The deadlift is a much more technical lift than it appears to most lifters. There is little room for error as even being slightly out of position or unbalanced can lead to disastrous injuries. There is already a lot to think about when getting ready for a big deadlift. You have to find the right song for the moment, position your feet, make sure your grip is secure, all while maintaining proper posture and back positioning.
With all these thoughts and variables running through your head the last thing you want to think about is if you have the correct shoes for a safe and successful pull. Finding the best deadlifting shoes sets you up for stable and constant pulls that allow you to reach new heights and achieve your lifting goals.
This guide on the best deadlifting shoes will look at some important factors to consider when choosing a pair of deadlift shoes as well as some of the best options we have found on the market today.
We will look at all the different types of shoes that lifters prefer deadlifting in to optimize their performance. We will then discuss and reiterate the importance of a flat-soled shoe and the dangers deadlifting in traditional running and athletic shoes.
Finally, we will then consider the features and advantages of top deadlift shoes based on experience, customer feedback, shoe specifications. There is something on this list for everyone from absolute beginners to professional powerlifters training to compete in national competitions.
Before we dive in, it’s helpful to note that most Olympic lifting and powerlifting shoes are unisex and can be used by both men and women of all ages and sizes. Just make sure to get the correct size!
Why can’t you just deadlift in your usual pair of gym sneakers?
It is easy and common for athletic individuals to practically live in their sneakers and use them for all kinds of activities. They are great for running and high-impact exercise and tend to be comfortable and breathable. Also, many high end running and athletic shoes today are very costly, so it’s understandable that a lifter would be excited to shell out even more for specific deadlifting shoes or weightlifting shoes.
The problem is that the cushioned construction of a sneaker is ill-suited to lifting, especially squatting and deadlifting.
Many times the lightweight, flexible foam soles of these shoes don’t offer the stability that you need for a secure lift and good balance. They also absorb the force of pushing against the floor which limits the lift and can make you very unstable if you are lifting any significant amount of weight.
This not only limits your performance but also leaves you susceptible to life-altering knee and ankle injuries that can easily be avoided if you wear proper footwear.
While executing the deadlift, it’s important to keep the barbell on your body throughout the entire movement. This is because the load will be distributed over your center of gravity more effectively.
If the barbell comes off your body, your lats and upper back will need to work a lot harder to prevent you from falling forward.
The problem with wearing sneakers is that the sole is designed to rock your foot back and forth. This is easier on the foot for an activity like running, but for deadlifting, you will struggle to maintain your balance as you drive the barbell off the floor. As a result, you’ll lose your balance and find it harder to keep the barbell on your body.
Why are Flat-Soled Lifting Shoes so Beneficial?
There is no give to the sole of a good deadlifting shoe or slipper. It is flat, firm and low to the ground with no sign of a heel or air cushion. This is the best way to ensure a good posture and position on the floor. Your heels and feet will be in the best position for a strong, safe lift with minimal risk of injury.
The lower proximity to the ground will also shorten the distance that the weight must be pulled and increase the efficiency of the lift.
The simple shape, snug fit, and lightweight improve stability and balance. This directly translates to improved consistency and performance. An added bonus here is the amount of traction on the non-slip sole.
If the shoe doesn’t have a non-slip sole, it can be dangerous and is not useful for lifting on slippery wooden deadlift platforms.
Some will question if regular Olympic weightlifting shoes are good for deadlifting. They sound like they should be a great option because of the style, but they often have heels to them. These heels are used to add depth for Olympic weightlifters and improve their Power Cleans and Overhead Squats.
However, many would argue that deadlifting is easier and more productive the flatter your feet are to the floor. The thinner the sole the better. While powerlifting and Olympic lifting shoes are much better than running or tennis shoes, a shoe with a fully flat sole is the most optimal for deadlifting.
You may have seen someone in the gym deadlift without shoes or read about this technique on internet forums. They claim that the best deadlifting shoes would be NONE at all! That’s right; not wearing shoes is best for deadlifting as you are as close to the ground and stable as possible. This has led some people to ditch the shoes altogether and opt to go barefoot.
Their logic is correct and there is something primal about going barefoot when lifting heavy weights.
However, for the average lifter, the best deadlifting shoes they can afford would offer a much safer and more gym-friendly experience, as they offer protection from dropped plates or bars and are compatible with every gym’s rules throughout the country.
