By Travis Links
In the late 1970’s and 1980’s high top sneakers became all the rave for athletics. They were hugely popular in basketball and it quickly spread to almost all other sports including running shoes and cleats. The thought behind the new higher tops on the shoes is that it would increase the stability of the ankle joint and prevent sprains and even breaks. As research was done on these shoes, people began to realize that high tops were preventing ankle sprains but were also leading to an increase in ankle fractures and knee injuries. High tops took the strain off ligaments and musculature of the ankle and in turn allowed more force to be placed on the bony structure of the ankle as well as ligaments of the knee.
In the last few years minimalist shoes have taken off as the newest fad and again people were claiming that our bodies were designed to be barefoot so these shoes would be the best for their wellbeing. In this case they were correct in that our feet are designed to function without shoes but years of molding our feet into shoes has changed the structure and needs of the ankle joint as week as the padding on our feet. If you change to minimalist shoes you should consider a slow transition and not just jump directly into using them for rigorous activity.
In the crossfit world there are typically two types of shoes that are used: minimalist shoes and olympic lifting shoes. There is good reason for having two types of shoes as they are both intended to be used for different things. The minimalist shoes are the better all around shoe for completing a WOD. It will allow your ankle the most flexibility while allowing you to get deeper into a lift without transferring stress to the knees. The shoe allows you to dorsiflex comfortably while still being able to externally rotate the knees. Olympic lifting shoes have hard much harder soles than a minimalist shoe and have an elevated heel. The harder sole of the shoe takes some of the stresses off the mid foot and allows you to get a greater drive off of the ground. The elevated heel is a game changer when it comes to lifting and especially squatting. People that have trouble with mobility of the ankles would receive a huge benefit from olympic lifting shoes because it has a lift in the heel. this gives you cheat in your ankle flexibility and allows you to really drive your knees outward to perfect your form.
In closing I’d like to give my recommendation on how I believe you should approach your shoes and which you should wear at certain times. My opinion is that you should wear the minimalist shoes at all times at the box unless your are competing or doing pre WOD lifts. The minimalist shoes will help you to build strength in the musculature around the ankles, therefore stabilizing the area. It will also allow you the greatest ROM while completing the WODs. If you train with the Minimalist shoes and wear the Olympic shoes when completing a lift in a competition you will not have to worry about the mobility or strength of your ankles or knees because it will already be developed. You will also go into the competition with the advantage of knowing that your lifts will be easier with the Olympic lifting shoes. If deciding on the correct fit of the shoes please refer to the article written on shoe fitting and specifications.