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September 08, 2021 10 min read

When it comes to improving your lifts, there are several different ways to go about this. The most obvious is training harder and more consistently, and slowly  work your way up to heavier and heavier weights. However, you can also get a decent boost by using the right equipment.

When it comes to something like the deadlift, it comes down to the raw power to lift heavy. But what many gym-goers aren’t aware of, it’s that the right shoes can boost your deadlift by 10 to 15 lbs. If you’re serious about working out, this isn’t something to scoff at. Not to mention the added safety and improved form that specialized shoes allow you to have.

The Benefits of Specialized Shoes

There are many benefits to using special, deadlift shoes in the gym. All of these benefits combined will allow you to pull more weight and do it in a safer way.

Man Performing Heavy Deadlift In A Gym

Reduction in Range of Motion

The thin soles of deadlift shoes put you much closer to the floor, which is very useful for reducing your range of motion. If your shoes have an inch-tall heel, that’s an extra inch you’re going to have to be lifting the weight. If you’re going for your 1 RM, that can make a big difference in your results.

Extra Foot Support

Deadlifting shoes also come with plenty of extra support in two key areas of the foot: the ankle and the middle part of your foot. Keeping both of these parts stable (either through ankle straps or metatarsal straps for the mid-foot metatarsal bones). Better deadlift shoes also provide some arch support, without padding out the sole unnecessarily.

Improved Stability

But not only are the soles thin and close to the ground, but they’re also completely flat. This allows you to maintain perfectly flat contact with the ground, and therefore, boosts your stability. Deadlift shoes also have hard soles, which allows for even greater stability with the floor when you’re deadlifting heavy weights.

Decreases the Risk of Injury

The first factor that plays into the reduction of the risk of injury is the non-slipping nature of the soles. This is especially important to take into account with the sumo deadlift since slipping is more common. This can lead to adductors strains and even dropping the plates on your feet.

The second factor is how the shoes will keep your feet stable in the proper movement patterns. Most injuries from lifting come from improper technique, but deadlifting shoes can help you avoid the most common pitfalls. In the long run, this will help you stay injury-free. 

A Better Deadlift

Helping you with form and posture also has the added benefit of helping you with your deadlift results. Consistently going through the same, correct movement pattern is the best way to ensure consistent, long-term gains. Maximizing your stability in the deadlift will allow you to reproduce the exact same movement patterns time over time, which will ultimately help you develop the target muscles of the deadlift.

Deadlifting Barefoot

Taking into account some of the considerations above, you might be tempted to deadlift barefoot—especially if getting as close to the floor as possible and the lack of a raised heel is the goal. And in fact, deadlifting barefoot has become more popular. While your range of motion is minimized, you also don’t get any support—neither in the metatarsal region, the ankle, or in the arch.

Deadlift with bare hand and feet

Seeing how this stability is one of the biggest benefits of specialized shoes, goes barefoot isn’t optimal. Then there’s also the benefit of shoes providing some safety in case a weight plate falls on your foot.

What Makes a Great Shoe?

Taking into account all of the elements we’ve looked at above, these are the factors that make a good deadlift shoe:

  • A thin sole that gets you as close to the floor as possible.
  • A hard sole, so that there’s no compression throwing off your stability.
  • A flat sole that does not have an elevated heel.
  • Some kind of ankle support and strapping is good for overall stability.
  • The sole should also be able to have good traction on the floor.

Other elements to consider are the comfort and the price of the shoes. A breathable shoe with good cushioning can make your barbell deadlifts more comfortable. You’ll be able to get some highly specialized shoes, but they tend to be more expensive, and you’ll also need to consider that you won’t be able to use them for all your other lifts. For example, squat shoes shouldn’t be used by deadlifters, and vice versa.

The Types of Deadlifting Shoes

There is a wide variety of shoes that will elevate your deadlift. There are obviously the deadlift and powerlifting specific shoes that are on the expensive side, but there are also other options. Deadlift slippers provide a good bang-for-your-buck option if you’re looking for something minimalist that’s specifically designed for deadlifting. Other options are wrestling shoes, MMA shoes, cross-training sneakers, and even regular sneakers.

The Best Shoes to Deadlift In

Keeping in mind all of the considerations we’ve outlined above, here are some of the eight best shoes you can use for deadlifting. They range from specialized shoes that are made for powerlifting, to everyday shoes that you can wear anywhere—not just in the gym.

 1. SABO Deadlift Shoes

Designed specifically for deadlifting, the SABO shoes are top tier. When it comes to choosing a deadlift shoe, many don’t look any further than the SABOs: these shoes have all the ingredients for a terrific shoe.

Here are the pros:

  • When it comes to the sole of the shoe, it’s only between 2mm and 5mm thick. The traction pattern on the bottom of the shoe is what gives the variation of 3mm, and you’ll sometimes be 2mm off the floor while other times 5mm off the floor. Either way, the sole is very thin.
  • The sole is also dense so that it’s not compressed when doing heavy deadlifts.
  • The shoes are completely flat, with a 0mm drop from the heels to the toes.
  • It also provides some great arch support due to the contoured middle portion of the shoe and the metatarsal strap.
  • But not only does this shoe have a metatarsal strap, it also has ankle supports that maximize stability.

The list of things to consider is short but worth mentioning:

  • The narrowness of the shoe may result in some discomfort and toe-crowding for lifters with wide feet.
  • The fabric on the strap is kind of flimsy.
  • And the lace pattern is awkward to lace up, but you can fix this simply by relacing the shoes in a more conventional way.

 2. METAL Powerlifting Shoes

These are also at the top with the SABO’s, made specifically for powerlifters. They’re a bit on the expensive side, but worth it if you can afford it.

The METAL Powerlifting shoes include:

  • A very dense and thin sole that’s only 3mm. It also has a 0mm heel-to-toe drop. These things combined will help you get very close to the floor.
  • The sole is also very flexible which can allow for more mobility, especially if you’re using them for other exercises such as lunges.
  • The grip on the sole is also unique, which provides extra grip.
  • Along with a high collar for extra ankle support, the METAL also comes with a metatarsal strap for even more stability support.

Some things to consider include:

  • The price point is a bit steep, which might be a dealbreaker if you’re not into the professional lifting scene.
  • Unlike the SABO’s, this shoe doesn’t include an ankle strap.
  • Lastly, the size of the toe box might be a bit big for some people.

 3. ASICS Matflex Wrestling Shoes

The first wrestling shoes we’re looking at, the ASICS’ are a very solid choice for deadlifting as well. The main difference between these and the ones we’ve looked at so far is that there are no straps—however, they’re also cheaper.

  • Starting with the soles, they’re at around 5mm which puts you very close to the ground. They’re also flexible enough to allow for a ton of flexibility.
  • There’s a heel-to-toe drop of 0mm, along with a sole that has great traction which will definitely be a big help in gripping the floor.
  • These shoes are also fully laced up, going up even past the ankle. Even though they don’t have straps, you’ll still have plenty of support in this area.
  • Their lightweight nature also offers a lot of comfort.

Some things to consider include:

  • The lack of straps may be a problem. Although you can get away with tightening the laces to provide support, it won’t be as effective as a metatarsal strap on the midfoot area.
  • People have had issues with the sizing as outlined by the manufacturer.

4. Otomix Stingray Boxing/MMA Shoe

Moving on from specialized shoes and wrestling shoes, the Otomix will be the boxing/MMA shoe that we look at. The thin sole and flexibility of the shoe make it a great option for using to deadlift.

The Otomix sports some great features, including:

  • The sole is very thin—around 3 to 5mm. The patterned grip on the sole is also great for better traction.
  • The soles are also completely flat, with a 0mm heel-to-toe drop along the shoe.
  • A high cut with the collar offers a lot of ankle support, especially when the laces are tightened well and used to the very top.
  • The shoe is very comfortable overall since it’s so lightweight.

Some things to consider include:

  • The most glaring issue is the lack of a metatarsal strap. Your ankles might be supported, but you’ll lack important lateral support.
  • The flatness of the sole also doesn’t offer any arch support at all, unlike more specialized shoes.
  • Lastly, the shoe’s comfort also comes with the risk of easy wear and tear appearing on the shoes. Just make sure to use them for lifting only and they should be good, however.

5. Adidas Performance Men’s Powerlift Cross-Trainer Shoe

Cross trainer shoes (as opposed to running shoes) are also good options since they tend to be much less flexible. This gives the foot in a stronger and more stable position—exactly what you need for the deadlift to succeed.

