CrossFit I35

Forging Elite Fitness in Kansas City

Kettlebell Footwear

With a lot of people coming into the gym who are new to kettlebell lifting, powerlifting and Olympic lifting the question of what shoes to wear always comes up.  One of the biggest challenges we come up with is that the optimal shoes for kettlebell lifting and Olympic lifting are have similarities but are also somewhat different.

Since at Crossfit I35 we offer Kettlebell only classes I thought I would discuss the optimal shoes for kettlebell lifting and why.

Before I send you off to Zappos for new shoes it might be a great time to review swing mechanics and proper transmission of power into the kettlebell.

Renowned Olympic Weightlifting and strength coach Tom Cross once told me that the muscles in front of the body are for the beach and the mirror BUT the muscles in the back are for the field.  This also applies kettlebell swing as the muscles responsible for moving the kettlebell are all in the back.  An effective kettlebell swing starts with the athlete shifting the hips toward the rear while keeping the entire spine in neutral or in perfect posture with all 3 natural curves.  From here the upward and outward motion of the bell comes from rapid extension of the hips and knees.  Unlike jumping the weight must be balanced toward the heels or the muscle loading shifts from the glutes and hamstrings to the lower back and knees.  While I believe that a properly executed kettlebell swing is among the safest exercises in any gym rounding the back and shifting the weight to the toes can change that picture completely.

So how does that apply to shoes.  Simply put the footwear in kettlebell lifting has to accomplish a few simple things.

  1. The shoe must have minimal cushion for maximum transmission of power through the body.  Thick and soft soled shoes absorb energy.
  2. The shoe must be solid and create as stable connection to the floor as possible.  Again soft soled shoes create a disconnection from your power and floor.
  3. Most important the shoe must be flat without heel elevation.  Most cross trainers have elevated heels which shift the weight forward and keep the lifter from fully engaging the gultes and hamstrings.  Swinging kettlebells on the toes not only compromises performance, it compromises results and puts the body in a potentially unsafe position.

So the shoe not to wear is anything with a big thick heavily padded sole.  Of course this means most running or cross training shoes shouldn’t be used to lift kettlebells.

Purists in the kettlebell community say the best shoes are no shoes at all.  However some of us either don’t want to go barefoot or have a limitation that require shoes (personally I need to wear a stiff insert to protect a chronically injured toe joint) here are your best choices.

Adidas Samba’s
Vibram Five Fingers
Chuck Taylor’s

Also most wrestling or boxing shoes are good choices as well.  Personally I’m a fan of Inov8 because they are also good for running and jumping which is important when we combine kettlebells with other types of training in other classes.

In short shoes for kettlebell lifting should be flat without heel, minimal or no cushioning and thin to provide a solid connection to the floor.

Hope that helps and look forward to seeing you in the gym soon.


ps.  Keep an eye out for a future post on best shoes for Olympic and powerlifting shoes.

pss.  While the scope of this article was about shoes and kettlebell lifting those of you who are runners might be interested in checking out this post from Delaine Ross, RKC and team leader at RKC certifications.

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