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We reviewed the best deadlift shoes and since publishing that article we received many questions from lifters asking whether they can simply deadlift in their squat shoes.
So can you deadlift in squat shoes? You should not deadlift in squat shoes because they have an elevated heel. This raised heel is 0.75-1.5 inches, which makes the lift harder as you'll need to pull the barbell this extra distance. Also, a raised heel places greater loading demand on the knee extensors rather than your posterior chain.
There are additional reasons why deadlifting in squat shoes may hinder your performance, which we’ll cover in this article. If you’re wondering which shoe is the best for deadlifting, we’ll also cover our top recommendations so that you’re maximizing your strength and performance.
In a hurry? Our #1 deadlift shoe is the Sabo Deadlift Shoe (click for today’s price on Amazon). This shoe has everything you want in a solid deadlifting shoe, including a super-thin flat sole, a strong outer and mid-foot construction, ankle support, and a grippy underside.
Want to improve your deadlift technique?
5 Reasons Why You Should Not Deadlift In Squat Shoes
To say that you can’t deadlift in squat shoes is a bit of a generalization because there are many different types of squat shoes.
For example, we covered the major differences in squat shoes in an article titled Should You Squat In Heel or Flat Shoes?
Heeled shoes are more popular fo squatting because they allow someone who has limited ankle or hip mobility to move deeper into the range of motion. They also may be more beneficial for taller lifters or lifters who use a high bar squat position. Many lifters report that they are able to maintain a more vertical torso and keep their center of mass over their base of support easier when wearing heeled shoes
Alternatively, some lifters choose to wear flat shoes while squatting, such as wrestling shoes. However, these are usually more advanced lifters who already have spent several years wearing heeled shoes, and have superior hip and ankle mobility. These lifters also usually squat in a wide stance using a low bar position or are generally shorter in height.
Broadly speaking, however, you want to squat in a heeled shoe and deadlift in a flat-sole shoe. So when we say that you shouldn’t deadlift in squat shoes, we’re referring to the type of squat shoe that has a heel, which is also called an Olympic weightlifting shoe.
Let’s now discuss 5 reasons why you don’t want to deadlift in a squat (heeled) shoe.
1. They Will Increase The Range of Motion of The Deadlift
Most squat shoes will have a heel between 0.75 to 1.5 inches. Generally speaking, the taller you are, the higher the heel height should be for squatting.
However, if you deadlift using a heeled shoe, then you will need to pull the barbell the extra distance of the heel height. Adding range of motion to a movement like a deadlift is contrary to any advice around and would be considered a big deadlifting mistake.
When your goal is to lift as much weight as possible, you want to position your body and leverages in such a way that reduces the distance the barbell needs to travel. This is because work is a product of force times distance.
So the greater the distance you need to apply force over, the greater the amount of work that is required.
This is why you see all elite-level powerlifters deadlifting in minimalist flat-soled shoes. Some lifters even prefer to deadlift barefoot; however, most gyms don’t allow that and in a powerlifting competition you’re required to wear some sort of sole over your foot.
The reason for this minimalistic shoe is to reduce the range of motion they need to pull the barbell.
2. They Will Place Greater Loading Demands On Your Quads
A heeled squat shoe will change the mechanics of your body while lifting, and as such, which muscles are being used.
When you squat with a heeled shoe, your knees will naturally tend to push forward as you move deeper into the bottom end range of motion. This is called ‘forward knee translation’, which places greater loading demand on your quad muscles to extend the knee.
The same principle applies during the deadlift. Your knees will naturally want to push forward in the start position of the deadlift. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because your quads should be helping you in the bottom-end of the movement, the problem arises in the mid-range and lock-out when you need to start using your glutes and posterior chain to a greater extent.
As you bring the barbell higher off the ground, your knee extensors (quads) should be working less, and your hip extensors (glutes) should be working more. This is particularly the case when the barbell is at knee height when you want your hips to be traveling forward and your shoulders back.
In this position, if your knees are being pushed forward as a result of the heeled shoe, your quads will begin to overpower the movement, and you may struggle to get your hips traveling toward the barbell.
By wearing a flat-soled shoe while deadlifting, you’re now able to transfer the loading demand from your quads to your glutes much easier when the barbell is in the mid-range and lockout portion of the movement.
If you’re interested to learn more about how your muscles contribute in different phases of the deadlift, make sure to read my complete guide to muscles used in the deadlift.
3. They Typically Have No Ankle Support (Important For Sumo Deadlifting)
Most squat shoes have low ankle support as the top of the shoe doesn’t cover the ankle.
This isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker when it comes to wearing squat shoes for deadlifts.
