NOTE: Previously, when I first exhibited this piece in 1998, I recommended a cheap jogger from Wal Mart, that sold for $9.95. They had "solid rubber soles" and laced up. Then all you had to do was add an extra 1/2" or so of heel for balance. Adding the raised heels cost an extra $12.00 to $15.00, and these shoes worked great for Olympic lifting. However, recently I was told by Wal Mart that the fore mentioned shoes were not a good seller. So they've discontinued them in favor of a similar type shoe, but with velcro straps.
I personally do not recommend shoes with velcro straps for lifting. They will work for beginners, but as the lifter advances to heavy weights, you'll need something with the features listed below. The only other type of lifting foot wear, that I've seen that does work adequately for lifting, are certain types of hiking boots!
UPDATE, Oct 2002: Within the last year I procured some closeout bowling shoes from a bowling supply web site. They have hard rubber soles with no give, lace all the way down to my toes, plus they have enough of a heel where I didn't need to add anything. And the best part was they only cost me $9.90 brand new.
Also, around August 2002, I discovered that Wal Mart was carrying the old style sneakers. These sold for $9.95 and have a solid rubber sole. So I bought a pair for back sided squats, but I feel that with a heel added they would also work well for Olympic lifting.
FEATURES NEEDED ON LIFTING SHOES
1. A shoe with a solid sole! Solid rubber or leather will work. Not something that is cushiony! Many shoe manufacturers these days make the soles of their shoes with hollow spots that they then fill with a soft spongy substance. These will NOT work well as lifting shoes.
2. When considering a shoe for lifting purposes you want something that you can cinch up tightly to your foot. Preferably something that has eyelet's that lace right down to the toe area.
3. Finally the upper part of the shoe should be made of a material that is strong enough to provide adequate support, but also flexible enough to allow movement back and forth when pivoting under a split jerk.
NOTE: Some manufacturers' Olympic lifting shoes, that cost well in excess of $100.00, are NOT always appropriate! Example: If the shoes have inserted raised heels, extending down into the arch area, many times this insert is made of wood and will not bend. Thus when a lifter split jerks under the bar, his or her rear foot can not bend at the arch sufficiently. This, in turn, could cause a lifter's rear foot to pivot up onto just the toes taking the ball of the lifter's foot out of the picture, and this action could compromise the lift as well as the lifter's safety. In my opinion, it best to have the arch of the lifting shoe flexible. To test the shoe, simply try to bend the shoe in your hands to 90 degrees. If it doesn't bend at the arch the fore mention problems could occur.