There is a range of specialized deadlift shoes that you can pick from.
One option is to wear deadlift slippers, which are minimalist shoes that only have a thin piece of polyester material between your foot and the ground. As the name suggests, they are not traditional shoes with laces and ankle support, but rather, slippers.
So are deadlift slippers worth it? Deadlift slippers are best for conventional deadlifting as they offer the least distance between your foot and the surface you’re pushing against. This reduces the range you have to lift the barbell and optimizes the force transfer into the ground. I would not wear deadlift slippers for sumo deadlifting.
As the Head Coach for Team Canada Powerlifting, I’m tasked with giving my athletes the best recommendations for their gear. In this article, I’ll outline the 7 benefits of wearing deadlift slippers and explain why I think they’re worth it. I’ll also explain different situations where I think deadlift slippers don’t work.
Let’s get started!
Top 3 Deadlift Slipper Recommendations
If you’re in a hurry and want my quick deadlift slipper recommendations, check out these models:
There have been a few companies in recent years that have put out a version of the deadlift slipper, but the LiftingLarge Deadlift Slipper has always been the original choice for powerlifters.
The key feature for these slippers is the two straps that go over the mid-foot, which help lock the foot into place. Sometimes when you wear deadlift slippers, the material is somewhat loose on the foot, which doesn’t feel secure.
With the LiftingLarge Deadlift Slipper, you can adjust the tightness accordingly with the help of the two straps.
What I also like about these slippers is that it comes with a very thin rubber outsole that prevents your foot from slipping on the floor as you pull on the barbell.
The slippers do come with a 4mm insert; however, it’s removable, and many powerlifters simply remove it in order to get even closer to the floor (we’ll discuss why this is a benefit later on).
If for whatever reason, the deadlift slippers don’t work out for you, LiftingLarge has a 1-year warranty. With that said, no one I’ve talked to said they’ve had any issues with their slippers.
I’ve recommended FitKicks a few times when lifters are looking for a deadlift slipper for cheap.
The FitKicks slipper is not actually a manufacturer of powerlifting gear. Their slipper is designed for yoga and can double as water shoes (yes, they’re waterproof too).
This is why the FitKicks slipper lacks some of the same deadlift-specific features you’d see in the LiftingLarge slipper.
Most notably, you don’t get the dual strap system to lock the foot into place. Instead, you get a thick piece of elastic material that stretches over the mid-foot. It’s a good feature to keep the foot secure, but not as good as the straps in my opinion.
Otherwise, FitKicks fit all of the other qualities for being a deadlift slipper, including having a minimalist design and a thin rubber outsole to prevent slippage.
If you’re looking to save a few bucks and want something that works, this is a good option. Every lifter I’ve recommended FitKicks to have had no complaints.
As you can see, the Sabo Deadlift Shoe is not a deadlift slipper.
However, it was chosen as my top deadlift shoe out of the 8 models that I tested, which included traditional deadlift slippers. If you’re interested, you can read my full review of the Sabo Deadlift Shoe.
So, it’s worth mentioning that if you want the best deadlift shoe regardless if it’s a slipper or not, then the Sabo Deadlift Shoe is your go-to option.
While not as cheap as a deadlift slipper, the Sabo Deadlift Shoe has a specially designed sole that forces the load of the barbell directly onto the mid-foot. This is the optimal line of force to deadlift from to maximize your strength.
It also has a super-thin flat sole, an ankle collar with metatarsal and ankle straps, multiple traction pods on the outside for maximum grip, and is available in several sizes and colors.
In addition, if you deadlift using the sumo-style, traditional deadlift slippers won’t be beneficial because of the lack of ankle support. Therefore, the Sabo Deadlift Shoe is more versatile as it can be used for both the conventional and sumo deadlift.
7 Benefits of Deadlift Slippers
Now that you know the LiftingLarge Deadlift Slipper is my top pick, let’s dive into the several benefits of using slippers for deadlifts.
1. It Has A Minimalistic Design
Any shoe that you use for deadlifting needs to have a minimalist design.
This means that you are as close to the floor as possible by reducing the amount of separation between your foot and the ground.
