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Fun fact: I own almost 24 pairs of lifting shoes. Actually, you might say I’m a bit of an expert on the subject C and that i get a lot of questions about how I choose which pair to put on when I lift.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I favor the Reebok Lite TRs for those three lifts, but that’s simply because they fit my body system well. Everyone is different, and if you’re trying to find the right pair for you, here are some questions you should ask yourself.

Are You Sufficiently strong to want Squat Shoes?

This is a bit of a trick question. A large amount of people tell me they don’t think they’re sufficiently strong to justify buying a footwear that may cost you a couple hundred bucks. It’s usually not concerning the money, but about avoiding “imposter syndrome” C the idea that you do not really easily fit in until you have made it.

I don’t really accept that logic. If you’d benefit from them, I think it makes sense to purchase a set of lifting shoes sooner rather than later, because more efficient training means faster progress. Here’s the catch: when you’re only starting out, you won’t understand what type of shoes you need. Until you figure that out, you’re fine staying with whatever tennis shoes you happen to possess available.

Should You utilize Heels or Flats?

On the other hand, I really don’t accept those who decide they’re gonna start lifting, and immediately go out and buy a pair of squat shoes with an elevated heel. Lots of people make that decision almost reflexively: they see others wearing heeled shoes, and figure they take some, too. This is a terrible call. Actually, for me, far too many powerlifters wear heeled shoes.

Proponents from the practice claim that the improved heels make it easier to hit depth. They’re talking about the reduced ankle flexibility necessary to push your legs forward without coming up on the toes when squatting. Which is actually a benefit of wearing heels. But there are drawbacks, too. For example, a heightened heel tends to make balance more difficult. Heels can push your weight forward in your feet, towards your toes C exactly the problem they’re designed to prevent. You’re essentially trading a flexibility requirement of an account balance requirement. And, in my opinion, it’s much easier to develop sufficient flexibility for squatting than balance.

So, instead of considering ankle flexibility, take a look a leverages and squatting style. This video does a fantastic job of explaining why elevating a heel doesn’t often make it easier to hit depth C just different.

Essentially, an elevated heel will tend to shift the focus on a squat out of your hips for your legs. I am not saying it will require the hips out of play C exactly that, relative to squatting without heels, you’ll tend to use them a little less. Is the fact that the best thing? Well, this will depend: what are your goals? If you wish to lift the most weight, you need to place the focus on your strongest muscles (which probably means wearing heels for those who have stronger legs, and ditching them for those who have stronger hips). If your goal is muscular development, or mentioning flaws, you would wish to put the emphasis on your weakest muscle groups.

It’s important to note that under heavy weight, your body is most likely likely to default to presenting your strongest muscles regardless of whether you’re wearing heels or flats. Because of that, I prefer to make use of these shoes that suit my strong points, not my weak ones. Then i use assistance movements to bring in the flaws. This just fits my mentality better C one approach is not much better than the other.

Finally, note that on some exercises C particularly front squats, the Olympic lifts, and overhead press C virtually most people are best with heeled shoes. That’s because when the weight is locked in the front of your body, the heel acts as a mechanical counterbalance, assisting to keep the center of gravity more neutral. However, unless you plan to compete in those lifts, it isn’t strictly essential to wear squat shoes while performing them. And on some exercises, like deadlifts, you usually should wear flat shoes, unless you are intentionally performing a variation that requires raised heels. On bench, I’ve found that for most people (except those very without dorsiflexion), heels seem to make very little noticeable difference.

Do You Have Good Feet?

To heel or otherwise to heel may be the hardest question, but even after you’ve answered it, there are several more details you should think about before you shell out any of your hard-earned money on a new set of kicks.

First: do you have strong arches? Flattened arches will frequently result in knee caving on heavy squats and deadlifts, which could both cause injury and reduce the amount of weight you’ll be able to handle. When you must always try to address flat feet with strengthening exercises, that process may take a while, as well as in my experience, if you have structural issues like that, they’re going to exist at some level. Because of this, I suggest choosing shoes with either good arch support or with removable walkfit shoe inserts, to be able to make use of your own third-party orthotics. Note that you will possibly not need this arch support on every lift, and you should really only utilize it whenever you do. I use orthotics when I squat, but take them off before benching and deadlifting.

Next, how wide are your feet? Individuals with narrow feet may have more shoe options than lifters with wider feet, but it’s important that you choose a shoe that’s wide enough for you to push the feet out against the sidewall comfortably. Odds are, if your shoes are too narrow, you are going to find it difficult to do this, and, consequently, struggle to properly recruit your posterior chain on compound movements. I increased my sumo deadlift fairly significantly just by switching to wider-sized shoes.

My Recommendations

I know you had been awaiting this part, and so i hope it’s not too disappointing after i tell you just how my all-time favorite shoe, the Reebok CrossFit Lite TR, is not produced and only offered at high prices from third-party resellers. I’ve heard some rumors that Reebok is creating a latest version of that shoe, so keep your fingers crossed!

That said, I actually do have some knowledge about other shoes, and here are my head on them:

Flats

  • Chuck Taylors: probably the best “default” option if you would like flat shoes and do not want to spend a lot of money. These don’t hold up well, plus they don’t have great traction, but they’re definitely adequate for most people.
  • Wrestling shoes: obviously, there is a huge variety of wrestling shoes, however in general, they will actually cover as thin-soled as Chucks with better traction, but also a narrower footbed. For those who have wide feet, this might be a problem. The
  • Sabo deadlift shoes are essentially wrestling shoes with an added metatarsal strap, that is beneficial, specifically for those with flat arches.
  • Metal squat shoes: very expensive, but additionally very well-made, powerlifting-specific shoes. I have a pair which has lasted over a decade and it is still completely functional, although the original laces frayed through. These footwear have unbelievable traction, and also the leather upper is designed to limit movement of your shin (which can be an optimistic or negative depending on your ideal positioning and what you use them for). They’re a tad on the narrow side, but not too bad; plus they will have a metatarsal strap, which is a nice bonus.

Heels

  • Nike Romaleos: I’ve worn all three versions of the Romaleos, and as far as powerlifting goes, the original version is my personal favorite. The originals are virtually just like the version 2, however they are heavier C which may be a drawback for Olympic weightlifting, but supplies a nice sense of stability for heavy back squats. The 2s offer excellent arch support, a fairly wide footbed, two metatarsal straps, and therefore are my recommendation if you want heeled shoes.
  • Adidas Adipower: Very similar to the Romaleos, both in design and price point. Some people say the Adipower runs slightly narrower compared to Romaleos, but this one essentially is dependant on personal preference.
  • Adidas Powerlift: Adidas also constitutes a cheaper form of their weightlifting shoe with a a bit smaller effective heel height. I personally really, enjoy this shoe, especially for people who want a heel but don’t feel entirely comfortable in the Romaleos or Adipowers. The heel on these footwear does have a bit of give, however in my experience, even under very household names, that doesn’t create any significant stability issues.

Wrapping Up

Hopefully this article has helped shed some light on your squat and your shoe choice. If you have been through the decision-making process, and also have some suggestions which will make it easier for others to do the same, share them in the comments below!