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Squat shoes are essential for proper squat mechanics. For instance, they engage your quads and help you squat deeper. Despite their costly nature, you can still find affordable options with superb performance.
Let me help you with this! In this article, we’ll explore a list of the best squat shoes under $100.
Before we go into full details, I recommend the Adidas 3.1 Powerlift (click for availability and today's price on Amazon). These shoes have sturdy leather construction with a thick support strap and a 0.6” heel. Put simply, they're the best squat shoe that you can buy on a budget.
Ready to explore the other options? Let’s go.
Why Invest In Squat Shoes?
So, why can’t you just lift in any shoes, or even barefoot? As much as I want to save you those extra bucks, squat shoes can have a significant impact on your squat mechanics. How? Let’s explore some of their benefits.
They Engage Your Quads
Using heeled squat shoes allows you to reach deeper squats instantly. This directly activates your quads, especially the vastus medialis. This will give you higher strength gains without having to increase your mobility
Moreover, the vastus medialis is the main muscle responsible for stabilizing the patella, which is the small bone in your knees. Exercising this muscle will decrease the likelihood of developing chondromalacia patellae, which is fairly common among athletes.
They Protect Your Back
Squat shoes improve your squat kinematics by forcing your back to stay upright. This significantly lowers the pressure on your lower back and, subsequently, decreases injuries and post-workout pain.
They Can Help You Lift More
Believe it or not, wearing squat shoes might actually enable you to lift more. This is achieved through two features: the solid sole and the support straps.
The solid base allows for full force transfer to the weight you’re trying to lift. Using cushioned soles, on the contrary, consumes a lot of your power in their compression.
The support straps, together with the overall tight fit of squat shoes, make you feel as if you’re cemented to your place. This way, you’re more confident with heavier weights and Oly lifting.
They Increase Your Ankle Mobility
New lifters often express their inability to squat deeply because of how stiff their ankles are. Use squat shoes and this will immediately resolve!
Using heels shift the squat mechanics to your knees, which are far more mobile than your ankles.
They Are Sturdy and Durable
Running shoes are cool, but they’re no match for the 200 pounds you’re trying to lift. When you lift, you’d want shoes with strong material to withstand the lateral forces of your toes.
Squat shoes are usually made from thick leather, which is a perfect material in terms of strength. Investing in such material will guarantee that you get the most out of your hard-earned money.
5 Best Squat Shoes Under $100
When it comes to budget-friendly products, you’re always concerned about their function and durability. And that was my main focus when I did the research.
Next, we'll explore in detail what they have to offer, what could be better, and what I didn’t like. Without further delay, let's talk about the 5 best weightlifting shoes under $100!
Without any doubt, the Adidas 3.1 Powerlifting Shoes are the budget-friendly gold standard, especially the 3.1 edition.
Their upper is constructed from thick leather for the most part, which makes it tight on your feet. Adidas made it even thicker at the heel cup to prevent possible heel rolling under heavier weights.
The support strap is the most prominent update this model has. It’s a lot thicker and longer than the previous models. This makes them extremely easy to tight and secure.
But to be honest, Adidas constructed this sole with an acceptable level of hardness. It starts to feel somewhat compressible under extremely heavy weights. Therefore, these shoes are the go-to option for recreational lifters.
- Sturdy leather construction
- Thick and long support strap
- 0.6 heel height
- EVA sole
You probably haven't heard about the Sabo Powerlift Shoes before, and it’s understandable. They’re still relatively new in the market but they already came with superb weightlifting shoes at challenging prices.
These shoes have a lightweight plastic polymer sole. I couldn’t find any information regarding the material’s name, but all the reviews I found praised its stiffness and non-compressibility.
The outsole has broad and hard inserts that drastically improve the stability over any floor type.
The upper is made from medium-weight leather that’s not as hard as other squat shoes. For breathability, Sabo put nylon mesh around the heel collar and at each side of the laces.
The toe box size is the only thing that may not be suitable for everyone. It’s notably smaller than the average. But if you have narrow feet, this wouldn’t be a problem at all.
