Thanks to an old college injury that I didn’t give enough time to heal, my back is particularly sensitive to poor form in the gym. Up until this point, the fixes I’ve used have encompassed a near-obsessive focus on body positioning, lots of foam-rolling, lying on tennis balls and, now, these alien-looking shoes called Skinners.
Their makers tout these not-quite-sneakers as being a sometimes replacement for athletic shoes. Promotional videos show them being worn in airports, on trail runs and hikes. I did none of these things while wearing Skinners, and frankly, I’m a little skeptical as to how well they would hold up to hard use.
Essentially, they’re a thick synthetic sock with a grippy, almost asphalt-like rubber bottom. They’re washable, incredibly packable and offer an unparalleled connection between your feet and the ground. That’s not ideal for trail running, in my opinion, but when it comes to leg day? I’m hooked.
To be able to firmly plant my feet on the ground while lifting has given me a better sense of balance and has helped me fine-tune my weight distribution. In turn, that’s led to marginal but noticeable improvements in my form, resulting in heavier lifts. Now, wearing traditional shoes while deadlifting feels clumsy, like trying to untie a knotted string while wearing winter gloves.
Sure, I could alternatively wear no shoes at all, but I’m not particularly keen on walking around my gym barefoot (and I’m nearly positive that my gym wouldn’t even allow it). What’s more, the bottoms of my feet aren’t quite as grippy as the rough rubber bottoms on Skinners, which matters when doing something like split leg squats.
Skinners recommends wearing its footwear with thin ankle socks, but I didn’t take that advice. They’re more comfortable to wear sans-socks and washing is simple enough. All you have to do is turn them inside out, throw them in a mesh bag and put it in the washer on a gentle cycle with the rest of your clothes.
The only real drawback here is the price. Skinners provided Gear Patrol with a sample pair for review, and while I genuinely like them a lot, the nearly $60 asking price for something that is essentially a sock feels a little steep. But if you, like me, really give a damn about getting those small but noticeable improvements in the gym, it might just be worth it.
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