This year, the Converse All-Stars, or Chuck Taylors, turned 100 years old, and the design has remained mostly the same. The iconic cotton canvas with rubber toe cap and flat sole is the perfect mix of minimalist design and functionality. But what is it about this shoe that makes it such a popular workout shoe? It is not just a fashion statement. As it turns out a pair of Chucks has unique design features that make it the preferred footwear for many workout junkies.
The Upper Canvas Material
The most popular material of Chuck Taylors has always been cotton canvas. The canvas allows for an easy fit while keeping the shoe light and flexible. The canvas also allows for better movement between the sock and shoe, helping prevent blisters. The cheesecloth like fabric allows the shoe to easily “breathe,” giving added comfort to the wearer during hard labor or workout. Furthermore, when pushing your feet laterally against the ground like in a squat, deadlift, or kettlebell swing, the material allows the wearer to more easily “spread the ground apart.” This helps keep the knees out and glutes activated.
The Flat Rubber Sole
All-Stars have a flatter sole than most other shoes. The flat sole keeps your foot close to the floor and more firmly planted to the ground. This will make pushing through your heels significantly easier. The sole gives you the ability to exert more energy into the ground rather than being cushioned by the shoe. This is important since you you will lose energy on an unstable surface such as the sole of a running shoe. The more efficient transfer of energy into the ground when wearing Chucks allows for better leg contraction throughout the lift. This will lead to better gains and better technique over the course of your training.
Powerlifter, inventor, strength coach, founder of Westside Barbell and one of only five lifters to total Elite in five different powerlifting weight classes, Louie Simmons, perhaps said it best: “As far as shoes go, Converse Chuck Taylors are best. Don’t have $100 shoes and a 10-cent squat.”
High and Low Top
Many people who workout in a pair of Chucks tend to have more than one pair. Typically they have a high-top pair and a low-top pair. The rationale behind this is that high-tops give you some ankle compression and support while the low-top option provides increased ankle mobility. Both options have their benefits. A little extra ankle support can often be the difference in making a rep or keeping good form. Other times having a bit more mobility can help strengthen ankles and feet while giving you a bit more range of motion.
Of all the workout shoes on the market today, Chucks are far from the most expensive. They are typically priced between $40-$60. This is in part due to their minimalist design, having less overall material than other shoes. But that is not to say they are poor quality. If properly taken care of, they will last years.
Color and Customization
Chuck Taylors come in every color of the rainbow and then some. You will always be able to find a pair to match with your favorite gym outfit, allowing for increased variety in your workout wardrobe. Many Converse stores also offer custom made Chuck Taylors at their stores. The canvas is a perfect template for whatever design you wish to showcase on your feet.
As mentioned above, Chucks are not very expensive. This makes it easier to have multiple pairs of Chucks to match any outfit or occasion.
Cultural Impact and Iconic-ness
Chuck Taylors have toured with some of the most influential rock musicians of the past century, including Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, Nirvana, The Grateful Dead, The Ramones, Green Day, Avril Lavigne, Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, Jason Mraz, Miley Cyrus and The Strokes.
Hip-Hop also accepted the shoe as part of the culture in the 1990s, seen by Tupac’s California love reference with the line: “In LA we wear Chucks, not Bally’s.”
Also in Snoop Dogg’s “Lodi Dodi”, where Snoop references Chuck Taylors in the line: “threw on my white sox, with my all blue chucks.”
According to Hal Peterson’s Chucks! The Phenomenon of Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars and the website Chucks Connection, almost five hundred films and television shows have featured actors wearing Chuck Taylors, including The Sandlot, Grease, Rocky, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Stand By Me, Jurassic World, I, Robot, Sin City, and A Beautiful Mind. David Tennant also notably wore three different colored pairs of Chuck Taylors throughout his run as the doctor on Doctor Who.
A pair of Chuck Taylors are maybe the most versatile shoes you can own. Not many other shoes work so well before, during, and after a workout. Whether you are playing basketball, squatting, rocking out, at the club or on a date, you are never out of place wearing a pair of All-Stars. These shoes are proof that less is more and that you don’t have to pay a lot for the best workout results, and you get to look cool doing it.