position usa review

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.

 


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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.

http://positionusa.com

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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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