Deadlifts are among the best exercises that recruit a lot of muscles in your lower body and back.
One of the key parts of the deadlifting technique is to reduce the range of motion as much as possible. This requires a minimalistic shoe that places your foot as close to the ground as possible.
This is why I recommend the Sabo Deadlift Shoe as the best shoe for deadlifting. Not only is it a minimalistic shoe, but it will also keep your body position balanced, protect your ankle, and ensure your feet don’t slip (important for sumo deadlifting)
Choosing the ideal footwear for deadlifts requires an understanding of the movement technique as a whole. So today, I’ll provide you with everything you need to know, so you can choose the best shoes for deadlifts!
In a hurry, check out our #1 pick, the Sabo Deadlift Shoe (click for today’s price on Amazon).
Benefits of a Deadlift Shoe
Powerlifting with a deadlift shoe can give you a huge edge. You don’t have to be a professional to benefit from the right shoe, as the difference is highly noticeable in all situations.
Here are all the advantages you might get from wearing proper deadlift shoes.
Increases Your Stability and Balance
When you’re pulling a heavy weight off the ground, the first thing you can’t afford is losing your balance.
What’s great about deadlift shoes is that they boost the stability level of your lower body by keeping you in maximum contact with the ground.
Deadlift shoes come with specific characteristics, such as having a completely flat and hard sole.
The flat soles keep your entire feet fully supported and in direct contact with the floor. The hard soles provide a strong ground for your feet to stand on while supporting. Think of it as if every point in your sole supports the adjacent ones.
In addition to supporting the bottom of your feet, many deadlifting shoes come with a strapped collar, which plays a pivotal role in keeping your ankle secured and balanced (important if deadlift using the sumo stance).
Reduces Your Range of Motion
Another great benefit of deadlift shoes is their thin soles. While being hard and fully flat, they also keep you as close to the floor as possible.
Think of it this way, if your shoe had a 2-inch heel, then that’s an extra 2-inches that you need to pull the barbell.
You might think that a 2-inch difference in the distance the bar needs to travels isn’t much, but when you’re going for a 1 rep max lift, you want every advantage possible. This is why you can’t deadlift in your squat shoes.
Provides You with Foot Support
Pulling off a successful deadlift depends mainly on two points in your foot. These points are the ankle and the middle part of your foot.
What’s great about deadlift shoes is that they’re engineered to provide these points with ultimate support. This enables you to focus on achieving the best results. Let’s have a closer look at how some deadlift shoes support these parts.
Your ankle joint is a crucial one for deadlifting. You need to keep it stable by minimizing its upward movement. However, it needs to be flexible enough to bend backward and retract your feet, which is known as “dorsiflexion”.
Many deadlift shoes are designed with a high-collared front strap. This strap comes at different levels of rigidity to support your ankle the way you prefer. Supporting the ankle is critical when deadlifting using the sumo stance.
The Middle Part
The middle part of your foot is made of the upper metatarsal bones and the lower arch of your foot soles.
Unlike the ankle joint, the metatarsal bones in your foot need to be as tightly packed as possible while deadlifting. Almost all deadlift shoes come with a strap for the metatarsal region that stabilizes this area without choking the blood supply.
The problem with a flat sole is that it doesn’t run smoothly with the curvature of your foot arch, making them uncomfortable to wear for a long time.
To solve this problem, modern deadlift shoes provide slight arch support in a smart design that adds no padding to your feet. In that case, the metatarsal strap will keep your feet stable and prevent the arch support from putting you off-balance.
This way, you can feel more comfortable in your shoes while securing your feet and limiting its range of motion.
Protects You from Injuries
At the end of the day, your feet are a network of muscles, joints, and bones that work together to achieve tasks. If one of these parts fails, they quickly follow. However, the worst-case scenario is that you might get injured in the process.
The vast majority of injuries caused by a deadlift comes from the incorrect execution. Since deadlift shoes ensure that your feet stay in balance while lifting, they contribute to aiding in the proper technique that will allow you to stay injury-free.
Also, the non-slipping nature of deadlift shoes sole protects you from slipping. In the sumo deadlift, having your feet slip is common, especially when you’re lifting on a wooden deadlift platform, which can lead to adductor strains, or worse, dropping the plates on your feet.
