Let’s get one thing straight from the outset, wearing deadlifting shoes when performing heavy lifts is damn sensible. It doesn’t mean you’re a dawk or one of those irritating people who have all the gear but no idea.
I used to think this about an old training partner. Whenever we’d start going heavy on deadlifts, he’d have to call timeout so that he could slip into his weightlifting shoes. ‘Popping on your sexy heels for a night on the town are we?’ I would tease playfully. But really, all jokes aside, I thought he was a proper ponce.
My training partner, who held multiple high-level qualifications in Olympic lifting, would tell me that ‘deadlifting shoes not only help improve your performance but, more importantly, they also make lifting safer.’
How, I once asked, how do your deadlifting shoes make lifting any safer than my tattered pair of super-spongy sneeks? He told me that there are four primary reasons why you should do heavy lifts in weightlifting shoes as opposed to trainers. I’ve entitled them The Benefits of Deadlifting Shoes and they are as follows:
The benefits of deadlifting shoes
1) Deadlifting shoes are constructed from more rigid – or ‘restrictive’ – materials, such as leather or comparative synthetics. This ensures that the shoes stay glued to your feet, which improves the stability of your base. Executing a heavy lift from an unstable base is the equivalent of building a house on sand. Furthermore, restrictive materials also provide extra ankle stability so the knees and hips don’t compensate.
2) Deadlifting shoes typically feature duel fastening options: laces and Velcro. Together with the rigid uppers (the material from which the shoe is constructed) the deadlifting shoes fit as securely as Ironman’s suit. So when you blast off into a snatch your shoes stay put.
3) The solid wooden (of composite plastic equivalent) sole provides you with a non-absorbent platform from which to perform a lift. This is a hugely important quality of deadlifting shoes. I don’t want to get bogged down with technicalities here but, soft or spongy platforms, such that trainers provide, absorb and dissipate energy. This is eminently a bad thing, especially when you want to channel as much energy as possible into your lift. Deadlifting shoes, by contrast, are designed to help you direct more force into the lift.
4) The final benefit of deadlifting shoes is the raised heel. That slight raising can make exercises such as snatches, front squats and over-head squats much more comfortable. In addition, you’ll find that, in deadlifting shoes with the raised heel, you’ll be able to squat much deeper than you can when wearing flat trainers.
What I found surprising is that there are scientific journals that back up the benefits of deadlifting shoes.
For example, a small research team conducted a study on a mixed participant group of Olympic lifters to see if wearing weightlifting shoes (WS) impacted their performance.
The study concluded that weightlifting shoes ‘gave significantly … reduced ankle flexion’ which reduces injury during lifts. In addition, WSs ‘increased knee flexion' while promoting improved lifting posture – such as an upright trunk.
But the benefits of weightlifting shoes don’t stop there!
The participants of the study also ‘experienced a significantly greater increase in knee and hip flexion with WS [weightlifting shoes].’ This led the researchers to conclude that ‘results are consistent with the idea that WS permit a more knee flexed, upright posture’ during lifts which provide ‘preliminary evidence that experienced squatters are able to exploit this effect.’¹
And this probably accounts for why my training partner always outlifted me: it wasn’t that he was stronger than, it was because he was wearing the right shoes!
Deadlifting Shoes Buyer’s Guide
There are a few things to bear in mind before splashing the cash on a swanky pair of weightlifting shoes. Below you’ll find a comprehensive breakdown of the key weightlifting shoe features that will help you identify the best shoe for you.
Granted, for male readers, it may be a bazar experience considering the heel depth of footwear. But as we discussed in the introduction, the raised heel is a characteristic feature of the weightlifting shoe.
However, the tapering, or depth, of the heel raise can vary. Some shoes sport steeper tapers than others. And while the degree of taper across the range doesn’t change dramatically, depths do favour different types of lifts.
