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The type of footwear you use for squats should be selected carefully. This is because your technique and strength will depend on your connection to the floor. Many people consider squatting barefoot or using heeled shoes. But, what about wrestling shoes?
Are wrestling shoes good for squats? Yes, using wrestling shoes are a popular choice for powerlifters when squatting. This is because wrestling shoes are flat-soled, which creates a strong connection between your feet and the floor. As a result, you’ll feel more balanced while squatting and can maximize force production.
If you are considering using wrestling shoes for squats, I’ll discuss the factors that should go into your decision. Make sure to check out our article on the best shoes for squats if you want a more full-depth guide.
You should know that wrestling shoes make great deadlift shoes. Check out our review on the best shoes for deadlifting.
Why Wear Wrestling Shoes For Squats?
The wrestling shoe is a popular choice among powerlifters who prefer to squat barefoot.
Why would someone want to squat barefoot?
Because you’ll have more of a stable connection between your feet and the ground. Not only will you feel more balanced, but you’ll also maximize force production by squatting as close to the floor as possible.
However, squatting barefoot is not practical. This is because gyms don’t allow such a practice, and if you’re a competitive powerlifter, it’s against the rules – you must wear some sort of ‘sole’ on your foot.
Therefore, the wrestling shoe is the closest you’ll get to squatting barefoot, which offers a minimalistic alternative. In addition, you’ll also get high-ankle support, which helps stabilize the foot under heavy loads.
My absolute favorite wrestling shoe for squats is the Asics Matlex Wrestling Shoe (click for pricing and sizing on Amazon). This is because they have a sturdy rubber sole that prevents the foot from sliding when walking the weight out or squatting. They are also extremely comfortable.
Want to improve your squat technique?
4 Reasons To Consider Using Wrestling Shoes For Squats
If you fall into any of the categories below, then you would be a good candidate to use wrestling shoes for squats. You don’t need to have all four categories checked off, but the more you do, the more likely it is that wrestling shoes will be beneficial for you.
1. You Have Good Ankle Mobility
In order to squat in a flat-sole shoe like a wrestling shoe, you need to have good ankle mobility. This is the number 1 reason to wear wrestling shoes or not.
You can test this quite easily.
If you can do a full bodyweight squat barefoot and your heels stay on the ground the entire time, then you have adequate ankle mobility for using wrestling shoes.
If your heels lift from the floor as you’re squatting, this isn’t a reason not to wear wrestling shoes, it just means that you need to implement some ankle mobility exercises in the short-term to improve your range of motion.
Check out the article I wrote on TIPS FOR SQUATTING DEEPER and check out the exercises I list for improving ankle mobility.
2. If You Have “Short” Legs
If you have relatively short legs then you’ll feel stronger squatting in wrestling shoes.
However, I don’t want you to think “short legs” means being a “short person”.
Having short legs is a relative term referring to how much of your total height is made up from your legs.
This is easy to test.
- First, measure your height from the floor to the top of your head.
- Second, measure your legs from the floor to your hip bone (greater trochanter).
- Last, calculate the percentage of your legs to the total height.
If your legs are less than 49% of your overall height, then you will have better leverages for using a flat-soled shoe (like a wrestling shoe) while squatting. This is because it will be easier for you to squat deep without the same ankle mobility that is required for people with longer legs.
3. You’re a Low Bar Squatter
Lifters who use the low bar squat position typically favor squatting with wrestling shoes.
With a low bar squat position, the angle of the shin is usually more vertical. This means that your knee and ankle flexion have lower demands.
As you can tell, whether you use wrestling shoes or not largely depends on whether your ankles have the mobility required to flex forward. If you’re in a low bar squatting position it’ll be easier to keep your heels flat on the ground because it doesn’t require as much ankle flexion.
Most powerlifters squat using a low bar position, which is why you see a large portion of athletes wearing wrestling shoes.
4. You Squat In a Wide Stance
If you’re a wide stance squatter, you’ll benefit from wearing wrestling shoes.
There’s no hard and fast rule in terms of ‘what makes a wide stance squat’ or not. However, the wider you squat, the more you’ll prefer a flat-soled shoe.
This is because wide-stance squatters have their feet angled out more (pointing out). Any shoe that has a significant heel under these circumstances will cause you to feel off balance. You’ll still be able to execute the squat, but you’ll likely feel more shaky under heavier weight.
Also, if you squat in a wide stance, then wearing a wrestling shoe will give you the high-ankle support needed for squatting wider.
Therefore, wrestling shoes are preferred to maintain balance and stability while squatting.
Read my article on ARE WIDE SQUATS BETTER?
Benefits To Wearing Wrestling Shoes For Squats
These are the main benefits of wearing wrestling shoes for squats:
Benefit #1: Increased balance
Wrestling shoes help keep you balanced over your mid-foot.
If you are feeling off-balance in the squat, you will be fighting to hold your optimal position the entire time. This will increase the amount your muscles have to work to keep you from falling forward or backward vs standing up with the weight.
Check out my other article on Squatting In Basketball Shoes: Should You Do It?
Benefit #2: Increased Force Transfer
Wrestling shoes will help you transfer the force you apply directly to the floor.
If you wear a shoe that has a large sole, or worse, a sole that is ‘soft’ (like a running shoe), then some of the force that you apply through the floor will be lost in the sole itself. The most direct force transfer in the squat happens when your foot is as close to the floor as possible.
Benefit #3: Increased Connection With The Floor
Wrestling shoes will help you with the squat cue “feel the floor with your feet”.
“Feeling the floor with your feet” means to drive your pinkie toe, big toe, and heel into the floor. This will further help you keep the barbell over the midline of the foot while squatting, which will increase the efficiency of the movement.
Check out my article on all the SQUAT CUES that will make you a stronger squatter
Benefit #4: Increased Ankle Support
Wrestling shoes will give you ankle support whereas other shoes won’t.
The higher support on the ankle will make you feel more sturdy as you take a heavy weight into the bottom of the squat. Lacking ankle support is more of a problem with the bigger squatters who are handling over 500lbs regularly.
Benefit #5: They Make Great Deadlift Shoes Too
Wrestling shoes for squats can double as great shoes for deadlift as well.
The same benefits apply similarily for a deadlift shoe. So instead of spending money on two different types of shoes, you can get one pair that serve both lifts. In fact, it’s even more critical to wear flat-soled shoes for deadlifts, because it will reduce the range of motion you ultimately have to pull the barbell.
Top 3 Wrestling Shoes For Squats
Here are my top 3 picks:
1. The Asics Matlex Wrestling Shoe
This is the most popular wrestling shoe for powerlifters to use during squats. It has a sturdy rubber sole that sticks to the floor. It’s extremely comfortable to wear while squatting and is very durable.
Click HERE for pricing and sizing on Amazon.
2. Adidas Men’s HVC Wrestling Shoe
This is another great pick for squatting. It’s slightly more expensive than the Asics, but it comes with an ankle strap, for additional support. If you’re squatting heavy this will be a nice feature.
Click HERE for pricing and sizing on Amazon.
3. Sabo Deadlift Shoe
This is called a ‘deadlift shoe’, which I feel limits the potential of what it can offer. It mimics a wrestling shoe in terms of construction, but the material is thicker, so you’ll feel a bit more secure while squatting (or deadlifting). The heel is also reinforced, which for wide squatters will help prevent the ankle from rolling.
Click HERE for pricing and sizing on Amazon.
Related Article: Squat Shoes vs Converse: Pros, Cons, Which Is Better?
Wrestling shoes are a great alternative for powerlifters who want to mimic the feeling of squatting barefoot.
If you’re a wrestler looking to get into powerlifting, you may also be interested in the following article: