Should You Deadlift in Squat Shoes? 5 Reasons Why It’s a Bad Idea & the Best Alternative

Whether you’re a seasoned lifter or a beginner, you’re probably familiar with different types of strength training shoes. Squat shoes, or Olympic weightlifting shoes, are one of the most popular types of strength training shoes used by lifters.

While there’s no denying that squat shoes are great for squats, you might be wondering “Can I deadlift in squat shoes, too?”. This is a fair question because using one type of shoe for both exercises would be more convenient and affordable, but unfortunately – squat shoes aren’t good for deadlifts.

Your deadlifting performance is directly affected by the type of shoes you wear. For optimal performance, your feet should be flat on the floor when deadlifting. Squat shoes have elevated heels that’ll negatively affect your deadlift performance.

There are also other reasons why squat shoes shouldn’t be used for deadlifting, which we’ll explain in this article. Continue reading to learn all the reasons why you shouldn’t deadlift in squat shoes. We’ve also provided additional information to help you choose the proper deadlifting footwear.

The Importance of Choosing the Right Shoes for Deadlifting

A lifter grabbing a barbell - Should you deadlift in squat shoes?

Deadlifting in proper footwear is often overlooked, which is unfortunate considering how important a lifter’s footwear is to their deadlifting performance. Aside from strength, you need a combination of stability, support, and technical execution to deadlift properly, and the shoes you wear can affect all of these factors. Below, you’ll find a brief explanation of why each of these factors is important:

  • Stability: The higher your shoe’s heel-to-toe drop (the difference between a shoe’s toe and heel heights) is, the less stability you’ll have when deadlifting, and the less stable you are, the less efficient your deadlift will be.
  • Support: Training in a shoe without adequate support can lead to injuries.
  • Technical Execution: The ideal deadlifting shoe will enable you to achieve the lifting mechanics and force necessary to deadlift heavy weights.

What are Squat Shoes?

Heeled weight training shoes

Before exploring why squat shoes shouldn’t be used for deadlifts, it’s important to understand what squat shoes are. As their name suggests, squat shoes are shoes that are designed for squatting. They have a heel that is usually between 0.5 and 1.5 inches. The heel allows individuals to squat lower, which is particularly beneficial to individuals who have trouble squatting to full depth.

The heels and soles of squat shoes are made of stiff materials, such as Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate (EVA) and Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU). Stiff, non-compressible soles allow you to achieve maximal force production when performing explosive lower body exercises.

Squat shoes are best used when performing Olympic weightlifting exercises like squats (of course), snatches, and clean and jerks.

The Drawbacks of Deadlifting in Squat Shoes

A lifter standing next to a loaded barbell
Free deadlift barbell with weights on image, public domain sport CC0 photo.More:View public domain image source here

Squat shoes are good for squatting because their elevated heels allow individuals with limited ankle mobility to squat deeper. Wearing them can be advantageous for squatting, but why shouldn’t they be worn for deadlifting? Here are 5 reasons why wearing squat shoes isn’t ideal for deadlifting:

Increased Range of Motion

Squat shoes have a heel height that ranges between 0.5 to 1.5 inches. If you deadlift in squat shoes, you’ll have to lift the barbell the additional distance that their heels provide. In other words, your range of motion will increase, which will make deadlifting more difficult.

The objective of deadlifting is to lift as much weight as possible. In order to do that, you want to put your body in a position that’ll require the barbell to travel the shortest distance. The greater the distance, the more force you’ll need to exert to lift the barbell and the longer it’ll take to complete a repetition. As a result, you’ll achieve fewer reps per set and increase your chances of suffering an injury.

Body Is Shifted Forward

When deadlifting, you want to position your body so that your center of mass is over your midfoot. In other words, the combined weight of your body and the barbell should be centered over the middle of your foot. Being in this position allows you to maintain your balance and efficiently produce force, making deadlifting easier and more explosive.

Your body is shifted forward when wearing shoes with elevated heels, which means your center of mass is slightly shifted onto your forefoot. This will limit the amount of vertical force you’re able to produce when pushing off the floor.

To have a balanced deadlift stance, you’ll want to wear shoes that have a flat sole. Having a balanced stance is necessary for producing maximal force when deadlifting.

Poor Ankle Support

Most squat shoes offer little ankle support. While this isn’t a reason not to wear squat shoes while deadlifting, having ankle support can be beneficial, particularly if you’re sumo deadlifting.

When you sumo deadlift, you need to keep your knees over your toes. To do so, you have to use a wide stance, and as a result, stress is placed on the outer ankles. Because squat shoes don’t offer ankle support, you increase the risk of overextending your ankles if you wear them while sumo deadlifting. To reduce the risk of injury while sumo deadlifting, wearing shoes that have ankle support is recommended.