In theory, the idea of deadlifting barefooted makes sense. You will:
- Be more balanced since there is direct contact with the foot and floor
- Have a reduced range of motion since the depth of the shoe’s sole won’t contribute to the distance that you need to pull the bar
- Be able to engage your posterior muscles to a greater extent, such as your glutes and hamstrings, since the majority of your body weight will be on your mid-foot and heel vs forefoot.
However, you still don’t want to deadlift barefoot as there are several advantages to wearing a specialized deadlifting shoe, including:
- Additional high-ankle support, which is important during the sumo deadlift variation
- Grippy outer sole, which prevents your foot from sliding or slipping on the floor
- Metatarsal support, which protects your ankle from rolling and reinforces the muscles responsible for maintaining a naturally arched-foot
- Most gyms won’t allow you to deadlift barefoot because of sanitary reasons
- If you’re a competitive powerlifter, you must wear a shoe in competition
Many shoe manufacturers recognize that deadlifting barefoot is ideal, yet it’s simply not practical. Therefore, a good deadlift shoe should provide all of the advantages of going barefoot and also include these additional benefits.
Finding the best style of flat-soled deadlifting shoes.
The best deadlifting shoes are typically flat-soled shoes. However, there are lots of different types of shoes mentioned in weightlifting blogs and seen in professional powerlifting competitions. You will have trouble searching for a deadlifting shoe directly, as there are only one or two brands that advertise their shoes as made for deadlifts specifically.
However, there are plenty of other types of shoes that are used in the sport with great success. The first place that lifters tend to turn is either to a wrestling shoe or a good-old pair of Chuck Taylors. Alternatively, there is the option of buying a sturdy pair of slippers, such as ballet slippers, or barefoot-style running shoes.
Clearly, there is mixed opinion on the best style of shoe for deadlifting. These views ultimately come down to personal experience and preferences based on the performance of the shoe and individual needs. Some may start with wrestling shoes or Chuck Taylors and find that they progress to more specialized flat-soled powerlifting or Olympic shoe as their lifts get heavier and they take the sport more seriously.
Others may find that they prefer a sporty feel and opt for a barefoot-style sports shoe over a slipper. The thing is, you won’t really know which is the ultimate approach for you until you try a pair and put them to work.
Best Deadlifting Shoes Reviews
The list below provides a wide selection of the best deadlifting shoes from these different styles. These comparisons will hopefully steer you in the right direction and highlight some of the key advantages and features on board. Remember, the best deadlifting shoes can take different forms for different lifters. Read carefully, then consider the options that work for you!
While adidas’ newest HVC shoe is the HVC-2, the original HVC remains the top-selling wrestling shoe on Amazon with nearly 1300 reviews rating the shoe a 4.6 out of 5.
It’s a lightweight, durable, and dependable shoe and that’s obvious by the feedback. Its unique material mix adds character and functionality to this well-rounded shoe. Synthetic suede and synthetic leather overlays provide a lightweight, durable wrestling shoe. The full-length outsole provides consistent mat contact and superior grip, while single-layer mesh provides durability and breathability.
It features an elasticized lace retention cover system and the point of that is to keep the ends of laces tucked away. Because of the overwhelming number of positive comments and high rankings amongst confirmed buyers of the HVC, we’ve place it in our #1 position!
Otomix offers us a whole lot of shoes for a wide variety of purposes. Owners love the shoe and a 4.7 out of 5 rating proves it. OTOMIX brings its heritage of mat sports experience in Martial Arts to the world of Wrestling, MMA, Bodybuilding, Powerlifting, Weightlifting and DEADLIFTING with the introduction of the Stingray Escape Gym shoe. These ultra-light gym flat sole training shoes provide superior support and stability with an unlimited range of motion.
The soles of these shoes are sewn and glued on for double durability. The Otomix Bodybuilding Stingray Escape is feather light with ultimate traction, which is what several disciplines need, not the least of which is the sport of deadlifting.
As with all deadlifting shoes, the heel is nearly non-existent (in terms of height or elevation from the floor) and that helps with the overall lifting distance from the floor to a full stand being minimized.
We mentioned above that there were only a few brands that were deliberately designing shoes for deadlifting, while the other brands highlighted simply had models that were suitable. It, therefore, makes sense to mention these Sabo Deadlift shoes next.
These shoes have been mentioned online by a lot of online fitness bloggers because of their branding and design.
