Deadlifting is a specific exercise in weight training. It is designed to test, and train, your limit for how many pounds you can lift. A lifter will raise the loaded bar (also known as a barbell) from the ground up to waist level only, then release it back down to the ground. This requires immense amount of support from your entire body, and that entire pressure falls on your feet.
To protect your feet and provide them the support they need, you need best shoes for deadlifts.
This exercise is not designed to be done in high reps (usually operating off 80% for a set duration of time). Rather, it is usually a one-rep max exercise – aka “one and done” (putting 100% into one shot). Many weight trainers like the deadlift because, unlike the bench press, there is no need for an additional spotter for this particular exercise.
Why Do You Need Special Shoes For Deadlifting?
Why does this short spurt of energy, from a stand-still position, need specialized shoes when deadlifting?
Deadlifting is actually more complicated and technical than it might initially appear. This full body workout is a concentrated movement requiring a lot of bits and pieces to work together to achieve a very impressive goal.
Your arms, forearms, and hands all have to attach yourself to the bar. This works in conjunction with your shoulders and traps to keep that extended weight stable throughout the entire sequence. Next, your core must engage to protect your spine and keep the body tight. Your knees also have to align for a sturdy, injury-free movement. Finally, your hips and legs have to leverage power to propel you and the weight upwards. This movement is accomplished by driving through force through your heels.
All these things combined make this short burst of movement possible.
The average deadlifter lifts 1.25x their own bodyweight. With the amount of strain deadlifting demands from your body, you want to make sure you have good posture.
Your stance, aka your foundation, is rooted through your feet. This means that your power better have something sturdy to prop itself up against. There is very little room for error and this is why it is important to have best shoes when deadlifting.
The last thing you want is to feel unstable or unbalanced in the middle of your lift. Instability could have some serious consequences and could result in unwanted injuries.
Footwear has a big impact on performance! Just like you would for any other sport (i.e. running, hiking, or biking), your deadlift shoes should be an important consideration when buying your gear.
Since deadlifting requires minimal gear in the first place, it is especially important to give you and your body the best advantage possible.
Maximize the effort you are putting in, and invest in shoes that will give you the best results you deserve. Without the right shoes while deadlifting or powerlifting, you may not be able to see your full potential in how much weight you can add to that barbell.
Good pair of deadlifting shoes can make a world of a difference!
What to Look For When Buying Deadlift Shoes
Deadlifting Shoes can also be known as Weightlifting Shoes or Powerlifting Shoes. There are even some Crossfit Shoes that have similar properties as a Deadlift Shoe.
These shoes will have a flat, thin, solid sole design to them. The most important reason for a flat, thin sole is so the shoes doesn’t compress underneath you as you lift!
The goal is STABILITY! Stability elicits good posture, which equals power, which results in a greater amount of weight you can lift.
This design is beneficial so you have the greatest amount of contact (surface area) from your foot to the ground. A thin sole also allows you to “feel the floor” a little better while lifting. A flat sole (instead of a raised or varied sole) also decreases the distance you have to lift the loaded barbell. Simply put: the flatter and thinner the sole, the less work you have to do.
Sometimes even a minimal distance, like a fourth of an inch, could make a huge difference when testing your limits. It could also affect the amount of time it takes to raise that bar. This translates to energy you’re spending to get the bar moving or being held up.
These deadlifting shoes will also have a wider toe box, so you can spread the force evenly across your foot. This allows for the maximum force production possible. They will also be lightweight in their construction, and allow for a precise and snug fit. Most, but not all, powerlifting shoes will have a lateral strap (also known as a metatarsal strap), in addition to laces, to secure the shoe to your foot. Lastly, these shoes should have good traction, which is especially important if you like to lift in a wider stance.
To summarize, to look for best shoes look for these features: soles that are flat, thin, and solid. Another dead give-away is a lateral strap across them. You want to make sure this shoe is comfortable and that you can wear them during an entire workout (including exercises outside a deadlift).
What to Avoid
Advice I’m sure you’ve heard before: don’t purchase shoes that are designed for a different activity. A common misunderstanding is that a running shoe is the best all-around athletic shoe.
The reality is, it isn’t! A running shoe is designed for running – an entirely different movement and weight-bearing load (or lack thereof) for squatting or lifting, specifically deadlifting.
Other athletic shoes (i.e. running shoes) have a rounding upwards of the toe and/or heel. This shape was designed for a forward motion, which is not what you’re trying to achieve in deadlifting. Wearing these type of shoes can result in a less stable stance. This could be detrimental in deadlifting, as it might promote you to fall forward during your lifting movement.
