You’ve got the gym on lock-down
Mastering movements from the incline bench to the front squat to whatever abdominal exercise is popular right now.
You progress slowly but surely in every lift…
Except the deadlift.
Widely considered the most fundamental lift your body can do, deadlifts are notorious for being loud, injury-causing, and at-risk for major plateaus.
If you’re stuck in a deadlift rut, not able to add anymore weight, maybe it’s time to revamp your deadlift strategy…
…Starting with your choice of footwear. Yes, the shoe you decide to deadlift in plays a vital role in your lifting success.
Top 8 Best Deadlift Shoes
Short on time? Check out my quick list for the best deadlifting shoes for olympic weightlifting and powerlifting.
Sabo Deadlift Shoes
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Converse Chuck Taylor
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Nike Metcon 4
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Reebok Nano 8
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Adidas Powerlift 4
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Depending on which deadlift shoe you wear, you could be missing out on incredible strength gains and impressive gym feats. (Be glad I didn’t put that as feets as a pun.)
In this comprehensive overview, we take a look at the importance of deadlift shoes, answer whether it makes sense to deadlift barefoot, what to consider when purchasing your pair of deadlift shoes, and give you our curated list of the best deadlift shoes.
For those who want to take a walk through the details, carry on!
What Are Deadlift Specific Shoes?
Contrary to what you may know, there are actual shoes designed specifically for the deadlift.
These shoes are normally flatter and contour more to your actual foot, which makes them almost appear like slippers.
What they do is they shift your weight back into your heels, or where your weight should be during a deadlift.
It also helps to engage your posterior chain, a.k.a. hamstrings and glutes, the body parts you want aiding you in the deadlift.
Some companies legitimately market “deadlift shoes,” while other shoes simply have the components you’re looking for (more on that later).
Benefits of Deadlift Shoes
There are a few features deadlift shoes have that make them worth the investment if you’re a serious deadlifter or bodybuilder:
Improves deadlift form
As we said previously, the shoes give you the feeling of being on the floor barefoot (without being barefoot). This creates a healthier overall movement. Stronger posterior chain, better distribution of weight, and the ability to push through your heel are all major benefits of a deadlift shoe.
They don’t compress
Unlike other athletic footwear, deadlift shoes have soles that don’t mush into the ground when you give it any weight. While this decreases the cushioning in the shoe, it means you don’t have to waste vital energy and power to push through the compress on your way up. Instead, you get a raised, sturdy platform.
The last thing you want to be doing with hundreds of pounds in your hands is to be sliding all around the floor. Deadlift shoes usually have rubber outsoles, giving you traction during your toughest lift. Whether it’s wood, rubber, or carpet, you can be sure of a good grip with your shoes. You can even sumo deadlift in these shoes!
Heels low to the floor
You don’t want your feet to be too high in the air. You want them grounded and close to the target. When you have higher heels – as in a weightlifting shoe or traditional trainer – your shoulders naturally tilt forward. This compromises the starting position by bringing the shoulders out too far in front of the bar.
With running shoes, you have zero support on the side support for your feet. Deadlift shoes provide that support. The more stable the platform, the better your deadlift.
Basically, it enhances your deadlift in ways you never thought possible. Don’t be alarmed if you add 20 pounds or more to your deadlift simply by adding the right shoes to the mix.
Why Deadlift in Flat Shoes?
Again, this is because flat shoes give you the most natural feel when deadlifting.
Exercises like the deadlift, squat, or other major lifts require the utmost care. Form, comfort, and safety are all vital to a great deadlift.
So why wouldn’t you lift in something that provides you the best possible lift?
Flat shoes emulate the floor, which online forums and scientists both attest as being the greatest feeling when deadlifting.
It creates an active foot, which allows you to push through the heel into the ground without a pillow to absorb force.
It’s the ultimate way to deadlift.
Considerations Before Buying
Here are some things to look for when deciding which pair of deadlifting shoes is right for you:
You’ll want your deadlift shoe to be light, almost like they aren’t even on your feet. This should also translate to a minimal heel, which is covered in a few sections.
Essentially, you want them to not add to the weight you’re deadlifting.
Of course, durability is one of the most important factors in a deadlift shoe. You want dense sole material with zero compression when under a load.
Plus, it’s best to have hard rubber outsoles or the equivalent for effective traction.
Ideally, you want no heel height. The “heel-to-toe drop” in almost all shoes are usually fairly high, but with deadlift shoes it must be low or nonexistent. This flatness will help enhance your deadlift.
Other than being a flat sole – as previously mentioned – it should also be close to the floor when you’re looking at various deadlift shoes. The proximity to the ground limits cushioning, improves stability, and limits bar distance from ground to lockout.
