People who occasionally lift weights think it’s ok to use running shoes or other types of cross-trainers to squat. This mindset is the ultimate squat nemesis!
Regardless of your squatting frequency and intent, using squat shoes isn’t a luxury. They can actually improve several aspects of your squats like your stance, form, posture, depth, safety, and even how much you lift.
This is why I recommend the Adidas Powerlift 4 for men and the Reebok Legacy Lifter for women. Not only do they both have a raised heel, which allows the hips to maintain the proper position throughout the lift, but they also have a hard flat outsole to maximize the force transfer from your legs to the floor.
Shopping for the right pair of squat shoes can be so tiresome that it pushes you to forget about it. That’s why I saved you the effort and came up with this list of the best shoes for squats. Let’s get started!
What Is Special About a “Squat Shoe”
Squat shoes have a special design that drastically improves your squatting mechanics.
For starters, the heel is designed to give you additional height.
The height raises your heel slightly higher than your toes, so your ankles do not have to flex so much when your hips are at the bottom of the squat. For people with tight ankles or hips, this is a huge advantage because now you can squat the full range of motion without as much limitations.
Additionally, the sole of the shoe is flat and hard, often made of wooden or foam construction.
This allows your foot to effectively transfer force through the floor. The hard surface keeps your foot balanced, making it easier to keep the load distributed over your center of mass without rocking back and forth. This enables you to lift more weight.
I’ll go through each of the squat shoe features in detail later on in this article.
Why You Can’t Wear Any Type of Shoe Squatting
Running shoes are made to cushion and dampen your steps. Otherwise, all these jerky running forces can cause serious long term injuries.
But for powerlifting, your needs are different. Your feet need to push on a solid surface. That way, all your force will be delivered to the weight you’re trying to lift.
Using a cushioned-sole would reduce your power output. Moreover, the lack of solid support increases injury risk, especially with heavier weights, as you are more likely to rock forward and back on your foot.
What’s even more shocking is that it decreases the exercise benefits!
Typical running shoes support feet in an arched form. While this is essential for proper running, it’s known to impair muscle development in your feet. Having strong foot muscles is important in the squat as it will help stabilize your ankle, knee, and hip position.
My Picks For The Best Squat Shoes
For each product, I’m going to discuss the technical details that directly affect your squatting performance. Then, I’ll mention the pros and cons I found in the customer reviews.
- Adidas Men’s Powerlift 4
- Reebok Women’s Legacylifter
- Nordic Lifting Megin Powerlifting Shoe
- Reebok Men’s Legacylifter
- Nike Romaleos 3 XD
- Converse Chuck Taylors
- Reebok Men’s Crossfit Lifter Plus 2.0
- INOV-8 Men’s FastLift 335 Squatting Shoes
With a heel height of 0.6” made from high-density EVA foam, your squatting workout would get the support it needs.
If you already own a Powerlift pair from Adidas, like the 3.1 model, you know how well it performs.
The Powerlift 4 model has the same high-quality outsole. It’s wear-resistant and a highly durable material that provides a firm grip under the heaviest loads.
However, it’s worth noting that it may slip on wet platforms. So to be on the safe side, wipe any sweat or moisture before beginning your squats.
Ready for the new features? This model has a full outer canvas construction instead of the mesh and synthetic leather in the 3.1 model.
Canvas is known for its optimum durability and snug fit. Outside the shoe industry, it’s used to make tents, sails, backpacks, and any other product that requires sturdiness.
Additionally, it’s much lighter than other materials. This leaves room for your feet to breathe and stay comfortable.
Adidas also added a handy heel-loop to easily put on the pair without crushing the heel cup.
The only thing I’m not comfortable with is the presence of a slight dip in the midfoot material. Though it doesn’t affect performance, it may take a few workouts to get used to how it feels.
I have an older model of the Adidas Powerlift shoe and they have lasted me 12 years, so you can guarantee these shoes will last.
- Adidas AdiWEAR outsole
- Durable canvas construction
- Supportive dense EVA lining
- Midfoot material dip
Have you been searching endlessly for a pair that balances between comfort and function? I’m glad to tell you that you found it.
The Reebok Women’s Legacylifter shoes have a heel height of 0.75” constructed with thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). This material is optimal for giving a non-compressible, yet lightweight surface for your feet.
