This is a blog article I have been wanting to write for a long time. I know I am going to get some push back for this but so be it. In all the competitions I have been to, it never fails, I see athletes with gym bags full of hundreds of dollars worth of gear, lifting shoes, weight belts, voodoo floss, kinesiology tape, wrist wraps, knee sleeves, etc. So much money is being spent by athletes on all types of stuff. So the question is, do you really need any of this?
Lets start with shoes. I start here because this is where I will get the most push back. Let me start by saying I do not get paid, i wish i did, by any specific brand. When it comes down to shoes the biggest question I get asked is what kind of shoes should i buy? My typical response is, “what shoes are on your feet right now? Those will be fine.” You do not need any special shoes when you first start! I am a nano guy myself but if you have metcons great, inov-8’s those work too. The problem is most go all out and buy fancy shoes before they ever worry about technique. The shoes will not fix your crappy technique. Louie Simmons says “don’t have $100 pair of shoes and a 10 cent squat”. I whole heartedly agree with that statement. Next is what most refer to as “lifters” or weightlifting shoes. Hear is where I stand on this issue. Most do not need lifters, f you are just just someone who works out casually. I think we get so caught up in this world that you need lifters in order to be a better lifter. Powerlifters have been lifting in converse sneakers for years and have lifted amazing amounts of weight. Lifters are a luxury item and are not required if you are not a competitive weightlifter. If you are a weightlifter, lifters should be part of your equipment bag similar to cleats for football players. CrossFit athletes and recreational lifters should learn to lift and squat in low profile shoes. I say this because you should be working all ranges of motion of your joints and lifters take away the need to have full dorsiflexion of your ankles. I can go on for days on this subject but to stress, the shoes don’t make a lifter. Learn skill and get strength first, then worry about new shoes.
Next let’s talk weight belts. Another popular item I get asked about, should I get a lifting belt? Again the question I ask is “how serious are you?” Most athletes should not be concerned about a lifting belts. I always suggest strengthening your back and abdominals, to include your forgotten obliques, before worrying about belts. Hell most people don’t even know how belts work or how to wear them. Just because you put a piece of fabric on your waist does not mean your back is supported. In fact I usually stress lifters don’t wear belts because they tend to trick you into thinking you have support and in turn you become lazy and hurt your back because you fail to tighten it before you lift. Mel Siff writes that belts don’t keep your back flat at all but rather work as a placebo and make you aware of proper posture while you are lifting. Belts are great for the occasional max effort lifts but other than that I teach my athletes to learn proper body awareness rather than wear a belt, and if are going to wear a belt, for the love of burpees, learn how to wear it!
Onto knee sleeves and wraps. I think these are a good investment, however I feel people rely too heavily on them. Most people feel the need for compression, they like the way them feel and other have legitimate injuries. If you had an ACL tear then yes you should be wearing them. If you are working out for the sake of working out then wear them only when you need them. In the real world you probably wont have time to run and put on your knee sleeves before you do manual labor.
Finally, my favorite, kinesiology tape. It is not uncommon to show up to a competition and see people wrapped head to toe in tape. There is actually no peer reviewed study showing that the tape does anything for you. At most it provides a placebo effect for injured tissues. The tape gives you awareness of where you were injured and to pay attention in that area. I see so many athletes spending so much time and money on tape applied by un-trained people. If you are going to put the tape on, at least educate yourself on what you are trying to accomplish.
Now before I end this let me say that use whatever gear you want if you feel it makes you a better athlete. I bring up these points and these are far from an exhaustive list of the gear you can purchase. Always remember gear will not give you the personal record you are chasing, the only true way to set records is to practice moving well and hard work!