Aside from investing in a lifting belt or knee sleeves, buying the right shoes for squatting is perhaps one of the biggest concerns for powerlifters. Most powerlifters already know that squatting in running shoes is a bad idea, but it’s not uncommon to see some athletes squatting in basketball shoes.
So, should you squat in basketball shoes? No, you shouldn’t squat in basketball shoes. Basketball shoes are designed to absorb impact from running and jumping, and some basketball shoes come with extra cushioning that can throw off your balance when squatting. The heavy material of basketball shoes can also increase your range of motion.
There are a lot of anecdotal accounts of lifters hitting squat PRs in basketball shoes, but there are several reasons why I don’t recommend squatting in basketball shoes.
Keep reading to find out why you shouldn’t squat in basketball shoes and what you should look for in a squat shoe instead.
Key Differences: Basketball Shoes vs. Squat Shoes
Before we review the reasons why you shouldn’t squat in basketball shoes, you should first understand the differences between basketball shoes and squat shoes.
A lot of basketball shoes are made from thick leather material that is stiff and doesn’t bend easily.
Weightlifting shoes are also typically made from leather, but they are thinner and usually combined with other lightweight materials. This makes them more flexible and breathable without sacrificing their stability or durability.
2. Heel drop
Basketball shoes typically have a heel drop of about 10mm.
This gives them arch support that helps support the feet during high-impact activities, but it isn’t necessary when you’re squatting and need your feet to remain stable.
The amount of cushioning in basketball shoes can vary greatly, but most of them have too much cushioning to make them good for squatting.
When squatting heavy, you want to be able to grip the floor, activate the muscles in your feet, and maintain balance. Cushioned shoes make it more difficult to do all of this.
Weightlifting shoes don’t have a lot of cushioning, which gives your foot a stable base and allows you to transfer force from your feet more efficiently.
4 Reasons You Shouldn’t Squat in Basketball Shoes
Four reasons you shouldn’t squat in basketball shoes are:
- The soles aren’t built to offer the stability needed for heavy squats.
- Basketball shoes are designed to absorb shock from running and jumping.
- The ankle support found in basketball shoes can limit your range of motion.
- Basketball shoes limit your ability to generate force from the floor.
Let’s review each of these in more detail.
1. The Soles Aren’t Built to Offer the Stability Needed for Heavy Squats
While it’s true that the soles of basketball shoes are made from rubber-like most squat shoes are, they also tend to be softer and more flexible than heeled or flat weightlifting shoes.
Additionally, basketball shoes are designed to move during quick transitions on the court. This isn’t a concern in powerlifting, which makes basketball shoes a poor choice for squatting.
2. Basketball Shoes Are Designed to Absorb Shock from Running and Jumping
While not as cushioned as traditional running shoes, basketball shoes do have some level of cushioning. It’s necessary to absorb the impact from running and jumping, but it means that the shoes don’t have a solid base like weightlifting shoes do.
Squatting in cushioned shoes can even negatively impact the amount of weight you can lift, which is contradictory to the goal of powerlifting: to lift as much weight as possible.
3. The Ankle Support Found in Basketball Shoes Can Limit Your Range of Motion
Many people believe that high-top basketball shoes are good for squats because of the ankle support they provide. But in actuality, they can impede ankle dorsiflexion that is necessary for squatting to depth.
This can cause other parts of your body to compensate, which can lead to poor form and injury.
4. Basketball Shoes Limit Your Ability to Generate Force from the Floor
In order to squat heavy, you want to maintain a stable connection with the floor. Basketball shoes have thicker soles that prevent you from being able to make this connection.
When you wear a cushioned shoe like a basketball shoe to squat, it also absorbs the force that you should be using to lift the weight. Instead, you want to push your feet against a harder surface like a non-compressible sole of a weightlifting shoe.
Check out my other squat shoe resources:
What to Look for in Squat Shoes
You don’t have to spend a lot of money on an expensive weightlifting shoe to wear for squats, but there are a few things you should look for when deciding on a squat shoe.
1. A Flat Sole
Squatting in cushioned shoes gives your foot an unstable base, which can throw off your balance.
When squatting, you want to use your feet to generate force from the floor. You also want to make sure that you have good traction to prevent slipping.
Shoes with flat, rubber soles are ideal for squats because they allow you to feel a deeper connection with the floor and help keep your feet in place.
2. Heel Height
Weightlifting shoes typically have heel heights of 0.75” – 1”. They were originally designed for Olympic weightlifters to allow for a greater range of motion, but many powerlifters wear them as well so they can more easily squat to depth.
Heeled weightlifting shoes can be beneficial for lifters with poor ankle mobility, long femurs, or those who prefer high bar squats.
Squatting in shoes with a raised heel also allows you to engage your quads more.
However, there are plenty of powerlifters who prefer to squat in flatter shoes. If you’re one of them, you should look for a minimalist shoe with a low heel drop such as Converse Chuck Taylors.
How do you know if you are someone who needs a flat or raised heel? Check out my article on Heel or Flat Shoes While Squatting: 6 Things To Consider.
Minimalist shoes like these also help strengthen the muscles in the feet and provide more positional awareness, which allows you to quickly make technique adjustments.
3. Support and Stability
Heeled weightlifting shoes typically come with one or two metatarsal straps that offer additional support for the foot. They help keep the foot in place and prevent it from slipping inside the shoe when you have a heavy barbell on your back.
Metatarsal straps aren’t totally necessary as many powerlifters squat in shoes that don’t have them, but they do offer an extra level of lateral support that a lot of lifters appreciate.
Basketball shoes will help you look stylish in the gym, but they aren’t ideal for squatting because they have too much cushioning that prevents you from generating power from the floor.
And while high-top shoes can provide ankle stability when squatting, most high-top basketball shoes are made out of stiff fabric that can impede ankle dorsiflexion.
If you’re looking for a squat shoe, I recommend the Adidas Powerlift 4’s (for men) or the Reebook Legacy Lifters (for women) instead of a basketball shoe. Their harder outsoles offer more stability and their raised heel heights are ideal for certain athletes such as those with poor ankle mobility, long femurs, or athletes who prefer high bar squatting.
Check Out My Other Lifting Shoe Resources & Reviews
- 12 Best High Top Lifting Shoes
- 5 Best Lifting Shoes For Narrow Feet
- 5 Best Lifting Shoes For Wide Feet
- 7 Best Women’s Powerlifting Shoes
- Squat Shoes vs Converse: Pros, Cons, & Which Are Better?
About The Author
Amanda Dvorak is a freelance writer and powerlifting enthusiast. Amanda played softball for 12 years and discovered her passion for fitness when she was in college. It wasn’t until she started CrossFit in 2015 that she became interested in powerlifting and realized how much she loves lifting heavy weights. In addition to powerlifting, Amanda also enjoys running and cycling.