However, some lifters do prefer the extra ankle support while deadlifting, which would require a high-top style shoe. This is particularly the case for those people who deadlift using a sumo-stance.
When you sumo deadlift vs conventional deadlift, you place greater stress on the outer part of the ankle. This is because you’re cueing your legs to ‘spread the floor apart’ in order to keep the knees stacked over the toes. As a result, your ankles will be under greater loading demand in this wider stance.
If you sumo deadlift with a squat shoe, which doesn’t have proper ankle support, you may risk having your ankle roll sideways (a common problem).
Additionally, it’s just nice to have the extra support around your ankle from a confidence perspective. When your joints feel supported, you’ll be more confident lifting heavier weights as you won’t be worried that something may go wrong.
4. They Are More Likely To Cause Your Feet To Slide On The Floor
If you deadlift wearing squat shoes you won’t get as much ‘grip’ on the floor.
While squat shoes do have some rubber material on the outsole that makes them somewhat grippy, deadlift shoes take grip to a whole other level.
A deadlift shoe is specifically designed to have maximum traction on the outsole. Similar to our previous point, this is more of a concern for those who choose to deadlift in a sumo stance.
The last thing you want is to have your feet slip sideways when you’re deadlifting.
I’ve seen lifters’ legs spread apart while deadlifting because their shoes didn’t have traction, which led to hip and groin injuries. As well, I’ve seen lifters’ feet slip while returning the barbell to the floor, and the plates crush their toes.
Again, this is not really a problem for those who deadlift in a conventional stance. But if you choose to deadlift sumo, you’ll want to have a high amount of grip on the underside of your shoe. A squat shoe will simply not provide enough grip for you compared with a deadlift shoe.
5. They Will Place Your Centre of Mass Forward On The Barbell
The best position to be in while deadlifting is having your center of mass over your base of support. This will be the most effective position to transfer force from your body into the floor.
Being centered over your base of support feels like placing your body weight on the mid-part of your foot.
If you’re too much on your forefoot or heel while deadlifting then you’ll have to counteract forces that are trying to prevent you from falling forward or backward. This is going to reduce the amount of vertical force that can be applied to the barbell to stand up with the weight.
As such, the goal is to stay directly over your mid-foot during the entire range of motion. When wearing heeled squat shoes, it will cause your body weight to shift forward while deadlifting and it will be harder to remain over the mid-foot.
To achieve this ‘balanced’ position, you need a flat-soled shoe that is minimalistic in its design. This will draw your foot closer to the floor so that you can feel where your body weight is being distributed. This is why all deadlift shoes have soles that are super thin and flat.
What Shoe Should You Use For Deadlifts?
Now that we discussed the reasons why you shouldn’t deadlift in squat shoes, what are some good options for deadlift shoes?
Here are my top 3 recommendations:
The Sabo Deadlift Shoe (click for today’s price on Amazon) is hands down the best shoe for deadlifting. Sabo constructed this shoe from the ground up with only one purpose: deadlifting.
They have a super-thin flat sole, superior ankle support with both metatarsal and straps, multiple traction pods on the outside for maximum grip, and they’re extremely comfortable to wear.
I wrote a full review of the Sabo Deadlift Shoe if you want the complete rundown.
The Converse Chuck Taylors (click for today’s price on Amazon) have been the go-to deadlift shoe for powerlifters on a budget.
They have the high ankle support needed for deadlifting and a grippy outsole. The sole is 10mm, which isn’t as thin as the Sabo Deadlift Shoe, but it’s still far thinner than a squat shoe. This is why many top powerlifters choose to wear converse shoes
I wrote a full review on why powerlifters prefer converse shoes if you want the complete rundown.
Wearing Deadlift Slippers by Fit Kicks (click for today’s price on Amazon) are a great alternative to your normal deadlift shoe.
They’re going to be the most budget-friendly option and provide the most minimalistic design, which will feel like you’re deadlifting barefoot. However, they’re not as supportive around the ankle and don’t provide as much grip as other deadlift shoes.
Some people also don’t prefer the look of the slippers. However, a lot of top-level powerlifters wear slippers in competition.
There is no doubt that when deadlifting you need to have a specific shoe that will optimize your performance.
This includes having a thin sole in order to reduce the range of motion of the movement, in addition to a flat sole that will allow you to maintain your center of mass over your base of support.
If you choose to deadlift in the sumo stance, you’ll also want to have a shoe that provides high-ankle support and superior traction on the outsole.
I do not recommend wearing a squat shoe while deadlifting, and I suggest investing in a pair of deadlifting shoes, such as the Sabo Deadlift Shoe.