In the world of powerlifting, your footwear choice is not just vanity; it could have a significant effect on your squatting mechanics. Lifters have a choice between squatting in traditional squat shoes or converse shoes.
So are squat shoes or converse shoes better for squatting? If you are a tall lifter, squat in a low bar position, or have poor ankle/hip mobility, you should use squat shoes. If you squat in a wide stance, use a low bar position, or have adequate ankle/hip mobility, you should use converse shoes.
In this article, I’ll discuss the age-old debate: heeled squat shoes vs. Converse. I’ll explain the things that make them different while reflecting on their optimal uses.
In Summary: What Each Pair Has to Offer?
Later in this article, I’ll discuss everything there is to know about squat shoes and Chuck Taylors.
But for now, let’s take a general overview to see how they compare.
Adidas Powerlift 4: Best Squat Shoe For Men
Known for their exceptional performance, the Powerlift series has been favored by both beginner and professional lifters. The fourth version came with pretty significant changes that supposedly excel over the previous Powerlift 3.1.
First and foremost, Adidas ditched the leather upper for a full mesh construction. They even revamped the support straps with a wider and longer mesh build.
I wish they had replaced the midsole material, though. The EVA isn’t ideal in terms of firmness and support.
And just like most of the other footwear series, there’s a version dedicated to women.
- Reasonably priced
- Exceptional traction with the adiWEAR sole
- Revamped support straps
- There’s a pretty annoying material dip around the midfoot area
Reebok Legacy Lifter: Best Squat Shoe For Women
Reebok definitely excelled itself with the Legacylifter design. While most squat shoes feature a single support strap, the Legacylifters come with two. What’s more, the straps are built facing different directions to literally squeeze your feet in the optimal position.
Between all of their awesome perks, I like the upper construction the most. Having leather and mesh surrounding your feet combines well between comfort and performance.
And as you might’ve guessed, there’s a version that suits men.
- Equipped with sturdy TPU midsole
- Excellent bracing
- They keep your feet well-aerated
- A bit expensive
Chuck Taylor All Star High Top – Best Converse Shoe For Squats
Although the Chucks were not meant for lifting in the first place, they slowly became the gold standard for deadlifts, and for some people, squats as well.
Their firm soles and superior outsole traction means better weight balance and higher safety.
When it comes to high-top vs. low-top, I always recommend the first. With that extra band of mesh splinting your ankles, high-top Chucks can be versatile and secure enough for any movement in the gym.
But beware of counterfeits. If you were unlucky enough to purchase a non-original pair, it’ll never withstand heavy-duty exercise.
Don’t like the classic design of Chucks? Many lifters opt for the fashionably-rich wrestling shoes since they also have firm flat soles.
- Highly durable, double-stitched mesh upper
- Firm sole
- The rubber toecap can shield against accidental weight falls
- Counterfeits are pretty common
Comparing the Features Face-To-Face: Squat Shoes vs Chucks
In this section, I’ll dive deeper into each of the three pairs to see how they compare to each other. But instead of discussing each one separately, I’ll highlight the differences based on features like the heel height, support, durability, and others.
Here’s a quick comparison table.
|Adidas Men’s Powerlift 4||Reebok Women’s Legacylifter||Chuck Taylor All Star High-Top|
|Heel Height||Claimed: 1.1” Actual: 0.6”||0.86”||Flat|
|Upper Construction||Thick full canvas||Perforated leather and canvas||Full canvas with a rubber toecap|
|Durability||High||Excellent||High if you get an authentic pair|
|Strap Support||1 strap||2 straps||None|
|Ankle Support||Medium — courtesy of the thick canvas upper||High — courtesy of the Exoframe technology||Excellent — courtesy of the high-top collar|
|Outsole Traction||Superior (adiWEAR)||Excellent (rubber)||Excellent (rubber)|
|Price||Check today’s price on Amazon||Check today’s price on Amazon||Check today’s price on Amazon|
In terms of heel height, the Legacylifters top the list with an effective height of 0.86”. The Chuck Taylors obviously rank last with its 100% flat heel.
The Powerlift 4 are a bit controversial. See, on the official website, Adidas claims that the Powerlift 4 come with a heel height of 1.1”. At first glance, this seems somewhat reasonable. The previous version, Powerlift 3.1, came with 0.6” heels. Adidas must have introduced higher heels in the newer version to attract a new audience with different preferences, right?
Well, this is not the case. Almost all of the online reviews said the Powerlift 4 come with 0.6” heels, just like their predecessors.
