How should weightlifting shoes fit, and should you size down?

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How tight should my shoes be?” is a super-common query amongst lifters particularly as lifting shoes are pretty pricey so nobody wants to get it wrong when splashing their own cash.

The answer? Weightlifting shoes should be long enough so there is NO room at the heel with just enough space in the front to fit your foot without having to curl your toes, while width ways the shoe should be very tight.

You know how most have a strap over the mid foot? That is to make the shoe EVEN TIGHTER.

How should weightlifting shoes fit? And should you size down?

At a glance…

  • Squat shoes should be tight over the length and breadth of the foot
  • A good fit is when we can just about feel the end of the shoe with our toes when strapped in
  • Weightlifting shoes generally run true to size, but….
  • As we want a tight fit we will usually buy a half size down to achieve this

Should squat shoes be tight?

Yep you want them nice and tight. Not so much that your toes are all bunched up and uncomfortable, but you should feel absolutely secured and locked down when they are done up across the width of the shoe.

One neat trick is to strap yourself in as you would for a workout and then try and get the shoe off – wriggle around, try slip it off, hold it and tug… If the shoe doesn’t move then you have a shoe that fits (as long as your toes aren’t all bunched up at the end of course!)

How should your weightlifting shoes fit?

In all my lifting shoes I can just about touch the end of the shoe with my toes. There isn’t regular contact – but I know if I dropped half a size the shoe would absolutely be too short. This is the perfect length as it keeps the foot locked in place and minimises the chance of the heel slipping forward.

Width wise we want the shoe nice and tight as we covered above.

Face-off: Nike Free X Metcon vs Nike Romaleos 3
Face-off: Nike Free X Metcon vs Nike Romaleos 3

How snug is too snug?

I would rather my shoe was a little on the tight than the loose side, especially if new. I have two pairs of lifting shoes in use just now – both of which were a touch on the tight side when brand new.

Over time both pairs have loosened off very slightly as they have been broken in. Note this is not a huge change, but they have moulded subtly to my foot.

So how snug is too snug? A millimetre or two two tight is likely OK, much more than that is not. If they are noticeably uncomfortable – probably worth sending them back!

Before you get the return label printed it is worth considering just HOW we use squat shoes – we usually are pretty static doing weights. No running, jumping, hopping etc. As such we don’t need the same manoeuvrability or comfort that we seek in a regular training shoe.

Do weightlifting shoes run big or small?

I ran a case study for you on the sizing of Nike weightlifting shoes as I happen to have a set of Romaleos 3, Nike Free X Metcon and a pair of casual Nike Stefan Janoski trainers to hand.

How do they fit? Nike Romaleos 3, Nike Stefan Janoski’s and Nike Free X Metcon
How do they compare? Nike Romaleos 3, Nike Stefan Janoski’s and Nike Free X Metcon

As a bonus I have added my Adidas Power Perfect 2’s into the comparison.

Here’s a summary table comparing the fit of the four shoes:

Nike Romaleos 3Nike Free X MetconNike Stefan JanoskiAdidas Power Perfect 2
Size US99.599
Size UK88.588.5
Size EUR42.54342.542 2/3rds
Size cm2727.527Not disclosed
Subjective comments comparing the fit – widthTightest of the three across whole width of foot;Fairly casual fit – can be tightened with reinforced lace hoops across bridge of footSimilar to Free X Metcon without option to tighten across the footSignificantly looser than the Romaleos naturally, and difficult to tighten as much across bridge of the foot. Toe box significantly larger than the Nike
Subjective comments comparing the fit – lengthShortest of the three. Toes feel a couple of millimetres closer to the end of the shoe vs the other shoesComfortable/ideal fit for casual shoeComfortable/ideal fit for casual shoe; Feels largely the same as the Free X despite being a half size downVery similar to the Romaleo, subjectively it feels within a millimetre or so
Country madeVietnamVietnamIndonesiaChina

So what can we conclude about shoe sizing from this?

  1. The sizes vary across all shoes, even those with the same manufacturer (Nike). In this example the shoes made in Vietnam appear consistent in size, but the Indonesian shoe seems to run a different fit style. The sample is too small to extrapolate that further – but I am just making the observation
  2. Different sizing conversions (e.g. US vs EUR vs UK) exist for each brand
  3. The two weightlifting shoes (Nike Romaleos 3 and Adidas Power Perfect 2) both subjectively feel smaller and tighter than both the training and casual shoes in the test
  4. For the Nike brand – the training shoes were the same size or larger than the lifter, therefore we can conclude that Nike lifting shoes run similar, or fractionally larger than their regular training shoes
  5. Adidas lifters appear to run similar to Nike when looking at the US sizing. On all other scales (UK & EUR) they run smaller than the equivalent Nike shoe
  6. Nike Romaleos 3 are a noticeably narrower shoe than the Adidas Power Perfect 2

So should you size up or down in a training shoe?

As noted above a tight fit both in length and width is desirable in a squat shoe – more so than a casual or regular training shoe. This means – like for like – we should be sizing down our squat shoes where we can. A full size down will likely be too much, however.

Please select a size that fits your foot length ways first and foremost – tight but not uncomfortable is the aim. Width will then be determined by brand / model selection. In our test Nike lifting shoes ran significantly narrower than the Adidas equivalent.

Adidas Power Perfect 2’s - tested alongside the Nike’s above
Adidas Power Perfect 2’s – tested alongside the Nike’s above

So, should weightlifting shoes be tight?

As you can probably tell shoes are a very personal thing – but that won’t stop me trying to give you my opinion!

I believe weightlifting should SHOULD be TIGHT. This is because a nice, snug and firm hold across your foot will keep you steady when performing all your major lifts. I notice a difference in stability when squatting in my tighter Nike Romaleos over the Adidas lifters pictured above.

I have a preference for a metatarsal strap that goes across your mid-foot pulling the heel back but also clamping your foot DOWN. Some shoes like the Adidas above do not provide this additional tightness over the bridge of the foot relying instead purely on the lacing.

A good weightlifting shoe will be a tight fit in length as well with your foot filling the shoe nicely with your heel locked in place. A squat shoe feeling tighter than a training shoe is fine and TOTALLY NORMAL. We use the two types of footwear for COMPLETELY different purposes so we should expect them to feel a little different.

Personally i can just about reach the end of my shoe if I wriggle around, but the metatarsal strap helps keep my heel as far back as possible. This – to me – is the perfect fit and I feel absolutely confident in my feet when squatting. It’s just the bar I have to worry about now!


This has been a pretty interesting run through of shoe fit – it reminds me of the pain I have been through several times buying shoes and then sending them back for another size! Why oh why can’t the brands have a consistent sizing method?!

So when buying weightlifting shoes we want a tight fit in terms of length and width. We found that the squat shoes from Adidas and Nike tend to run similar size to their regular shoes, but as we want a tighter fit for our purposes we will possibly be buying a size down, as long as we can fit our foot in without screwing up our toes – we are golden!

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