In general, raw lifting does not require special equipment – chalk, straps, stable shoes and a belt are among the few needed accessories. This is why most people are interested in raw rather than equipped powerlifting which requires the usage of bench shirts and other fancy entourage.
There are three types of shoes that are good for squatting – flat shoes, powerlifting shoes and Olympic weightlifting shoes. A good example of a flat shoe would be the classic Chuck Taylor sneakers. However, we don’t recommend that you spend so much money on such a simple shoe. You can find cheaper flat shoes. Remember – the bar does not care about the brand of your shoe.
When you make your choice, make sure that the shoes are stable with an absolutely flat sole. Stay away from fancy shoes – especially shoes made for running. To squat heavy weights, you don’t need the latest model of Nike or Adidas. To tell the truth, you don’t need those models even for running. The masses have simply been brainwashed into believing that fancy shoes are needed for sports activities.
Another option would be to purchase special powerlifting shoes made for squats. Those models have a thick sole and feel very stable. If you find the right model, your stability during squats will increase tremendously.
The final option for squats would be the classic weightlifting shoes with a wooden heel. The Olympic shoe is made for squatting deep and protects the Achilles tendon by shortening the range of motion.
In addition, when your shoes have a small heel, the mechanics of the squat change. You are much more upright and can easily go deeper. A pair of weightlifting shoes will also provide stability since the sole is made out of a very thick material.
The only downside of using weightlifting shoes is that at the bottom of the squat, your knees travel forward a little further. This may cause knee pain.
Note: The size of your weightlifting shoes usually corresponds to the size of your dress shoes – not sneakers.
Conclusion: If you are doing low bar squats, all you need is a pair of solid flat shoes. The popular powerlifter Ed Coan has used the same flat shoes for squats and deadlifts throughout his entire career. They were just basic sneakers, and yet he squatted insane weights.
If you are more of a high-bar squatter, you can still do your thing in a pair of flat shoes, but experimenting with weightlifting shoes is also a good idea. You will be more upright during the movement, and there will be less stress on the back and more on the quadriceps.
The deadlift is even less pretentious than the squat. There’s absolutely no need to buy special deadlifting shoes.
In general, you should deadlift in flat shoes. They provide stability and increase the involvement of the posterior chain – hamstrings and glutes.
There are also professional deadlifters such as the British champion Andy Bolton who regularly deadlift in ballet slippers because the thin sole shortens the bar path by 1 inch, and as a result, you can lift more weight.
Over the last few years, many people have actually started using weightlifting shoes even for the deadlift. The goal is to increase the involvement of quads and make the initial part of the lift easier. However, unless you are at least an intermediate lifter, you should stick to the classics which say – flat shoes.
Should I go barefoot?
An article on squat and deadlift footwear would not be complete unless we mention the barefoot maniacs. They like to do everything barefoot thinking they’re getting closer and closer to mother nature. Yet lifting barefoot does not come with many benefits in comparison to flat shoes. Besides, training without shoes in a dirty commercial gym seems a little counterproductive due to the poor hygiene levels.