What are the best shoes for kettlebell training?
I know this is going to ruffle some feathers, some old farts (I can say this since I consider myself one) and uptight arses (donkeys) are probably going to cause a stink. Let them. If you know me personally, you know we can still be friends after this (unless you start being condescending).
And here we gooooooooo …
Mention “no shoes” in any context to most GS athletes and it’s as if you’re asking a Hardstyle hardliner about converting to GS! At least this has been my personal experience so far.
Just the other day there was a question about what shoes are best to wear for kettlebell training not the sport (GS), and the majority of people answered “no shoes”. There was an extremely condescending and fanatical lady jumping in and hijacking the thread, making it about GS even though it clearly wasn’t, trying to draw me into a back and forth childish game, I try not to give in to those for several reasons.
First, I’m not here to convert anyone in what I believe is the best for the body and performance, I know that everyone has their own beliefs and opinions, and that’s perfectly fine. Second, I understand how the majority of people think that shoes are good, how it’s unusual to not wear them, I understand that some people can’t see the benefits of wearing no shoes. I also know there is no use in trying to explain it to them, they need to do their own research and make up their own mind. Third, I’m really not interested in childish games, I’m all for proper communication, but not Internet games trying to draw another card, but enough of that, you’re here to find out what shoes are best for kettlebell training and perhaps to read my controversial opinion about shoes in GS.
Shoes encourage foot muscles to relax and
cause them to weaken over time.
Who am I trying to convert?
I’m not trying to convert anyone, if you like wearing shoes, wear shoes, it’s your body. But as a coach I see it as my responsibility to educate. I explain why I train without shoes to all the people I work with, I explain the benefits and why shoes are no good, then I give them the option to take off their shoes or leave them on, it’s their choice, I’m not going to think any less of them based on their choice.
Let me be clear, some of the following is belief based on my own analysis plus common sense, and as it is with any belief, I could be completely wrong, I’m ok with being wrong, prove me wrong with hard facts. Until that happens, I believe the following.
“I believe GS should allow competition with no shoes and I believe that the performance will increase for those wearing no shoes.”
Just for those who can’t read and think I’m saying that I’m a GS coach, as the following ignorant reader whom I blocked ages ago “Who have you coached in GS? What achievements do they have? What qualifications do you have?”, I’m a kettlebell training coach, if you’re interested in my qualifications and experience do your research, not that hard to find. I’m no GS coach, neither am I saying that I’m even close to that level.
Here is my analysis and reasoning.
Let’s take the Jerk as an example, as it seems that a small percentage of people actually agree on no shoes, but not for Jerks.
When the heel comes off the ground to push the kettlebell into the air, without shoes the ball of the foot remains connected longer, thus being able to produce more power, and the toes are utilised for balance. With shoes the ball of the foot comes sooner off the ground due to the stiffness of the sole as the heels are lifted.
When receiving the kettlebell for impact, one can lift the heel off the ground with just the ball of the feet remaining connected while spreading the toes to provide better balance.
No matter how flexible the sole of the shoe, no sole is as flexible as no shoe, now, think about how the heel comes off the ground during the lift, with no shoes it will allow the foot to bent easier, allowing more force to be generated through longer connection from part of the foot to the surface, thus generating more power for longer (even though we’re talking milliseconds).
If people are required to compete in shoes, they’ll more than likely also train in shoes, when training in shoes, no matter what type of conventional shoes, your feet suffer and become weaker. Your calfs become weaker, your achilles become weaker, your toes do not spread like they should for grounding.
GS is as much a mental game as it is a physical game, add the uncomfortable feeling of shoes to the mix and you’re more than likely to give into to the mental game first.
What’s so bad about shoes?
They cramp your toes together, remove or limit the use of them, make your feet weak by limiting the movement and absorbing impact/resistance that would normally make your feet stronger.
Is no shoes stronger feet a fact, and has scientific research been done?
Do shoes squash your toes, remove the ability to spread and use them?
Do shoes make your feet weaker overall?
Does your power transfer directly into the ground without shoes?
Has scientific research been done about performance on the Jerk and shoes or is it based on belief?
Why are the soles of weightlifting shoes so flat and not squishy like runners? The answer is to take away as much material between your feet and the ground as possible, people know this.
What functionality does that leave the shoe with? Perhaps the squishing together of the feet? Maybe the lifted heel? Lets say that the lifting of the heel is a benefit, I don’t know which one, but lets say it is, common sense would suggest that all the other benefits of no shoes outweigh the benefits of wearing shoes.
Could it be that shoes in GS are simply promoted because there are so many people making money with kettlebell shoes, could it be because it’s just ingrained in the sport? People are so used to it, it’s unusual to not wear shoes and they just don’t question it. Who knows.
Then there are people who say “I have tried without shoes”, but are those people who wear shoes all the time and just took them off to “try”, or are these people who hardly ever wear shoes? Because if they’re not, well, then their feet are probably weak and not used to “no shoes” and might make their initial performance worse.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, you probably won’t see me in GS with shoes, yeah I’ll give them a go if I get the opportunity, I’m ok with giving it a go, hell, if the hard facts are put in front of me and they make so much sense that I need to eat my words (which I would), well then maybe I’d give it more than a go, and maybe I’m just to much of pussy and can’t even get into GS (there, I said it for you), who knows.
