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Position USA Blue Suede Shoes 2.1 Review

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It seems like just yesterday I was writing the review for one of my favorite pairs of WL shoes of the year, the Position USA Blue Suede Shoes. I loved them, they worked well for me and I really had no issues lifting in them except that the pair I got was a bit too big for me. Most of all, they were arguably the coolest pair of weightlifting shoes on the market. Just as I put out that review, Position announced the Blue Suede Shoe 2.1, a version of their shoe that was slightly updated. Enhancements included a slightly higher heel, a more fitted feel, and a Vibram outsole. Being a big fan of the 2.0’s, I was skeptical about just how much better they could make their shoe. There has been a ton of requests for this review and it’s taken me 6 months to get my hands on a pair, but they’re finally here, so let’s get started.

Looks/Construction/Fit:

Despite the changes, the main points that distinguish the Blue Suedes are still here: suede-leather upper construction, hand carved wood heel, and the sexy blue color scheme. To the untrained eye, you wouldn’t even be able to visibly tell the difference between the two former and latter. The entire shoe remains the same in appearance with the only major changes being on the medial strap and the heel being stained a darker color. I have absolutely no issues with this, the looks were probably the main selling point of the original shoes and they still remain one of the strongest points of the Blue Suedes. The inclusion of a darker stained heel makes for an even classier look. For those looking for a not so “out there” color scheme, Position is releasing their “Redford” and “Eastwood” models in January.

From the wood heels being carved and stained to the uppers being sewn together, each pair is hand crafted and takes over a day’s work of labor to finish. Since the Blue Suedes are made in smaller batches versus your commercially mass produced shoes, there’s a story behind each one.  You’ll notice this in how not often certain sizes are in stock, but unfortunately also in the construction of the shoe, maybe the person that was making my shoes was just having a bad day. There are hot spots inside of the shoe where the metatarsal joints are, both on top and under the insole. On top it comes from where the tongue meets the toe box area, and on bottom it feels like its from the upper being stitched under the insole.  I usually have issues with my right foot rubbing in this area since I have a bunion, but with the P2.1’s it’s in the left shoe.  Oddly enough the majority of the fit issues are in my left shoe, though the right shoe suffers the same to some degree.

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Other issues include the logo already fraying and becoming un-stitched from the tongue, the loop for the medial strap not staying in place only on the right shoe, and the straps and laces being much longer than they need to be. The most alarming issue is that it feels like the heels are coming loose. I noticed this straight away when going to remove my left shoe, which once again is worse than my right shoe. You could alleviate this issue by not pulling your shoes off by the heels (totally normal to do though), but this shouldn’t be happening; I’ve never run into an issue like this with any of my lifters and I don’t remember it happening with the P2.0’s. It doesn’t feel like the heels are going to fall off anytime soon, but that’s not a good sign for lasting durability.

Like all Olympic lifting shoes, you’re going to want to make sure you size down half from your normal training shoes. While the P2.1’s have a slightly narrower fit than the P2.0s, I wouldn’t say that it’s enough to warrant going half a size up. The suede they use is fairly supple and should stretch a little bit over time. When I tried these on at the CrossFit Games I was worried they’d be too snug, but the pair that I have fits well, aside from the hot spots. Make sure you lace up tightly because you might get a bit of heel lift otherwise.

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Performance:

Fit and construction issues aside, the P2.1’s remain one of my preferred pairs of lifting shoes. Picking weight up has never been as fun as it is in the Position’s. Having just reviewed the Legacy Lifters, anything feels like a feather compared to them (20.03oz). According to my scale, the Positions weigh in at 16.37oz, only slightly higher than the leading shoes in weightlifting, the Nike Romaleos and Adidas AdiPowers. Moving your feet isn’t an issue, and the forefoot flexibility is actually much better than the popular picks probably because of the supple suede.