  • Once again, the sole is very thin with a minimum amount of heel. However, it’s also made out of anti-slip material in order to provide maximum traction on the floor.
  • These shoes also sport a midfoot strap which allows for even greater stability, supplementing the laces when they’re tightly bound.
  • The toe design also allows for a lot of comfort, and the synthetic leather material is good for long-term durability.

Some things to consider include:

  • The shoes have a low cut, meaning that there’s a lot less ankle support than some of the other options we’ve looked at so far.
  • The manufacturer’s sizing chart is also inaccurate since they don’t fit true to size.
  • Lastly, the outsole doesn’t have the best durability.

 6. Reebok Crossfit Nano 8.0

Another solid cross trainer contender, the Reebok option is a great option if you’re looking for something more than just a deadlift shoe. You can use it for other lifts, and even cardio.

  • The heel-to-toe drop on this shoe is 4mm, which isn’t ideal, but it’s also not a complete dealbreaker.
  • The durability of this shoe is also great, and the sole is highly textured to provide more grip during the lift.
  • Arch support is also great, along with the plastic heel cup which offers even more support for foot stability during heavier lifts.

Some things to consider include:

  • Most of the previous shoes have had very thin soles, but the Nano is a bit different. With about 15mm tall heels (the max height on this shoe), it doesn’t get you as low to the ground as a more specialized shoe. This makes it better as a general weightlifting shoe, rather than a specialized deadlift kick. You will be able to deadlift safely and well, but it won’t be as “optimized.”
  • These shoes have insoles that can add compression and some instability if you’re lifting very heavy. However, these are removable if need be.
  • Since the cut is lower, there’s also no ankle support with these shoes.

7. New Balance Minimus

Another cross-training shoe, the New Balance Minimus may not provide the specialized abilities of SABOs, but it does offer a great all-around gym shoe that can elevate your performance deadlift as well.

  • The Minimus also has a 4mm heel-to-toe drop. This isn’t as ideal as a 0mm drop, but it’s still very good for an all-purpose cross-trainer shoe.
  • It’s got good all-around durability, with rubber soles that have a deeply textured pattern, allowing for better gripping.
  • A unique aspect of this shoe is the “burrito-tongue,” giving you a tighter fit around the foot and therefore, filling the same role as a metatarsal strap.

Some things to consider include:

  • Although the burrito-tongue has its benefits, it can also be uncomfortable for some people if it’s not positioned in the correct way, or if the shoes haven’t been broken in enough.
  • Since it’s a low-cut shoe, it doesn’t offer any ankle support.

 8. Converse Chuck Taylor All Star High Tops

This is a classic deadlifting option for shoes, and for good reason. The Chuck Taylor is extremely budget-friendly and versatile. Not only can you deadlift in it, but you can also look good wearing it outside of the gym.

  • These shoes have a 0mm heel-to-toe drop, unlike the cross trainers we’ve looked at so far.
  • The high-top version of these can provide ample ankle support if the laces are tightened and bound correctly.
  • The soles also compress which might take away from stability, but this is very, very minimal and you’ll likely not notice.

Some things to consider include:

  • The sole comes out to about 10mm, which isn’t optimal when looking at shoes you want to use primarily for deadlifting. However, there are versions with a removable insole that can halve the distance to the ground.
  • These shoes also don’t have arch support, and the traction isn’t great on some floors and tread patterns.

The Bottom Line

When it comes down to it, the SABOs take the cake for the best deadlifting shoe. Not only is their sole fantastic for deadlifting (with a 5mm height and a 0mm heel-to-toe drop), but they also have both an ankle strap and a metatarsal strap. The support is further combined with an outsole that wraps around the upper portion of the shoe, giving you added side support.

However, if you’re looking for something cheaper and more useful for other activities, the Converse Chuck Taylors are a great choice. Not only does the flat sole provide a good base for deadlifting, but the shoe can also be used for other lifts, and even for cardio in a pinch.

The proper shoe has the ability to bring your game up to the next level. Turbocharging your performance will in turn improve your gains, and allow you to become bigger and stronger much more efficiently. Along with the right equipment, consider taking a  mass stack to accelerate your gains that much more.