For example, a shallow taper is perhaps better suited for more traditional strength exercises: deadlifts, bent-over rows, squats, and standing military press. Whereas a steeper – or deeper – taper is suited more to technical lifts such as snatches, front squats, or overhead squats.
But without ordering five pairs of shoes how do you experiment with different heel depths?
Simple, next time you’re at the gym place on the floor a selection of micro-weight plates. Manoeuvre your heels on the plates and, without an Olympic barbell, run through the techniques of your preferred lifts. When you’ve found your preferred depth take a measure and match it to a pair of weightlifting shoes.
Lace? Velcro? or Both?
My training partner who I mentioned earlier had a pair of lace-up deadlifting shoes. I can remember two things about his shoes. The first was how irritating it was waiting for him to lace the damn things up. He’d pull up a pew (weight bench) and proceed to don his shoes, which took bloody ages because, as well as being lace-ups, he meticulously tightened every rung – and god forbid if there was kink or raise in the lace!
The second thing, he looked more like he was getting ready for a game of ten-pin bowling than preparing to execute a power lift.
Velcro straps are a modern(ish) feature of deadlifting shoes and, coupled with laces, they improve the stability of the shoe while enhancing the aesthetics. Also, they can be slipped on your feet in half the time, a boon if you’ve got an ultra-impatient training partner.
It’s for this reason why most lifters nowadays opt for the lace-Velcro combo.
Functional deadlifting shoes vs. traditional deadlifting shoes
CrossFit fanatics in the crowd are presented with a bit of a dilemma when it comes to deciding over which weightlifting shoe to purchase.
Because CrossFit encompasses a wide range of exercises, some of which aren’t power/Olympic lifts, you’re going to want more of a multifunctional weightlifting shoe. The last thing you want to be doing during a Murph is pulling into the pits every time you need a shoe change.
To cater for the CrossFit athlete many brands have now developed weightlifting shoes that provide the support needed to execute heavy lifts while maintaining a trainer-like functionality for when it comes to double unders and box jumps. (See adidas' Crazy Powerlifting shoe.)
The depth of the heel of CrossFit weightlifting shoes is not as pronounced and the soul, though still firm, is a bit more flexible – meaning it won’t feel like your training in clogs.
So, now that we’ve covered more or less every conceivable feature imaginable, here are the best weightlifting shoes.
The 5 Best Deadlifting Shoes
Best deadlifting shoe #1: Reebok Men's Lifter (£115.00)
An immensely well-rated weightlifting shoe from Reebok designed for the Olympic puritanical. The 700 4- to 5-star reviews make these a lifter’s favourite. Why the popularity? Because, in short, they tick all the right boxes. Constructed from high-quality materials they are offer the support needed for those gym-silencing lifts, the ones that earn real kudos from your counterparts.
In addition, the Powerbax TPU plate and a dual rubber outsole provides a stable and responsive platform that will give you the confidence to go heavy. And let’s not forget the dual fastening functionality of the lace and Velcro tag-team. When you strap into these bad boys you know they’re not going anywhere you’re not.
Oh, and one last point – they look fecking amazing!
Best deadlifting shoe #2: adidas Men's Powerlift 4 (£40.00)
You’d be hard pushed to get a better pair of weightlifting shoes for the price than adidas’ ‘fitness shoe’. These puppies are adored by lifters the world over. With a current PB of just over 800 reviews, they’re still repping out at nearly 5-stars! Crazy I know. But what, pray tell, what Well their extra-wide design offers a pleasing blend of breathability and support.
Furthermore, the synthetic upper ensures lightness without compromising on rigidity and resistance. Two absolute must qualities of any weightlifting shoe!
The Velcro closure on the arch allows you to apply that perfect fit. And, because of the positioning, which is higher than other brands, the Velcro won’t ‘pop’ open when you’re powering out of that deep squat.
Best deadlifting shoe #3: Nike Unisex's Romaleos 3 Xd (£155.00)
Nike’s Romaleos look like they’ve come out of the mind of Elon Musk. But though they don’t drive themselves, they offer an unparalleled blend of looks and performance.