The greatest change to the P2.1’s is the decision to go from a .85″ heel to a 1″ effective heel; the majority of the weightlifting shoes fall into the 3/4″ category, .85″ included. The only other shoe I’ve tested with as high a heel was the Adidas Leistung’s, in which I wasn’t a huge fan of for cleaning because I felt the tendency to catch forward in them. Something about the way the heel to toe drop is more gradual in the P2.1’s makes me not have this issue to the same degree as the Adidas shoes. Cleans always feel more forward in shoes with a heel but front squats felt as right they do in other Olympic lifting shoes. I typically receive snatches in a very upright torso position to compensate for my shoddy thoracic mobility, and the P2.1’s one inch heel increases my ability to do so, which helps me out big time. Heel height is subjective and very debatable, but I haven’t had any issues with the 1″ heel of the P2.1’s. Typically, I would recommend a higher heel for those with longer femurs and/or crappy ankle dorsiflexion.

EDIT: Trying on multiple pairs of weightlifting shoes side by side and finding that the Postitions feel lower, prompted me to go back and actually go measure the difference between the toe and the heel of the P2.1’s. What I came back with interestingly is that the difference is actually 16mm or .63″. The actual heel itself is 1″ or the stated 2.54cm. Theres no real way to measure accurately, but according to these approximate measurements, there is no way the shoes can be an effective 1″ heel. This is probably why I was able to lift proficiently in the Positions compared to most shoes with a 1″ heel.


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Since the heel is also elevated more than normal Oly shoes, I have an easier time keeping my toes down throughout my extension; rocking back to my heels is a bad habit I have. Jumping feels natural and since the shoes are so responsive, I can move my feet with ease. The Vibram rubber outsole is extremely dense and paired with the wooden heel, should give you perfect power delivery with every lift. I was very excited to hear that one of the upgrades was the Vibram outsole, but there’s no pattern to it so the grip isn’t a huge upgrade over previous P2.0 – bummer. The insoles are also pretty anemic, as they are on most oly shoes, but at least they’re removable so you can swap them out with any orthotics.

While weightlifting is a joy in the P2.1’s, I recommend that’s what you stick to in the Blue Suedes. Just to test, I did a WOD which consisted of heavy power cleans and ring dips. While the shoes performed excellent during the ring dips, I had issues quickly setting myself into a low enough position to rep out the power cleans, so I ended up using my back for a lot of them. That and while the shoes are flexible, they aren’t flexible enough to be doing WOD’s in, so the plantar fascia burn was real.  Stick to weightlifting and squats where you can set yourself up better, in the P2.1’s.

Did I mention the P2.1’s make the absolute most bad ass sound when you stomp?!


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Value:

At $190, the P2.1’s fall in line with pretty much every pair of good weightlifting shoes out there. You really have to ask yourself if the style is for you, and if you would benefit from a 1″ heel. With a bit of practice, the 1″ heel could definitely be your ally; just look at the Chinese weightlifting team. Even if blue isn’t your color, you now have the option to go with a black/red or white/black color scheme. I’ve asked what other differences there were between the shoes and it’s just the color and some materials used, otherwise they’re all the same.

You could always opt for a mass produced technologically advanced lifting shoe like everyone else, but Position USA created the Blue Suede Shoes for those that march to the beat of their own drum. With that in mind, they’ve created something that actually feels special to wear, though I’m not getting rid of my Legacy’s anytime soon. Construction shortcomings aside, the Blue Suede Shoes are still one of my favorite pairs to lift in, because there’s just an undeniable badassery you attain from having them on.

Get your Blue Suede Shoes here! Use code: AMRAP for 10% off!

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NoBull Lifter Review

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NoBull has been absolutely crushing the functional fitness market this past year. People looking to set themselves apart from the usual suspects have been flocking to the NoBull name and not looking back. For good reason, they’re making top quality products that work as well as they look. It all started with a quirky shoe called the Surplus Trainer, which was a lot different than the rest in looks, but could stand toe to toe performance wise with the big dogs. I was a big fan of this shoe (you can read my review here), and I still think it’s one of the best training shoes out there.

The newest member of the NoBull family happens to be their take on the Olympic lifting segment. Necks were broken around the world when NoBull announced their Olympic lifting shoe a little earlier in the year. It’s striking design cues were unlike anything else; a little bit Surplus trainer, a little Timberland, a little oxford, and a little AdiStar. Interestingly enough, all of those elements make for one of the best looking fitness shoes to date and definitely one of the best looking pairs of Olympic lifting shoes. Of course, all of that badassery comes at a cost and the most important question arises:

“Are they worth it?”