The upper is made from two materials: perforated leather toward the toe box and padded mesh toward the ankle. These two features make the shoes highly breathable around your feet.
For optimum fit and safety, these shoes have two upper straps with each one going in a separate direction. The first one is placed midfoot while the other is placed over the balls of the feet.
The latter strap will ultimately improve your squatting experience, especially with more explosive heavier lifts. Moreover, the heel is surrounded by an exo-frame that makes it fit even more snugly.
Some trainers would advise against using this product due to its excessively heavy weight. But I strongly disagree.
You won’t be moving much with these shoes (i.e. walking or running), so its weight won’t impair you by any means. However, it’ll provide extra anchorage to the ground.
- Double upper straps
- Exo-frame support
- Breathable construction
- Solid TPU lining
- Somewhat expensive
For all lifters running low on cash, Nordic introduced a deserving pair at a quite competitive price.
These shoes come with a 1.4” heel height. Which is notably higher than most squat shoes. If you don’t think it’s uncomfortable, this added height will definitely improve your squat mechanics if you lack mobility in your ankles and hips.
You’ll have a wider range of ankle motion and, subsequently, a more upright torso.
There is a supportive velcro strap above the laces in the midfoot region to securely support your feet. Nordic claims that the velcro stitching, alongside the overall stitching, is top-notch and highly durable.
I only found a couple of reviews complaining from poor materials. But to keep you safe, these shoes have a 1-year full refund warranty. And I have to say, nearly all reviews praised their customer support. You won’t get that same level of attention with other squat shoe brands.
The outsole is completely flat, without the usual indentations found on other soles. However, it doesn’t affect the anti-slip function. It grips greatly as long as you’re standing on a dry surface.
Moist surfaces are reported to slightly decrease their traction. So stay safe and wipe any sweat before lifting large weights.
- Affordable price
- Excellent customer support
- High-quality materials
- 1-year warranty
- Slippage on moist surfaces
It can be a daunting experience to shop for shoes that fit your wide feet. Luckily, Reebok has made it easier. The Reebok Men’s Legacylifter features two important criteria that make it stand out.
Firstly, their wide toe box. Why is that important? If we ignored the irritating feel, having a strangled foot is actually harmful to your squats.
As you might already know, to perform a good squat, your feet must have a tripod anchorage at the heel, the pinky toe, and the big toe. The heel support is always provided by any pair. But it’s the pinky and the big toe that often get overlooked.
Providing sufficient space for these toes to spread out will anchor you to the ground. This opens the chance for heavier and more challenging squats.
The second important feature is these shoes’ heavy leather construction. As your toes would spend most of the time at the shoe edges, you need a material that doesn’t rip out after a couple of months of use (this is actually pretty common).
For extra support, these shoes are provided with double upper straps, one at midfoot, and another at the balls of the feet.
- Wide toe box
- Heavy leather around the toe box
- Double upper straps
- Quite expensive
The Romaleos 3 XD shoes from Nike come with a 0.75” heel lift. It has a hard supporting midsole just like any other squat shoes. But the difference lies in the structure.
The plastic heel is arranged in a honeycomb structure instead of a solid bulk like other shoes. This gives the same amount of support, but with much less weight.
The midsole has the slightest arch support. Furthermore, these shoes come with two interchangeable hard and soft insoles to match your personal preference. These two features make them the go-to option for athletes with flat feet.
You might wonder if you have flat feet? If you don’t already know, then you probably don’t have flat feet. Most people with flat feet already wear shoes in other aspects of their life that address this issue.
What I personally like the most about these shoes is Nike’s Flywire technology. Have you ever felt that laces aren’t tight enough? No matter how you pull, you might still feel looseness near your sole.
Nike has found the solution. These shoes are equipped with two tough polymer filaments that run through the upper on each side. On one end, they’re attached to the midsole, while the other end is attached to the top two laces.
Hence, when you tighten the laces, the whole upper will tighten around your feet.
- Honeycombed TPU midsole
- Slight arch support
- Snug fit with Flywire Technology
- Quite expensive compared to other shoes
- Some customers reported tongue ripping after a short time
If you opt for a wide squat stance, then the classic flat Chuck Taylor should be your choice without the slightest doubt.