These are straps that run across the middle of the foot to provide extra support laterally. This cuts down on instability from the feet sliding outwards during a deadlift.
While not necessary, it might be nice for you to have when you get to lifting. Plus, it gives a tighter feel between the foot and the floor.
As with any accessory or piece of equipment, a deadlift shoe is only as good as its quality. You want decent materials and solid shoe construction.
Shoddy work = shoddy results. This always translates to a higher price in the end, but what’s your deadlift – and health – worth?
If you assimilate with the CrossFit culture, odds are you have a Reebok shoe or two in your arsenal. Well, you’re in luck: Their Nano 8 serves as a cross-training lifting shoe that also works well for deadlifting.
The Nano has long been a fan-favorite CrossFit shoe. This is because it’s made with versatile material, has amazing support, and a rubber sole for incredible grip.
The Nano 8 Flexweave Cross Trainer can function for many of your training needs, but the deadlift is key.
The rubber sole allows for no slippage and the arch is practically flat.
It isn’t that thin, and there is a raised heel which elevates a few millimeters, but this is the closest thing a non-deadlift-specific shoe gets to a deadlift shoe. This slightly elevated heel is what makes the Nano idea for not only deadlifts, but as a squat shoe as well.
These lightweight, tractioned, supporting trainers are one of Reeboks crowning jewels.
For a tremendous experience in the weight room – as well as the rest of the gym – look no further than the Nano 8 Flexweave.
The Nike brand is synonymous with athleticism, but does it make a decent powerlifting shoe? It certainly has some perks.
Flywire technology ensures a secure fit over the top of your feet, while mesh in the heel and ankle makes them breathable to help keep you cool. With haptic print and Flywire tech, this lifting shoe is the pinnacle of security and durability.
The Metcon 4 has many other features, including a drop-in midsole for a stable fit, a low-profile heel clip to minimize drag, and a thin sole, originally created for runners but can be easily applied in the gym.
Sadly, it appears that it has an arch in the middle, so it isn’t a completely flat soled shoe. There is also some cushioning in the shoe.
That being said, if you’re looking for something that supports your Olympic lifts, deadlift WODs, and other cross-training activities, the Metcon is well worth the money.
Related: MetCon Workouts
The SABO deadlift shoe is the cream of the crop.
Made of fabric and synthetic leather, this imported shoe has a new anatomy made specifically for deadlifting.
What this translates to is a non-marking outsole made out of high-density material with a specialized design for traction.
All of this, and the soles are still only 2-5 mm thick (which is really thin).
There are two lateral straps at the top for precision tightness around the feet, ankles, and heels. The very important metatarsal strap prevents intra-shoe shifting for unreal stability.
They have a high top upper for stability during training, as well as slide support on the rubber outsole, so your feet won’t roll over as you spread the floor (unlike slippers).
The SABO deadlift shoe is the golden child of the powerlifting shoe options. One caveat for frugal cross-training athletes: these are the best deadlift shoes because they’re built solely for that training style. If you’re looking for something that doubles as a running shoe or CrossFit shoe, this isn’t it.
Related: CrossFit Deadlift Workouts
If this seems like it doesn’t belong here, surprise! Chuck Taylors is the O.G. deadlifting shoe.
Many bodybuilders and powerlifters swear by them, plus they fit the majority of the qualifications to make an appearance on this list.
To start, Converse Chuck Taylors have a rubber outsole that cannot be beat in traction.
And this flat soled shoe is as rigid as they come; you won’t want to walk even half a mile in these shoes—hence why they’ve started adding OrthoLite insoles for cushioning. Unfortunately, This is a no-no for when you’re trying to lift a ton of weight and your feet are sinking in a pillow of softness.
While the canvas upper and high top build does offer ankle support, it leaves enough movement for ankle mobility.
Nevertheless, with the canvas upper supporting your foot and that sole being what it is, you can’t knock the Converse shoe out of the conversation easily. If you’re a fan of the company and want to give Chuck Taylors a try, have at it.
The Ryderwear D-MAK line is ideal for those who want something a little less structured than the Sabo deadlift shoe and a little more cushioned than the Converse shoe.
The high top design, extra interior cushioning, and thin rubber outsole make this shoe ideal for deadlfits.
The suede and synthetic leather construction are meant to be worn whether you’re strength training or heading out on the town, embodying the word “athleisure.”
This brand doesn’t have the same notoriety as the other training shoe options on this list, but has a strong following in the strength training community. The Ryderwear D-Mak line comes in a variety of colors and styles to choose from.
You may be wondering: what’s a wrestling shoe doing here?
A lot of people prefer a wrestling shoe for their strength training efforts, as the core elements of each shoe are the same. The bottoms – a.k.a. the sole – are super thin and provide awesome grip.