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Looks & Construction:

Like the Surplus Trainer, the build quality of the Lifters are second to none. No loose glue or ill stitching to be found anywhere on the myriad of superfabric, leather and leather. I had to reiterate the latter because unbeknownst to me until I was recently, the heel is made from stacked leather and not wood. In my defense, it looks like wood, it feels as hard as wood; it’s just not wood. The craftsmanship that’s been put into making each heel is insane because you can’t really tell the difference, not that they’re trying to hide anything.

The combination of the black superfabric and mocha brown leather counter make for some of the best looking shoes, period. The simplicity of the design is a little offset by the technical look of the superfabric, but that’s only if you really want to nitpick; you’d be hard pressed to find someone that thinks these are ugly. NoBull didn’t skimp on the details either, the tongue is also made of leather, you get to pick from either the multi-colored boot laces or burnished black leather laces, and inside each medial strap is stamped: “#NoExcuses”.

The leather already looks amazing, but will only get cooler looking with age. I can’t wait to see what my Lifters will look like in a few years; a few months even, with the amount that I’m going to be wearing them. Everything about the way this shoe is presented, makes them already feel like they’re worth the price tag.

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Performance:

While you might be able to get away with wearing the NoBull Lifters to a wedding, they wouldn’t be worth a damn if they weren’t functional, but that’s just not the case. The total heel height is about 1.25″ but the effective is about .73″, or 18.5mm depending on what side of the pond you’re on. NoBull went with roughly the same heel height you’ll find on the most popular, such as the Nike Romaleos and Adidas Adipowers. We’ve been seeing a trend of manufacturers toying around with heel heights lately, but this height seems to be the most optimal. Unlike the big names, the NoBulls have a more gradual heel drop, which I greatly prefer over the more pronounced style. The shoes feel less clunky, especially when trying to keep my toes down, allowing me to get better extension in my lifts. Not to mention that they’re a lot easier on your plantar fascia.

Though the Lifters use the same superfabric as the Surplus Trainers through the vamp of the shoe, the Lifters feel slightly more flexible. The crease at the top of the toebox that bugged me about the Surplus Trainers is almost nonexistent. Movement feels natural and unhindered, going hand in hand with the more gradual drop. Flexibility in the forefoot of the shoe is excellent, which leads to a more comfortable step and split position. I never feel like I’m being forced into any positions, which almost gives it a trainer-like feel; the main reason I prefer lifting in trainers. These could be a great indoor WOD shoe for lifting metcons, but personally I’d avoid taking them outside just because I’d be weary about thrashing them.

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One slight concern to me was that the Lifter’s heel was made out of leather, and not wood. Leather heels are usually found in dress shoes, so the decision to include them in Olympic lifting shoes is interesting. Leather is a softer material and under enough weight, could deform.  Which leads back to the age old debate on whether the EVA heel on budget weightlifting shoes could depress under enough weight. On the NoBull Lifters, if I were to press down on the edges of the outsole, I can depress the heel. To a much, much lesser , neigh unnoticeable degree than EVA, but yes, I can still do it. When I try doing that to the middle part of the heel, I can’t depress it at all. Most people, like 90% of people out there, will never be able to get the heel to depress under normal circumstances; the other 10% are probably already sponsored by Nike or Adidas. Even weightlifters in the Olympics were putting up massive weight with shoes that had EVA heels.

You’ll be fine with the NoBull Lifters.

The concern of the heel being leather was quickly laid to rest after I started lifting in the NoBull’s. They just simply have the best combination of mobility, stability and power delivery that I’ve come across yet in weightlifting shoes. Everything including cleans, snatches, squats felt great from the get go. Usually you’d have to spend time “breaking in” shoes, which more literally means getting accustomed to fit and feel; but the moment I started lifting in the NoBull Lifters, felt like I had been lifting in them for years. I always like to say that the best shoes are the ones you put on and forget about, so you can just worry about the task at hand. Even after my lifting sessions were done, I didn’t even bother switching back to my regular shoes. They’re even comfortable enough to wear while coaching.