The midsole is constructed from a firm rubber material that gives your feet a consistent height and rigid support.
The outsole is made from non-slip rubber. The heel and forefoot areas are textured with triangle-like shapes, while the midfoot and the sides are plain flat. This arrangement provides an excellent tripod effect for a more effective squat.
But a Chuck Taylor All-Star pair isn’t about performance only. With the canvas outer construction, your feet will get the breathable and comfortable space they need.
What I like about them the most is their high top design. It doesn’t affect the performance much, but the extra laces around your feet will give you a comfy tight fit.
Although they are relatively cheap, they’re equipped with two features that get the most out of them. Firstly, there is double stitching throughout the whole shoe. Secondly, the toe box is capped with a firm rubber cover to protect it against wear.
- Consistent flat midsole
- Gripping textured outsole
- Breathable canvas construction
- Their design hasn’t changed since they were released in the 1950s.
- They don’t have upper straps.
Sweaty feet are the last thing you want for your squatting routine. If you are one of those unlucky people, then the Men’s Crossfit Lifter Plus 2.0 from Reebok could make squatting less of a hassle. It has an anti-friction lining that decreases heat formation and subsequent sweat.
What I like the most about these shoes is their superior fit. This is achieved through two features. Firstly, the double upper straps on the midfoot and the balls of the feet.
Secondly, and the most unique one, the U-Form technology. With this feature, you can fit the shoes to your smallest feet details.
Simply, preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Then put the shoes inside the oven for 2-3 minutes. Afterward, wear them for 8 minutes at least.
Their upper is constructed from a breathable mesh material that doesn’t strangle your feet.
Although the heel lift is 0.75”, it doesn’t provide the best rigid support you’d normally want. This is due to the quite flexible rubber midsole.
Hence, I’d only recommend using them in squatting with relatively low weights. As you go up, much of your force would be lost at the midsole.
- Anti-friction lining that decreases sweating
- Optimal fit with the U-Form technology
- Superior stability with the double upper straps
- Quite expensive
- Not suitable for large weights.
I couldn’t end the reviews without mentioning this product. Inov-8 might not be that famous, but these shoes are surprisingly good.
They have a wide toe box that leaves a proper area for your toes to align in a proper tripod. The upper is constructed from the regular breathable mesh with a velcro strap in the midfoot region.
To enhance stability even more; these shoes have a TPU plastic frame surrounding the heel area, a feature the Inov-8 call External Heel Cage.
The midsole has a normal height of 0.65”. But it’s given by pillar-shaped TPU material. In addition to having a fashionable look, this arrangement means that less material is used. Hence, they’re relatively lighter than other shoes.
The outsole is made from a non-slip rubber material. It’s equipped with a groove that runs in the forefoot region. This groove adds a little flexibility that facilitates moving between different positions. So theoretically you could use it for other lower body exercises.
However, due to this flexibility and its lightweight, I wouldn’t recommend using it with large weights.
- Flexible outsole
- Wide toe box
- Not suitable for large weights
What About Barefoot Squatting?
Ok, let’s completely forget about shoes. Squatting on the hard ground directly has got to be a perfect choice, right? Again, no.
Squatting barefoot has the advantage of enhanced proprioception. It gives you the feeling of anchorage to the ground, which pushes some people to perform better and lift more.
But what you probably don’t notice is how it forces your upper body to incline forward. This adds more force on your spine. Leading to irritating lower back pain in the long run for some people.
The low-bar back squat is probably the only squat that will benefit from your leaned trunk. Even then, using flat shoes, like the Chuck Taylors, would be better than going barefoot.
Not to mention the probability of jeopardizing your well-being by stepping in a ground that may contain bacteria, viruses, or fungus. It’s not really worth it!
Heeled vs. Flat Shoes: What’s Right for Squats?
Contrary to common belief, squatting doesn’t have one right form. Instead, it’s decided by several factors.
In this section, you’re going to know what factors you should think about when choosing between heeled and flat shoes.
Ankle Range of Motion
If your ankle has limited mobility, aka limited dorsiflexion, go for heeled shoes. We’ll use imaginary numbers to illustrate this point.