Maintains a Good Posture and Improve Results
As you’ve figured from the previous benefits, a dedicated deadlift shoe has all the properties that keep you in the correct position to lift.
As a rule of thumb, the key to the best results is consistent performance. Since you’re going to have the maximum stability while deadlifting, consistency and reproducibility will improve too.
Moreover, the higher levels of consistency translate into more training time with proper technique. In other words, you should expect better results, and performance.
Top 8 Shoes for Deadlifts
There are many kinds of shoes that qualify as deadlift shoes. To save you the trouble of looking for them, I’ve compiled a list of the best options you can find on the market. Let’s check them out!
- Sabo Deadlift Shoe
- Converse Chuck Taylors
- Asics Matflex Wrestling Shoe
- Adidas Men’s Wrestling Shoe
- Otomix Stingray Boxing Shoe
- No Bull High Top Trainer
- Merrell Vapor Glove 2
- Deadlift Slippers
Because this is my number one pick, I wrote an in-depth review of the Sabo Deadlift Shoe.
As the name suggests, the Sabo Deadlift Shoe (click for today’s price on Amazon) is one of the few shoes in the market that’s dedicated to deadlifting. This means that you should expect everything about these shoes to be on point.
The Sabo Deadlift Shoe is also my pick for the best deadlift shoe for sumo pulling.
The soles on these shoes are on another level. First of all, they’re only about 2 to 5 mm thin, allowing your feet to be as close to the ground as possible. Despite being ultra-thin, the sole is thick enough to provide support and minimize your feets’ range of motion.
Adding to their superb stability, Sabo is one of the few deadlift shoes in the market that has ankle and metatarsal straps. These straps ensure that adjust the shoe size according to your foot. This turns this shoe in a custom made one!
One of the problems with flat shoes is that they’re a bit harsh on your arch. However, you’ll be delighted to know that Sabo deadlift shoes solved this problem.
They have tiny arch support that rises from 2 mm to 5 mm in the middle part of the shoe. Also, once you secure the metatarsal strap, you’ll enhance the arch support by pulling the midfoot section up.
- Designed specifically for deadlifts
- Super-thin flat sole
- Ankle collar with metatarsal and ankle straps
- Available in multiple sizes and colors
- Multiple traction pods in the outsole for the maximum grip
- The velcro on the metatarsal straps is a bit flimsy
Chuck Taylors are excellent shoes for deadlifting. As discussed in our article on Why Powerlifters Wear Converse Shoes, the good old converse shoes have been the budget footwear of choice for many years and by a lot of lifters.
After a thorough inspection, Chuck Taylors technically has a lot in common with the requirements for deadlift shoes.
However, they also have the added perk of being comfortable to wear, so you can also wear them casually when you’re not working out.
Although they aren’t a favorite for everyone because they don’t have enough cushioning, this is exactly why they’re great for deadlifting!
Anatomically, converse shoes have flat soles that are also durable and fairly rigid. This allows them to distribute weights evenly for a stable deadlift.
The soles are made of rubber, which has minimal compression. You might not even notice the difference unless you’re lifting super-heavy weights.
The shoe’s body is made of canvas, which is a double-edged weapon. On one hand, it’s great for flexibility and the raised ankle collar provides ankle support if you laced it tightly. On the other hand, it doesn’t provide as much support as other shoes with straps.
All in all, Chuck Taylors are a great option if you’re on a budget. They’ll provide you with sufficient levels of stability while tackling heavy deadlifts.
- An excellent choice for buyers on a budget
- High-top models have a supportive ankle collar
- They have a super flat sole with no toe drop
- They have a relatively thick sole (about 10 mm)
- Canvas isn’t as durable as other shoe materials
In fact, wrestling shoes have all the required characteristics to be good for weightlifting in general. Not only are they good for deadlifts, but they’re great for squats too!
If you put the aspects that make a good deadlifting shoe in mind, you’ll find that this shoe ticks a lot of boxes. First, they have a rubber sole that provides high durability against compression while lifting heavier weights.
Also, the soles are almost entirely flat. In fact, they’re flat where it matters, as they have no heel elevation. This protects you from losing your balance and keep the barbell on you all the time.
The outsoles also have traction buds similar to the ones in the deadlifting shoes. They provide excellent traction and grip that’s much better than those in the Chuck Taylors.
They also have a raised ankle collar that you can lace tightly, allowing you to support your ankle while deadlifting. Asics Matlfex is known for the relatively thin soles too. They’re 5 mm in thickness, which is half of what you get with converse shoes.
- Thin soles are great for minimal ROM and great stability
- Minimal padding to increase your stability while lifting
- The raised collar supports the ankle when fully laced
- Although they’re good enough, they aren’t entirely flat
If you like the wrestling shoe construction but you’re looking for higher quality, Adidas Men’s Wrestling Shoe is your way to go!
Right off the bat, these shoes look great. They’re available in multiple colors and styles to suit your workout outfits. Not only that, but they have a reputation for being an excellent fit for all sizes.
One of the things that give this wrestling shoe an edge over the others is that it’s entirely flat. This minimizes the range of motion of your feet, so your feet won’t wobble while deadlifting.
The soles are also super thin, allowing for an excellent level of stability while holding the heavyweights on you.
What’s also great about this shoe is the lack of cushioning and the high collar. These features provide excellent support to your feet while lifting.
- Impressive design with multiple color options
- Flat sole with no cushioning for added stability
- Excellent fitting
- High collared design for ankle support
- Can be a bit pricey
- Doesn’t have gripping buds
As you’ve probably noticed, any shoes that fulfill the required specifications of a deadlift shoe can be a good alternative to them. That’s why these boxing shoes from Otomix are popular among deadlifters.
The Otomix Stingray is famous for its ankle coverage. It comes with an extra-tall ankle collar that provides excellent ankle support.
This makes it ideal for deadlifters who prefer extra support on their ankle while lifting heavyweights.
Unlike many shoes in the market, these ones are characterized by their lightweight design. While this might not be necessary for a deadlift, some users would prefer their shoes to not be super heavy on their feet.
What makes the Otomix Stingray special is that it has a relatively thinner and flatter sole than most boxing shoes. The rubber also gives it durability against heavy compression.
- Excellent ankle support with the hi-top ankle collar
- Thin and flat soles are great for stability and minimal ROM
- Lightweight and highly flexible while staying durable
- Lacks midfoot and arch support
The No Bull Trainer is another shoe that fits the requirements of a good deadlifting shoe.
Besides being elegant, they’re highly durable and flexible with many features that earned them a spot on the list.
This unique construction is achieved thanks to the SuperFabric Guard plates on the mesh base layer. This makes the No Bull trainers stand the test of time and endure the heavy loads.
They have a hi-top collar design that supports your ankles. This helps them to secure the joint and minimize its movement to the outside and inside while holding on the barbell.
This doesn’t only give you ankle balance, but it also helps you focus all your power and speed on pulling the weight. Their only downside is that they have a relatively thick sole, which might cause some wobbliness on super-heavy loads.
- Available in two impressive colors with top-notch fitting
- High-top collar provide superb ankle support
- Highly durable and flexible with the SuperFabric Guard plates
- They have relatively thick soles
Although barefooted deadlifting is a bit impractical, it has a lot of excellent qualities that shoemakers are aware of. That’s why there are many attempts to combine the best of both worlds.
Running shoes are notorious for being one of the worst shoes for deadlifting. However, the barefoot-style running shoes, like the Merrell Vapor Glove 2, are an excellent alternative to going completely barefooted.
These shoes have minimalistic soles that are thin enough for deadlifts. Not only that, but they’re flat all across the foot with not toe drops.
Also, the outsoles are designed to offer excellent grip. This ensures the highest level of slip-resistance while pulling heavy weights.
The shoe upper is flexible and breathable, making them great shoes for both summer and winter.
- Super thin and flat soles that are ideal for deadlifts
- No cushioning for maximum stability while pulling
- Easily washed and maintained
- Lacks ankle support
Last but not least, if you’re a huge fan of barefooted deadlifting, this awesome alternative should be on your radar!
These Deadlift Slippers from FitKicks make a super-thin barrier between you and the ground. However, this is enough to protect your feet from germs and fungus.
Also, the rubber sole has an extra advantage over socks, as it gives a much better grip and slip-resistance on slippery platforms.
The sole also has a zero degree toe drop. This makes it completely flat, which provides you with the maximum level of stability.
One of the things you miss out on while deadlifting barefooted is the lack of foot support. The deadlift slippers provide your feet with much better support and make them more compact.
They also have the merit of being inexpensive and readily available in multiple colors, styles, and sizes.
- Ideal for barefooted deadlifting fans
- Reasonable price and multiple sizes and colors
- Provides a much-needed slip-resistance
- Lacks full metatarsal and ankle support
Deadlift Shoes vs. Going Barefoot
While in the gym, you might stumble across many lifters who take their shoes off while deadlifting. So, which is better?
As you already know, being as close to the floor as possible has a lot of benefits on limiting the range of motion. That’s why going barefoot while deadlifting has become a huge trend recently.
Going barefoot has a lot of benefits. For example, being in direct connection with the floor gives you a boost of balance. Additionally, it shortens your range of motion more than any shoe.
It also helps in engaging more muscle groups while deadlifting. This helps in achieving a balance between your hip and knee extensors while deadlifting.
However, there are some downsides to going barefoot. The first and most common problem is that you won’t get any kind of ankle or midfoot support without a dedicated deadlift shoe. You’d also miss on the grippy outer sole that protects you from slipping.
Another issue is that your gym may have a rule that prevents barefoot training. However, even if it allows it, you would want to avoid being in direct contact with all the germs and fungus on the floor. Let alone the risks of dropping weights on your bare feet.
Lastly, you can’t deadlift competitively without a shoe. This means that you have to train your technique while wearing shoes to avoid any unwanted surprises during the competition.
That’s why I recommend deadlifting while wearing deadlift shoes. Fortunately, modern deadlift shoes are designed to give the best of both worlds!
Why You Shouldn’t Wear Regular Shoes or Shoes with a Heel
You might be thinking “If regular sneakers are good enough for all kinds of activities in the gym, can’t they just work fine with deadlifts?”
Let’s have a quick look at the drawback of using regular and heeled shoes for deadlifts.
The Elevated Heel Decrease Stability While Deadlifting
Regular and heeled shoes might be great for a lot of things. For example, they’re padded with a soft insole cushioning, making them highly comfortable and easy for regular exercise.
All these qualities make them great for exercises like running or High-Intensity Interval training. However, for the same reason, they’re unsuitable for deadlifting.
This makes all running shoes bad for deadlifting. The spongy foam and gel-filled soles absorb all the force you exert to lift the weight off the floor.
This causes a lot of strain on your body while deadlifting, which not only kills your results but can lead to potential injury.
The Free Range of Motion is Bad for Deadlifting
As you’ve learned above, deadlifting requires stable feet that have a limited range of motion. This means that your feet technically have no options but staying in the right position for deadlifting.
In addition to being lightweight, all regular gym shoes are designed to give you a full range of motion. This is the exact opposite of what you want while lifting twice or three times your weight.
They Disrupt your Center of Gravity
While deadlifting you need to focus on keeping the weight on your body all the time. This requires your feet to be as flat as possible.
Regular shoes usually come with rocker heels that help your foot sway back and forth. This disrupts your center of gravity remarkably, causing you to lean forward with the weight.
The forward lean will put more load on your upper back and lats to counteract, which develops serious injuries.
This affects your kinetic chain badly, as your feet begin to wobble. Since regular shoes also have no collar support, your ankles will also lose control. This puts you at the risk of failing your deadlift.
Common Errors While Deadlifting in Wrong Shoes
Here are some of the most common mistakes when deadlifting with the wrong type of footwear:
The Barbell Comes Off of You
This happens because the wrong shoe has a raised heel. In that case, you lose your balance and the barbell eventually pulls your torso forward. When the barbell comes off your body, your low and mid back will need to work a lot harder to stabilize the movement.
So not only is it a more ineffective movement pattern, you can risk injury under heavy load.
Slipping While Lifting
In some deadlift stances, you might slip wearing the wrong shoe. This happens in deadlift stances like the sumo deadlift stance, which can cause adductor strains. I’ve also seen sumo deadlifters have their feet slip as they’re returning the barbell to the floor and they crush their foot.
This happens when you wear a shoe while deadlifting that has a raised heel. In this case, you’re pulling extra range of motion, making it much harder to achieve a lockout.
Hips Starts Too High
If you’re wearing a heeled shoe, your center of gravity is altered in a way that makes your hips start at a higher position.
In addition to losing your balance, this will place more emphasis on your low/mid-back versus legs.
What Should You Look for in a Deadlift Shoe?
Now that you know the problem with regular and heeled shoes, it’s time to learn about the things that qualify a shoe to be a good one for deadlifts. Let’s have a look at the important aspects you should look for.
Hard Outsole Material
The material that goes into making the outsole is among the most important things to care about, as it has an impact on many of the following aspects.
Many materials are fit for making soles for shoes. However, not all of them are ideal for deadlift shoes. For example, rubber, polyurethane, and wood are among the best materials for a deadlift shoe sole.
These materials are hard enough and provide your feet with the required support and stability. On the other hand, you should avoid lightweight materials that don’t provide much support. This includes materials like Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) and foam.
Different materials also have different levels between rigidity and flexibility. As long as your shoes’ outsoles are hard enough to support you, you’re good to go.
As a rule of thumb, hard plastic and wood have the highest levels of rigidity and compression resistance. However, they might be a bit rough on your feet.
On the flip side, the more rubbery your shoes are the more flexible they’ll be. Yet, unlike foam and EVA, the rubber will retain the compression resistance and support needed for deadlifts.
Yet, you should avoid the ultra-flexible rubber, as it might not be able to support your feet properly. That’s why you need to find the ideal balance between flexibility and rigidity according to your liking.
While you might think that sole thickness contributes to the level of support it offers, you shouldn’t forget that thicker soles mean higher elevations.
Since you’re trying to mimic the benefits of barefoot deadlifting without its disadvantages, you need a zero-angle shoe with a thin outsole and minimal cushioning and padding inside.
Support and Straps
The biggest edge that deadlift shoes have over barefoot deadlifting is the amount of support your feet get in deadlift shoes.
Besides making your feet compact, they also help in locking your feet in the right position for lifting.
Always look for shoes that come with straps to keep your ankle and metatarsal region in place. As you already know, these straps prevent your feet from wobbling and over-extension.
This lateral support is one of the characteristics that make collared shoes with ankle and midfoot straps the ideal ones for deadlifting.
One of the biggest problems that lifters with socks face while deadlifting is the danger of slipping. Next to foot support, it’s one of the biggest advantages of wearing a deadlift shoe.
Rubbery materials are among the best materials that offer slip resistance. They also play a role in securing your stance and position while lifting.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you deadlift in squat shoes?
Squat shoes, also known as “Olympic weightlifting shoes”, have a lot in common with deadlift shoes. For example, they’re very rigid, which helps them to support and secure your feet.
The only difference between them is that they’re raised with heels. While this is great for Olympic lifters, this can alter your center of gravity and make you lose your balance while deadlifting.
Are converse shoes the best for deadlifting?
Converse shoes are an excellent choice for deadlifting.
Converse shoes technically have all the essential aspects that make them great for deadlifting. For example, they have a flat sole with a zero heel drop. This helps them maintain your balance while deadlifting.
Their main downside might be their lack of support and that they have thick soles (about 10 mm thick). However, they’re still an excellent budget-friendly alternative for deadlifting shoes.
Why do people take their shoes off when deadlifting?
If athletes are wearing a running shoe with cushioning and no support, they’re better off deadlifting barefoot. This helps them to:
- Maintain the maximum balance while deadlifting
- Minimize their range of motion
- Shift the weight to their back
- Engage their hips extensor muscle groups
With that said, you now know everything you need before deciding on your ideal deadlift footwear.
As you can see, these shoes have different properties, making the winner for this round up to your personal preferences.
But, if I get to pick a winner, I’d pick the Sabo Deadlift Shoe as the best shoes for deadlifts. From the thin flat sole to the ankle and midfoot straps, it has everything you might be looking for in deadlift shoes.
However, if you’re on a budget, you should go for Converse Chuck Taylors. A lot of lifters swear that it works flawlessly for them without costing an arm and a leg!
If you’re a competitive powerlifter, check out my article on all of the IPF & USAPL Approved Competition Gear and Equipment.