Specifically, ASICS Matflex wrestling shoe has a rubber sole with a split design for optimal stability, comfort, and traction.
In addition, the split sole not only gives you crazy good traction (for the wrestling mat or your deadlifts), it also gives you flexibility.
This makes your foot even more active, keeping yourself grounded and close to the floor.
These shoes are made out of leather and synthetic material and come in a variety of styles.
If you like super thin shoes and solid grip, perhaps wrestling shoes will be the top choice for you when it comes to deadlifting. ASICS is known worldwide for making an excellent running shoe. Their wrestling shoe line promises the same quality construction and durability.
Adidas is well-known for making a high-quality lifting shoe. The Adidas Adipower became one of the top multifunctional Olympic lifting shoe options that also (surprisingly) appealed to golfers.
The Adidas Powerlift 4 has a slightly elevated heel, making it an ideal squat shoe. While the elevated heel isn’t ideal for deadlifting, it’s a great option for powerlifters and CrossFitters with limited ankle mobility that need the extra boost during squat movements.
While they aren’t a flat shoe, the Adidas Powerlift is built for support and stability. The metatarsal strap will lock your foot in place and the canvas upper is lightweight and breathable. This specialized shoe is ideal for those who want to improve their deadlift as an accessory lift or WOD component.
Lastly, we have something designed literally for the deadlift and the deadlift ONLY. This minimalist shoe is actually a slipper created for this specific movement.
The cool aspect of these bad boys is you simply slip them on your feet. Entirely legal for competition, you get as low as possible, with the full comfort of the floor as your cushion. Many powerlifters made this shift after the federations put a “no sock feet” rule in place.
The upper is made with terry cloth, while the sole is constructed out of rubber.
This specialized shoe doesn’t provide any ankle support, but the rubber bottoms prevent them from slipping anyways. Your feet shouldn’t roll over.
This is all you could ever ask for in a deadlift shoe.
For those who are serious about their deadlifting – and, believe it or not, someone who wants to be frugal – Powerlifting Deadlift Slippers sit alone at the top.
Deadlifting Shoes FAQs
Still not sold on deadlifting shoes? Here are some answers to commonly asked questions to help you make up your mind.
Are deadlift shoes worth it?
If you’re focused on improving your deadlift and taking your strength training to the next level, it’s well worth the investment to buy a good deadlifting shoe. However, it’s also important to keep the notorious Louie Simmons’ words in the back of your mind: “Don’t have $100 shoes and a 10-cent squat.“ The same idea applies to deadlifts. Worry about perfecting your form and supporting the goal before you go shopping.
If you’re looking for something to use for various strength training modalities, it’s worth buying a more generalized weightlifting shoe and picking up a pair of deadlifting slippers to use as needed.
Can you squat in deadlift shoes?
You can squat in deadlifting shoes. The raised heels in squat shoes are a compensation for poor ankle mobility. If you have good ankle mobility, you won’t have a problem squatting in flat soled shoes. If you have poor ankle mobility, work on improving your range of motion.
Should you deadlift in bare feet?
There are a few benefits to barefoot (or sock foot) deadlfiting. Primarily related to muscle activation mind mind body connection. However, recent studies show that there’s no noticeable improvement in force, power, strength, or exertion when it comes to barefoot vs. deadlift shoes.
By using three points of contact between your feet and the floor, you improve stability, external rotation in the hips, and putting your weight in your backside.
However, deadlifting shoes can give you all of these advantages, with the added bonus of not touching the disgusting gym floor with your skin.
Let’s be honest, if there’s a way to improve your deadlift without having to go barefoot where you have no idea who’s walked, sweated, and bled in the same space before you, you’ll do it.
The key for a solid deadlift, barefoot or not, is to make a heel print in the floor. What this does is add a pushing movement to this pull movement.
Pushing through your heels to move the weight away from the floor with as much force as possible is your best friend when it comes to the deadlift.
Deadlift shoes allow you to do just that, without the terrible unknown that is coming into contact with a gymnasium floor with your bare feet.
Also, if you’re ever in competition, you are required to wear shoes, so they’ve got you there; deadlifting shoes are the answer to this issue.
By now you see the importance of having a deadlift shoe.
Built vastly different compared to other training shoes, deadlift shoes help improve your biggest lift, which will in turn make you a bigger beast.
And while you can do this by going barefoot, ain’t nobody got time for MRSA or whatever other disease is plaguing your gym’s floor.
Find a flat pair of shoes that give you the durability, low heel, thin sole, and quality necessary to lift heavy.
This will keep you safe from injury and targets the right muscle groups when deadlifting.
Check out our list of potential shoe candidates and choose the one that’s right for you. And for when you add ungodly amounts of weight to your deadlift because of those shoes…you’re welcome.