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In the gym, you’ll come across people doing deadlifts in all sorts of shoes. However, some of them are more suitable than others. Since running shoes are pretty common footwear, many might consider using them for deadlifts
So, should you do deadlifts in running shoes? No, you should not using running shoes while deadlifting. Running shoes aren’t a good choice because they’re designed to rock back and forth, which can cause balance issues. As well, running shoes have too much cushion, which doesn’t allow you to transfer force effectively into the floor during the deadlift.
While these are the main reasons why you shouldn’t do it, there are other factors that make deadlifts in running shoes not recommended. If you want to find out more about them as well as the suitable alternatives for deadlifts, keep reading.
Key Differences: Running Shoes vs Deadlift Shoes
One of the best ways to understand why a running shoe won’t work properly for deadlifts is by putting it in a direct comparison with a proper shoe that is designed for deadlifts.
The first impression you’ll get from holding a running shoe is that it’s exceptionally lightweight and flexible.
This is because it’s mostly made of mesh fabric and EVA foam so that it won’t weigh you down and to support breathability and natural gait.
On the other hand, deadlift shoes are usually quite heavier because the shoes are mostly made of synthetic leather as well as hard incompressible soles that are made of rubber.
The sturdy structure is essential to support the extreme pressure from lifting hundreds of pounds of weight.
Support vs Rocking Factor
Another thing that you’ll notice in a deadlift shoe right away is the sole design. These soles are noticeably flat to stabilize your feet and maximize the points of contact between your feet and the floor.
This design is meant to minimize your feet’ range of motion as much as possible to allow the maximum amount of force to run through your feet and into the floor while lifting.
Running shoes, on the other hand, are meant to maximize the range of motion of your feet and ankles by using a foamy sole.
This kind of sole focuses mainly on the rocking factor and giving you a considerable bounce (back and forth) while running.
Although most humans' feet do a pretty good job at supporting our foot arch naturally, most running shoes are specifically designed to have extra arch support to avoid pain and problems while running.
However, a deadlift shoe has as little arch support as possible to keep the sole flat and allow for maximum contact with the floor while lifting.
This will allow you to decrease the range of motion between your foot and the floor, allowing you to pull less overall distance. In other words, you’ll do less work by being closer to the floor.
Cushioning and Padding
When it comes to cushioning and padding, the two shoes are on two different ends of the scale.
Running shoes have ample cushioning and padding that is made of various materials, such as air-filled foam and gel-filled foam.
The main function of padding and cushioning here is to act as a shock absorber while you’re running to protect your heels and toes. Additionally, it works like a spring to give you an extra bounce, and therefore, more speed.
Deadlift shoes have as little padding and cushioning as possible because you need to push against a solid floor, and these foamy soles absorb the force into them instead of transferring them through the floor and into the weight.
Sole Thickness and Material
Based on the previous point, you can conclude the nature of the soles in both running shoes and deadlift shoes.
For the most part, deadlift shoes will have thin soles that usually range between 2 to 8 mm to give you the maximum “feel of the floor”. Anything over 8mm wouldn’t be considered a good choice for a deadlifting shoe.
These soles are usually hard are made from slip-resistant material, such as synthetic rubber with heavy traction pods and patterns
Running shoes will also have a slip-resistant outsole but to a much lesser extent because heavy traction will slow you down, defeating the purpose of the running shoes.
As well running shoes can vary in thickness between 20mm-40mm, which is just extra distance that you otherwise need to pull the barbell.
While you shouldn't wear running shoes for deadlifting, some people prefer “toe shoes”. I reviewed the best toe shoes for working out in my other article.
4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Deadlift In Running Shoes
Now that you have a better understanding of the special features of both running and deadlifting shoes, let’s apply them to the two exercises to find out why you shouldn’t deadlift in running shoes.
The 4 reasons you shouldn’t deadlift in running shoes are:
- They’re Not Built to Stabilize Your Feet
- You’ll Need to Do More for the Same Results
- They Defeat the Purpose of Wearing Shoes
- They Don’t Provide Any Ankle Support
1. They’re Not Built to Stabilize Your Feet
One of the main benefits of wearing a deadlift shoe is stabilizing your feet. A deadlift-specific shoe’s primary function is minimizing the range of motion of your feet so that you can focus on pulling off the deadlift.
However, running shoes are designed for the absolute opposite of that. They’re usually built with a rocker sole that promotes bouncing back and forth, which makes them much harder to balance when compared to a deadlift shoe. This might increase the risk of injuries, especially if you’re lifting a relatively heavier load.
2. You’ll Need to Do More for the Same Results
Using a raised sole would reduce your power output for the same results. When you lift in a shoe with raised soles at any of the three anchoring points (big toe, pinky toe, and heel), you’ll eventually increase the range of motion of your feet.
This is especially crucial if you’re going for your 1 rep max lift. In that situation, even the tiniest difference of a few millimeters would matter greatly, as you’d be looking for every advantage possible to make the lift.
3. They Defeat the Purpose of Wearing Shoes
If you’ve been powerlifting for a while now, you’ll notice that the majority of your lifting power is actually summoned from transferring your force into the floor. That’s why you need a very thin sole to get as much feel of the floor as possible.
However, shock absorbers work both ways. The excessive cushioning will make it reduce your connection with the floor and make it much harder for you to make adjustments to your technique.
4. They Don’t Provide Any Ankle Support
The ankle joint plays a huge role in the success of your reps. During a deadlift, the ankle needs to have minimum upward movement along maintaining the ability to bend forward.
However, in some specific deadlift stances, the angle of your body at the starting position might put extra pressure on your ankles, such as sumo deadlifts.
If you’re performing a sumo stance, running shoes won’t be able to give you the necessary ankle support to keep your ankle balanced, which raises the chances of rep failure and injuries.
Deadlift Shoes That Are Better Than Running Shoes
I’ve compiled a more comprehensive deadlift shoe guide with everything you need to know before you buy one.
However, if you’re in a hurry, here are some of the ideal suggestions that you might want to keep in mind!
Looking for a pair of shoes that can be used for both lifting and running? Check out my reviews of the 5 Best Shoes For Lifting and Running.
If you’re looking for the best shoes for deadlifts, I recommend that you go for Sabo Deadlift Shoes. It’s one of the few options on the market that is specifically designed for deadlifts.
These shoes are made of durable fabrics and synthetic leather. This helps them stand the test of time as well as the extreme pressure of the heavyweights you’re lifting.
The soles on these shoes are also flat and thin, with most of the sole thickness ranging between 2 mm and 5 mm. This allows for stabilizing the feet and minimizing the range of motion during the lift.
The ankle support also allows the shoes to be a perfect fit for various unconventional deadlift stances, such as sumo deadlifts that put extra pressure on the ankles.
While running shoes aren’t suitable for deadlifts, many wrestling shoes will work just fine. This is because most of them have similar features to deadlift shoes.
For instance, the ASICS Matflex 5 wrestling shoe has a thin and flat sole that maintains that feel of the floor needed to transfer your force through the floor and into the barbell.
Moreover, they have incompressible soles with minimal cushioning and padding to prevent your feet from back and forth during a lift.
If you’re looking for something a little more versatile while still being suitable for deadlifts, you can go for converse shoes.
These shoes have a pretty flat and solid sole that allows you to minimize the range of motion and stabilize your ankle.
They’re also durable and have a high-top design that promotes ankle support for sumo deadlifts.
What About Deadlifting Without Shoes vs Running Shoes?
Another alternative to running shoes for deadlifting is barefoot deadlifts, which are actually better than deadlifting in the wrong shoe.
Being barefoot maximizes your connection with the floor and increases your balance while reducing your range of motion.
It also allows for the most efficient force transfer between you and the floor, which results in lifting more weight.
However, deadlifting in deadlift shoes is still better because there are various issues with lifting barefoot, such as:
- Not all gyms allow it
- Dirty gym floors can cause feet infections
- Not allowed in competitive powerlifting
We’ve now answered why you shouldn’t deadlift in running shoes. But, should you squat in running shoes? Check out my article on Squatting In Running Shoes: Should You Do It?
With that said, you now know that running shoes aren’t ideal for deadlifts because they’re heavily padded with no flat soles.
This results in reducing your power output and destabilizing your feet. Instead, you should opt for a deadlift-specific shoe, such as Sabo Deadlift Shoes.