Increased Risk of Sliding

Squat shoes don’t provide enough traction for deadlifting. The outsoles of deadlift shoes are designed to provide a high degree of traction to prevent your feet from sliding. Having more traction is beneficial, no matter what deadlift stance you use, however, it’s most beneficial to individuals who sumo deadlift.

When sumo deadlifting, it’s easier for your feet to slide if your shoes don’t have good traction, and this can lead to hip and groin injuries. Moreover, if your feet slide during the eccentric portion of the deadlift, you could injure them by dropping the weight on them.

Less Tension on Posterior Chain

Deadlifting in squat shoes alters the way your body moves and how your muscles are being used. When you squat in squat shoes, the deeper you drop into the bottom portion of the squat, the more your knees will travel forward, which increases the load placed on your quads. This is referred to as “forward knee translation”.

Forward knee translation also occurs if you’re deadlifting in squat shoes. When you’re in the starting position of the deadlift, heeled shoes will make your knees travel forward, forcing your quads to become more involved in the exercise. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it can reduce the amount of tension being placed on your posterior chain. If you want maximum posterior chain involvement when deadlifting, you shouldn’t use squat shoes.

When You Should Deadlift in Squat Shoes

Assorted weight training gear lying on the ground, including a pair of weightlifting shoes

There will be times when you should deadlift in heeled lifting shoes. Here are a few examples of when you should choose heeled shoes over flat shoes for deadlifting:

You Have an Atypical Body Type

Lifters with typical body proportions usually do well in flat shoes when deadlifting, but if you’re a lifter with atypical body proportions, such as atypical femur or torso lengths, you may need heeled shoes.

You Want to Target Your Quads

If you want to engage your quads as much as possible while deadlifting, you may be better off using heeled lifting shoes. The heels will force your knees forward, shifting more weight onto your quads and making them do more work.

You’re an Olympic Weightlifter

Some Olympic weightlifters have trouble maintaining proper form when breaking the floor. In this instance, deadlifting in squat shoes might be appropriate because it puts lifters at a mechanical disadvantage, forcing them to maintain good form to successfully pull the weight from the floor. Theoretically, using this as an assistance exercise should help a lifter maintain proper hip mechanics during the snatch and clean and jerk.

What Kind of Shoes Should You Wear for Deadlifting?

A pair of Converse Chuck Taylor High Tops and Low Tops sitting next to each other

Since squat shoes aren’t ideal for deadlifting, what kind of shoes should you wear? To maximize your success and ensure your safety, you should wear shoes that have flat, non-compressible soles. Flat shoes allow you to make better contact with the floor, which will help you achieve better stability.

Shoes that support the arch of your foot can also be helpful. They’ll mimic the natural shape of your foot and increase your comfort. Additionally, shoes that have an ankle strap will provide additional ankle support and increase your stability while deadlifting.

The ideal deadlifting shoes will also have soles made of durable materials that offer a high degree of traction. The more durable the soles are, the longer they’ll last, and the more traction the soles have, the less likely you’ll slip.

Deadlifting Barefoot

Of course, you could also deadlift barefoot. Since there aren’t any soles between your feet and the floor when you’re barefoot, your feet will be as flat as they can, making it easier to get into a favorable deadlift position.

However, there are downsides to deadlifting barefoot. Not wearing shoes can be unsanitary, especially if you’re lifting in shared spaces. Moreover, you won’t be able to achieve as much traction, you won’t have any ankle support, and there will be nothing protecting your feet if you drop a weight on them.

What to Look For in Flat Shoes for Deadlifting

A lifter deadlifting in flat shoes

Not every flat shoe will be good for deadlifting. In fact, many flat shoes might seem like they’re good but actually aren’t. To help you choose the proper flat shoes for deadlifting, here are some characteristics to look for:

Low-Profile Sole & Low Heel-To-Toe Drop

Some might not be aware of how flat a deadlift shoe should be. In addition to seeking out a shoe that’s low to the ground, you should consider the shoe’s heel-to-toe drop. The ideal deadlift shoe will have a low heel-to-toe drop (or no heel-to-toe drop).

Good Traction

It’s imperative to choose a shoe that has good traction. One of the worst things that could happen during a deadlift is slipping. A good deadlift shoe will have an outsole made of non-slip material.

Ankle Support (If You Need It)

If you’ve ever had an ankle injury or are going to be sumo deadlifting, you might want to choose a pair of shoes that provide ankle support. Look for flat, high top shoes that wrap your ankles in a sturdy material. If the shoes have ankle straps, they’ll provide additional support.


