Proper Powerlifting Foot Wear - Shoes for Deadlifts & Squats

Powerlifting Shoes

Pay Attention to Gym Wear for Safety

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The topic of proper shoes to wear in power-lifting is a complex one. As with discussions of other gear in the sport, you will hear many opinions on what shoes you should wear for each of the power-lifts (the squat, deadlift and bench press). While everyone is different and knows best what footwear feels right for him or her, you have to remember that your shoes should enhance your lifting. Having the right footwear is much more than just looking cool in the gym. Proper shoes can add pounds to your powerlifts and help prevent injuries. Let's look at the various lifts and see what I can do to help you out and take away the confusion regarding foot attire.

The first lift in a powerlifting contest is the squat. If you have observed a contest you have seen the footwear worn for this lift differs from one lifter to the next. Of all the power-lifts the squat engenders the most debate about footwear. Always remember first that you need squat shoes that will provide support and stability. If your shoes don't provide these, throw them in the garbage. The big area of contention is whether the footwear you use for squats should have a heel.


Some lifters like to wear work boots or army-issue boots. Others wear flat-soled shoes or ones with a very low heel. A flat-soled shoe is not to be confused with a running or cross-training shoe. Lifters who promote using boots to squat argue boots give them much more stability and support than shoes. You will definitely find that boots provide these. These lifters will also say that, because the boot has a heel a few inches high, boots will make them break parallel faster in the squat. The problem with boots is they throw you forward during a squat and make you change your form. The other consideration when using a boot is the large heel will not allow you to recruit the hamstring muscles to the extent you want. I recommend to my lifters that they wear a flat-soled shoe for squats. My lifters are wide-stance squatters. Wearing a flat-soled shoe, they are able to enlist their hamstring muscles to a much higher degree than if they use boots. My athletes also have noticed their form stays much tighter by wearing a flat-soled shoe.

The reason the flat-soled shoe is much better for squatting, in my opinion, is it will prevent you from rolling over, which is what you do not want to happen when you have enormous weight on your shoulders. One very good brand of shoe my lifters use is the good old Chuck Taylor Converse All Star - not the new styles with this gadget and that, but the old-style, no-frills Converse All Star your grandfather probably wore. These shoes are flat soled and provide decent stability throughout the ankle and foot. This stability makes for an ideal squatting shoe for the wide-stance squatter. Inzer Advance Designs make shoes I also like. The company is known worldwide for its bench-press shirts, which are some of the best on the market. My athletes really like Inzer s shoe since it combines the stability of a boot and the flat-sole feel of the Converse All Star. I would give them a try to see which you prefer. The Converse shoes will cost you much less than those Inzer produces. If money is an issue I would start with the former.


The proper shoe to use for a deadlift is not as debatable an issue as is the case with the squat. On heavy deadlifts you realize early on you want to reduce the distance you pull the bar. The shorter the distance, the more you can lift. When deadlifting, always wear a shoe that has no heel. Wearing a shoe with a heel will cause you to lean forward during the lift, thereby throwing your form off altogether. Because the heel will increase the range of motion on the lift, the heel will seemingly add pounds to how heavy the lift feels. Some lifters believe your max lift will decrease by about 50 pounds by wearing shoes with heels, an event you don't want to happen when you are neck and neck with your competitors, trying to place in the medals. The main point is you want a very flat-soled shoe.

I wouldn't recommend the Converse shoe for deadlifts because you want a shoe even closer to the ground. I advise you to wear a good pair of wrestling shoes or cotton ballet slippers. These will get you as close to the ground as possible and reduce the range of motion. For those of you who use conventional deadlift form, I would recommend you wear slippers. Those who do the sumo dead-lift (with the feet very wide apart) should use wrestling shoes because slippage could be a problem with ballet slippers. Slipping is the last thing you want happening when your feet are out near the plates.

I learned this lesson the hard way when I was a novice lifter: 16 years old and attempting a new max in the sumo deadlift with 455 pounds on the bar, I was jacked and ready to make this new weight. I stepped up to the bar, placed my feet ultra wide out to the plates, and grabbed onto the bar, prepared to do some damage. I started pulling the weight, and it was coming up effortlessly. Near the lockout I started to struggle, and all of a sudden my left foot slipped out from under me, causing me to lurch forward and slam the weight down hard. Unfortunately my left foot was then under the plates that were loaded on the left side of the bar. You want to talk about pain? I received a dose of it that would have stopped anybody dead in his tracks. When you a drop a 10-pound plate on your foot by accident, you will be seeing stars when you are putting the plate back on the weight tree. Can you imagine 455 pounds coming down on your foot and crashing with greater momentum and force than you used to lift that weight in the first place? Within seconds my foot swelled to four times its normal size. The foot looked like I put a deflated balloon in it and pumped the balloon up to the size of a basketball. I couldn't walk on it, and just standing was impossible. My training partner took me to the hospital because I was sure I broke almost every bone in my foot. I was lucky, though, as I fractured only one toe. To this day I use wrestling shoes for my sumo deadlifts. I went even one step further by having a steel toe put inside each shoe so that, in case I ever had a mishap like I did before, I wouldn't be paying for it the hard way.

As you can see, powerlifting footwear is not only important in helping you lift more but is also very crucial in keeping you injury-free. You can't lift big when you are hurt, and the four months I had to take off from heavy squats and deadlifts as a result of my foot injury taught me that footwear in our sport is not a consideration you take lightly. I recommend you try various footwear for the squat and deadlift to see what you find the most comfortable and productive for your personal needs. Don't forget that the purpose of powerlifting footwear isn't to make you look cool but to make sure you perform to the best of your abilities.

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