- Hard non-compressible sole
- Outsole non-slip inserts
- Leather/mesh construction
- The toe box can be somewhat tight for some people
If you’ve been struggling to find shoes that fit your wide feet without being oversized, then the Do-Win should be your obvious choice.
The upper is made from leather at the toe box and the heel cup. This leaves the nylon mesh around the shoe sides and the heel collar.
Some people may worry that the mesh on the sides will compromise the stability, but this doesn’t happen thanks to the double velcro support straps these shoes have. Considering the sole, it is constructed from sturdy TPU at a height of 0.75”.
Stitching might be a concern for some users. The small leather inserts on the sides are stitched over the nylon with pretty doubtful material.
The only complaint I have about them is the material bump at the base of the tongue. It can get pretty annoying to move with that material pressing on your pinky.
- Wide toe box
- Sturdy leather at the toe box and the heel cup
- Double support straps
- Doubtful long-term durability
- Material bump on the base of the tongue
VS Athletics Weightlifting Shoe 2 is another new brand that you may haven’t heard about before. Their first model had numerous positive reviews concerning the function. However, they had a pretty bad design.
This model combined the best of both worlds. VS Athletics replaced the rugged look with a smooth leather construction throughout the whole upper. The nylon mesh is limited to the heel collar and the tongue.
Although the toe box has ventilation holes, they are notably small. Therefore, moisture and sweat may easily build up inside.
Aside from this, these shoes offer a seamless squatting experience. They feature a TPU heel with a height of 1.4”.
Your feet will be secured in place by the double velcro support straps. I don’t like how close they’re to each other, though. VS could’ve made the second one slightly closer to the toe box to make it feel more secure.
- Smooth leather construction
- Double support straps
- 1.4” TPU heel
- Small ventilation holes
- Unevenly placed support straps
It goes without saying that these shoes are extremely durable and sturdy. They have a rubber sole that provides non-slip support over most floor types.
The upper has a well-stitched canvas construction. This material offers a superb combination of enduringness and breathability. The toe box is protected by a rubber cup to prevent the quite common wear that happens in this area.
This model features a high-top design. It’s worth noting that this design might limit your dorsiflexion to some extent. But aside from this, it gives your ankle an added sense of security, especially when you’re lifting heavier weights.
My only take about them is the classic design that hasn’t changed since they were released. I’d appreciate it if Converse considered adding new design tweaks like support straps.
If you have superior ankle hip mobility and prefer to squat in a wide stance, the Chuck Taylors are “tailored” for you, pun intended!
- Firm rubber heel
- Sturdy and breathable canvas construction
- Extra support for the ankles
- Classic design
- No support straps
Key Technology In Squat Shoes
The raised heel, the hard sole, and the support straps are the key technologies behind squat shoes. How do they improve your squat mechanics? Let’s find out!
This is the main feature that makes squat shoes stand out between all other shoe types. The raised heel increases your ankle range of motion. This allows you to instantly squat a lot deeper with more engagement of your quads.
Commercially, the most commonly used heel height is 0.75”. This is found to be the least height to cause discomfort, especially for people who are trying squat shoes for the first time.
Most weightlifters think that choosing the heel height depends on what makes you comfortable. And yes, your selected shoes have to be comfortable. But there are other factors that you should consider.
Higher heels fit tall athletes, those with limited ankles and those who prefer low bar squats with a narrow stance. If you’d like to know more on this subject, keep reading. We’ll explore all these factors in detail within the last section of this article.
Although it doesn’t provide the usual cushioning comfort, a stiff sole is essential for your squats. Standing on a solid non-compressible surface increases safety, stability, and force transfer.
Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) is the most commonly used material for the sole construction.
Without getting into technical details, TPU is made from hard plastic and soft rubber. This allows manufacturers to fine-tune its hardness without losing its sturdy nature. However, owing to the complicated manufacturing, it’s quite expensive.
Rubber can also be used to produce hard soles. The classic All-Star Chuck Taylor from Converse are probably the most famous shoes with rubber soles.
Like TPU, rubber is known for its hardness and sturdiness. But its most notable advantage is the low price. That’s why a Chuck Taylor pair costs around $50 only.
EVA is light-weight and somewhat flexible, which is the complete opposite of what you’d want for your squat shoes. That’s why it’s far more famous for running shoes.
Laces might suffice for running. They provide the necessary grip while allowing for some breathability. But for weightlifting, you need a much tighter grip around your feet, especially for the extreme Oly lifting.
That’s why nearly all weightlifting shoes feature a velcro support strap. It’s usually found around the midfoot region.
Some shoes, like Reebok’s Legacylifter, offer more security by incorporating another support strap over the balls of the feet.
It’s important to know that the support straps will likely be the first part to fail in your shoes, either due to poor stitching or worn velcro. Therefore, you should only buy shoes from reputable brands.
Is It Better To Squat In Flat Shoes (Without A Heel)?
There’s no short answer to that question. There are 6 things you need to consider before deciding. To keep this article nice and short, we’ll briefly discuss the most important ones.
If you have limited ankle mobility, your squat depth will increase by using heeled shoes. However, it’s important that you know the reason behind your limited dorsiflexion.
In most cases, it’s a direct result of how your bone interacts. In this case, there’s nothing you can do to correct it.
On the contrary, if muscles and ligaments are what’s limiting your movement, exercising your ankle to treat this issue is better than sufficing with heeled shoes.
If you have long femurs in relation to your shin bone, you’ll most likely lean forward during squats. This overloads your lower back, causing pain and injuries. Heeled shoes will easily correct this by keeping your torso upright.
The narrow squat stance demands high dorsiflexion. Therefore, it will be a lot easier to squat in heeled shoes.
High bar squats are usually done with an upright torso. This demands high dorsiflexion to be able to squat deep enough. Therefore, heeled shoes will be useful.
Low bar squats, on the other hand, can be performed in heels or flats. They have the back slightly leaning forward, which requires heels to correct. Nevertheless, they are usually done in a wide stance, in which the flats are preferred. So this is left to your personal preference.
Why You Shouldn’t Squat In Running Shoes
I occasionally see athletes using running shoes as cross-training shoes. While they can be comfy for running and jumping they are utterly wrong for weightlifting. Why? Let’s see.
The soles of the running shoes are soft and squishy, and they should be. Otherwise, all the repeated running forces will be loaded on your knees, increasing risks for injuries like the runner’s knee.
On the other hand, weightlifting needs are totally different. You want to press your feet over a hard non-compressible surface. This way, all of your power will be directed to the weight you’re trying to lift.
Running shoes have an overall flexible construction. While this is crucial for healthy running, it’s extremely dangerous for squatting.
The shoes used for weightlifting must cement your feet to the ground. They have to block all the lateral movements. Otherwise, the ankle may roll, causing a wide range of injuries from sprains to fractures.
The lack of support and safety will make you less confident with heavier weights and new movements. Moreover, this might push you to stick with bad training habits and postures.
I know what you’re thinking, how can it be more expensive to run and lift in one pair? Well, using one pair is a lot cheaper now. But it could cost you more in the future.
Running shoes are not as sturdy as the squat shoes. Therefore, using them in squats will make them wear out much faster, forcing you to replace them more often.
On the other hand, if you used each pair for its intended purpose, they’ll live longer, which is more cost-efficient in the long run.
As you can see, there are a lot of squat shoes that can perform well, yet fit your budget.
If you want my opinion, the best squat shoes under $100 are definitely the Adidas 3.1 Powerlift Shoes. They made it to the top of my list due to their excellent leather construction, the thick support strap, and the quite firm sole.
If you have wide feet, then you might want to consider the Do-Win Weightlifting Shoes. They have one of the widest toe boxes in the market.
Lastly, these options should fit a recreational lifter pretty well. If you don’t mind spending more, check out my list of the 8 best shoes for squats.