Shoes for Squats & Deadlifts 2016 – A Review

The forces that come to bear on your feet during a squat or deadlift can be many times what nature intended. To approach this type of extreme activity without providing them some form of assistance is unwise at best. Yet at the same time it’s not a case where just any old shoe will do. Here we’ll look at what we consider the 3 best shoes for deadlifts and squats and then select an overall winner.

best shoes for squats and deadlifts

The Best Shoes for Squats and Deadlifts

Some people believe the best shoes for squats are their expensive raised-heel shoes but we believe a flat sole is more important to getting the most out of your squats and deadlifts. The shoes we’ve chosen all share other characteristics as well, including:

  • Zero or Near-Zero Drop - Because performing squats and deadlifts in shoes with raised heels has never been proven to provide an advantage.
  • Flat Firm Sole - Because weightlifting shoes for squats and deadlifts should let you feel the floor through the sole of your shoe.
  • Wide Toe Box - Because shoes that hold your forefoot in an iron grip keep it from splaying the way it was designed to do.
  • Lightweight Construction - This is mostly a psychological advantage, but if you think your brain isn’t involved in lifting...

With that in mind here are our choices for the best shoes for squats and deadlifts.

Vibram five finger KSO Trainer

Vibram five finger KSO Trainer

Dedicated lifters will not be surprised to see the KSO Trainer on this list. Powerlifters have been singing their praises for several years. Whatever else you may use them for you can’t go wrong if you employ them as your weightlifting shoes for deadlifts and squats. They stay flat. They stay put. And they’re well built. Main features include:

  • Abrasion resistant upper
  • Vibram TC1 performance rubber sole
  • Laceless hook and loop closure system
  • Wide profile for natural splaying of the foot

Sabo Deadlift shoes

Sabo Deadlift shoes

Sabo’s is virtually the only shoe manufactured specifically for deadlifts. Most other lifting shoes for deadlifts or powerlifting squat shoes have a more varied list of applications that include running and rope climbing. Not the Sabo. Its flat profile and tarsal strap mean you’ll get plenty of downward force and lateral stability out of this shoe, which is an advantage over both bare feet and other minimalist shoes lacking the strap. Build quality is also excellent. Features include:

  • Reinforced sides to keep feet from rolling
  • 2-5mm soles for optimal surface contact
  • Metatarsal strap for added stability
  • High density mesh fabric for max durability

All around a very functional shoe!

Converse Chuck Taylors

Converse Chuck Taylors

We go with what works. That’s why Chuck Taylors are on the list. When Nike bought Converse a few years back some feared the venerable CT All Stars would get a high tech makeover. Fortunately Nike knew a winner when they saw one and didn’t mess with the formula. The result is that today’s CTs are as good as yesterday’s at doing what the best powerlifting squat shoes should do:

  • Last ‘til kingdom come
  • Provide a flat, stable, non-slip medium between foot and floor
  • Leave you with money in your pocket for other things

Our Choice for Best Squats and Deadlift Shoes Is...

Sabo Deadlift Shoe

Sabo Deadlift shoes

While it’s the most expensive of the three shoes reviewed here it’s also the only one designed specifically for deadlifting and performance is undeniable. While the Chucks are a sentimental favorite this is not about nostalgia. And while the Vibram KSO Trainer is a great shoe you just can’t deny the advantage the Sabo’s reinforced sides, tarsal strap and additional structural oomph provide. At $129 they’re also a decent value option.

Final Thoughts

Other minimalist lifting shoes for squats and deadlifts you may want to consider include the Merrell Flux Glove, the Nike Free and the New Balance Minimus MX20v3. All are quality weightlifting shoes to deadlift in and can help you achieve your goals.


Sabo Deadlift shoes

The subject of whether or not to deadlift in weightlifting shoes with a raised heel has been raging for years and isn’t about to go away anytime soon. We’re in the ‘feet flat on the ground camp’ until we see or hear evidence that there’s a better way. Our choice of the Sabo as best shoes for squats and deadlifts reflects this belief but mostly reflects the fact that the Sabo and brands like Inov8 (click here to read our Inov8 weightlifting shoe review) are first-class lifting shoes.

If you would like to learn more about best CrossFit shoe for women and other different types of weightlifting shoes currently on the market, check out this article where we cover everything you could ever want to know.

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