateral plane, and when you bail, you catch the ground with your foot being lateral to inertia.
What does this mean? Well, simply that the lateral seam and the toe box of Vans had to be really sturdy to endure the opposing force, otherwise the shoe would get wrecked.
As such, Vans was designed with durability in mind. They hold up great and offer excellent support for lateral shear.
In other words, Vans will last you a long time if you use them for lifting. They can even help you add some lateral speed and agility training to your general exercise routine.
Vans are available in high top or low top
High top shoes extend above the ankle to help maintain the normal posture of the body, whereas low top shoes help keep the ankle somewhat open for extra flexibility.
Vans are available in both high top and low top models, so you can choose the one you prefer depending on your style and the type of exercise you want to perform.
Vans are affordable
If you’re a lifter on a tight budget and I present you with a pair of specialized lifting shoes that cost around $200 and a pair of shoes that are decent enough to get the job done with less than half the price, which one would you pick?
Yes, it’s true that Vans aren’t the best shoes to put on for lifting, but they’re good enough when you can’t afford anything else or if you only lift occasionally. I’d happily take a lifter wearing Vans to workout than a lifter postponing exercise because they can’t get the “fancy” shoes.
When Should You Consider NOT Wearing Vans For Lifting?
As I mentioned above, Vans are not specialized, traditional lifting shoes. So unless you’re looking for something affordable or you lift casually, Vans won’t help you achieve anything close to professional performance.
If you’re a weightlifter, powerlifter, Crossfitter, you may want to consider other shoes for more serious training. Here are a few of my top recommendations:
- Adipower 2 – These shoes feature a full mesh construction that promotes a more flexible performance. They’re also comfortable enough to perform versatile movements, which is ideal for weightlifters and Crossfitters.
- Powerlift 4 – These shoes are more sturdy than flexible which translates into better stability. This, in addition to the foam lining and lower heel height, makes for a great shoe for squatting and powerlifting.
- Sabo Deadlift Shoe – Ideal for deadlifting, the minimalistic design of this shoe will bring your foot closer to the floor thus reducing the overall range of motion. It’ll also keep your body balanced, your ankle protected, and your feet secure so they don’t slip.
- Nike Romaleos – Great for powerlifting and weightlifting, the thick upper and the heavy build of this shoe ensures better stability under the heaviest loads.
- Crossfit Nano 8.0 – These shoes offer a comfortable, lightweight, and breathable construction, a flexible and roomy forefoot, a stable heel, as well as a supportive upper. All of which makes for incredible shoes for Crossfit.
However, if you’re in the market for a good general, flat-soled shoe to suit general activities in the gym, vans are a reliable, cheaper option.
What To Look For When Considering Van Shoes For Lifting
The construction of all Vans shoes is characterized by being durable and lightweight. Made out of strong materials, almost every model of Vans shoes has a canvas upper, which works out well for lifting.
However, some models include leather, textile, or suede elements either to reinforce certain parts or add an aesthetic value. Choose a model that offers higher durability to extend its service life.
You should also consider the soles of the Vans as all Vans shoes sport the same outsole but have different tweaks around the insoles. As such, the outsole is built using the iconic Vans signature waffle-cut rubber that delivers a lot of strength and durability coupled with a lightweight grip.
Together, those qualities help keep your feet firmly grounded in place across a wide range of surfaces. The sturdy rubber outsole also absorbs shocks and impacts to ensure your feet are comfortable and secure.
The insoles, on the other hand, offer more variations for you to think about. For example, some Vans have relatively stripped-down insoles with basic sock liners whereas other models house supportive, shock-absorbing EVA foam footbeds or UltraCush HD cushioning (this is thinner than EVA foam and molds better to the contour of your foot) as a more luxurious padding option.
Finally, you should also consider buying a Vans model with a removable footbed so you can clean them easily. This will help keep your shoes smelling fresh and non-sweaty.
What Lifts Should You Avoid When Wearing Vans?
We’ve already established that Vans are good for lifting, but they do come with a few restrictions. For one. The tip of a Van shoe is quite firm, which can limit the movement of your feet in any lift that requires the bending of feet or toes.
The following are some lifts that you should avoid doing if you opt for lifting wearing Vans.
- Lunges – the #1 workout to avoid when wearing vans is lunges. A lunge mainly involves bending your foot at the toe, which will be very difficult to execute with the way Vans are designed. Additionally, attempting to bend for a lunge will ruin the shoe itself and shorten its lifespan.
- Any type of calf exercise – calf raises (such as downward dog, jump rope, standing wall calf stretch, seated calf raise, etc) often involve bending of toes to activate the calf muscles. So, you should also avoid performing any of them while wearing Vans.
- Agility exercises – various agility boosters (such as dot drills, jump box drills, lateral ply metric jumps, etc) will have you standing on your toes and moving quickly. As such, Vans would be a nightmare for these exercises; use a pair of running shoes for agility training instead.