Let’s assume that your deepest squat requires your ankle to be at 60 degrees. If you use flat shoes, you’ll be starting your squat from around 90 degrees. So you’d be having a motion along 30 degrees.
On the other hand, using heeled shoes raise the starting angle to be around 105 degrees. In this way, your ankle will move an additional 15 degrees. Isn’t this the fastest fix ever?
However, you should be aware of the reason behind your impaired ankle mobility. In some cases, it happens due to your bone structure.
If your bones hit each other at a certain angle, you don’t really have anything to do about it. Using heeled shoes is the only fix you have in hand.
But it can also happen due to tissue limitations. In that case, I think you should fix these issues rather than going for heeled shoes.
To get the most benefit from your squat, the bar needs to be as close as possible to the middle of your feet as you’re going up and down. Otherwise, you’d waste a lot of your squat power, or worse, expose yourself to the risk of slipping the weight forward or backward.
Let’s assume we have two people that match in everything. They have the same dorsiflexion in the ankle, and the same knee and hip flexion. The only difference between them is the femur length.
The person with the longer femur would have their hips pushed backward. So, to achieve the proper weight position, they’ll have to either lean forward or pronate (internally rotate) their ankles.
Both solutions aren’t beneficial for your squats, though. Leaning forward puts pressure on your lower back. And pronating your ankles would jeopardize your stability.
Using heeled shoes will cause your hip to drop downward. Which compensates for the long femur and keeps your torso upright.
So to sum up, if you have a longer femur relative to your tibia and torso, heeled shoes should be your go-to solution. Otherwise, you can use the flats if you prefer.
Feet close or feet wide, toes in or toes out, what’s the right squat position? There’s no answer that’s right for everyone!
The right squat stance should be dictated by your bone structure. The main determinant responsible for this is in your hip joint.
Broadly speaking, unless you squat in an ultra-wide squat stance, you’ll benefit more with a heeled shoe. This is especially the case if your feet are shoulder-width apart.
However, if your feet are 2X the distance of your shoulders apart, or greater, you might want to consider a flat-soled shoe or a lower heel height.
Neck Length & Neck Angle
Let’s group these two concepts together:
To make sure you understand what follows, let’s review some basic anatomy. Nothing too technical, though.
Hip joints are ball and socket joints. The femur has a ball-shaped head that sits in a depression in the hip bone. And with every head comes a neck. That’s what we call the narrow part of the femur that precedes the head.
If you have a long femur neck, your whole leg would be naturally away from your body’s center. Hence, the wide squat stance is the right choice for you.
Likewise, a shorter femur neck would cause your leg to be closer to your body’s center. Opting for a wide stance, in that case, would be irrational.
Ideally, the femur neck should be pointing slightly forward. This way, the comfortable squat position would be with your toes pointing forward.
Then again, humans are not molds that follow the same anatomy. If your neck points backward, your toes will be comfortable in an inward direction.
On the contrary, a neck that points in a more forward position means toes that rests in an outward direction.
What to do
Enough with medical knowledge. How to actually implement this information to your daily squatting?
Luckily, you won’t need an x-ray to know how your bone aligns. Simply, lie on your back, and bring your knees as close to your chest as possible. Don’t contract any other muscle, just your knees.
From that position, look down on your legs and feet. This is how your stance should look like in both width and toes direction.
Back to our main topic. Wider stances naturally have an upright torso. Hence, you can comfortably use flat shoes. This is also the case if you like to point your toes outward.
Narrower stances, on the other hand, can benefit from heeled shoes to straighten the torso and increase the range of dorsiflexion. This is also the case if you like to point your more forward.
High vs. Low Bar Squats
The position of the bar may tell you what shoes to wear. High bar squats have the bar placed on top of the traps muscle. In that way, it lies comfortably within the middle of your feet. But the downside to this position is the requirement of a flexible ankle to properly perform it.
That’s why I think you should go for heeled shoes if you prefer high bars. Like we mentioned before, it will easily increase your ankle mobility.
Low bar lifters, on the contrary, can either wear flats or heels. It usually requires a wide stance, thus flat shoes would work. But it also has the bar out of the foot’s middle, which requires heeled shoes to correct. So, this is left for your personal preference.
