When it comes to gym footwear, the running shoe is by far the most popular, with the converse Chuck Taylor shoe fast becoming popular in the powerlifting and bodybuilding communities. But is there a new challenger?
Vans are very similar in design to Converse shoes but are often seen as more versatile from a fashion standpoint. But are Vans good for lifting? And are they a better choice of lifting shoe than Converse? This article will attempt to discover the truth.
Are Vans Good for Lifting?
Vans are a good choice for certain types of lifting. They can help with deadlifting, and low-bar squatting. They are great for most resistance machines and free weight exercises. However, they are not ideal if you are attempting Olympic lifts, or if you prefer high-bar or front squats.
Are Vans Good for Lifting?
Vans are very good for specific exercises. They are effective for exercises such as deadlifts, but unsuitable for dynamic exercises such as jumping, sprinting, or exercises that require agility.
There is a huge variety of differing forms of exercise, and it would be impossible for a single shoe type to cater to all of them. Running shoes are incredibly useful for running, but unsuitable for boxing. Weightlifting shoes are amazing for Clean and Jerks, but not great for burpees.
But Vans suit gym-based workouts really well and are more versatile than most types of shoe. Versatility is very useful for casual gym goers, or even hardcore gym goers with small budgets.
In an ideal world, you would have multiple shoes that you could wear for the specific exercises they suit. But this is not practical for most, and unnecessary for most regular gym goers.
If you follow a mostly resistance-based workout with few dynamic exercises, then Vans are a great shoe to wear. They have many benefits (see below), are well-priced, and are embedded in fitness culture for exactly these reasons.
Why Are Vans Good for Lifting?
There are a number of reasons why Vans are good for lifting, we’ve picked seven of the best reasons below and go into detail for each one.
Reason #1 Flat Soles
One of the reasons why running shoes are not ideal for many free weight exercises is the fact that they have highly cushioned soles. This is advantageous for running, and for comfort. But it can create a slightly unstable stance. With more cushioning based around the heel, this can lead to you leaning forwards during certain exercises such as squats or deadlifts.
Flat soles, such as the ones found in Vans and Converse, provide a flat and even base. This creates more stability and makes them ideal for low-bar squats and deadlifts.
Reason #2 Low to Floor
The deadlift is one of the best exercises that you can perform, and it allows you to lift the heaviest weights you will ever manage.
Because of this, trying to get every aspect of your preparation perfect is fairly common. Having shoes that are low to the floor will give you that 1% extra benefit.
With shoes that are low to the floor, you have to carry the barbell a tiny bit less. The shorter the range, the easier it is to lift. It’s not going to make loads of difference, but it could be the difference between a 298 lb deadlift and a 300 lb deadlift.
Vans are very low to the floor, and this is one of the reasons why they are so popular with powerlifters and strength training athletes.
Reason #3 Inexpensive
Vans are significantly cheaper than weightlifting shoes or the majority of high-end running shoes. For that money, you are getting a really decent pair of shoes that (if properly cared for) can last you a long time. So much fitness equipment and clothing is expensive, so it’s nice to have some shoes that are reasonably priced.
Reason #4 Fashionable
Vans look cool, they go with most outfits, and thanks to a history of Vans and Converse being used in gyms, they are fashionable in the weights room too.
Reason #5 Durable
Look, Vans are not durable in the same way that hiking shoes are durable. They will not survive a mountain hike, nor will they last you decades.
But considering the cost, and the lack of durability of most fitness footwear, Vans are highly durable.
They should last you a year of constant gym use. And while they may look a tad beat up by the time you’re finished with them, they are designed to stay comfortable and stable even when ripped and falling apart.
Reason #6 Comfort
When lifting weights, you want stability, but you also want comfort. Vans provide both stability (in the sole) and comfort. They fit much better than Converse tend to, and the fabric upper will stay comfortable throughout your workout.
Reason #7 Stable
The shoes are very unlikely to slip, even on a sweat covered floor. This provides you with the stability required to lift heavy weights safely and effectively.
The more stable your feet are, the easier it is to lift heavy weights safely. This will become more obvious if you ever have the misfortune to wear shoes that are unstable while deadlifting or squatting.
Vans vs Weightlifting Shoes
Weightlifting shoes are designed specifically for Olympic weightlifting exercises such as the Clean, Clean and Jerk, and the Snatch. They provide even more stability than Vans, while simultaneously offering more mobility. This makes them perfect for those specific movements.
They are also very popular with regular gym goers who perform squats and deadlifts. Like Vans, they offer a flat surface and are fairly low to the floor. They are also highly durable and are increasingly becoming fashionable in the gym.
So why are they not used all the time? Well, for one thing, they are completely useless for a large number of exercises.
Weightlifting shoes have a raised heel which makes them perfect for squatting very deep. But the raised heel makes them impractical for jogging, running, jumping, or any form of dynamic exercise. They are also not particularly great for deadlifts, tending to cause the wearer to lean too far forward.
Weightlifting shoes are excellent for high-bar squats, where the upright position is desired. But they don’t work well for low-bar squats, which, like the deadlift, can leave you leaning too far forwards.
Weightlifting shoes are also quite expensive, particularly when compared to Vans. Because they are highly specialised, you would need to own a pair of weightlifting shoes as well as a pair of normal shoes such as Vans or perhaps running shoes. That makes them much more costly than usual.
If you are new to weightlifting then purchasing weightlifting shoes makes little sense, as they won’t provide you with enough benefits to justify the price tag. However, if you are an experienced weightlifter, or you have a really decent high-bar squat, then weightlifting shoes will give you that extra 5%.
Vans vs Running Shoes
Running shoes are by far the most common shoes worn by regular gym goers. They are also popular with bootcamp goers, exercise class members, and amateur sports participants.
They are incredibly versatile, very comfortable, and there are only a few times where they may not be appropriate.
If your gym workout consists of resistance machines, the odd bench exercise, and perhaps some bodyweight exercises, then running shoes are your best bet. Sure, they are not ideal if you are deadlifting or squatting, but other than that they will suit your workout perfectly.
If your workout is cardio based, such as a circuit program, then running shoes are the only choice as they allow you the mobility and comfort required.
However, if you want to deadlift or squat then Vans are a much better option. If your workout is mostly free weights, then either running shoes or Vans would be acceptable.
Running shoes can range in prices. Sure, many running shoes can be much more expensive than Vans, but you will also find some absolute bargains out there. That’s because there are so many running shoes available, and huge demand, so prices can drop dramatically if you don’t mind a less well-known brand.
Vans vs Converse
This is the big debate, the two most well-known shoes of this style. But the truth is that they are so similar that it barely matters.
Both Vans and Converse shoes are similarly priced. They are also similar when it comes to durability. Vans often fit a little better, while Converse can have a more comfortable upper.
When it comes to squats and deadlifts, both shoes perform admirably. Converse shoes are a tiny bit closer to the ground, making it theoretically easier to lift in them. But the difference is so small that you are unlikely to notice anything.
Both shoes are popular with gym goers and have a host of famous names who have worn them in the gym. So, you are unlikely to get shamed by anyone for wearing the “wrong” shoes. Really, it all comes down to your personal preference, or which shoe is cheaper when you are in the shop.
What Exercises Should You Avoid When Wearing Vans?
You can perform a lot of exercises while wearing Vans, but there are some exercises that Vans are not suited to. Here is a short list of common exercises to avoid when wearing Vans. This list would also work for Converse shoes.
High Bar Squats
There are two forms of back squat, the high bar squat and the low bar squat. The high bar squat is performed with a barbell resting on your upper back and shoulders. It is the most common form of back squat and allows you to perform the squat in a much more upright position.
The low bar squat is performed with the barbell pulled down until it is resting in the middle of your traps. To perform this, you need to lean forward, otherwise the barbell would fall off your back. This sounds dangerous, but once you have got the stance right, it’s just as easy to perform as high bar squats.
Low bar squats suit Vans because you want your feet to be nice and flat on the floor, and the flat soled Vans shoe works perfectly for this.
High bar squats are best suited to weightlifting shoes, as the raised heels allow you to squat much lower. Vans do not suit high bar squats because most people lack the dorsiflexion required to squat low while wearing flat shoes.
If you have to perform a high bar squat while wearing Vans, then placing small, flat, weight plates beneath your heels can help. But this is an exercise that is best suited to weightlifting shoes.
The exact same argument for high bar squats can be made for front squats. In fact, because front squats are performed in an even more upright position, Vans would be an even worse choice.
If you love front squats then Weightlifting shoes are a must, they will transform your range of motion and the amount of weight you can lift.
It’s not that you can’t perform Olympic lifts while wearing Vans, you can. But the same issue as squats may occur.
Due to a lack of dorsiflexion, you would struggle to get the depth of squat required for most lifts. Weightlifting shoes are a no-brainer here. They were specifically designed for Olympic lifts. They are worn by professional and amateur alike, and they will make all of your lifts easier and more enjoyable to perform.
It should go without saying that running in Vans is not going to be as effective, comfortable, or enjoyable as running in a pair of decent running shoes.
Vans were not designed for running, even less so than Converse! If your exercise program requires running of any form, then running shoes are a much better choice.
Plyometrics, or “jump training” involves a series of dynamic movements such as jumping, leaping, skipping, hopping. It is often paired with agility exercises that require you to change direction at pace.
Vans are not the shoes for this. They are flat footed and would be incredibly uncomfortable.
Some plyometric exercises may be okay (medicine ball slams, plyo-push ups), but the vast majority would be unsuitable. Use running shoes for any form of plyometrics program.
Final Thoughts: Are Vans Good for Lifting?
Yes. Vans are a great shoe for almost any form of lifting, other than the exercises mentioned above.
They are versatile and inexpensive, meaning that you may be able to afford a set of running shoes or weightlifting shoes for the exercises you can’t perform in Vans.
No shoe is perfect for every form of exercise, so judge Vans based on that.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Wear Vans to the Gym?
Yes, wearing Vans to the gym is very common. They are versatile, fashionable, and inexpensive. A well-looked after pair of Vans should last you at least a year of use. They can survive quite a lot of damage while still functioning as a shoe (unlike most running shoes and weightlifting shoes).
Should You Squat in Vans?
You can perform low bar squats in Vans really well. If you have excellent ankle dorsiflexion then you should be able to perform high bar squats and front squats in Vans. But weightlifting shoes are better options for high bar and front squats as they allow you to squat deeper.
Are Vans or Converse Better for Lifting?
They are pretty much indistinguishable from each other when it comes to lifting. Converse may be slightly better for deadlifting, but the difference is tiny. Just pick whichever shoe you like best and use that one.
Can Vans be Used for Running?
Not really. There are two reasons why not. Firstly, Vans are flat soled, which makes them uncomfortable to run in. The second reason is that they are not particularly durable. Run in a puddle while wearing Vans and your day will be ruined. Stick to running shoes, they will be much more comfortable and efficient, reducing your risk of injury and improving your run times.
Are Vans Good for Walking?
They are okay for walking, but not great. They won’t be comfortable for long distance walks; they would be even worse for hikes. Walking around a gym is fine in them though or walking to work. They’re not great, but acceptable.