Deadlift Shoes: Do they Actually Work?

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
March 30, 2022

A variety of equipment exists to help gym goers and other kinds of resistance athletes in performing certain exercises that can benefit from a change in said exerciser’s form.

One among these is that of the deadlift shoes, specialized footwear meant to reduce the chance of injury in the exerciser by conforming to their natural foot shape as well as altering the biomechanics of the exerciser somewhat by supporting their stance throughout the exercise.

Primarily, deadlift shoes are meant to aid an exerciser in performing the deadlift by giving them a stable platform on which to stand and reducing any potential weak points in their form relating to their ankle position, natural foot biomechanics or similar physiological factors.

What are Deadlift Shoes?

what are deadlift shoes

Deadlift shoes are a specialized form of footwear with a flat and hardened sole so as to reduce the distance of the exerciser’s soles from contact with the ground, providing a more stable and safer stance in which they may perform the deadlift.

This has the added benefit of improving the exerciser’s balance, thereby reducing the use of stabilizer muscles in an incremental manner and reducing the total perceived rate of exertion the exerciser may experience throughout their workout.

What do Deadlift Shoes do?

Deadlift shoes work by aiding the exerciser’s own unique biomechanics in relation to performing the deadlift exercise with proper form, both by supporting the feet through mechanical means as well as reducing the range of motion for the upper and lower portion of the exerciser’s body.

With this in mind, it can be surmised that deadlift shoes can increase the relative amount of weight an exerciser can move during the deadlift, even in only a minute manner.

This is in combination with the reduced chance of injury from deadlifting on a stable platform in direct contact with the ground, of which will also reduce any excessive strain placed on the various connective tissues of the exerciser’s body - something that is often a major concern for particularly heavy deadlift sets.

Finally, there is the fact that deadlift shoes provide significant mid-footd and ankle support, thereby reducing the chance of overextension or injury due to improper form by constraining the lower extremities to a certain position that, while natural, also prevents the exerciser from moving incorrectly to some extent during the exercise.

Are Deadlift Shoes Required in Order to Deadlift?

No, it is perfectly acceptable for exercisers to perform the deadlift exercise without making use of the deadlift shoes or other footwear of a similar function.

However, performing a deadlift in improper footwear can often result in muscular strains and connective tissue injuries that are best avoided entirely and by any means possible.

Apart from utilizing proper form and working with a reasonable amount of resistance, one of the best ways to reduce the chance of injury during a set of deadlifts is to provide the exerciser with a stable platform on which to stand, something that is achievable either by the exerciser deadlift barefoot or in specialized deadlift shoes.

As such, while the use of deadlift shoes is not a general requirement in order to deadlift, it is often recommended for any individual planning to move a moderate to high amount of weight during their deadlift session.

How do Deadlift Shoes Work?

The majority of deadlift shoes work by reducing the distance between the soles and heel of the exerciser’s feet from the ground, thereby allowing them to balance and exert downward force in line with their own unique biomechanics during exercise.

This is primarily achieved by utilizing a thin yet hard sole along the bottom of the deadlift shoe, in opposition to the springy cushioning of running shoes or the elevated yet similarly tough heel of squat shoes.

The flat and hardened sole of the deadlift shoe also works quite well in tandem with the high ankle support of most deadlift shoe brands, of which will generally take the form of an ankle collar that wraps around the upper portion of the ankle, thereby preventing it from overextending or bending improperly.

Who Should Use Deadlift Shoes?

While deadlift shoes may be a rather pricey investment for an individual whom rarely deadlifts or goes to the gym at all, they can be an excellent choice for powerlifters or other resistance trained athletes that find themselves lifting high amounts of weight or high volume sets of deadlifts on a regular basis.

As such, it is our advice that individuals either planning to ramp up their time spent deadlifting or those who regularly perform such an exercise can make the most out of purchasing a set of deadlift shoes, making the monetary investment absolutely worth their while.

For individuals that do not often perform resistance exercises or those who usually do weightlifting routines that do not involve the deadlift, however, purchasing either a similar but more affordable alternative to deadlift shoes or simply going barefoot should be more than sufficient for their purposes.

Are Deadlift Shoes Safer than Other Shoes?

chuck taylor deadlifting shoes

In comparison to other shoes with higher soles or excess cushioning that may make deadlifting hazardous and unstable, deadlift shoes are considerably safer in a multitude of ways.

This is highly variable due to the differences between brands and types of shoes, and as such while it is easy to say that deadlift shoes are effective at the purpose that they were made for, this does not mean that using other types of shoes can be dangerous during a deadlift repetition.

Generally, when searching for a pair of shoes to use during a deadlift session, it is best to avoid shoes with thick or high heels made of unsturdy and soft materials, as well as those that are unsupportive or too soft around the middle of the foot, which may lead to the exerciser losing their balance or overextending the ankle.

A common, everyday shoe that's used for deadlifting are Converse Chuck Taylor's, pictured above.

Are there Alternatives to Deadlift Shoes?

Deadlift shoes, while being the primary footwear for deadlifting at high levels, are not the only sort of shoes that possess the correct characteristics required during the deadlift exercise, and as such individuals who cannot access or cannot purchase said deadlift shoes may find different but no less effective alternatives instead.

Boxing Shoes

boxing shoes deadlift

As can be inferred from its name, boxing shoes are sports footwear primarily meant for use in a boxing ring, but can nonetheless be used as an alternative to deadlift shoes due to the similarity in their form and soles.

Boxing shoes are primarily made for the purposes of being as light as possible while also maintaining little distance between the wearer’s soles and the ground, as is vitally important both in the sport of boxing and when performing the deadlift exercise.

As such, boxing shoes are among one of the best possible alternatives to the deadlift shoes, with the primary difference in function being a lack of mid foot support, presenting a slightly higher risk of ankle injury than special purpose deadlift shoes.

Wrestling Shoes

wrestling shoes for deadlifting

Much like boxing shoes, wrestling shoes are another type of sports footwear made for the purposes of maximizing the wearer’s lower body stability while retaining an extremely low weight profile, with the majority of wrestling shoes only possessing a slightly higher heel than most deadlift shoes.

Most brands of wrestling shoes also possess an ankle collar or ankle strap quite similar to that found in higher quality deadlifting shoes, and as such will provide ankle support just like a deadlift shoe, even with only a minimal amount of midfoot support in place.

Barefoot Deadlifting

barefoot deadlifting

Though not exactly an alternative type of footwear, many individuals swear by the effectiveness and safety of performing the deadlift exercise while barefoot, with the primary concerns involved being crushing one’s own toes beneath the plates or the rules of their gym preventing barefoot exercisers.

Barefoot deadlifting may in fact be even more effective than utilizing deadlift shoes due to the absolute lack of distance between the exerciser’s soles and the ground, reducing the total range of motion of the exercise and thereby reducing the chance of sprains or soft tissue injury by overextension.

Are Deadlift Shoes the Same as Squat Shoes?

Though both deadlift shoes and squat shoes are specialized sports footwear meant for aiding the wearer in performing resistance exercises comfortably, squat shoes are considerably different in form and function to deadlift shoes and as such cannot be used interchangeably.

The largest difference found between the deadlift shoe and the squat shoe is that the squat shoes reduce the total range of motion found in a squat exercise by possessing a higher and tougher heel, raising the exerciser’s soles and ankles and thereby altering their own natural biomechanics.

This is distinct from the flat as possible sole found in the deadlift shoe, and as such using squat shoes to perform deadlifts will often have the opposite effect as using a deadlift shoe - that is, increasing the risk of injury and increasing the exercise’s total range of motion.

References

1. Valenzuela KA, Walters KA, Avila EL, Camacho AS, Alvarado F, Bennett HJ. Footwear Affects Conventional and Sumo Deadlift Performance. Sports (Basel). 2021 Feb 11;9(2):27. doi: 10.3390/sports9020027. PMID: 33670253; PMCID: PMC7918349.

2. Church, James B. PhD; Allen, Tara N. MS; Allen, Gregory W. MS A Review of the Efficacy of Weight Training Aids, Strength and Conditioning Journal: June 2016 - Volume 38 - Issue 3 - p 11-17 doi: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000227

3. Hammer, Mark & Meir, Rudi & Whitting, John & Crowley-McHattan, Zachary. (2018). Shod versus barefoot effects on force and power development during a conventional deadlift. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 32. 1525-1530. 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002246.

4. Schellenberg, F., Lindorfer, J., List, R. et al. Kinetic and kinematic differences between deadlifts and goodmornings. BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil 5, 27 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1186/2052-1847-5-27

5. Featured Image ©spotpoint74/123RF.COM

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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