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.
In fact, here is that list for those of you who want to get steppin’::
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).
Deadlift Shoes vs Barefoot
Barefoot gives you a ton of advantages as well when it comes to deadlifting. This is because you have an “active” foot when you’re barefoot.
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.
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.
- Solid grip: 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.
- Additional stability: With running shoes, you have zero support on the sides of 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?
Nike Deadlift Shoes: Nike Metcon 4
If you’re a sucker for Nike – and, c’mon, who isn’t? – then the Metcon 4 is your best bet for a deadlift shoe.
The full review can be found below, but the Nike difference is prevalent in one of their most popular shoes.
Flywire technology ensures a secure fit over the top of your feet, while mesh in the heel and ankle provides breathability to help keep you cool.
Check out the entire breakdown under “Top Deadlift Shoes Reviewed.”
Reebok Deadlift Shoes: Reebok Nano 8
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 wonderful version of deadlift shoe.
As with the Metcon 4, the full review can be found in “Top Deadlift Shoes Reviewed.” However, it can be said that this is one of their most famous workout shoes.
This is because it’s made with versatile material, has amazing support, and a rubber sole for incredible grip.
Keep scrolling for the complete breakdown.
Wrestling Shoes for Deadlift: ASICS Men’s Cael
A lot of people enjoy using wrestling shoes for their deadlifting purposes. The reason why is that the bottoms – a.k.a. the sole – is super thin and gives awesome grip.
Specifically, ASICS’ Men’s Cael V7.0 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.
Top Deadlift Shoes Reviewed
SABO Deadlift Shoes
First up on our main list is what’s considered one of the best deadlift shoes on the market – SABO.
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.
They have a high-cut upper for stability during training, as well as slide support on the outsole, so your feet won’t roll over as you spread the floor (unlike slippers).
This shoes was built for the deadlift; in fact, it has the word “deadlift” printed on the second strap. For a deadlift shoe that’s nothing but, go with SABO.
Converse Chuck Taylor
If this seems like it doesn’t belong here, surprise! Chuck Taylors have been a deadlifter’s best friend for years.
Many bodybuilders and powerlifters swear by ‘em, plus they fit the majority of the qualifications to make an appearance on this list.
To start, Converse Chuck Taylors have a rubber sole that cannot be beat in traction.
And this sole is as rigid as they come; you won’t want to walk even half a mile in these shoes – only deadlift.
However, there is one main problem: The heel is very high, as they make it not for deadlifting, but for actual walking around.
Also, they have started to add OrthoLite insoles for cushioning. 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.
Nevertheless, with the canvas upper supporting your foot and that sole being what it is, you can’t knock Converse out of the conversation easily. If you’re a fan of the company and want to give Chuck Taylors a try, have at it.
Nike Metcon 4
As we said before, who doesn’t love them some Nike? With haptic print and Flywire tech, this deadlift 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 completely flat. There is also some cushioning in the shoe.
Despite this, if stability and traction are your biggest concerns, nothing beats the Metcon 4.
Reebok Nano 8
We touched on this deadlift shoe earlier as well, but to expand upon it, let’s just say Reebok has it’s stuff figured out.
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 the heel elevates a few millimeters, but this is the closest thing a non-deadlift-specific shoe gets to a deadlift shoe
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.
Lastly, we have something designed literally for the deadlift and the deadlift ONLY. These would be the Powerlifting Deadlift Slippers (which are also really good for martial arts).
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.
The upper is made with Terry Cloth, while the sole is constructed out of rubber.
It doesn’t provide a lot of support on the sides of your feet, 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.
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.