It’s a shame, cause I love competition, but one day, one day there will be a new kettlebell sport with no shoes, hell, even no shirt if the participant wants it. I think there are more people who feel like this but are to scared to speak up and being shunned.
To me it all makes so much sense, it’s one of these things where you go “can’t you see it, can’t you see how the human body was made, and what negative impact shoes have on strength, flexibility and shape of your feet?”.
I’ve received some wonderful feedback, exactly the type of feedback I’ve been looking for. The heel slam during the under squat with heavy weight is a problem, the sole of the shoe provides some relief. My question is, can you:
- reduce the impact/slam with going toe, ball, heel? Let the calfs do the work.
- under squat faster and land later? Let the legs take the impact rather than the heel.
You’re so close minded!
But I’m not, I’m open to your facts and believes, post it below. I’m sure that due to my inexperience in GS I have missed some things, go on, post it below. If you’re pro no shoes and see some facts I have missed, post them below.
Let’s get a bit more generic rather than just talking about shoes for sport.
(Left) (B) Adult foot that has never worn shoes and shows natural spread toes, (Right) (A) Foot of a boy who has worn shoes for just a few weeks and already shows inward turned toes.
“What?! No shoes? You must be a hippy” not wearing shoes just doesn’t resonate with some people, and I fully understand this, as I was once looking at other people with no shoes the same way.
Until I got to a stage in my life where I wasn’t concerned with what people thought about me, I wasn’t concerned with what the ‘in fashion’ was, I was more concerned with how I felt and the effects on my overall well-being. I know that shoes never made me feel good, with the right pair of shoes I’d be lucky if I hardly felt them, but it never matched the freedom my feet felt without shoes.
Have you experienced any of the following?
- hot feet
- sweaty feet
- painful arches
- squashed toes
- plantar fasciitis
- fallen arches
- athletes foot
- toenails cutting into your other toes
- joint stiffness
- sprained ankle
- knee pain
Let me clear something up, when I say no shoes, you might be picturing some hobo with filthy clothes, black cracked feet and long toenails, but no.
Here’s what no shoes means to me:
- no shoes on in the house EVER, they stop at the door, bare feet or flip flops in the house only, also keeps it nice and clean, no dragging in dog shit onto the carpet and other filthy crap from outside.
- no shoes in the car, yeah I know, it’s against the law in some places, stuff them, what a bunch of idiots, I have more problems finding the pedals with my shoes on and potentially get stuck to something with shoes on.
- no shoes in the gym, unless I’m sprinting long distance or on a rough surface.
- when I go hiking up mountains, it really depends on the terrain and heat, if possible, I wear no shoes, second choice is flip flops, third is vibram five finger shoes and last is wearing shoes.
- when I go out, the first choice is flip flops, second is vibram five finger shoes and last is wearing shoes.
As for fancy parties, the last time I went to a fancy party would be two years ago, I simply don’t do parties that require a suit in which my nuts are squashed, the shirt is so tight that it looks like I got ILS (invisible lat syndrome), I only go to places where I can dress and feel free.
Since I stopped wearing shoes
- no stinky feet
- no hot feet
- no pain in the feet
- my feet are a lot stronger
- I have not sprained my ankle
- my feet are a lot more agile
- stronger achilles tendon
- my feet look nice
- stronger calves
- my toes have spread apart more, hence better grip and stability
- improved balance and proprioception
No shoes, stronger calfs?
How does not wearing shoes give you stronger calfs? If you wear shoes you will get accustomed to the shoes taking the impact for you when landing from a jump (for example), you will land flat footed or close to flat footed, if you wear no shoes you will stick out the balls of your feet, land on those first, let them take the impact which is controlled by the calfs, and eventually land on your heels.
The only shoes I do wear are ASICS KAYANO, and preferably black, I found these shoes years ago and nothing has ever matched the way they feel for me.
One last fact, years ago when I had many issues with my feet it was recommended to me to wear insoles/orthothics for the plantar fasciitis and pronation, ooh my what an uncomfortable period of time that was walking on those orthothics, and what an expense for some plastic. It did absolutely nothing for me, orthothics are the biggest waste of money ever, they don’t get to the root cause of things, which is weakness. Since I started walking without shoes, all those problems went and never returned.
Here’s where it ends, most of the GS stuff I touched upon is based on beliefs, common sense and ingrained customs, until the day that research is done with a large test group of similar strength, endurance and mental toughness, it’s all just talk and you decide what you belief and use.
I said this many years ago and will keep saying it:
shoes are for fashion
<whispering_voice> and some high impact stuff</whispering_voice>
PS. I’m neither Hardstyle nor GS, I prefer not to fit in a box, I’m a kettlebell fanatic and see anyone who trains with a kettlebell as part of the family.
References and other links:
- Article I wrote over 2 years ago
- School children with no shoes do better
- Sport Science
- New article I wrote
Best shoes in the world
Fanatical lady who thought she was funny, I do thank you for giving me the fire to write this article.