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The low bar squat is the preference for most powerlifters and people looking to increase their 1 rep max. If you choose to squat in a low bar position, you need to wear the right squat shoes.
So what is the best squat shoe for low bar? I’m recommending the Adidas Men's Powerlift 4 as my top choice. This is because for a low bar squat, you want to have a heel less than 0.75 inchs. The Adidas Men’s Powerlift 4 have a 0.6” heel, in addition to an extremely durable and comfortable design.
In this article, I’ll review the 5 best shoes for low bar squats.
The 5 Best Squat Shoes for Low Bar: Reviews
How much heel height does every pair have? How about the overall performance and comfort? And are there any downsides to consider? These are some of the questions that I’ll answer in each of the following reviews.
The 5 best squat shoes for low bar are:
Adidas Men's Powerlift 4 – Best Overall
The Adidas Powerlift has been the favorite of many powerlifters since they were released. It’s pretty understandable when you come to think of it. They’re sturdy, consistent, and affordable. Although the 4th version doesn’t differ too much from Powerlift 3.1, it still has some new cool perks.
First things first, the Powerlift 4 comes with a heel that measures 0.6”, just like the previous version. On Adidas’s official website, however, they say that it measures 1.1”. I’m not sure how they are measuring the shoe but it’s definitely only 0.6”. This was the case for my own pair of shoes and I’ve also reviewed most, if not all, of the online reviews; nobody received a version with the 1.1” height.
To be frank, I’m super glad they kept the height at 0.6”. This is ideal for low bar squats because it activates your quads without pushing your knees too much forward.
For the upper construction, Adidas decided to replace the synthetic leather with a breathable mesh. This is an insanely beneficial upgrade because it makes the shoes maneuverable enough to allow your toes to splay and “claw” the floor. This is crucial for low bar squats because it decreases the possibility of losing balance.
● Equipped with a breathable mesh that allows for full toe splay
● Excellent floor grip with the AdiWEAR outsole
● The midfoot area has a quite annoying dip
Adidas Men's Powerlift 3.1 – Most Cost-Effective Shoe for Low Bar
As I said, the Powerlift series is amazing, and the 3.1 version is a good choice as well. This time, the heel height is officially stated to be 0.6”.
The most prominent thing about the 3.1 version has got to be the price. It will certainly fit into the budget of most recreational lifters.
The upper is fabricated from synthetic leather, as stated earlier. My only problem with this is how it limits the toe splay to some extent. But aside from this, it’s pretty good with enough sturdiness and excellent durability.
You might disagree, but I like the support strap of this model more than the one featured in the 4th version. It provides more support and stability since it’s a bit thicker and longer.
The only thing I wish was different is the midsole material. Instead of the rock-solid TPU, Adidas chose to go for EVA. It’s not that compressible, but it’ll start absorbing some of your force while squatting with extra heavy loads.
● Highly affordable
● Durable construction
● Excellent stability
● The midsole might slightly compress under heavy loads
Adidas Women's Powerlift 4 – Best Low Bar Squat Shoes for Women
When it comes to female lifters, I always prefer to recommend Powerlift 4. In addition to the convenient 0.6” heel, the mesh construction is lightweight enough to avoid weighing you down.
The first thing that sets this apart from the men’s version is the sizing. If you compared two similar sizes between the two versions, you’ll find the Women’s a bit tighter.
The second difference is in the color. This version is released in light pink and dash green. It might sound like a minor detail, but the super positive feedback it received proves the opposite.
Adidas fabricated the midsole with the same EVA they used in the other 2 versions. Generally speaking, I don’t think it would be a major problem for most female lifters. In fact, some might find it more comfortable than TPU.
Over the posterior part, Adidas placed a noticeably long heel-loop to facilitate putting on the shoes. Again, another subtle detail that received positive feedback.
● Superior breathability with the mesh upper
● The midfoot area has a quite annoying dip
Adidas Men's Leistung 16 II – Best Low Bar Squat Shoe for Long Legs
If you have legs that are long in relation to your torso, you should absolutely try the Leistung 16. With their 1” heel, these shoes will push your knees forward, which should let your hips drop into the deep squat that you’ve always desired.
