Going through some of my vintage body building articles the other day I ran across a picture of Arnold and Sergio Oliva going through their workout barefoot. Their one concession to foot wear was to rest their heels on a one and a half inch wood block while doing front squats and cleans. The reason I bring this up is that lately I’ve been thinking about buying some dedicated “oly” shoes. If you’ve looked into getting a pair of these stiff heeled specialist shoes yourself, then you know they’re not exactly cheap. Everyone I talk to though that’s bought a pair tells me it helped their Olympic Lifts and squats tremendously. It’s becoming a tough decision.
My first problem is I am a barefoot running and training advocate. The health of my feet and lower legs cleared up dramatically after making the switch to barefoot and minimalist shoes, and anytime I wear shoes with a pronounced heel I feel awkward and off balance. I love the ground feel and feedback I get from having my feet in contact with the ground. I didn’t think this would transfer over to weight lifting but my experiences have shown it makes a huge stability difference in squats, Deadlifts, and overhead presses.
Now Matt Chan of the CrossFit Games fame has released an article detailing his knee injury caused in part he feels by an over reliance on “Oly” shoes for lifting. While I can understand what he may be referring to from a bio-mechanical standpoint you can’t help but look at all those using these shoes everyday with little problem. Counter that with the fact that the reigning CrossFit champ almost exclusively uses the minimalist Reebok “Nano’s” for competitions and training and eschews “Oly” shoes, and you have a raging argument for and against the use of them.
In reality this is pretty much a non-issue as it will be sometime before I can justify the expense of a quality pair of “Oly” shoes. I have a lot of equipment to buy in the coming months for the business and so far I’ve done without specialized lifting shoes and put up good numbers on my Olympic Lifts. I tend to rationalize purchases based on a simple logic of “do I really need this or is it just s new gadget or piece of gear I want because everyone else has it.” The other part of this argument is that I don’t really intend on becoming a professional athlete in CrossFit or otherwise. Sure its fun to dream about it and I want to make a run to the games next year but I also understand the limits of my physique and age which has been catching up to my shoulder lately so much so that I’m thinking of swearing off “Snatches” all together for a few months after the CrossFit Open is over.
For now I think I’ll just keep soldiering on with my Inov8’s and wood block. Besides If it was good enough for Arnold its good enough for me. I think it’s easy to get swept up in the accessories of weight-lifting and Cross training or the debate over which system and camp is best and which gear is best. In the end isn’t the real point just to get out there and get it done. Don’t get me wrong I’d love to go on an unlimited shopping spree at Rogue Fitness’ even though I hate how expensive they are I love their gear and its good quality and made in America. That being said I’ve bought and used equipment from all over the world that’s just as good and I’ve done without a lot of equipment and made it work. In the end isn’t the point of Modern Savage about showing how the everyday working man can get it done without going bankrupt on new toys?