Grindin’ In Oly Shoes

Grinding through WODs at 38 years of age often brings about questions about my limits and capabilities Most I’ll explore in other blogs. But one I’ll address now is:


Grinding through WODs at 38 years of age often brings about questions about my limits and capabilities Most I’ll explore in other blogs. But one I’ll address now is: “Realistically, how much would buying and wearing a pair of ‘Oly’ (Olympic) lifting shoes improve my CrossFit?”

Because I had absolutely NO experience with this type of weight training before my CrossFit journey began three years ago, the process of learning these complex movements has been no small task. These are lifts that some people literally spend a lifetime attempting to perfect. For me, the process can be daunting at times.

I’m not awesome, and like most of my WOD results, I’d hazard a guess that I’m average or below average with my PRs (Personal Records). I knocked out one, yes one, 135-pound snatch during the Open this year, and I have a clean-and-jerk PR at 185 pounds (try not to be too impressed). So if we are being honest, I don’t sit and wait for Glenn Pendlay or Rudy Nielsen to get ahold of me and have me start training professionally in their gyms.

In my defense, in the years before CrossFit, I had been wading through some misguided practices and misinformation about the right and wrong ways to lift and train. I’m sure, like many of you, “weight lifting” had previously revolved around 3×10 reps of bench press, incline bench press, curls, triceps and the all-important calf raises (what?). But as my understanding of fitness and the application of Coach Glassman’s functional fitness grows and broadens, I’ve come to find I actually like these complex movements.

Insert my recent dilemma — the “Oly” shoe debate, which for me, revolved around the argument of “Do these things actually help?” and “If they do, are they worth purchasing for an old grinder like myself?”

For the better part of four months, I debated, researched, bugged people I believed to have both knowledge of such things and, well, weren’t just trying to sell me shoes, and finally arrived at a decision. A month ago, I purchased a pair of the Reebok CrossFit Lifter shoes. The result so far: I’m a fan.

I consulted one of my trainers, Oly Zack, who I feel knows a ton about the importance of Oly shoes, even for average grinder studs like myself (see: PRs above). Oly Zack is a USA Weightlifting Level One Sports Performance Coach and a CrossFit Level 1 Cert, so I consider him knowledgeable when it comes to stuff pertaining to Olympic lifting and proper shoes.

Oly Zack told me, “If you want to be the best CrossFitter you can possibly be, you need to get better at Oly lifting. The Oly shoes are an important part in getting better. If you are a runner, you need running shoes; if you play basketball, you need basketball shoes. The same thing goes for Oly lifting and Oly shoes.”

I had not considered this before, and for the first time he put it in a way that made a lot of sense to me. I had researched and priced all the “major” brands (Adidas, Nike, Reebok, Rogue, etc.) but decided on the Reebok for a couple of reasons. One, they were on the middle-to-low end in terms of price. And two, they seemed like the most flexible in terms of being able to transition in a CrossFit WOD for something like moving from a back squat to a box jump to a snatch to a set of double-unders (something I guessed I might actually have to do in a WOD).

Oly Zack added that, “In the past couple of years, it seems like a lot of affiliates are adding programming that follows places like Outlaw or Invictus. There seem to be more places including an element of a specific strength portion. That usually involves some kind of Olympic-type lifting, which would make having the proper shoes that much more important.”

I bought the shoes, I put them on, and I added 50 pounds to both my snatch and clean and jerk PRs that same day!

NOPE, actually that did not happen.

But what I did do was a pistol (one-legged squat), an actual pistol without having to hold a band or a rig. In addition, I began to feel much more stable on squats (front, back and overhead), cleans, shoulder-to-overheads and snatches. Last week, I even did a full WOD in Oly shoes, which included overhead squats and a couple 400-meter runs (by the way, don’t run much in these shoes, not a good idea).

So far though, I am very happy with the purchase. It’s very likely you will not put them on and walk up to a barbell and throw 300 pounds over your head. But even for a regular ol’ grinder, they seem to give me a boost. Possibly physically, possibly mentally, but I have noticed a difference since wearing them.

Plus they are super cute, which according to some people, is important too.

What’s your experience with Oly lifting and Oly shoes? I’d love to hear from you. Email me at jtolgrinder @ or follow me on Twitter at @Grindersgrind.

Stay on the Grind.

— JTol