The first thing you should know about these shoes is that they don’t have the regular velcro support straps. Instead, Adidas used the BOA lacing system. If you’re unfamiliar, this technology features a micro-dial that’s connected to side straps by the means of small wires. When you put on the shoes, you can fine-tune the tightness by simply rotating the dial.
Convenient? Yes. But efficient? Not really. Unlike velcro, the BOA system might not be consistent. It often tends to lose its tightness during your training, especially in long sessions.
The upper material, on the other hand, is absolutely perfect. Adidas used a woven synthetic material that looks like strips of layered fiberglass. While this provides exceptional durability, it also gives freedom for your toes to splay and claw the ground.
● Superior durability
● Flexible upper construction
● Suits tall lifters
● Slightly expensive
● The BOA system loses tightness
Converse Chuck Taylor All Star High Top Sneaker – Best Flat Squat Shoe for Low Bar
A pair of Converse doesn’t need an introduction, right? They have been valued by many professional powerlifters for many reasons. Firstly, and obviously, their flat construction. Without a raised heel, you’ll put most of the load on your glutes and hip muscles instead of your quads.
Unlike other flat shoes, the Chuck Taylors excel in durability. The canvas upper provides excellent support while keeping your feet well-aerated. Furthermore, the toe box is equipped with a supportive rubber cup to prevent the early wear and tear that happens in this area.
Best of all, a pair of converse can be the ultimate choice for your budget. With less than $60, even if they tore down (which won’t happen anytime soon), you’ll easily get yourself a new pair.
You can read my article on why powerlifters choose to wear converse shoes.
● Highly affordable
● Durable construction
● Superior support
● Old-fashioned design that hasn’t changed since the first release
Benefits of Low Bar Squats
The difference in the weight placement between high and low bar squats might appear minimal to some lifters, especially the novices. But if you’ve been practicing high bar squats since you began training, I can confidently say that transitioning to a low bar will make a world of difference!
Low Bar Allows for Heavier Weights
If you’ve been following professional powerlifters, you’ll find that they often perform squats in a low bar position. They mainly do this to benefit from the heavier load that this position naturally allows.
Think about it. In high bar squats, the majority of the weight is loaded on your knees. What’s more, this position already shifts the knees in front of your toes, which put massive stress on your knees and quads.
When you shift the load over the middle of the rear deltoid in a low bar position, the whole squat mechanics change.
With your torso in a horizontal position, you’ll engage your glutes and hamstrings in the process. Mathematically speaking, adding more muscle mass into any lift will double the amount of weight you can carry.
Low Bar Is Comfortable for Tall Lifters
For a long time, squatting has been mandated in a high bar position. Leaning forward with your torso was considered a fatal mistake that dials back on your gains. Between all the lifters, folks with a tall physique have struggled the most.
Ideally, your femur should have the same length of your tibia, or it might be a little longer. With most of the tall people, the femur is usually much longer than the tibia. This fact makes it nearly impossible for them to squat in a high bar position.
Why? Well, as you already know, whenever you’re squatting with a bar, you should always align the weight with your midfoot. The long femur pushes your hips and torso posteriorly, which, in turn, shifts the weight to be over your ankle. Needless to say, this position is absolutely risky. You might suddenly lose your balance and fall backward.
What Difference Does a Low Bar Make?
The position of the bar on your back isn’t the factor that matters. It’s all about how your torso leans forward in that position. This directly compensates for the taller femur, keeping the weight safely aligned with your midfoot.
Low Bar Suits Low Ankle Mobility
High bar squats demand excellent ankle mobility to be able to push your knees forward. Ideally, you can solve this instantly by wearing heeled weightlifting shoes.
However, if you don’t prefer wearing these types of shoes, you can always opt for a low bar squat. Instead of depending on the ankle, this squat depends on your hip flexion, which is generously flexible for the majority of the lifters.
Differences in Squat Shoes for Low Bar Squats
To better highlight the differences, we need to briefly address the shoes suitable for high bar squats. This way, you can instantly deduce the requirements that the other shoes should have.
High Bar Squats Needs Heeled Shoes
As I said earlier, squatting with a high bar demands exceptional ankle mobility. Without it, you won’t be able to push your knees forward to reach your desired squatting depth.
Wearing heeled shoes is a pretty obvious fix. It literally pushes your knees forward, which makes it a lot easier to carry on with the rest of your squats.
And with the raised heel, you’ll also benefit from the enhanced ankle dorsiflexion.