Features of a Squat Shoe
To be able to purchase the right pair, I’m going to walk you through the features you should be looking for.
Commercially, some brands refer to the heel height by “offset”, “heel to toe drop”, or “drop level”.
You should be aiming for a drop that ranges between 0.5-1.2 inches. Why? Raising your heel instantly enables you to squat deeper.
Furthermore, it keeps your back straight. Go on, try it! The straight back takes a lot of force off your lower back, as we established earlier.
Where does this force go then? Mainly to your quads.
Regular laces usually aren’t sufficient in securing your feet. I’m talking about minor movements. These can seriously injure your ankle.
So, you should be looking for shoes that have strap support. They usually come as velcro straps to make it easier to reach the right tightness.
Some brands offer more than one strap to give lateral and vertical stability. The more straps, the more support, the less risk.
The midsole is not the feature that’s worthy of your attention. It’s important in running shoes as it provides the most cushioning.
For squat shoes, it’s typically thin and situated under the heel only. Usually, its material is either TPU or EVA (types of plastic). However, TPU is used more often due to its harder nature.
Your outsole should provide the maximum gripping possible. Minimal slippage can cause major loss of balance, which can cause serious injuries.
The go-to material is, of course, rubber. It has the best traction but it can wear easily. But this shouldn’t be a concern if, again, you devote your shoes for squatting only.
Squat shoes can be quite expensive compared to other options. And frankly, they should be. They require special materials and design to ensure you get the perfect exercise.
Don’t think about downgrading and choosing a poor pair to save some bucks. They won’t be as effective. And they won’t be as durable.
Think of them as an investment. After all, the better the durability, the less often you’ll have to replace them.
The main method you can use to pick a durable product is to follow brands of indisputable reputation. Yes, I know that nobody is perfect and famous brands can produce awful products. But at least this happens as an exception.
This is by far the most important feature. It’s what makes a shoe either for running or squatting. Choose a material that gives the highest possible rigidity, like TPU.
This is particularly important if you’re doing Olympic weightlifting or any form of squatting. You don’t want to lose the tiniest amount of your force in compressing your shoes.
The only tradeoff to such materials is their relative heaviness. But I don’t think that would be such a big problem as long as you reserve these shoes for squatting only. You don’t move that much after all.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most common questions I get about squat shoes:
Can you replace squat shoes with small weights to step on?
Technically, you can. But is it better than shoes? Absolutely not. For starters, it’s unreproducible. Even if you use the same weight plates, your heel position may change. This prevents you from keeping track of your performance.
Furthermore, it’s not the safest option. Under large weights, your feet may easily slip off the weight edge, causing various degrees of serious injuries.
How to care for your squat shoes?
Putting newspaper inside your shoes after your workout is an easy and cheap method to remove any excess moisture and fight bad odor.
After around a year of use, your shoe will probably need to be washed. Squat shoes are machine-washable in slow spin mode. However, check the manufacturer’s notes beforehand to avoid irreversible damage.
But if you want to prolong the durability of your shoes as long as possible, don’t use them outside the platform. Not even on your way to and back from the gym.
Otherwise, you’d be exposing your shoes to loads they aren’t made to withstand.
When to replace your current squat shoes?
The most notable sign to notice is a loose upper strap. Either the velcro wore off or the metal loop detached, squatting with a faulty strap is unstable and may cause injuries.
Other signs like torn stitching or peeled glue are left to your personal judgment, either repair or replace.
Hopefully, this article on the best shoes for squats provided you with all the necessary information on squatting.
To sum up, Adidas Men’s Powerlift 4 is what I recommend as the best squat shoes for men. With their canvas construction, dense EVA midsole and the 0.6” heel height, you’d be giving your squat the necessary support.
And for her, I recommend Reebok Women’s Legacylifter Sneaker. The TPU midsole together with the leather/mesh upper gives a well-balanced product. Furthermore, their double straps ensure that nothing would go wrong.
If you have wide feet, don’t just settle for any shoes. Reebok Men’s Legacylifter Cross Trainer should fit you well. They have a wide toe box that’s supported by a heavy leather construction.
In the end, I’d like to remind you to stay safe above all. If your shoes started wearing off, don’t hesitate to change them. Now go on and do some good reps!