The Winner: None
I can’t really choose the ultimate winner here. Heel height is a preference that has its advantages and downsides. You should choose your pick based on your needs instead of going with the highest number.
For instance, people who squat in a wide stance in the low bar position will squat easier in a pair of flat chucks. This gets especially true if you have short legs and good hip mobility.
On the other hand, squatting in a narrow or medium stance demands excellent ankle mobility. If you can’t naturally achieve deep ankle dorsiflexion, going for heels would be ideal.
But it’s important to note that squat shoes have limited application. Besides squats, they can be used for bench pressing, overhead pressing, and Olympic lifts. And that’s pretty much it.
Chucks are preferred by folks who’re tight on budget. You can wear them for any movement in the gym as long as their firmness doesn’t pose a problem.
Upper Construction and Durability
Since they came out in the ‘60s, Chuck Taylors kept their iconic canvas upper. This material is ideal for people who care about breathability and maneuverability more than anything else.
When it comes to durability, Converse makes it hard for competitors. The double stitching and rubber toecaps decrease the likelihood of tearing. But it’s important to make sure you’re not buying knock-offs. These will probably rip off in the first month!
The Powerlift 4 feature full canvas construction, too. They don’t have double stitching nor supportive rubber/leather parts. But Adidas still managed to guarantee durability by using a thicker, denser canvas. This takes its toll on the breathability, though.
The Legacylifters have the best of both worlds. The toe box and midfoot area are made from perforated, durable leather. The heel and ankle areas are padded with comfortable mesh that fits perfectly over your feet.
The Winner: Reebok Legacylifters
The Legacylifters are my favorite shoes on this matter. Although leather takes more time to break in than mesh, it provides much higher support. This is a must-have when you’re practicing explosive snatches and cleans. It’s also crucial for heavy squats where you need to “claw” the ground with your feet.
Adidas equipped the Powerlift 4 with a single mesh strap over the midfoot. Despite feeling lighter, the mesh provides the same support of the regular leather. And its thick double stitching will ensure maximum tightness for years to come.
Rebook went the extra mile by adding two support straps: the first is placed over the midfoot while the second lies on the balls of the feet. Each strap is built facing a different direction, which is a unique attribute that I don’t see that often.
Chuck Taylors, on the contrary, don’t feature any support straps. That doesn’t mean they suck, though. The high-top design features 8 eyelets, which can be quite comparable to a support strap. To put things into perspective, the Powerlift 4 has 6 straps, and the Legacylifter’s unique design counts as 4.
The Winner: Reebok Legacylifters
That’s another point for the Legacylifters. The extra support strap makes it less likely for your feet to move while lifting heavy loads. This gets especially crucial if you normally squat in a wide stance with your toes pointing outward.
In the Legacylifters, the heel cup is encircled with a sturdy leather strap; a feature that Reebok calls Exoframe. Together with the mesh construction, this strap holds your ankles in position, minimizing the risks of injuries.
The High-Top version of the classic Chuck Taylors provides inherent stability for your ankles. The 8 eyelets that run from the toecap to the ankle enhances the support even more.
The Powerlift 4 don’t feature a special design tweak for the ankles. However, since they’re built with thick canvas, their ankle support is acceptable.
The Winner: Converse Chuck Taylors
The High-Top Chuck Taylors provide the best ankle support. But to be fair, it’s a close-run with the Legacylifters. If Reebok had made the heel cup slightly higher, they would’ve been an obvious winner.
The Chuck Taylors are well-known for their exceptionally rigid rubber midsole. It might feel a bit uncomfortable for some people, but it’s certainly a plus in powerlifting and weightlifting alike. If they were compressible, a large chunk of your force would be dissipated on the floor.
Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) is the material that Reebok chose for the Legacylifters. In addition to the impeccable firmness, TPU is favored for being lightweight, especially when compared with rubber.
Much to my disappointment, Adidas chose a high-density ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) for the Powerlift 4. Owing to its compressibility, EVA is the material of choice for almost all running shoes. Adidas indeed applied some changes to make it firmer, but it’s not as good as rubber or TPU.
The Winner: Tie
It’s another close-run between Chucks and Legacylifters. In squats, I think the added weight of the Chucks would provide nice support. The lightness of the Legacylifters should be ideal for catches and cleans.
The three shoes feature rubber outsoles that guarantee excellent traction. However, Powerlift 4 slightly excel. Why? Well, Adidas utilized their iconic adiWEAR outsole. Although it doesn’t disclose the actual details of the technology, many lifters have praised its excellent traction.
What’s more, adiWEAR was primarily developed for running and tennis shoes. This means that they’re built to defy wear and enhance durability.
Which Is the Best for Lifting?
The difference in the heel height may seem insignificant for some people. But the truth is, it makes a world of difference! In this section, I’ll highlight the most important variables that should help you make an educated decision.
Tall Lifters Need Squat Shoes
Ideally, your femur (thigh bone) should be slightly longer than your tibia (shin bone). If you have a long stature, chances are you have a disproportionately long femur.
When you squat with a long femur, it’ll likely push your hip and trunk backward. In that position, you’ll automatically lean forward in order to achieve a stable stance. Unfortunately, this might put you at a higher risk of serious back injuries.
The raised heel of the squat shoes will push your knees forward, which will bring your femurs forward by extension. This way, your hips will remain in their natural position and your trunk can remain upright, keeping injuries at bay.
Squat Shoes Suit Poor Ankle Mobility
When new lifters express their disappointment about squat depth, the first thing I inspect is the ankle mobility. If your ankles are restricted, it becomes nearly impossible to squat in a pair of Chucks.
To better illustrate this, I want you to pause reading for a while to try the following: Pretend that you’re holding a bar and squat in your normal stance. After reaching your maximum depth, starting lifting your heels slowly off the ground.
As you’ll notice, the higher your heels get, the more forward your knees will be. This will automatically cause your hips to drop, giving you an instantly deeper squat. Talk about convenience!
Squat Shoes Suit Shallow Hips, Too
Generally speaking, hips are more mobile than ankles. This has to do with their larger muscular and soft tissue content.
For this reason, people who have poor hip mobility are often diagnosed with shallow bone-to-bone contact. In other words, their hip joint doesn’t have enough space for the femur to move before hitting the bony edges.
With your hips out of the equation, your knees and ankles will be required to do their best to achieve the optimal squat depth. And like I said in the previous point, squat shoes will instantly improve your ankle dorsiflexion and, by extension, hip shallowness.
Wide Stance Squatters Should Wear Chucks
In a typical wide stance, your knees and toes will point outwards. Wearing squat shoes will be pretty worthless in that stance. And it can also expose some lifters to the risk of ankle sprains or fractures.
The reason lies in the mechanics of the wide stance. Your feet must remain at close contact with the floor in order to stay stable. That’s why a pair of Chucks would be perfect. The High-Top version is preferred because it splints your ankles in place.
Wearing heeled shoes will push your knees forward. Since this will deactivate the quads to some extent, your ankles would bear a higher lateral force.
Squat Shoes Are Perfect for High Bar Squats
When you place the bar over the highest part of your traps (aka trapezius), your trunk must stay upright to balance the weight. And of course, the upright torso will keep your hips positioned not too far from your heels.
At this stance, the squat depth will demand excellent ankle mobility. And like I said earlier, squat shoes are the ideal, instant solution for limited dorsiflexion.
Chucks Work Better for Low Bar Squats
Setting the bar over your posterior deltoid may seem like an insignificant change for beginners. But in reality, it changes the whole mechanics.
It’s pretty impossible to maintain an upright torso in a low bar squat since this will put huge stress over your arms. Alternatively, your back leans forward, pushing your hips and knees backward.
In that stance, your ankles won’t be needed to flex as much. Technically speaking, squat shoes can be suitable here. However, if you tend to rotate your toes outward, Chucks would be a lot safer as I previously explained.
Squat Shoes Activate Quads and Shin Muscles
Do you feel like your quads aren’t pushed to their limits? Squat shoes would be your best bet. As you opt for a higher heel, your knees will be pushed in front of your toes. This position forces quads and shin muscles to fully contract, which is bound to ramp up their gains.
Chucks Engage the Posterior Chain Muscles
With your feet flat on the ground, your glutes, hamstrings, and hip muscles will be the primary contributors to your squat depth. If you want to activate them even more, you might also want to squat in a wide stance with your toes pointing outward.
Here’s a brief summary of the facts I established in this post:
Use Adidas Powerlift 4 if:
- This is your first time trying heeled shoes
- You don’t normally lift extra heavy loads
- You have a tall stature
- You squat in a narrow stance
Check out the latest price on Amazon.
Use Reebok Legacylifter if:
- You want exceptional bracing
- You want to upgrade to a higher heel
- You have shallow hips
- You have poor ankle mobility
Check out the latest price on Amazon.
Use Chuck Taylor All Star High Top if:
- You’re tight on budget
- You have a short stature
- You squat in a wide stance
- You want to activate your posterior chain muscles
Check out the latest price on Amazon.
As a plus, I’ve written another article on the best shoes for squats. Make sure to check it out if you don’t like the choices featured here!