So what it is about these shoes that makes them so well-built for deadlifting? First of all they tick the main three boxes of a good lifting shoe.
They offer stability from a flat, thin sole and a lightweight. This 2-5mm shoe is flat to the ground with no cushioning, much like many of the other flat-soled shoes here. However, these shoes also have a tarsal strap specifically designed for deadlifts.
This strap can make all the difference when trying to get enough downward force into a lift and increasing stability.
This means that your performance could improve that little bit more in these shoes compared to a Chuck Taylor or a barefoot-style running shoe. Users also like the build quality and the way that the sides are reinforced to stop their feet from rolling and getting bruised or injured.
The tried and true, good old fashioned Chuck Taylors. This brand is mentioned so often by powerlifters that it would be out of place to mention them any later. These shoes may not seem like an obvious choice at first, especially where there are so many flat-soled shoes out there designed specifically for lifting. Some of the best lifters swear these are the best deadlifting shoes for them! They may be for you too!
The truth is that these shoes actually share a lot of the same characteristics as the better professional deadlifting shoe. Users know that they are comfortable because they wear them all the time and they are not as expensive as the more specialized and technical lifting shoes.
For some, they are simply the best deadlifting shoes because they are so accessible and offer a no-nonsense approach to lifting. There are no special features designed for sports and nothing that makes them excessively expensive.
They are just well-built, flat shoes for deadlifting with a strong grip and a stable base. Some people criticize these shoes for their lack of support and cushioning, but this is an advantage for deadlifting.
The canvas uppers are light and adaptable, more so than some training shoes. Just be aware that if you have a hi-top model, you may want to leave the top unlaced for greater freedom of movement.
The adidas Combat Speed 5 is the latest in the line of the classic time-tested Combat Speed Line of wrestling shoes. Back as early as the late 1970s the original Combat Speed made its appearance and it’s been all uphill since then! In fact, many other shoes from a number of other manufacturers are actually based on the Combat and its design style. The Speed 4 was (relatively) recently brought online after the shoe disappeared for a time from the market.
The durability and support has been tweaked and optimized for the Speed 5 model and we think they have a slightly more modern “feel” to them. Even more than the Speed 4’s, the 5’s have a more “sock-like” feel to their fit. That’s a really good thing for every lifter! The upper is mostly made up of a single-layer mesh that provides incredible breathability and makes this one of the lightest deadlifting shoes on the market (though officially, it’s a wrestling shoe, but you’re smart enough to know that’s exactly the shoe style many competitive deadlifters prefer).
For added support and durability, the upper is reinforced with a mix of suede and synthetic leather. The flexible TPU support stripes and side panel offers more support and stability than previous models. The unique split-sole of the Combat Speed is designed for wrestlers who like to be quick with their footwork, without any extra baggage to slow them down.
While the BARE-XF 210 V2 is not officially a “deadlifting shoe”, you’ll keep in mind that very few others are. Few companies make (and few lifters actually wear) official “deadlifting” shoes (other than Sabo).
The Bare-XF 201 V2 is a very good alternative for those lifters who want a little more versatility in their shoe (good for speed training and even some casual sport functions).
This shoe from Inov-8 is the most stripped-back shoe in the range, bringing the foot closer to the ground. Offering a natural fit and improved Rope-Tec protection, this shoe delivers pretty decent grip and durability on the lifting mat.
It also comes with 3mm and 6mm “power footbeds” allowing you to fine tune your fit and underfoot cushioning.
Another classic style lifting shoe, but from a less mainstream brand. This shoe is extremely lightweight compared to many of the competitors and it offers some of the highest levels of stability of any shoe on this list due to its hard heel cage and “Power-Truss” technology.
Like many other lifting shoes, the Inov-8 includes a strap for additional support and protection and a raised heel. The raised heels on these shoes are of average height and thus not the optional scenario for deadlifts.
However, these are much better than running shoes and are perfect for virtually every other lift.
This shoe is a decent option if you want to try a non-mainstream shoe brand and have other lifts you are focusing on besides just deadlifts. The raised heel tilts your center of gravity forward (which can upset your form and balance) and also makes you lift the weight a tiny bit more (neither quality is good for deadlifting), so it’s not the perfect deadlifting shoe and not recommended if the ONLY lifting you do is deadlifting.
If these Sabo shoes are the only ones that are specifically designed for deadlifting, some people may feel the need to look at boots built for a different discipline.