On the plus side, the stacked leather heel on the NoBull’s leads to a slightly lighter shoe. I weighed the Lifters at 15.69 oz. For comparisons sake, I weighed the Nike Romaleos at 16.8 oz, which is roughly what I remember my Adipowers being at, though I don’t own them anymore.

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Fit:

I took a leap of faith when ordering the NoBull Lifters, because historically my sizing has been weird with their Surplus Trainers; I didn’t know how much I should size down. My Surplus Trainers were size 9.5, but they’re fairly tight on me, which leads me to believe a size 10 would have been better. I wear a size 9 in EVERY pair of lifters that I own (I’ve tried 9.5’s but they’re always too big), so I went with that in the NoBull Lifters. Initially I thought they were slightly tight, but I couldn’t get an exchange so I just went with it. I’m glad I made the decision to just use them, because they actually fit me perfectly. The ONLY case where I might recommend you going up half a size is if your foot is extremely wide. NoBull’s superfabric allows for a pretty good amount of stretch in the forefoot, but it’s still overall a tad on the narrow side.

For reference, here are my sizes:

  • Reebok Nano 6: 10
  • Nike Metcon 2: 9.5
  • Romaleos/Adipowers: 9
  • Chuck Taylors: 9

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Value & Conclusion:

I’m sure by now you’re pretty much sold on the NoBull Lifters, but let me tell you, they’re not cheap. After everything was all said and done, the NoBull’s set me back $321.43 after tax, but with free shipping. That’s the most I’ve spent on any shoe, period. As previously mentioned, quality comes at a cost.  Though the NoBull Lifters are definitely an amazing pair of shoes, they’re probably not going to put 20kg on your snatch. I feel like I value these more, because they cost me so much, but since they’re such excellent performing shoes, I don’t have a single bit of buyers remorse. Which happens to me quite often!

These are a quality pair of lifters and should last you for many, many years to come. They’re made using age old, traditional shoe crafting techniques. Even if you were to burn out the outsole, you could probably just take them to any competent shoe cobbler and get another one glued on. If you stopped spending $20 a day on fast food, for 15 day’s you’d have enough to buy the NoBull Lifters, which would last you much longer. Hell, I could not go out for a couple weekends and that would be enough to buy another pair.

I know not many people are going to be willing to shell out $300+ dollars on a pair of lifting shoes; and to those people, the current staples of lifting shoes will do you just fine. If you’re a person that just simply needs the best, loves well crafted shoes, or just has a ton of disposable income, then you need the NoBull Lifters. It might sound like I’m riding NoBull’s jock, but I really am blown away by the Lifters; NoBull has pulled no punches in creating an immaculate pair of weightlifting shoes. I’ll continue to try out new Olympic weightlifting shoes as they come out (I’m talking about you, Romaleos 3’s!), but I couldn’t imagine shoes getting much better than the NoBull Lifters.

Pre-orders start 10/14!

NoBull Lifter

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Position USA Blue Suede Shoes 2.0 Review

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“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

In sports these days, manufacturers are constantly trying to one up their competitors by coming out with new space age fabrics and cutting edge technology for their products, namely their shoes. Most of it sounds like some mumbo jumbo you’d hear in a sci-fi B-movie. I’m sure it’s all done in good conscience and I get it, they’re trying to get you to ditch your “old” shoes for a shiny new, more technologically advanced pair. Adidas has come out with a couple new weightlifting shoes within the last few years, but if you look at the top weightlifters, they’re still using AdiPowers. Some even are clinging to their 2008 AdiStar’s, which are still one of the most sought after pairs of weightlifting shoes.


What’s the secret? They just work.

So what makes the 2008 AdiStar’s such a popular shoe if they’re generations old?  Full grain leather, a wooden heel, and rubber. There were some technological advances over the 2004 model, but for the most part the bread and butter remained the same. Another insanely popular shoe that’s still being used in competition today are the Asics 727 Tiger’s, that are the staple shoe for the DPRK. Once again, nothing fancy, not even a medial strap and those dudes are lifting the shit out of things.

Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, Position looks to take what’s worked for centuries and bring it back with their Blue Suede Shoes.

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Construction & Looks:

As if I haven’t already said enough about this, but the Blue Suede Shoes are finely crafted from what all shoes used to be made of. The leather upper is soft and has a suede look to it. Obviously there’s only one colorway, but the shade of my blue suede shoes is a lot lighter looking that the ones you’ll find on the website’s description; there’s a disclaimer explaining why this is so. Each pair of shoes is handmade so no two shoes are going to be identical, but rest assured that the level of craftsmanship remains excellent in the Blue Suede Shoes. You can see minor imperfections here and there, but I think it adds character to the shoe.

Imagine you cooked a burger fresh off the grill at your own backyard boogie versus getting a burger from McDonalds™. Both look like burgers, but one has a unique, fresh look to it while you already knew what the McDonalds™ burger was going to look like. The former  is unique and almost always tastes better because of that love that you put into making it (and because it’s not McDonalds™). That’s kind of what you’re getting with the Blue Suede Shoes compared to mass produced shoes.

Yes, I just compared weightlifting shoes to burgers.

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Fit:

Position’s BSS are some of the most generous fitting oly shoes that I’ve ever put on. If you’ve got wide feet, these are the shoes for you. Usually I have an issue with the toe boxes of oly shoes being a bit narrow, but with the BSS have a nice wide vamp area making them very comfortable to wear in between lifts. Since the leather upper is so soft, there’s also virtually no “break-in” period with these shoes. Just lace em up and let er’ rip. Keep in mind that leather uppers do break in after time and getting your “true” size might not be the best idea. I have a pair of size 9.5’s, but I should have gotten 9’s as the leather has stretched a little with wear. Thankfully you do have a medial strap that allows you to really lock the shoes down

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Performance:

Not saying the shoes of today are incompetent lifting shoes, but lifting with the BSS really feels special. It’s gives you a sense of raw-ness, since this is the platform that weightlifting evolved from. TPU heels for weightlifting are a relatively new thing, afterall. Since wood is in-compressible, you can rest assured that you’ll be getting maximum power output with every drive.  The effective heel height of the BSS is slightly taller than the more commonly produced shoes, at .875″ compared to the standard .75″. Total heel height is 1.25″. Not quite as tall as the Leistung’s I tested earlier in the year (effective 1″, total 1.5″), but to me that’s a good thing as I found the Leistung’s to be a little too tall. Theoretically, having a higher heel will lead to a more upright torso, which can be a problem area for those with bad mobility.

 

While the Blue Suede Shoes have a slightly higher heel, it’s almost undetectable yet every landing still feels as solid as a rock. Those familiar with a raised heel should have no problems getting used to the added .1″ and those that needed the extra bit for mobility reasons will relish in the added height.  Though my hip/ankle mobility is pretty good, my upper back’s is not, so the more upright I catch, the less internally rotated I am, and my shoulders will thank me down the line. Personally, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so sure lifting in any oly’s as I do in the Blue Suede Shoes.

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Value:

Comfort, style, workmanship and performance don’t come cheap with the Blue Suede Shoes. They retail for $190 $140 (Since the release of the 2.1’s, the 2.0’s have dropped significantly) and don’t really go on sale, though you can find some coupon codes from sponsored athletes online. Another huge benefit to having some “old school” shoes, is that you’re going to be able to repair them if they somehow fail you. Since the materials are pretty basic, any competent shoe cobbler is going to be able to doctor them up. That’s probably not going to be the same with synthetic materials or TPU heels.

Also, the shoes are not without their faults. A couple small gripes I have are that the shoes have very long shoe laces and the insoles are kind of cheapo. Not a big deal either way, I could always switch the laces out and the insoles are removable anyways. Another area that could have used a little more attention is the outsole rubber, as I don’t find it as grippy as other shoes I’ve tested.

$190 sounds steep, but if you’re serious about oly lifting and you wanted to set yourself apart from the mainstream, the Position USA Blue Suede Shoes are definitely the way to go. They combine performance with style in a timeless aesthetic and that will certainly not go unnoticed in your lifts or in the gym.

$190 http://positionusa.com/

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