Vans for Lifting: Are They a Good Idea?


If you’re on a budget, and you want good shoes for lifting, many people turn to Vans, especially for lifts like squats and deadlifts. But, are Vans any good for lifting?

Put simply, Vans are great for lifting if you’re on a budget. Vans have flat, hard soles that are good for leg day lifts like squats and deadlifts. They work much better than running shoes and are cheaper than traditional lifting shoes, so they work well for someone on a budget or a casual lifter.

While Vans can be good for lifting, they aren’t as good as something like Converse or a pair of shoes that are meant specifically for lifting weights. Below, I’ll go over some things you should know before you wear Vans into the gym.

Vans are great, partly because they’re cheap. You can grab them on AmazonOpens in a new tab., and they’re cheaper than almost any shoe out there, making them affordable for every lifter.

Can You Lift Weights While Wearing Vans?

Person wearing Vans, using a skateboard.
Someone wearing Vans, traditionally skateboarding shoes.

The most important part of picking a pair of shoes for lifting is how hard the soles are. Firm soles are important because they allow you to push up off the ground, in lifts like squats and deadlifts.

If you have squishy soles, it’ll be harder to lift your weights off of the ground, because you have to brace against this softer surface in your shoes. Fortunately, Vans do have firm soles, compared to many other shoes.

Because of this, Vans will work much better than running shoes and other athletic shoes, and of course better than dress shoes or casual shoes. While Vans do have firm soles, they aren’t as firm as Converse, or Chucks. Converse are my pick for lifting shoes, but Vans will work almost as well if they’re your preference.

Vans also have relatively flat soles. When you’re squatting, for example, you want to have the flattest surface possible below your feet, so you have a stable, good surface to push up against.

Vans are traditionally skateboarding shoes, so for some reason, they’re flat as well (I know nothing about skateboarding). Because of this, most skateboarding shoes you find will be good for lifting weights too.

One of the reasons that Converse are my favorite, is that they have high-tops. Not all Converse, or Vans, will be high-tops, so you should go for the high-top version if they’re available to you. The tops of these shoes go higher up on your ankle, aiding you in stability and support.

I even wrote an article about why so many lifters wear converseOpens in a new tab., so I recommend you check that one out next.

While they’re made of canvas so the support isn’t very good, like in basketball shoes or hiking boots, the support is still there. The high-tops on Vans will help keep your feet, ankles, and entire body stable while you’re lifting.

This being said, dedicated lifting shoes don’t have high-tops. This means that while a higher top can be good for support, they aren’t required for when you’re lifting weights.

I’ve mentioned this a few times now, but Converse are my favorite shoe for lifting weights. Compared to Vans, they have harder soles, which helps a lot for things like squats, deadlifts, and any other lift where you’re pushing up off of the ground.

If you’re going to be a serious lifter, it might make some sense to invest in shoes made specifically for lifting. The reason that I recommend shoes like Vans and Converse is that they’re much cheaper than lifting shoes, and they’re more easily accessible, or easier to find in stores.

Overall, Vans are a great option for lifting. While they’re not as good as Converse or lifting shoes, they’ll get the job done.

Vans Are Cheaper Than Lifting Shoes (Pro and Con)

If you’ve ever bought or looked at a pair of actual weightlifting shoes, you’d know that they’re far from cheap. Vans, on the other hand, are pretty cheap as far as shoes go.

While Vans are cheaper, this is a good and a bad thing. On one hand, Vans are easily affordable no matter what level of lifter you are. Unfortunately, this also means that Vans aren’t specifically made for lifting, and they’re also most likely lower quality than a good pair of lifting shoes.

All this being said, Vans aren’t low quality. They’re good shoes that’ll last you a long time, at a cheap price. On top of that, they’ll do just fine for lifting. They might not be as expensive or as specialized as conventional lifting shoes, but they’ll do just fine for the average lifter.

While Vans being cheap technically has cons, I look at it as a good thing. If you aren’t a professional lifter, you want a cheap pair of lifting shoes, and you like the look of Vans, I’d recommend picking up a pair today.

Lifts to Avoid When Wearing Vans

Woman doing lunges in the gym.

While Vans are great for lifting, they have a few disadvantages. For example, the tip of Vans are pretty firm, which can constrict your feet in any lift where you have to bend your feet/toes. Below, I’ll go over a few lifts you should avoid if you do decide to lift in Vans.

Lunges

Lunges are probably the #1 exercise you should avoid when wearing Vans. When you’re doing lunges, a huge part of the exercise is bending your foot at the toe. Because of the way Vans are made, it makes workouts like this not only harder but bad for the shoe itself. When you’re doing lunges, stay away from Vans and canvas shoes.

Any Type of Calf Raise

Calf raises also often include bending your toes so that you can activate your calf muscle. While calf raises are great exercises, they should be avoided while you’re wearing vans for the same reason that you should stay away from lunges.

Agility Exercises

Many agility exercises require you to stand on your toes, often moving quickly. Because of this, Vans are horrible for agility exercises. If you’re doing any type of agility training, use a pair of running shoes.

Cardio/Running

I know some of these things aren’t lifts, but you should avoid them regardless whenever you’re wearing Converse, Vans, or any type of canvas shoe. While shoes like Vans are great for lifts like squats and deadlifts, they’re bad for cardio, running, or most types of “fitness” exercises. If you’re doing things like this, it’s best to stick to running shoes.

Vans Have Firm, Flat Soles

The most important factors when picking shoes are flat soles and firm soles. Fortunately for you, Vans have both of these things. Flat soles are important while you’re lifting so that you have a good, balanced surface to push up off of during lifts like squats and deadlifts.

Firm soles are important for a similar reason, which is to have a solid and hard surface. If your shoe has a squishy sole, it makes it hard to push up off of the ground.

Running shoes are the opposite of this. They often have squishy soles and are contoured to fit the bottoms of your feet. This is great if you’re actually running, but they’re terrible for lifting. Instead of running shoes, a pair of shoes like Vans or Converse will do great.

Vans vs Lifting Barefoot

Arnold Schwarzenegger lifting weights while barefoot.

While lifting shoes and even Vans will do great for lifting, there’s no alternative for lifting barefoot. As I mentioned before, Vans have flat and firm soles. This is a great start, but nothing can be as flat or as firm as the floor itself.

Many lifters do this, and it works great. The only problem is that not every gym will allow this. If your gym does allow this, I would recommend this over wearing Vans. If your gym doesn’t, Vans are a great alternative for when you’re lifting.

Related Questions

Can You Use Vans for Lifting Weights? Vans are great for lifting because their soles are firm and flat. This being said, they aren’t as good as Converse or dedicated lifting shoes. Despite that, Vans will work just fine for lifting weights.

Are Vans Good for the Gym? While Vans are good for lifting weights, they don’t work well for most gym use. If you’re running or doing any type of cardio, I’d go with a different shoe. This is because Vans aren’t meant for running and fitness, so you may hinder your performance if you wear them.

Are Vans Good for Squatting? Vans are great for almost every lift imaginable, especially lifts like squats and deadlifts. For any lift where you’re pushing your feet against the ground, Vans will do just fine.

Pete Schenkel

My name is Pete Schenkel, and I've been into weightlifting since I was a teenager. Now, my main focus is growing Powerful Lifting and putting more information out there. In fact, I'm also currently working on becoming a certified personal trainer.

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