There once was a time where the options for a legitimate pair of weightlifting shoes were meager, but now is not that time. Call them what you want: oly shoes, squat shoes, high heels. Weightlifting went from being a niche Olympic sport, to one of the biggest trends in fitness. So, of course, the options of footwear for it would blow up accordingly.
You’ll still find your major players, Nike and Adidas, even Reebok joined the fray. But now we’re also seeing smaller start-up brands trying to get a piece of the pie too. What is really interesting is that while the big brands are constantly trying to evolve the technology behind weightlifting shoes, the smaller labels are sticking to tried and true older design. Since they’re building from the ground up, they’re paying more attention to what the community asks for, and is giving them what they want. Cleaner designs and of course, wooden heels. Nothing beats the sound that a wood heeled shoe makes on a platform.
When I first caught wind of the Velaasa Strakes, I was more than impressed by what early concepts of the shoe looked like. They looked like something Jon Snow would wear, if he was a weightlifter, and was a real person. The community thought so too, judging by the ridiculous amount of likes any picture I posted of them would get. That caught the attention of Lynden, the owner of Velaasa, which led to a meeting where I got to check out an early version of the Strakes first hand. From then, I was sold. The Strakes went to Kickstarter, were quickly funded, never got stuck in KS purgatory, and now are selling in-stock on their website. I’ve had the privilege of testing them out the past couple months and I can honestly say that while not without their faults, they’re my favorite weightlifting shoe right now.
I’m generally pretty fearful about products that are Kickstarted. You never know what the manufacturing is going to be like because of the nature of the funding or the general short history of the companies on there. The early model I looked at was a great sign of things to come, but since it was a prototype I couldn’t really gauge what the final construction would look like. Thankfully, the Strake’s don’t lack the build quality typically found from start-up shoe manufacturers.
The upper of the Strake’s are comprised from a few different materials: synthetic leather from the middle area to the toe box (which is reinforced), fabric around the ankle collar, mesh for the tongue, and TPU for the heel counter. The stitch work is done really well and combined with the robust materials, make the upper feel like a shoe that wasn’t the first of it’s kind. Everything goes well with each other and I think the shoe looks great overall, but I will admit that the logo size might be a bit much; although I do like the design of it.
The Strake’s are a blend of new and old – while the upper is more modernized, the heel uses a material we’ve all come to love on weightlifting shoes: wood. Why wood? Because it just works. It may be a little heavier than TPU, doesn’t flex easily and combined, typically more stable. Not to mention, it looks great! Overall weight for a men’s 10 is 20.32oz, not a light shoe at all, but not the heaviest either. The effective heel height is .86″/22mm and while there’s only that option right now, there are talks of optioning the shoe out with either lower or higher heels. What’s really cool is that you also get the option to customize the wood with colors and engravings!
It’s outsole returns to modern, with a close resemblance to the Romaleos 2, at least from the toe to the front of the shoe. There’s no torsion plate like more modern shoes because of the wooden heel, but the shoe still feels snappy when you jump. The rubber they use has a flat treading to it, but the compound is sticky even on the toughest of surfaces.
The upper is great, but not perfect. Some hotfixes or things I would change for the next revision are:
- The medial strap is a little flimsy feeling and could use some thickness. Also rework the velcro so that it has a gap in it for laces like the Legacy’s.
- O-Ring the strap goes into is a little weak feeling as well.
- There are some exposed “Flywire” bits, but they don’t look like they actually do anything. Maybe just change these to some vents.
- The reinforced toe box leads to a single, gigantic flex point (more on this later).
When sized correctly, I think that the Strake’s are going to please most people’s feet, but I fear that a lot of early order-ers might have ordered their sizing like their normal WL shoes; in which the Strake’s run small compared to. When I’m not sure what to order for WL shoes, I always just go with my normal training shoe size. If it’s big, which it usually is, I’ll just deal with it, but in this case I lucked out because the shoes run nearly identical to a training shoe in size. For normal and narrow feet, size exactly like your NORMAL shoe size. For wider feet or if you like a little bit of space in your shoes, you’ll need to go up by at least a half, maybe even a full size! My shoes fit snug, which is fine for WL shoes, but even still I think I could go up by a half size.
Aside from sizing quirks, I love the way the Strake’s fit! The most standout thing for me is that the heel-toe drop feels gradual and neutral, with no arch support. The inside feel of the shoe is very reminiscent of my favorite WL shoes, the ASICS 727. Width is perfect for my feet, but the shoe isn’t the widest overall and I would say it’s just a touch more so than Adipowers in the midfoot and around the same at the toebox, which is a bit flatter.
While the lacing scheme isn’t fancy, it works well. I appreciate it when I don’t need to break a sweat to get my foot in or out of a shoe. Laces are the round type and stay tied well enough for me to not use the medial strap.
My sizes for reference:
- Romaleos 2/3 – 9.5
- Adipower – 9.5
- Leistung – 10
- Position – 10
- Legacy – 9.5
- Nano – 10
- Metcon – 10
When it comes to this section for weightlifting shoes, I’m usually not as critical since of their more specialized nature, but this is the weakest area of the Velaasa lifters. Even still, they’re not far off from most weightlifting shoes either, which in nature are just designed to be rigid, so it’s almost hard to fault them at all.
Synthetic fabrics always need a breaking in before they become any kind of comfortable, and the Strake’s are no exception. Initially, they’re going to feel pretty snug when you get them on, but they’ll eventually loosen up after a few sessions. The material itself isn’t too stiff, but where it gets doubled up at the toe box lies the issue – it ends up creating a single flex point where your metatarsal joints are. While this is the area you would want a WL shoe to be flexible at, which they are, it also creates a fold that jams into the top of your foot which can be distracting. It doesn’t detract from hitting split jerks, but you’re definitely going to notice it. Otherwise, the outsole actually does a great job in flexing in that area.
Overall breathability could get a re-work too, once again this just comes with the territory of synthetic materials. There are perforations on the sides of the shoe, but they don’t do a ton to let air in. It’s not a huge issue like it would be on a training shoe since usually your feet get time to rest in between lifts while weightlifting, but these are definitely not shoes I would wear to do a metcon in. Probably won’t be an issue for most users, but worth noting.
Every minor issue I’ve had with the Strake’s, I can ignore because of just how much I like lifting in these shoes. Stability is almost a given, but how balanced the shoes feel when lifting is something even the big brands can’t achieve. Like I said earlier, the Strake’s are my current favorite lifter.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with shoes that have TPU heels, which don the construction of most weightlifting shoes we see out there being used in competition. Even in this plastic age we live in, wooden heel’s still make themselves out to the floor from time to time. Some of the best lifters in the world are still using classically designed shoes, because they just work. Neither is far better or worse than the other and it just comes down to preference.
Power delivery and responsiveness is excellent from the Strake’s. There’s no torsion system like on modern weightlifting shoes, but jumping feels snappy and the extra weight from the shoes lends itself to a very stable landing. For the Velaasa’s, balance is king. Since the inner area of the shoe is more on the neutral side, it’s easy to balance out and correct your feet when you need to. I’m also a little more posterior dominant, so when there’s any kind of arch, it usually makes me rock off my toes and back; an issue I haven’t had with the Strake’s. The outsole of the shoe is also really flat so you can get excellent leg drive through the first pull especially. It also slightly flares out around the balls of your feet to give you more contact area with the ground.
Why more weightlifting shoes don’t have real heel counter is beyond me, but the Strake’s make up for everyone by offering the beefiest one around. Other than just being large in area, it cups around your heel and extends from there to the middle of your foot. Any kind of lateral foot roll is almost non-existent in these shoes. And like I mentioned earlier, the outsole rubber is one of the best I’ve tested in terms of grip. You’ll feel secure on anything from dusty rubber gym mats to freshly cleaned platforms.
At $250, the Strake’s cost a bit more than the big brand options and definitely are not cheap. Fully optioned out with the customized heel (stain and engraving), they’ll set you back a mean $310! I’m sure the higher costs is from having a smaller production run than a giant company would have.
You might be asking yourself: “What am I getting for that price?”, that you’re not getting from the competition. Unfortunately, I can’t honestly tell you that the they’re better than some of the big names, but that’s because everyone is looking for something a little bit different in WL shoes. What I can tell you is that they’re a solid, balanced, competition ready pair of weightlifting shoes, that look really cool, are well-made/designed and will set you apart from the pack. For me and the way that I lift, they’re amazing and I absolutely love to use them. You’ll also get the satisfaction of knowing that you’re supporting an American business, the little guy in trying to feed his family. As a fellow business owner, I feel that’s worth the extra bit and I highly recommend the Velaasa Strake’s.
- Extremely balanced feeling shoe.
- Really, really cool looking in either colorway.
- Premium materials and build quality.
- The crease at the metatarsal joint’s presses into your feet.
- Not the most breathable shoe.
- A bit on the pricey side.
- Logo can be a little bit big for some people.
- Sizing can be tricky.