This is because the greater the separation between your foot and the ground, the more distance you have to pull the barbell to finish the lift. The greater the distance, the more work you have to perform, and the harder the lift will be.
In other words, you DO NOT want to have a thick sole. Having a minimalist shoe means reducing the sole as much as functionally possible.
Deadlift slippers don’t have any sole, with the exception of an extremely thin rubber material to prevent slippage.
2. It’s The Closest Thing You Can Get To Barefoot Deadlifting
A lot of people prefer to deadlift barefoot.
Trust me, even I like deadlifting barefoot from time-to-time.
If you’re deadlifting barefoot you’re literally as close to the ground as possible, thereby maximally reducing the distance the barbell needs to travel to complete the lift.
However, there are some drawbacks to deadlifting barefoot.
- Unless you train at home, most gyms won’t allow you to deadlift barefoot because of sanitary reasons.
- If you compete in powerlifting, you can’t deadlift barefoot in competition. The rules say that you must have some sort of “sole on your foot”.
- Deadlifting barefoot might cause your feet to slip on the floor, which is a major concern in terms of being weak off the floor in the deadlift or risking injury.
Therefore, wearing deadlift slippers is the ‘next best thing’ to lifting without shoes. You can virtually get the same benefits of deadlifting barefoot without the drawbacks I just mentioned.
3. There’s No Heel-To-Toe Drop
Some shoes meant for lifting have a heel-to-toe drop, which isn’t ideal for deadlifting.
A heel-to-toe drop is where the outsole of the shoe places the heel higher than the toe.
This feature is common in squat shoes, as there are some advantages to a heel-to-toe drop while squatting (I won’t discuss these here).
However, the big drawback to having a heel-to-toe drop while deadlifting is that your center of mass will shift forward on the front part of your foot.
If you start with your body-weight too far forward in the deadlift it can cause all sorts of technique issues, including:
- Having your hips rise up too fast
- Having greater potential for the barbell to break contact with your body
- Placing greater loading demand on your quads vs glutes
- Generally feeling like you’re off balance
Deadlift slippers don’t have a heel-to-toe drop built into the sole. The sole will mimic the surface you’re standing on. So if you’re standing on a flat surface, then your foot will be flat while deadlifting.
4. It’s The Cheapest Deadlift Shoe You Can Buy
Out of all the deadlift shoes that I would recommend, the prices range from $60-$110 USD.
This can be an expensive purchase for a shoe that you’ll only wear for deadlifting.
It’s important to note that every competitive powerlifter, even at the local level, will have a shoe specifically for deadlifting. Even lifters who don’t compete, but want to maximize their deadlifting performance, usually purchases a deadlift shoe.
The cheapest deadlift shoe you can buy is going to be a deadlift slipper.
Deadlift slippers will range from $20-35 USD, which is a lot more budget-friendly when compared with other brands of deadlift shoes (Sabo, Converse, Otomix, Asics, Adidas).
5. It’s Approved For Powerlifting Competition
If you compete in powerlifting or are considering competing, there are specific rules around the powerlifting competition gear.
As I mentioned earlier, you’re not allowed to deadlift barefoot in competition. You must have some sort of sole on your foot.
In addition, shoes for competition:
- Cannot have an underside higher than 5cm
- Must have an underside that is flat
- Cannot include any ‘outdoor’ style, such as hiking boots
Deadlift slippers fit all of the shoe specifications required for competition.
Also, unlike other pieces of equipment for competition that require you to buy a certain brand, shoes don’t need to have any brand approval. Meaning, you can buy any deadlift slipper brand you want.
6. It’s Slip Resistant
It’s important that you find a deadlift shoe that is slip-resistant.
Most deadlift slippers will now come with a very thin rubber outsole for this purpose.
It used to be the case that deadlift slippers didn’t have this feature and lifters would find their feet slipping quite easily. This is because in a powerlifting competition, you’re usually deadlifting on brand new plywood.
Without some sort of grip on the underside of your shoe, you are more prone to slipping.
