The foot is arguably the most important system in sport and in training. It’s literally where the rubber meets the road; as long as you are wearing shoes with rubber soles, and standing on the road. Shoes have taken a foothold in our society as a fashion statement neglecting our “form follows function” principle. Companies spend a ton of money to get you to spend a ton of money on something you should really only need to protect the bottom of your feet from debris while you are on the move.
Shoes will not make you jump higher or run faster or anything like that. And the shoes that are “protecting” joints and structures of the lower leg like the arch and ankle could actually do more harm than good. It’s our contention, that in the weight room, shoes are nothing more than a training tool like a weight belt, lifting straps, and weight training gloves.
Are Shoes The New Weight Training Gloves?
Shoes have more in common with straps and a belt than they do weight training gloves. Weight training gloves can be worn 24/7, make you look tough as hell, and will not cause any significant detraining effect with overuse. Straps and a belt on the other hand, should only be used when needed in training. You shouldn’t put straps or a belt on when you are warming up with a 45 pound bar. Same goes for shoes. It’s a good idea to lace ‘em up for ground contact plyometrics like bounding jumps and skips, sprinting, and lateral speed and agility (LSA) work. Other than that, training in loosely laced shoes, or even barefoot under heavy loads, provides a very beneficial training response
The surface will also dictate what type of shoes you should consider. For example, cleats would be ideal for sprint and agility training on turf. But for the sake of this discussion, we’re going to say you’re banging weights and doing some of the plyo, sprint, LSA on a rubber gym floor, concrete, or asphalt. That’s the situation here at Power Athlete and if this is the case for you, Vans should be your shoe of choice.
We are not sponsored by Vans. They don’t give us money or free shoes. We just find them to be the best option. Below I am going to explain why.
Not All Vans Are Created Equal
I am going to limit the discussion to the Classic Canvas Authentics and Eras. For the uninitiated, if you head to Vans.com and go shop, you can filter by Shoe Style, Material, and Product Line among other items. Product Line is Classic, Material is Canvas, and Shoe Style is either the Authentic or Era. Some of the modern styles don’t quite fit the bill we’re laying out below.
So let’s get to it
Vans have been “zero drop” since 60’s. For those who aren’t familiar with the term zero drop, it means there is no drop in the sole of the shoe from the heel to the toe. A barefoot running purist might come at me for claiming zero drop, so I will concrete that they are minimalist in drop. This is a good thing, the less support the arch has the more the arch has to work. This is the essence of training any part of your body; stress to progress!
The regular use of insoles with high arches or orthotics ultimately creates a sling for your arch allowing it to rest when it really should be working, resulting in something similar to atrophy. I won’t belabor this, if this has peaked your interest check out the recommended reading below.
Similar to the arch, the low cut of Vans yields very little lateral ankle support. In sport, you don’t want to rely on footwear to do the ankle’s job, so training with no ankle support allows us to expand your abilities to load and explode in 360 degrees through the lower leg.
Lateral Seam and Toe Box
Vans were designed to be a skate shoe; “skate” as in skateboarding. If you weren’t romping around on skateboards in your adolescence, you missed out. Let me read you in on something, when you are thrashing, you are traveling through the frontal plane aka lateral plane. If you bail, that means you will (hopefully) be catching the ground with your foot lateral to inertia. Thus, the lateral seam and toe box need to hold up to the opposing force or the shoe would fall apart and no one would buy the shoe. This is why kids bought Vans. They hold up great. They have great support to handle this lateral shear.
This is ideal for lateral speed and agility training on rubber, concrete, or asphalt surfaces with Vans. The more the shoe holds up, the more you can push against it, the more training response you get!
No slip sole
Vans sport the iconic honeycomb, zero-slip sole so the kids thrashing can stick their stance on their boards, ramps, and boxes. The way the sole is designed benefits athletes as well, and in a similar way as the lateral seam and toe box we discussed above. The zero slip becomes essential in lateral speed and agility and acceleration/deceleration training. The increased coefficient of friction helps promote maximal ground reaction force, thus allowing for a greater training response.
You can snag a pair of Authentics for as little as $40 on clearance and are $50 brand new off Vans.com. The Crew has been training in Vans exclusively for almost a decade. They last anywhere between 4 – 12 months depending on how much you are wearing them in training, and the style of training you are doing. You can’t argue with that type of footwear investment for 50 bucks.
Better yet, once you have to retire your Vans out of training, they can become your everyday shoe. They’ll be a little weathered. You might have a blown out lateral seam. But nothing says I parrty with-two-r’s-hard and work even harder than a tattered pair of Vans… other than those social weight training gloves.
John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.
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