A lot of us grow up wearing Vans on a day-to-day basis. Whether it’s a low-top or high-top model, it’s tough to beat that classic and clean Vans look. In my skateboarding days, I used to love Vans for their consistent waffle outsole tread and stable sole construction. Now, I love Vans for lifting and in the weight room for entirely different reasons.
If you’re newer to lifting and exploring what type of footwear to wear, then you may be wondering, “Are Vans good shoes for lifting?”
For recreational lifters, Vans are a great and consistent shoe for lifting. They offer a 0mm heel-to-toe drop, which places the foot flat on the ground which can help with balance and stability. Additionally, they offer fairly stable soles which are great for limiting compression when lifting weights.
That’s the quick and easy answer, but I always love providing more context to help paint the full picture. Maybe that’s the strength coach inside of me. In this article, I’m going to explain in-depth why Vans can be good shoes for lifting weights and discuss three models I like most for training.
On the market for new cross-training shoes, but also want to deadlift heavy? Check out my five favorite cross-training shoes for deadlifting big weight.
Are Vans Good for Lifting?
In the context of lifting, Vans are a good option for three key reasons. We’ll dive into these three key reasons below in detail and discuss the lifting settings in which Vans are best.
1. Stable Sole Construction
The first, and the arguably biggest reason why Vans are good for lifting, is their sole construction. In most Vans models, you’re going to get their signature rubber waffle outsole construction.
Unlike running shoes and some training shoes that have thick foam midsoles which are prone to compressing under heavyweight, the vulcanized rubber soles used in Vans do a fairly good job at resisting compression across the board. In most Vans models, you’ll get a shoe that offers a stable rubber sole paired with a thinner insole.
The blend of these two construction details makes many Vans shoes a good option for lifting. Since they don’t compress under heavyweight, you can use Vans for deadlifts, squats, and other weight-bearing exercises where stability at the ankle is needed for strong performance.
2. Zero Drop Builds
Another reason why Vans can be a good option for lifting is their 0mm heel-to-toe drop, also known as zero drop construction.
Now, it’s important to note that a 0mm heel-to-toe drop is not necessarily needed for lifting, and it’s a misconception that you need a “flat” shoe for lifting. There are many shoes that are great for lifting that offer higher heel-to-toe drops than Vans.
However, in the context of Vans and their zero-drop construction and lifting, this can be a positive thing for lifters that love having a flatter foot positioning when training. We’ll see this foot positioning commonly desired in strength sports like powerlifting and bodybuilding. Why these strength sports though?
In powerlifting, there are two general reasons for this. One, a higher heel-to-toe drop can be less desirable for deadlifts as a flatter foot position will often be best for most lifters. Two, if you’re a low-bar squatter and you adapt a more hip-dominant squat, then you may prefer a flatter shoe. It’s not a must, but it might be a low-bar squatters preference.
For bodybuilding and recreational lifting, a flatter shoe will provide a consistent feel when training with free weight and on machines. A higher drop will create a more positive shin angle, AKA bringing the knee forward a tiny bit more naturally. A flatter shoe may be more preferable for this style of training for some, again though, it’s not a must.
3. Cost-Efficient and Multipurpose
The last reason which is a matter of personal preference is that Vans are cost-efficient and they can serve multipurpose in one’s life.
Most Vans models cost less than $100 USD, which makes them more cost-efficient than most cross-training shoes and specialized lifting shoes like deadlift shoes and weightlifting shoes.
For beginner lifters and budget-conscious lifters, this can be useful because starting with Vans will help you save money, then as you progress and decide what style of footwear you need for your preferred form of lifting, you can look into higher-priced and more specialized models.
Outside of their cost-efficiency, Vans are also great for lifting because you can wear them outside of the gym. This means you only need to really bring one pair of shoes with you to train and go about your day. They look great as casual shoes, so you won’t need to bring a gym bag filled with training shoes if you want to go with the minimalist approach to training gear.
Are Vans Good for Deadlifting?
Yes, Vans are fairly good deadlift shoes. Since their sole doesn’t compress under heavyweight and they have a zero drop, they’re a good and desirable shoe for tackling heavy deadlifts. In addition, their rubber waffle outsole can be useful for increasing a lifter’s grip on the floor, which is key for sumo deadlifters.
When we talk about deadlifts specifically, generally, we’re going to want a flatter foot position. This will allow us to grip the floor and create more stability at the ankle. Plus, it can help us find degrees of flexion at the knees and hips that feel more natural for our anatomy to best utilize our deadlift prime movers.
