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Are Vans Good for Lifting? Yes, Trainer Shares Why (2024 Update)

A lot of us grow up wearing Vans on a day-to-day basis. Whether a low-top or high-top model, it’s tough to beat that classic and clean Vans look. In my skateboarding days, I loved Vans for their consistent waffle outsole tread and stable sole construction.

Now, I enjoy 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 can be a good and consistent shoe for lifting. They offer a 0mm heel-to-toe drop, which places the foot flat on the ground and can help with balance and stability. Additionally, they offer fairly stable soles, which are great for limiting compression when lifting heavy weights.

That’s the quick and easy answer, but I always love providing more context, maybe that’s the strength coach side 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.

Jake, I’m In a Rush, Just Get to It…

  • Vans can be awesome shoes for lifting because they’re typically very stable when strength training with heavy loads, have good outsole grip and are multi-functional in the gym and outside of it.
  • The best Vans for lifting will depend on your preferences and training style. If you want a more versatile shoe, go with a Vans UltraRange EXO, and if you want a tried-and-true class for maximum stability, go with Vans Authentic.
  • I’ve competed in powerlifting in Vans Authentic before and enjoyed the stability I got from them with my 535 lb deadlift. I also liked how well they gripped the carpet on the deadlift platform.
  • At this point, I’ve pretty much worn every type of Vans for lifting, and I rotate through them differently depending on what I’m feeling for the day. It’s tough to fault Vans if you want a flat shoe for working out.

Testing the Vans EVDNT UltimateWaffle for weight training

Are Vans Good for Lifting?

Answer: Yes, Vans can be great shoes for lifting, especially if you’re looking for a shoe to tackle strength and hypertrophy-focused workouts. Vans have stable soles that don’t compress easily under heavy weight, and their outsoles are super grippy.

Reason 1: Stable Sole Construction

The first and arguably biggest reason 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, which have thick foam midsoles that are prone to compressing under heavyweight, the vulcanized rubber soles used in Vans do a fairly good job of 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.

are vans good fot lifting

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.

Reason 2: Zero Drop Builds

Another reason 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 shoe is not necessarily needed for lifting, and it’s a misconception that you need a “flat” shoe for lifting. There are many great shoes 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 who 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?

are vans good for lifting

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. This is why I tell my clients to never deadlift in weightlifting shoes.

Two, if you’re a low-bar squatter and you adopt 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 preferable for this style of training for some; again, though, it’s not a must.

Reason 3: Cost-Efficient and Multipurpose

The last reason, a matter of personal preference, is that Vans are cost-efficient and can serve multiple purposes 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 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.

are vans good for deadlifting

Outside of their cost-efficiency, Vans are also great for lifting because you can wear them outside 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 use the minimalist approach to training gear.

Reason 4: Grippy Outsole for Traction Support

Another reason why Vans can be a good option for lifting is their outsole construction. Most Vans shoes have a waffle tread, and this tread typically does really well on different surfaces, hence why many use them for skateboarding.

vans sk8 hi for working out

In the gym, the waffle tread does a really good job gripping rubber gym floors and machines, so if you want to wear Vans for general strength training, you should be well off doing so, and you likely won’t experience slip issues.

In addition to their grip, this outsole tread also provides good long-term durability, which makes Vans a good option for daily wear and then wearing them to work out.

Are Vans Good for Deadlifting?

Answer: Yes, Vans are fairly good deadlift shoes. Since their sole doesn’t compress under heavyweight and has a zero drop, they’re a good and desirable shoe for tackling heavy deadlifts.

In addition, their rubber waffle outsole can help increase a lifter’s grip on the floor, which is key for sumo deadlifts.

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 utilize our deadlift prime movers best.

Deadlifting in cross-training shoes

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, elevating the heel in deadlifts creates a greater degree of knee flexion, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can make pulling a bit tougher for some lifters who have anatomies that feed better into less knee flexion when pulling.

Coaching Note: Clean pulls are separate and not included in this rationale!

vans sk8 hi review

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 more 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?

Answer: 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, certain lifters may prefer certain characteristics of these shoes.

Testing the Vans EVDNT UltimateWaffle for working out

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 ability to prevent slippage when squatting and working on machines that require squat movement patterns like hack squats and pendulum squats.

Best Vans Lifting Shoes

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If you’re interested in Vans for lifting and are curious about 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.

Most Versatile Vans for Lifting: Vans UltraRange EXO

One of my favorite Vans shoes for lifting is the Vans UltraRange EXO. This model delivers a high level of versatility for various training contexts and is popular in the CrossFit and cross-training scenes.

This model’s claim to fame is its UltraCush Lite midsole, which is responsive yet fairly stable for different types of training. You can lift up to 405 lbs in this shoe without major compression issues, and it feels relatively good for jumping and cross-training.