As a side note, I always advise against wearing heeled shoes as an easy fix to permanently deal with limited ankle mobility. It’s better to investigate the reason behind it if you want an actual solution.
In most cases, your ankle tissues might need some special exercises to elongate them and relieve their tension. I’ve addressed this issue among other tips to squat deeper in another article, so make sure to give it a look.
Low Bar Lifters Are Free to Choose
Unlike high bar squats, the low bar doesn’t necessarily require heeled shoes. You’re free to decide between heeled and flat shoes according to the goal you want to achieve.
Wear Heels If You Want to Engage Your Knees
By default, low bar squats load most of the weight on your hips, glutes, and hamstrings. This is actually one of the main reasons why many powerlifters prefer them.
If you want to step up your game, heeled shoes will definitely help. When your heel is raised, your knees will be pushed in front of your toes. This will engage your quad muscles to a large extent.
Wear Flats If You Want to Engage Your Posterior Chain Muscles
Taking the heels out of the equation lets you benefit from low bar squats in its purest form. The majority of the weight will be loaded on your glutes and hips, which should ramp up their gains.
If you want my opinion, I think you shouldn’t limit yourself to any particular technique. Exploring different approaches is always preferred. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up discovering something that activates your full potential better than anything else.
The Role of the Heel in Low Bar Squats
I’ve already discussed what difference does the heel make in your squat mechanics. But since this is the main topic of this article, I wanted to recap all the previous info into this section.
Heels Bring Your Quads Into Play
I want you to pause reading for a while to try the following. Lift your hand upward to a point near your deltoids, as if you’re holding a bar. Now, squat down with your torso leaning forward. Try to imitate your typical low bar squat as much as you can.
When you reach the deepest position, lift your heels slightly off the ground. Slowly increase the height until it reaches about an inch.
If you’re doing it right, you should feel the tension building up in your quads, especially over your knees. This happens primarily because you pushed your knee forward as you were raising your heels.
Heels Compensate for Limited Ankle Range of Motion
Beginners have always complained to me about their inability to reach deep squats. While this might be related to how your bones interact, it can also trace back to stiff tissues and weak muscles.
Ideally, you should work on solving these issues. Temporarily, you can entrust heeled shoes to instantly achieve deeper squats with a wider range of ankle mobility.
To understand this concept, we can illustrate it using some imaginary numbers. Let’s assume that the deepest squat your anatomy allows will have your ankles at an angle of 60 degrees.
When you start your squat with flat shoes, your ankles should be positioned with 90 degrees. This way, your squatting range will be capped at 30 degrees.
After wearing heeled shoes, your ankles will be positioned at 110 degrees, give or take. As a result, your range of motion will be ramped up to 50 degrees!
Main Features: What to Look for in a Squat Shoe for Low Bar?
Needless to say, there are dozens of powerlifting brands and hundreds of amazing shoes on the market. Each pair might be specially designed to fit a certain exercise. In this section, I’ll highlight the top factors you should find in a pair that suits low bar squats.
Commercially, you can find heights ranging between 0.5” and 1.2”. Most people, including me, prefer staying at or below 0.75”. Going higher will push your body forward more than necessary, which might affect your stability.
If you have good hip and ankle mobility, you might want to consider squatting in flats. For this matter, you can’t find anything better than a pair of converse. In addition to affordability, they’re valued for being extremely sturdy and supportive.
Nowadays, it’s super rare to find weightlifting shoes without supportive straps. They’re essential to increase the tightness of your shoes to limit the slightest movements under heavy weights. Obviously, this is crucial if you want to keep injuries at bay.
Wide Toe Box
People trying low bar squats for the first time might find it tricky to maintain their balance. If you think you might encounter this issue, you should look for shoes with a wide toe box.
Having a wide area to splay your toes will allow you to effectively claw the floor with your feet. This will act as a barrier to prevent excessive leaning.
Check out my comparison of the Adidas Adipower 2 vs Powerlift 4.
To conclude, we can agree that Adidas Men's Powerlift 4 are the best squat shoes for low bar. With their 0.6” heel, you’ll be able to balance between performance and stability.
If you want to focus on your hips and glutes, you’ve got to try a pair of Converse Chuck Taylor All Star. Their extra supportive soles will let you utilize every bit of your force to actually lift the weight.