When it comes down to getting the absolute most out of your training, deadlift shoes must be included in your gym bag. Having a strong lift starts from the ground up, and without a proper base and the correct type of footwear, you’re setting yourself up for poor biomechanics or worse—injury.
You wouldn’t play golf in basketball shoes and you wouldn’t go rock climbing in cleats. In the same way—you should wear the proper footwear when performing strength training and powerlifting movements.
Looking at footwear, there are two fundamental factors to keep in mind.
In the case of compression, more is worse. When you start your lift and begin to push against the floor, you want to have immediate and complete force transfer through your feet, into the ground. When you push against a padded sole, much of the force from your legs is lost as kinetic energy is absorbed by the padded material. Bottom line: you want a flat sole.
On the flip side, more stability is better. If your foot is able to slide around or has too much movement during the lift, you won’t be able to efficiently drive force into the ground either. A high-stability pair of deadlift shoes will provide this support while at the same time ensuring a flat sole.
In some cases, the sole may even be hard—which is ideal. In this case, there is literally zero compression. Every single pound of pressure you produce is directly translated into the ground, resulting in a bigger lift.
On top of compression and stability, there a couple of other secondary factors to keep in mind.
- Thin soles
- Good grip
Thin soles will make sure the range of motion of the lift isn’t dramatically changed. The shorter you have to lift the bar, the bigger your numbers will be. There is a slight exception for this (as there almost always is); in some cases individuals will find that weightlifting shoes with a heel allow them to set their hips higher for optimal positioning and form (for 99% of people this will not be the case).
Additionally, without a good grip and connection with the ground, proper positioning and a powerful drive off of the floor are extremely difficult if not impossible.
There’s one last aspect not covered yet that really separates the very best footwear from just okay: a metatarsal strap.
This strap goes across the midline of the foot helping to synch down the shoe and prevent any sliding or movement. If you have ever squatted in olympic weightlifting shoes with a strap, you will know exactly how powerful this simple addition is.
And in the case of absolutely maximizing your lift once you become stronger, even a 5-10% improvement can mean an added 20-40 pounds on your lift—almost virtually overnight. It’s about as close to a “quick and easy trick” as you will find.
Deadlift Shoes vs. Slippers
While on the topic of stability for deadlifting footwear, a common question arises: are slippers a good option?
Many people find that the more “naked” feeling allows for a much better connection with the ground, which in turn allows for better hip torque—really helping to emphasize engagement in the glutes and posterior chain.
However, with that increased proprioception and kinesthetic awareness comes a price: stability. For this reason, it is generally only recommended for a more advanced lifter. If you are pulling more than 405, you should definitely get a pair to try them out (they are very cheap and could be a game changer in your positioning and subsequently your ability to lift more).
What about wresting shoes for deadlift?
This is a good option is you don’t have a dedicated pair of pulling footwear as at least the sole should be flat. With that said, there will likely be slight compression and no metatarsal strap. Furthermore, the grip on the sole is not designed to behave like glue as in a true deadlift shoe.
Best Deadlift Shoes: Know Your Options
When it comes to outfitting your gym bag, quality matters. But in the case of specialty footwear designed to enhance deadlifts, there are exact specifications that must be met regardless of the logo on the outside.
Luckily, in this case the two intersect. The best options are also made by top brands, meaning your purchase will last. Especially in the case of strength training and powerlifting equipment, if you take care of your stuff, it can last a long time.
If you were jogging in them, they would break down fast. But you’re not—you’re just lifting in them. If you keep them clean and stored correctly there is no reason why you can’t turn your one-time purchase into a lifelong investment.
With that said, here is the list:
Best Shoes to Squat and Deadlift in? Olympic Weightlifting Style With Raised Heel
Mentioned towards the beginning of the article, Olympic weightlifting footwear is sometimes chosen for not just squats where they are traditionally king, but for pulling off the ground as well.
When you think about it, they have every single necessary aspect of great pulling footwear: stability, no compression, straps for added support, and thin soles.
With that said, however, they have a raised heel which seems to go against the flat-soled rule.
You’re probably wondering then, how does the exception work?
The Massthetics channel on YouTube gives an excellent breakdown of this. They came to 3 distinct conclusions:
- There is more quad activation due to a lessening in the range of motion between the femur and tibia
- There is more hip drive due to a more upright torso with increased tension on the hamstrings and glutes from sitting back
- There is a negligible difference in hip height due to the increased heel allowing the lifter to “sit back” more into the lift
In the end, the answer is actually a lot simpler. You should have Olympic weightlifting shoes anyways as they help on squats tremendously—just give them a shot one day instead of your traditional flat-soled footwear.
Ultimately though, keep in mind that this is not going to be the case for most people—a flat sole and any of the initial options is likely best.