Look for shoes that are durable. The more durable your shoes are, the longer they’ll last. Lifting weights can put lots of stress on your shoes, so you’ll want to choose a pair that can tolerate it.

Best Flat Shoes for Deadlifting

You now know what to look for in a deadlifting shoe, and it’s almost time to go shopping. Below, we’ve rounded up 5 of the top flat shoes for deadlifting.

Converse Chuck Taylor High Tops

Converse Chuck Taylors are used by many athletes who deadlift, and there’s a good reason why. Chuck Taylors are very flat with no discernible heel, have a rigid outsole, have a breathable upper, and are available in a variety of colors and styles. They’re also affordable.

Converse shoes don’t offer much ankle support. Also, some will find that they have to buy multiple pairs over the years since the canvas can wear out quickly.


Vans are a go-to shoe for lifters because of their flat soles. Like Converse, Vans have decent traction, so they’ll help prevent your feet from sliding. Their soles won’t collapse under heavy weight, so you won’t have to worry about sinking into the shoes during a lift. Vans are also fairly inexpensive.

Vans aren’t exempt from having drawbacks. Vans don’t last a long time because they aren’t that durable. Also, be mindful of their fit because they have a snug toe box.

NOBULL High Top Trainers

NOBULL High Top Trainers are a little on the pricier side, but for many lifters, they’re the prime choice for deadlifting. They’ve got a low profile rubber sole and a tiny 4mm heel-to-toe drop, making them almost completely flat. Lifters will also love that these shoes have a load of traction and are highly durable. NOBULLs are somewhat expensive, but they stand to last you for years.

These shoes are harder to find than the other shoes on this list. This is likely due to their popularity. Also, their high price might turn some people away.

SABO Deadlift PRO

The SABO Deadlift PROs are extremely flat, with a 1mm heel-to-toe drop, and have a cambered heel that makes the wearer feel more grounded. They have a design that closely mimics the natural shape of the foot, and some liken wearing them to being barefoot. The PROs also have outsoles with good traction and durable uppers for ankle support.

The Sabo Deadlift PRO isn’t perfect though. Some people have complained about the shoe’s straps not lasting that long, and there isn’t much space for the straps’ velcro to stick to. Also, the shoe’s design isn’t that popular among lifters.

Adidas Samba Classic

The Adidas Samba Classic is almost completely flat, which is the basic criterion for a deadlift shoe. It has a durable genuine leather upper that’ll last a long time, insoles that are engineered for comfort and breathability, and gum rubber outsoles that provide adequate traction.

The downside to the Samba Classic is that they don’t provide ankle support and can be more expensive if you need a larger size.

Frequently Asked Questions

A question mark written on a chalkboard

What Are the Differences Between Squat and Deadlift Shoes?

While some might assume that the two are the same, there are differences between squat and deadlift shoes. Squat shoes have elevated heels that typically range between 0.5 and 1.5 inches, while deadlift shoes have flat heels. Also, deadlift shoes usually have better traction than squat shoes.

Why Are Flat Shoes Recommended for Deadlifting?

Flat-soled shoes are recommended for deadlifting because they give you better leverage, less range of motion, more stability, better traction, and better force production than squat shoes.

Is It Possible to Deadlift in Squat Shoes?

Yes, it’s possible to deadlift in squat shoes, however, it isn’t recommended. Lack of ankle support, your body is shifted forward, less tension on your posterior chain, increased range of motion, and risk of slipping are all reasons why you should avoid deadlifting in squat shoes.

Are Flat Shoes Better Than Running Shoes for Deadlifting?

Flat shoes are definitely better than running shoes for deadlifting. The problem with deadlifting in running shoes is that they have compressible soles, which is disadvantageous for lifting. Compressible soles reduce stability while lifting. Only wear running shoes for running.

The Bottom Line: Should You Deadlift in Squat Shoes?

Whether you’ve been deadlifting for a long time or you’re just starting out, stop deadlifting in squat shoes and invest in a good pair of deadlift shoes. They’ll help maximize your deadlifting performance. If you intend on sumo deadlifting, you should invest in a pair of deadlift shoes that provide good ankle support.

If you’re going to be squatting and deadlifting, using a flat shoe for both is okay, as long as you have good ankle mobility for the squat. If you have poor ankle mobility and have to invest in a pair of heeled shoes for squatting, we recommend also investing in a pair of flat shoes for deadlifting.

So, there you have it – everything you need to know about why deadlifting in squat shoes isn’t ideal. Flat shoes are the best type of shoes for deadlifting, with a few exceptions. We hope you found all the information you were looking for in this article and wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey.