When it comes to shoe choice for the Deadlift, never have there been so many options and yet so few! Although there are a wide variety of choices available, very few are specifically targeted at the Deadlift.
When choosing the ideal shoe for the Deadlift, the majority of people will benefit the most from a flat, thin-soled shoe with ankle support. Converse All Stars are a great choice on a budget, however, Wrestling Shoes and the dedicated Sabo Deadlift Shoes are also perfect options to consider.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the more popular choices and what it is about them that makes them suited to the Deadlift. But first, let’s look at the mechanics behind the Deadlift and how this translates to desirable characteristics in a shoe.
Please also check out my Top 5 shoe recommendations for deadlifting.
The Deadlift is a very technical lift and no two are the same, from Conventional to Sumo, tall lifters to short lifters, everyone has their own unique mechanics and leverages that will influence how they set up to pull. That said though, there are several key components that every lifter will want to achieve to make the lift as efficient and easy as possible.
The first main consideration is reducing the range of motion, the closer we can get to the floor, the less distance the bar has to travel and the less energy overall is required to complete the lift. This naturally lends itself to a shoe with a thin sole (its also why a lot of people will claim Sumo Deadlifting is cheating!).
The second consideration is stability, we don’t want to be losing balance in the middle of the lift. Therefore, we want a shoe with a grippy out-sole, especially in the Sumo Deadlift where we are applying a lot more lateral force. Furthermore, we can improve stability by securing the ankle joint, many popular shoes for the Deadlift typically come as a ‘high top’, meaning the material comes up past the ankle over the base of the shin. A strap is normally located here and this helps lock the ankle in place, mitigating any risk of ankle roll.
A lot of popular choices also have a completely flat out-sole that supports the entire base of the foot. The more points of contact we can have with the floor, the less stress we put our feet through, and ultimately, the more weight we can lift.
So now we know what we’re looking for in a good Deadlift shoe, let’s look at some options that fit the bill.
Yep, that’s right, one of the most popular choices of shoe is primarily designed and manufactured for a completely different sport! But don’t let this put you off, a good Wrestling Shoe ticks all the boxes we mentioned above.
First, we have the sole, it’s about as thin as they come and super grippy, making it instantly ideal for both Sumo and Conventional pullers alike.
The material comes up past the ankle and its not uncommon for a strap to be located here for that added support.
And lastly, the out-sole is generally pretty flat, we don’t see any large arch at the midsole so our base of contact is nice and large.
When you break it down, it’s pretty easy to see why a Wrestling Shoe fits our needs so well! Check out the Otomix Stingray, which is a personal favorite of mine and has a proven history in the strength sports world.
The Adidas HVC 2 wrestling shoes are a great choice too if you’re on a budget!
Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars
On the face of it, possibly another surprising addition but Converse has been a staple in the Powerlifting community for years, primarily due to their flat sole which is surprisingly stiff!
Combine this with the high top, which although not the best, does provide some degree of ankle support, and the very agreeable price, it’s hard to argue with the All Stars!
Check out my in-depth review of the high top All Stars to understand just why they’re a great choice for the Powerlifter on a budget!
Although I prefer the high tops for Deadlifting, the low tops are another solid option.
Vans Old Skool
With a lot of the same features that make the Converse All Star such a good choice for deadlifting, the Vans Old Skool are an equally great choice.
One particular difference with the Vans Old Skool, however, is that they provide a bit extra padding and support throughout the upper, particularly at the ankle, which ultimately leads to a bit more stability overall.
For more information, check out my Vans Old Skool Review.
It’s worth remembering that if you are interested in competing, then barefoot isn’t really an option as shoes are generally required by most, if not all, federations. Equally, most gyms don’t allow it for hygiene reasons. You could get around this by investing in a pair of Deadlift Slippers or Vibrams, which offer much of the same benefits but remove the problem of hygiene!
If you’re someone who can get away with training barefoot though, this is an option worth considering.
For obvious reasons, its number one when it comes to range of motion as you won’t get closer to the floor than this! It’s also great for stability as you can ‘feel’ the ground better and small adjustments and corrections are easier.
It does rely on having strong musculature within your foot though as you don’t have any of the support that you normally would from a good Powerlifting Shoe.
If you’re looking for ways to strengthen your feet for barefoot lifting, check out my Top 5 Foot Strengthening Exercises.
Check out my article on barefoot lifting, where I delve further into the pros and cons.
As mentioned, there aren’t a lot of options on the market when it comes to a dedicated Deadlift Shoe. But if you are looking for that level of specificity and none of the other options above are what you are looking for, I would recommend checking out the Sabo Deadlift Shoe. They have pretty much everything you would need in a good Deadlift Shoe and most people will not be left wanting.
The sole is incredibly thin, bringing your foot as close to the floor as possible without going barefoot and provides plenty of grip. Another feature that I particularly like is that the sole material comes up around the sides of your heel and toe, this is particularly advantageous when Sumo Deadlifting with all that lateral force involved.
Another great feature is that they come with two straps for added security. The first is similar to that of a Wrestling Shoe and comes around the front of your shin, locking your ankle joint in, and the second comes over the top of your foot or metatarsal, keeping all that musculature nice and tight, which will reduce lost energy in the lift.
It’s hard to find a better-equipped shoe for the Deadlift.
Weightlifting Shoes are of course, as the name suggests, built with heavy lifting in mind and this results in a lot of their features being beneficial to the Deadlift.
The overall construction is designed to lock your foot in, and a metatarsal strap is not an uncommon feature. They don’t typically have a high topped design as they lend themselves more to Olympic lifts which require a bit more ankle mobility.
The sole is usually a hard material such as TPU or stacked leather, which provides the ideal platform to push from, however it’s the heel of the sole where the Weightlifting Shoe stumbles. Its raised, usually by about 0.75” – 1” and as we discussed earlier, we want to reduce the distance the bar travels, not increase it. It also puts you in a more forward position, which for some may not be a bad thing, but for me, it just doesn’t suit my mechanics and leverages.
If you’re convinced a Weightlifting Shoe is right for you, then check out the Adidas Powerlift 4s or the Inov-8 Fastlift 335, which have a slightly less aggressive heel than most other alternatives in this bracket.
So there we have it, one lift but five completely different options to consider. At the moment, the majority of my Deadlift training alternates between barefoot, Converse All Stars, and Sabos.
Ultimately, personal preference will always win and there is no right or wrong choice here. So if you can, try out a few of the options and go with the one that suits you best.