Designed for strength and stability, the Romaleos 3 features a supportive midsole and a wide, flat outsole. The adjustable straps at the midfoot will secure your foot during your most intense workouts.
As one elated customer commented, ‘The arch support was amazing. The double strap really glued them to my feet providing great platform feedback. The bottom shape of the shoe really provided extra stability.’
Another feature of note is the rigid midsole. This has been designed to enable optimal power transfer from the ground culminating in a more ‘explosive’ lift. Coupled with the wide heel, this creates a stable base for heavy lifts, while the rubber tread provides durable traction to meet the demands of your training.
And have I said that they look like a pair of Teslas?
Best deadlifting shoe #4: inov-8 Inov8 Fastlift 360 Deadlifting Shoe (£134.99)
Inov8 Fastlift 360 Training Shoes offer a near perfect mix of stability and flexibility. No mean feat. This feature makes the Inov8 ideal for high powered Olympic lifting and functional training. Thus they’re suitable for both the puritanical lifter and CrossFitter alike.
The innovative fastening and upper design ensure that these shoes will fit like, well, like a glove.
In addition, the Inov8 features the coveted Met-Cradle technology which locks down the mid-foot for a stable hold. Meaning you’re going to be glued to the floor with these suckers.
It’s worth showering Inov8 with a bit of praise for the trouble they’ve gone to with their precision fit grading system. This grading system has been designed to enable you to more closely match the shoe to the width of your foot.
Each shoe is graded from 1 to 5. Grade 1 representing their closest, most precise fit while grade 5 represents the widest fitting toe box. The lower the number on the scale, the narrower the fit, which ensures minimal internal movement of the foot when running fast on technical terrain.
Additionally, the fabrication also features perforations that increase airflow to keep your feet cool, dry and comfortable at all times. The increase in airflow creates a perfect microclimate for your feet to thrive in and reduces an uncomfortable heat build-up. And the ballistic nylon overlays have also been used on the upper to provide support and structure as well as increased durability.
Damn, that’s a lot of show for your money.
Best deadlifting shoe #5: adidas Crazy Power (£140.00)
adidas Crazy Power weightlifting shoes promise to ‘maximise performance from the bench to the bar’. They are built for all types of power training from traditional Olympic lifting to CrossFit complexes. The TPU in the midsole offers additional support while the anti-slip rubber outsole ensures precise ground contact at all times.
adidas’ weightlifting shoes are fashioned from a breathable mesh which allows cool air to flow into the shoe at the same time as releasing warm air. This feature will keep your tutsies cool and comfortable and free from slippery sweat!
The innovative fastening system along the upper is a combination of lacing and extra-wide Velcro strap. This dual combination ensures a more secure fit thus enhancing stability during lifts.
Also, let’s not forget the sock-like lining that offers a securer fit while reducing abrasions around prominent contact points.
A final feature I’d like to bring your attention to is the ‘flex grooves’ that adidas have fashioned into their weightlifting shoe. These flex grooves ‘have been added to the forefoot of the shoe's outsole which allows the foot to flex and move as freely as it needs to during training sessions for an effective wear.’
Deadlifting shoes are a must for anyone who trains Olympic lifting and CrossFit. In addition to improving performance and perhaps enabling you to manage a couple of extra kilograms, as the research study showed, deadlifting shoes offer a level of stability and safety that trainer never can.
It’s for this reason more than any other why you would be wise to invest in a pair of quality deadlifting shoes. Hopefully this guide has helped you make a more informed decision. With that said, get your shoes and get lifting!
(As we are very interested in user experience here at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance!)
Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.
¹ Legg HS, Glaister M, Cleather DJ, Goodwin JE. The effect of weightlifting shoes on the kinetics and kinematics of the back squat. J Sports Sci. 2017 Mar;35(5):508-515. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2016.1175652. Epub 2016 Apr 20. PMID: 27096286.