So if you find a deadlift slipper that is super cheap, just make sure that it has the slip-resistant rubber on the under-side. You typically can’t find a deadlift slipper under $20 that doesn’t have this feature.
7. It’s Lightweight & Flexible
One concern for lifters is that if they are going to be carrying several pairs of shoes around in their gym bag, that they want their shoes to be light-weight.
Deadlift slippers are extremely light-weight and flexible, so you can fold them up easily and place them in your gym bag without taking up much room.
This isn’t necessarily a concern for me. If a shoe is going to increase my performance, I don’t care if it’s heavy or not. But, each to their own.
3 Cons of Deadlift Slippers
While I do praise deadlift slippers for their benefits and recommend them to several lifters, there are also some cons that may make you consider a different type of shoe for deadlifts.
Let’s go over those reasons now.
1. They’re Not Good For Sumo Deadlifting
If you deadlift sumo, you should not wear deadlift slippers.
This is primarily for two reasons:
- First, while the grips on the underside of the deadlift slipper are adequate, it’s probably not as durable and grippy as other types of ‘gripping technology’ that you would find on different deadlift shoes.
For sumo deadlifts, you want the maximum gripping potential possible. This is because you are both pushing your feet down into the floor, but you’re also cueing your feet to “spread apart” in order to maintain proper knee tracking.
- Second, sumo deadlifting is a lot more stressful on the ankle because of the angle that’s required to set up the deadlift in a wide stance.
In order to increase your ankle stability, you should have a high-top shoe where you can either lace around your ankle or has ankle straps.
You may see some deadlift slippers advertise that they are ‘sumo deadlift friendly’, but this is just a marketing play. I don’t believe deadlift slippers should be used for sumo.
Read my complete review of the Best Shoes For Sumo Deadlifting
2. It’s Hard To Get A Snug Fit
Because there are no laces on deadlift slippers, and the material is somewhat loose and flexible, it’s hard to get a snug fit.
When you first slide your foot into a deadlift shoe, it might fell like there’s extra material around your foot, or that your foot isn’t ‘strapped in’ properly.
This was a big complaint for many people wearing deadlift slippers back in the day. However, when LiftingLarge came out with the dual strapping system where you can Velcro your foot into place, this issue wasn’t a concern anymore.
I would spend the extra money on getting a deadlift slipper with strap supports around the mid-foot.
3. They Look Goofy
You might get some odd looks putting on a pair of slippers in a commercial gym.
For me, I don’t care what other people think, especially if the shoe is going to increase my performance (which it will).
However, if you’re already feeling self-conscious in the gym, then perhaps you want to get a shoe that’s more mainstream.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some other frequently asked questions I get about deadlift slippers:
Are Deadlift Slippers Better Than Going Barefoot?
Deadlift slippers are better than going barefoot because they offer a thin rubber outsole that provides more grip than being barefoot. Deadlift slippers are around 2mm higher than going barefoot. However, commercial gyms won’t allow you to deadlift barefoot, and it’s not allowed in a powerlifting competition. So having some sort of sole over your foot will ensure you’re following the rules, while still achieving the most minimal shoe design possible.
Are Deadlift Slippers Better Than Wrestling Shoes?
Wrestling shoes are often used for deadlifting because they have a minimalistic design, just like deadlift slippers. If you deadlift sumo, wrestling shoes are better because they offer ankle support. However, if you deadlift conventional, they are neither better or worse. However, deadlift slippers are cheaper than wrestling shoes, which may play into some people’s decisions.
Check out my full article on Are Wrestling Shoes Good For Deadlifts?
Final Thoughts: Why I Use Deadlift Slippers
I would use deadlift slippers if you’re looking for a cheap option for a deadlift-specific shoe.
The main feature in a deadlift shoe that you want is a minimalistic sole without a heel-to-toe drop. The deadlift slipper fits these requirements, which is why it’s a popular choice among many powerlifters.
If you don’t care how they look when you wear them in the gym, I wouldn’t think twice about getting a pair.
My only recommendation is that you get the kind of deadlift slipper that has either 1-2 Velcro straps over the mid-foot in order to have a more secure and snug fit.