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Running shoes are the ideal choice if you’re looking for lightweight and pliable footwear while doing plyometric-based exercises. However, I’ve seen a lot of people in the gym, especially newbies, who wear running shoes while performing powerlifting movements like the squat.
So, are running shoes a good choice for squatting? You should not wear running shoes during squats. The kinematics of squatting are extremely different from running, and wearing runners will cause you to feel off-balance, which will impact the amount of force you apply through the floor. Also, runners can also negatively impact your bar path, depth, and torso angle.
In this article, I’ll explain the main differences between the runners and squat shoes, and why they’re incompatible with each other. Also, I’ll provide you with a brief overview of the other types of shoe options that you can choose for squatting.
Key Differences: Running Shoes vs Squat Shoes
Here’s a quick head-to-head comparison that explains the key differences between a running shoe and a proper powerlifting shoe for squats.
When you first hold a running shoe, you’ll notice that it’s quite lightweight and bendy. This flexibility is essential to help you sprint as fast as possible without adding too much weight to your feet.
The lightness comes from the EVA foam and breathable mesh fabric, which makes up the majority of the shoe’s structure.
On the other hand, squat shoes are usually made of synthetic leather, so they’re heavier. This will help you feel “grounded” into the floor under heavier squat weight.
Also, they usually feature hard incompressible soles that are made of rubber and won’t bend easily.
Most squat shoes are built to last, as they’re used to handle much more total weight than the average running shoe.
Both running shoes and squat shoes have a common feature, which is the raised heel.
However, their mechanics serve two completely different purposes. So while they might seem like a mutual point, they’re among the pivotal points of variation.
A heel raise in a running shoe is preferable but not mandatory, it’s also combined with a toe drop ratio to provide high arch support (more on that later).
The main point of having a raised heel in running shoes is to enhance your back and forth bounce while running. It also doubles as a shock absorber to prevent heel pain.
As for the squat shoes, their heels are a critical part of their functionality. This slight heel raise spares your ankles from flexing so much when your hips are at the bottom of the squat.
This gives you a huge advantage while exercising if you want to squat the full range of motion while staying stable.
The heels and soles are also made of hard materials to help your foot transfer as much force as possible to the floor while lifting.
Arch support is necessary if you suffer from pain in the feet after walking or running for a long time, which is why running shoes usually have ample arch support to help you with that.
Squat shoes should have little to no arch support, as the curved shoes with a rocker design of the soles might cause balance issues during the lift.
However, if you have flat feet, you might want to consider a squat shoe with minimal arch support.
My recommendation here is the Nike Romaleos 3 XD Powerlifting Shoe, which was voted my top squat shoe for flat feet. They feature slight arch support as well as highly durable construction to protect your arch from collapsing.
Outsole and Traction
Lifting a barbell loaded with heavyweights in a slippery shoe is a recipe for disaster. And while running shoes have some from a slip-resistant outsole, they might still be quite loose because the heavy traction will slow you down as you run.
Squat shoes are designed to stay in one place and prevent slipping as much as possible, which is why they’re made from high traction materials and patterns, such as non-slip traction pods and synthetic rubber.
While you shouldn't wear running shoes for squatting, some people prefer “toe shoes”. I reviewed the best toe shoes for working out in my other article.
4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Squat In Running Shoes
The top 4 reasons why you shouldn’t squat in running shoes are:
- You’ll Find Hard Time Stabilizing Your Feet
- No Technical Feedback
- Loss of Force Through the Cushion of the Shoe
- Harder to Get to Proper Squat Depth
1. You’ll Find Hard Time Stabilizing Your Feet
Running shoes are built to do the exact opposite of what a squat shoe is designed to do.
They usually have a rocker sole design to give you a good back and forth while running.
However, such an effect could lead to serious injuries while lifting a ton of weight, especially if you’re doing a 1 rep at maximal load.
The effects of not being stable on your feet can cause an improper bar path, which will force you to use greater muscular just to find your balance, let alone to drive the barbell in a vertical direction.
2. No Technical Feedback
The design of a running shoe makes it Harder to “feel the floor” while lifting. Yet, you need this solid ground to get quick feedback on your technique and make adjustments to your technique.