Testing the Vans Ultrarange Exo for Working Out

The tread on this model is also great for providing a nice level of grip and traction on different surfaces. Plus, if you like flatter shoes for lifting, you’ll enjoy the overall fit of the UltraRange EXO.

If you want a Vans shoe that can be worn out and about and remain comfortable, used at the gym for lifting and versatile training, then the Vans UltraRange EXO can be a great option to explore.

  • Best For: Lifting, Daily Wear, and Standing
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Removable Insole: No
  • Sizing: True to Size.

Vans UltraRange EXO

$100

Vans UltraRange EXO (2)
4.2
Stability
4.1
Versatility
4.3
Durability
3.9

Best For

  • Daily Wear
  • Casual Training
  • Lighter Lifting

Falls Short

  • For Long-Term Durability
  • For Skating
  • For Heavy Lifting

Most Stable and Stylish Vans for Lifting: Vans EVDNT UltimateWaffle

The Vans EVDNT UltimateWaffle is a newer Vans shoe but they’ve proven to be a really solid option for both daily wear and training. What initially drew me to this model was their appearance and Vans construction staples.

This model features Vans’ signature UltraCush construction which gives this shoe a nice blend of stability and versatility for different training contexts. For example, I’ve lifted over 455 lbs in this shoe without any stability issues.

Testing the Vans EVDNT UltimateWaffle for Deadlifts

The waffle tread on this model is also really grippy for different types of training, so if you want a shoe for a little bit of everything when it comes to strength training, then the EVDNT UltimateWaffle can be a really strong option.

On top of their training performance, this model also has a nice clean appearance, and it can be a little more comfortable for all-day wear than Sk8-His and Authentics. That said, I wish the toe box was wider on these.

  • Best For: Lifting and Daily Wear
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Removable Insole: No
  • Sizing: Size up a half-size.

Vans EVDNT UltimateWaffle

$110

Vans EVDNT UltimateWaffle Product Shot
4.2
Stability
4.5
Versatility
4.3
Durability
3.9

Best For

  • Casual Wear
  • Recreational Lifting
  • Short to Mid-Range Walking
  • Narrow/Neutral-Width Feet

Falls Short

  • For Long-Term Durability
  • For Wider Feet

Best Vans for Lifting With Ankle Support: 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.

vans sk8 hi for lifting weights

The vulcanized rubber sole blends well with the insole in this model to promote 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 who 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 Sk8-Hi

$70

vans sk8 hi
4.7
Stability
4.8
Durability
4.7
Quality
4.7

Best For

  • Barbell Training
  • Recreational Lifting
  • Squats and Deadlifts
  • Daily Wear

Falls Short

  • For Breathability
  • For Versatile Training

Best Cheap Vans Show for Lifting: Vans Authentic

The Vans Authentic is a tried and true classic Vans model for 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, 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

Vans Authentic

$50

Vans Authentic
4.2
Stability
4.6
Versatility
3.9
Durability
3.8

Best For

  • Powerlifting
  • Heavy Weight Training
  • Recreational Lifting

Falls Short

  • For Versatile Training
  • For Long-Term Durability

Outside of these two Vans above, multiple other models 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.

Takeaway Thoughts

Vans can be great shoes for lifting due to their firm sole construction and ability to provide adequate grip in various 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 or @that_fit_friend)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q:
Are Vans OK for lifting?

A:
Yes, Vans are ok shoes for lifting. They provide dense soles that provide adequate stability when working out and have a zero drop construction which makes them great options for lifters that love training with a flat foot position.

Q:
Is it bad to wear Vans to the gym?

A:
Not necessarily! Vans can be fantastic shoes for working out if you plan to use them for recreational lifting purposes. However, if you're doing HIIT, versatile training, or athletic-focused workouts, then Vans will fall short.

Q:
Are Vans good for CrossFit?

A:
No. Vans are not great shoes for CrossFit-style workouts. Their thick rubber soles don't provide a ton of responsiveness and their upper constructions can fall short for durability in CrossFit workouts.

Q:
Is it bad to run with Vans?

A:
It's not ideal. Vans will fall short when running for two key reasons. First, Vans' soles are heavy and they don't provide any level of responsiveness. Second, the thicker soles also will lack maneuverability which impacts how your foot interacts with the ground when running.
Jake Boly, CSCS, MS Sports Science

Jake Boly, CSCS, MS Sports Science

Jake Boly is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of That Fit Friend. He's often regarded to as a go-to resource in various performance shoe communities. He’s been formally reviewing shoes and training gear for over 7 years and has hand-tested over 400 pairs of shoes. Jake is known on the internet and YouTube for blending his review process with his educational, strength sports, and personal training background.

Jake has a Masters in Sports Science, a Bachelors in Exercise Science, a CSCS, and he's been personal training for over 10 years helping hundreds of clients get stronger, lose weight, and accomplish their goals. He uses his exercise science brain and personal training background to make curated and thoughtful review content on the fitness gear he's testing.

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