Wrestling boots are known to work pretty well. This means they are a good idea for anyone that is lifting as part of their training or has come from an amateur wrestling background. Anyone that wants to try wrestling shoes as a way into the sport should consider Asics wrestling shoes.
This company is well known for their well-built, supportive shoes, and this range is no different.
The Asics JB Elite V2.0 wrestling shoe was designed around the specifications of 3x world champion, Jordan Burroughs. The specification talks about wrestling-specific traction pods, but don’t let this put you off. They may be there with wrestling in mind, but that brilliant grip proves to be ideal when lifting too. Wearers also like the fact that these shoes are lightweight at 6.8 oz and offer a good, supportive fit.
They also come in a great range of colors. This will make no difference to the performance, but there is nothing wrong with looking good in the gym.
The importance of this barefoot feeling in deadlifting means that some of the best deadlifting shoes are actually alternative running shoes. We spoke out against sneakers before because of the thick, padded soles and the impact they have on performance. The great thing about these barefoot-style running shoes is that they provide the best of a sports shoe without this sole. Instead, the sole is flat and thin, just like a lifting boot. The purpose of this zero-drop experience may be different, but it all leads to the same great benefits of stability, balance, and posture.
This is just the start with these Merrell shoes. In addition to the sole, there is a strong, lightweight upper that is durable enough to last through many sessions. That upper is also breathable, so there are no concerns about feet getting too hot and sweaty. This can be an issue in some of the more constrictive models in this list. The support continues with the heel sling and there is a slip-resistant sole that is ideal for lifting. Essentially, this type of shoe provides the best of both worlds for lifters that don’t want to switch to something too unfamiliar.
Last, but not least, we come to slightly more familiar ground with another product that has been highlighted by keen lifters. The name of this boot gives away its most striking feature. Instead of providing a roomy toe box for freedom of movement and comfort, this product has five fingers like a glove.
This allows the foot to move in a more natural way when squatting and lifting. The splayed toes provide a more comfortable position and greater stability. This in turn leads to a better lift.
Unlike some of the stranger boots that have been mentioned so far, like the yoga slippers, there are some extra features here that make these shoes seem a little more like sports shoes.
The Vibram TC1 performance rubber sole is the sort of sole that you would find on a training shoe and it offers a great grip. At the same time, the shoes are very low to the ground and offer a strong base for more confident lifts. Add in the durable construction and hook and loop closure and it is easy to see why lifters like this model so much and rank it at the top of their “best deadlifting shoes” list.
As these barefoot-style running shoes are such a popular idea at the moment – for both runners and lifters – it makes sense to look at another brand that is using these features.
New Balance are much like Asics in terms of their reputation for strong, supportive shoes with a good fit. These trail running shoes look a little thicker and heavier than the previous model, so may not be as well-suited to the sport.
However, there are still plenty of wearers praising them for their performance.
The sole is still pretty thin and close to the ground so there is no concern about there being too much padding or too much of a heel. At the same time, it contains a no-sew TPU wrap that is said to be “skeletally engineered” for stability and support.
This is a bonus for deadlifters that need a secure piece of footwear where they won’t roll their foot. Other important features are the light, breathable material on the uppers, the good fit and the traction on the sole. Like the model above, this is a great transition shoe for people that are getting into lifting and are used to wearing sports shoes.
They are a compromise when wrestling boots and slippers seem too extreme in a communal gym.
Don’t Make These Deadlift Mistakes!
Which Shoes Are Best For You?
It is difficult to rank the shoes we have listed here in terms of the best deadlifting shoes and worst shoes because there are so many different types.
Instead, we have simply tried to highlight the diversity of models out there when it may seem as though true deadlifting shoes don’t exist. The truth is that there are boots specifically designed for lifting, wrestling and martial arts that share some of the best features of a lifting boot.
At the same time, there are lots of slippers and barefoot-style options that are well-suited to the discipline.
The best deadlifting shoes for you depends on your needs and preferences. Athletic boots with all the features are appealing to newcomers that want to start outright.
Slippers and minimalist boots are appealing to old-timers that want to improve their performance. Then there are barefoot-style running shoes for a more familiar approach, not forgetting the popular Chuck Taylors either.
Take your time to find a style that suits you. As long as the shoe has a flat sole, lightweight, stable construction, and good grip, you should be absolutely fine.
Avi Silverberg, MSc
Head Coach – Team Canada Powerlifting