This is the primary reason why lifters lose tension in the bottom of the squat. They aren’t solid on their feet to begin the movement.
3. Loss of Force Through the Cushion of the Shoe
In a running shoe, padding and cushioning are quite essential because they act as a shock absorber while you’re running to protect your heels and toes from long-term injuries.
Moreover, they function as a rocker or a spring to give you the extra bounce needed for more air time at set-offs to gain more overall speed.
This is why most running shoes have foam padding or gel-filled cushions at critical areas around the feet.
Squats dynamics don’t include sharp or intense shocks, so they don’t need those cushions for protection.
Also, while lifting, you always need to push against a solid ground for the most efficient transfer of force between you and the floor.
As a result, wearing a running shoe to squats will result in a massive loss of force due to the shock-absorbing cushions.
This is one of the points I discuss in my other article on Squatting In Basketball Shoes: Should You Do It?
4. Harder to Get to Proper Squat Depth
Most squat shoes come with a raised heel, known as “heel to toe drop”.
This design allows you to lift more weight because it allows your hips and ankles to travel through a greater range of motion, and therefore, reach deeper in your squats.
Running shoes might have a raised heel, but it won’t be enough to give you this immediate advantage.
Squat Shoes That Are Better Than Running Shoes
I’ve written a more thorough guide with more in-depth details about the best squat shoes and everything you need to know before you buy one.
Whether you’re in a hurry or want quick advice, here’s a brief round-up of my top recommendations that you might want to consider!
Looking for a pair of shoes that can be used for both lifting and running? Check out my reviews of the 5 Best Shoes For Lifting and Running.
1. Adidas Men's Powerlift 4 Weightlifting Shoe – Best Overall Squat Shoe
The Adidas Powerlift 4 is one of my favorite shoes for squats because they feature a 1.1 inches heel raise, which automatically boosts your squat depth and efficiency.
Moreover, the hardened flat sole allows for an excellent connection between your feet and the floor, which helps in maximizing the transfer of force through the floor and into the weights.
The shoe is also made of durable materials to handle years of heavy-duty use and comes in a wide variety of colors and designs to match your gear.
2. Nike Romaleos 3 XD Unisex Training Shoe – Excellent for Lifters With Flat Feet
The Nike Romaleos 3 XD isn’t just a brilliant unisex option because it comes with a raised heel to help you while lifting weights, but it also comes with slight arch support that provides lifters with flat feet with a remarkable level of comfort while wearing the shoe.
The Flywire technology and a midfoot strap system are also a great help to those with flat feet because they allow for a fortified construction that protects the feet from collapsing during the lift.
3. Reebok Men's Crossfit Lifter Plus 2.0 – Most Versatile Option
If you squat casually and looking for a more cost-efficient investment, you might want to consider a CrossFit shoe with raised heels, such as the Reebok Lifter Plus 2.0.
The raised heel platform in the shoes increases your squat depth and minimizes the energy lost due to spring action.
They have a wide toe box that allows you to clench your toes to anchor your feet to the ground for added stabilization while lifting.
What About Squatting Without Shoes vs Running Shoes?
There are various perks to lifting without shoes (barefoot powerlifting). For example, many lifters use it to get a better connection between their feet and the floor and give them quick feedback on their technique issues.
However, training on a flat heel removes the heel drop ratio advantage that raised heels in squat shoes offer.
Also, if you have flat or long legs (tall lifter), a proper squat shoe will give you a better technical advantage.
So while squatting without shoes is better than squatting in running ones, it’s still inferior to training with raised-heeled squat shoes.
We've now answered why you shouldn't squat in running shoes. But, should you deadlift in running shoes? Check out my article on Deadlifting In Running Shoes: Should You Do It?
This wraps it up for today’s guide on whether you should do squats in running shoes. As you can see, running shoes aren’t recommended for squats because they’re heavily padded with no flat soles.
This reduces the transfer of force while lifting and prevents you from going deep in your squats. Alternatively, you might want to consider a flat-soled shoe with a raised heel, such as Adidas Men's Powerlift 4 Weightlifting Shoe.