- Running/Cardio – yes, these aren’t lifts, but you should still know better than to do them wearing Vans.
As you can see, not all of these lifts are actually lifts, but you should avoid them in Vans regardless. Vans are good for lifts like deadlifts and squats, but for things like running, cardio, and agility boosters, they’re really bad.
Which is Better for Lifting: Vans or Converse?
This is a tricky one, but my vote would have to go for Converse. I know that some lifters don’t like chucks and some lifters make fun of Vans while others hate both brands equally, but for me, there are reasons for Converse being superior to Vans when it comes to lifting.
Here’s why I think Converse is better than Vans for lifting:
- They protect your feet better
- They have flatter soles
- They make you closer to the ground
- They have less cushioning
- They’re more comfortable
- They’re also cheap
If you want to find out more about powerlifting wearing Converse, check out my article on why you should try lifting with Converse.
Best Van Shoes For Lifting Weights
Here are my top picks for the best Van shoes for lifting weights.
With a low-cut look, this legendary set of Vans offers just support along your arch that it doesn’t turn off, as we as a comfortable heel rest to reduce foot fatigue.
The Vans Authentic is known for being notoriously lightweight and thin, which is why they work great for lifting. They’re still made using quality, sturdy materials to last you a couple of years.
This shoe also features a premium UltraCush padding in the footbed to give your soles ample cushioning for extra support at the vulnerable parts of your feet. The thick waffle rubber sole is firm yet flexible enough to deliver impressive feedback when lifting.
The Vans Sk8- Hi Reissue Skate Shoes are one of the most iconic Vans shoes with a lace-up high top design inspired by the Old Skool Vans. the result? A shoe that’s both classic and modern that looks sharp from all angles.
The featured high-top ankle is reinforced with a well-padded collar which provides a high level of support and comfort for your ankles comfortable so they’re well-protected when lifting.
The sole of these Vans is durable and thick, constructed out of the signature Vans shoe waffle pattern rubber.
The Vans Atwood Shoes come in a low-top design that renders them lightweight with a low profile. The smaller, more stripped-down style is reminiscent of the original classic Vans design.
The low rise ankle collar is also cushioned to add some comfort and a moderate level of support. The tongue of these Vans is padded as well to make your feet comfortable when walking.
The featured double stitch construction of the canvas upper translates into extra durability for extended service life. As such, the Vans Atwood Shoes are an excellent choice for beginner lifters, casual lifters, and lifters looking for an affordable option.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do Van Shoes Fit?
Vans shoes belong to the true to size side of the spectrum, which makes it a whole lot easier for lifters to find a pair of shoes that properly fits. One thing you should keep in mind though is that Vans are not available in half sizes. So if you’re usually in between two sizes, I recommend that you size up instead of sizing down. As such, if you typically wear a size 10 ½, you should go for a size 11.
How Long Will Van Shoes Last?
Vans are rather durable, but of course, regular use makes them prone to wear and tear. How long Vans shoes will last depends on the stress you put them through. Generally speaking, a pair of Vans can last for about two years. A little maintenance here and there can prolong that period.
Are Vans Good For Squatting?
It’s a good thing that Vans have durable soles, but what really counts when performing squats is the firmness and flatness of the sole. The firmness allows you to push against the ground while the flatness of the sole lets you bring your foot close to the ground as much as possible. Since Vans shoes feature soles that are flat, firm, non-slip, and squishy sole, you can push your legs against the ground with a lot of energy turnover. This means you’ll have no issues squatting when wearing Vans. The performance, however, won’t be on the same level as when squatting using a traditional lifting shoe.
Is It Better to Lift Barefoot or with Vans?
While Vans and lifting shoes are great for lifting, there’s nothing quite like lifting barefoot. As I already mentioned, Vans feature flat and firm soles. This is good and all, but it’s not as flat as firm as the ground itself. I know lots of lifters who do this, and it works nicely for them. The only issue you may run into is that not most gyms won’t allow this and will require that you, at least, put on some socks. If your gym applies such a rule, Vans can be an excellent alternative for lifting barefoot.
To answer the main question “Are Vans good for lifting?”; yes, Vans are good shoes for lifting, especially for squats and deadlifts. They’re a reliable option if you’re trying to save some money, need some affordable training shoes, or you’re simply a casual lifter.
The reason why Vans are good shoes for lifting is mainly that they feature flat, firm, non-slip soles that work excellent for lifts. Vans perform way better than running shoes while costing less than specialized lifting shoes, so they’re just ideal for what they can offer.
But, are Vans the best out there for lifting? Of course not. For one, they don’t beat Converse shoes let alone specialized lifting shoes.
If you’re curious about how Converse stacks up against squat shoes, check out my Squat Shoes vs Converse article. You can also check my article for recommendations on the Best Converse For Powerlifting.