It can be difficult to have the proper technique of pressing through your heels when you have extra cushion beneath them, preventing you from fully grounding yourself for powerful movement. Simply put, that heel cushion is limiting your power and ability to lift, since the cushion would be absorbing that force.
You want to avoid a heel (or any part of the shoe) that will compress and deform under heavy loads. If your feet aren’t stable, it can trickle all the way up, affecting your knee alignment, hip and back alignment, and adding stress to your upper body and spine.
To summarize, avoid shoe features such as: a soft/cushion base (aka non-compressible), a varied or thick base, a sole with different focal contact points (aka non-solid sole), an overly tight and constricting shoe, or an overly loose baggy shoe.
Deadlift Shoes Vs Olympic Shoes
I’m sure you’ve noticed some deadlifting shoes having a bit of a heel, or wedge to them. This is a very specific type of deadlift shoe is knows as an Olympic Shoe. It is primarily used for Olympic weightlifters, specifically for their Power Cleans and Overhead Squats. For an experienced lifter, it can allow for a lower squat stance and drive more power from your legs and hips.
It also aids in keeping your upper body straighter in a lower squat position, giving you a slightly different body position to start with. Most experienced lifters are able to tell the difference between a regular Deadlifting Shoe and an Olympic Shoe. They say it allows for a better performance and alignment.
Having said that, just like most sports, a beginner or even intermediate lifter is recommended to have a flatter sole while gaining fundamentals and strength in movement.
Deadlift Shoes VS Barefoot lifters
Another thing you may have noticed are the barefoot lifters. Let’s review some of the Deadlift shoe criteria for the soles: thin, flat, and force spread through your entire foot. Well, being barefoot is, to say, the “thinnest” and “flattest” sole you’ll get (since there is none). There would be no extra height for that bar to be lifted, and your foot has full contact with the ground.
To put things into perspective here, a deadlifting shoe could actually be more beneficial than your bare feet. Most deadlifting shoes are listed to only be a few millimeters thick, an unnoticeable height when it comes to barbell distance traveled.
A shoe can also promote force being spread evenly throughout your foot (and floor). The shoe is designed to aid in that – a more controlled method of doing so. Another argument for wearing shoes is safety!
Your shoes can also be a light layer of protection against dropped weights, stubbing your toes, etc. Plus, most gyms require you to wear shoes while using their facility – for both safety and sanitary reasons.
7 Best Deadlift Shoes Reviewed
Strength is the foundation to performance. It’s also crucial to be comfortable while performing. Nowadays, shoe technology has been researched, tested, and refined for every sport imaginable. You can have durable, yet lightweight. You can even have supportive, yet breathable. You no longer have to sacrifice comfort for performance. You can have both!
More importantly, Safety First! Your shoes will contribute a large portion of your safety-factor while deadlifting. I’m guessing one of the reasons why you deadlift is for health reasons – to be a strong and capable individual. That would be difficult to achieve after a serious injury put you out of lifting, or any exercise, for a while…
Below are a list of the Top 7 Deadlifting Shoes in today’s market. Some specialize in specific things, but all will contribute to you being a better deadlifter.
These shoes were specifically designed for deadlifting. For a specialty shoe, you can’t go wrong this this choice! The soles offer an anatomical last, to better fit the shape of your foot, as well as non-marking (gyms love this feature). In addition to being a high top, this shoe has two lateral straps – for an individual and precision fit. This shoe also has great side support, allowing you to spread your feet without the fear of rolling an ankle. This fabric and leather shoe is offered in a few different accent colors. If you’re willing to make the investment, these shoes won’t steer you wrong.
TIP: They are listed in European sizes, so be sure have an accurate size conversion chart for your specific shoe size.
This is a low top, weightlifting specific design is made of synthetic material. It has mesh/ventilation holes in the toe, heel, and inner and outer sides of the foot. It also has a cushioned collar, lateral strap, removable insoles (so you can put in custom ones if desired), and wide-sizing for comfort. What really makes this shoe stand out is its extra flat, non-rounded edges (on the edge of the soles). This allows for greater stability. This shoes does have a high density wedge (like the Olympic shoes) that is shock absorbent. The soles are also non-marking, making them great for gym and court surfaces. They come in a variety of colors and accents.
This synthetic, low top shoe comes in a variety of colors. The POWERBAX midsole adds comfort, while the supportive heel backing add stability. Mesh toes and tongue, as well as on the sides achieve breathability. This well-rounded workout shoe offers flexibility for both power and agility. This is a great versatile all around workout and training shoe. Really, the whole Reebok Crossfit shoe line-up is worth glancing over. You might find one that suits you better than another. They come in a variety of different styles – high top and low top.
(Check out a Ladies version of the Reebok Crossfit shoe below!)
Case and point for the point made above, these are another Reebok Crossfit shoe. The lateral straps and heel cradle keep your feet in prime position during movements. The synthetic canvas design offers breathability, while the toe specific area has a protective barrier for your workouts. This shoe is also high top, offering ankle support, An OrthoLite sock liner keeps you cool and comfortable during your workout. Its multi-surface outsole is thin, yet firm sole providing greater traction and stability.
This synthetic weightlifting shoe claims to be the lightest in the market! A meta-flex technology gives the forefoot greater flexibility, allowing for more comfortable movement and versatility when transitioning to other workouts. An external heel cup provides greater stability against lateral movements and assisting in a stronger stance. This shoe has mesh over the toes for breathability, and a lateral strap for a snug fit. This shoe, offered in a variety of colors, is designed for gym use. Inov-8 lives up to their name. Their shoes show a lot of technology and advancements. They have their basis covered!
(Check out the Ladies version below!)
Believe it or not, a lot of dead lifters prefer this seemingly simple, non-athletic looking shoe. It meets all the requirements a deadlift shoe should have, AND is cost effective and versatile (uses outside the gym). High top, low top, black, white, or pink, you can choose the Converse shoe that fits your personality and vintage style. This durable canvas top is light and flexible, while the sole is flat and solid. This is a great shoe for beginners, or those on a budget. The next time you’re at a gym, look around. You might be surprised by how many Converse shoes you see.
TIP: Be sure to identify if the product listing references a men’s shoe size or a women’s shoe size.
If the Converse shoes didn’t look like an athletic shoe to you, you won’t know what to do with these shoes! However, let’s look at what they have to offer… A polyester, mesh, and textile material allow for a lightweight design. They have an inside lining that give a “next to skin feel”, as well as anti-microbial properties (for those stinky feet). They offer a padded tongue, and a speed lacing system. And for those of you that note craftsmanship, these are a handmade item. Give your toes, and feet, that extra spread with individual toe slots. For those that wish to deadlift barefoot…this is as close as you’re going to get!
WOMEN’S SPECIFIC SHOES
This synthetic shoe comes in a variety of colors. It is a high top, lace shoe, with a padded collar for comfort, and a mesh tongue for breathability. The sole is flooded with small rubber teeth, so you have traction and stability during your lift. It is also equipped with a carbon rubber heel, for added rear foot support.
Note: Reebok also makes low top versions of their crossfit shoes.
This low profile shoe is one of (if not the) lightest in the market! It has a comfortable inner mesh lining for breathability, and a removable foot bed (so you can insert a custom one if desired). It also has sticky rubber (the same as used on climbing shoes) for added traction and grip. It also has a lateral strap for a custom, snug fit. With a meta-flex technology, it allows for your forefoot to have flexibility when you need it. With the external heel cage, it provides extra stability and support in the heel and midsole. These shoes are designed with every advanced technology known to shoe making. They won’t disappoint!
No matter what shoe you pick, be sure to try them on first! Every brand, and even various shoe models, could fit differently. You also want to make sure you bring/wear the socks you’ll be wearing while deadlifting. As each sock differs in thickness, it could affect the fit and feel of your shoe. Lastly, if you have custom insoles, bring those too! See if they fit in your deadlifting shoe, along with your socks. There’s a fine line when it comes to shoe fitting. Too tight could restrict proper blood flow to your feet causing a loss in them functioning. Too loose means a sloppy fit and not enough support, potentially creating a hazard for yourself. Take your training seriously, and be sure to purchase the right shoe for you!
TIP: some people wear socks that come higher up on their leg, so they protect their shins from the bar scraping against it.
When trying them on in stores, the representative helping you out should also have some tips and pointers about deadlifting shoes and help direct you to what you’re looking for.
I hope all this information helps you, as you explore your own strengths through the world of deadlifting. Throughout your deadlifting career, I’m sure you will venture out and try a variety of brands and styles. Fine-tune what’s best for you and your style as you progress in maximizing that weight you add to the barbell. Don’t ever limit yourself in what you can do!
Here’s to being strong, stable, and healthy!