When we elevate the heels during deadlifts when wearing certain shoes, we’ll create a more positive shin angle which can make it a bit more difficult to clear the knees for some lifters.
In layman’s terms, if we elevate the heel in deadlifts, then we’ll create a greater degree of knee flexion, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can make pulling a bit tougher for some lifters that have anatomies that feed better into less knee flexion when pulling. Note, clean pulls are separate not included in this rationale!
Coaching Tip: “Clearing the knees” means moving the barbell past the knees in a means that is efficient for one’s lifting style. If you’re running into the knees when deadlifting, then your bar path is likely off and you’re exerting extra energy than needed.
The only real caveat with Vans and deadlifting is that their stack height isn’t technically the best for lifters who are trying to optimize every aspect of their pull. For example, a great pair of barefoot shoes will get you closer to the ground for big deadlifts. However, for most lifters, this small detail won’t matter too much.
Are Vans Good for Squats?
Yes, Vans can be good shoes for squats and lower body training. Their flatter construction, rubber outsoles, and non-compressible soles work well for squats and heavy leg training.
We briefly touched on this above, but when it comes to Vans and squats, there are certain characteristics with these shoes that some lifters may prefer. For example, if you’re a lifter or athlete that likes lifting with a flat foot position, or a more barefoot approach, then Vans can be a decent model for providing you with a similar feeling.
The rubber waffle outsoles Vans have are also good due to their abilities to prevent slippage when squatting and working on machines that require squat movement patterns like hack squats and pendulum squats.
Best Vans Lifting Shoes
If you’re interested in Vans for lifting and are curious as to what the best vans lifting shoes are, I wanted to provide two of my favorite options below. Both options are good picks for lifting and I’ve used them interchangeably throughout my lifting career.
1. Vans Authentic
The Vans Authentic is a tried and true classic Vans model when it comes to lifting. This model features all of the signature construction traits that you want from a Vans model. The Vans Authentic has a vulcanized rubber sole and waffle tread for stability under different weights and gripping the floor.
Additionally, this model has a lightweight canvas upper which is fairly durable and looks clean and simplistic. In the gym, this canvas never really feels too hot on the feet, so even in warmer gyms, the Vans Authentic is generally a good model.
Potentially the best part about the Vans Authentic shoe is their price point. At a price of $50 USD, it’s tough to find a more cost-efficient Vans for training and daily wear.
- Best For: Lifting and Daily Wear
- Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
- Removable Insole: No
- Sizing: True to Size
- Heavy Weight Training
- Recreational Lifting
- For Versatile Training
- For Long-Term Durability
2. Vans Canvas Sk8-Hi
Another awesome Vans shoe for lifting is the Vans Canvas Sk8-Hi. This model is a great option for the lifter that wants a bit more ankle support with their shoe or like training in high-top models.
In the context of lifting, I like this shoe for three specific reasons. First, the sole provides adequate stability for deadlifts, squats, and other forms of training. The vulcanized rubber sole blends well with the insole in this model for promoting overall stability. Second, I like the canvas upper in this model and how it’s slightly thicker than models like the Vans Authentic.
This is a positive characteristic for the lifter that likes having a bit more material around the foot and ankle. Additionally, the upper in this model is fairly durable due to it technically being designed for withstanding skateboarding demands. The third and last aspect to like about this shoe is the signature rubber waffle outsole. Tread and grip are not a problem in this shoe.
- Best For: Lifting, Skating, and Daily Wear
- Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
- Removable Insole: No
- Sizing: True to Size
Vans Canvas Sk8-Hi
- Recreational Training
- Daily Wear
- For Versatile Training
Outside of these two Vans above, there are multiple other models that work really well in the gym. For this article, I wanted to provide two shoes that I’ve personally worn for multiple lifting sessions and that had a little contrast to their constructions.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q:Are Vans OK for lifting?
Q:Is it bad to wear Vans to the gym?
Q:Are Vans good for CrossFit?
Q:Is it bad to run with Vans?
Vans can be great shoes for lifting due to their firm sole construction and ability to provide adequate grip in a variety of lifting contexts. Outside of these two characteristics, Van shoes also offer a zero drop and budget-friendly price which makes them a great cost-conscious option for both the recreational and serious lifter.
If you have any questions about this article, Vans shoes, or which model would be best for you, drop a comment below or reach out to me via Instagram (@jake_boly)
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