Squat shoes, also referred to as lifting shoes and by their formal name weightlifting shoes can be an awesome tool in the gym. This style of footwear is designed specifically to boost your performance for squats and Olympic lifting.
A common question that I get asked on my YouTube channel and on my weightlifting shoe reviews is “Are squat shoes worth it?” Since squat shoes have a higher price point, it’s perfectly normal to wonder if they’re actually worth it.
When it comes to investing in squat shoes (weightlifting shoes) there’s no one-size-fits-all answer as to what somebody should do with their money. In fact, there are a lot of different ways to approach the topic of squat shoes being worth it.
In this article, I’m going to cover some of the common asks I receive around squat shoes and share some of my thoughts on this topic as a strength coach. The following is similar advice that I give to the clients and athletes that I work with.
Are Squat Shoes Worth It?
When answering the question, “Are squat shoes worth it?” we could easily answer it by using a simple yes or no, but does that really paint the full picture?
In my coaching opinion, it doesn’t and we should instead ask a few follow-up questions to land on an answer that makes sense for the athlete and lifter that’s asking. At the end of the day, I want to make sure you feel like your $100+ squat shoe investment is worth it.
1. What Do You Want Squat Shoes For?
The first and most basic question is to understand why you want to squat shoes/weightlifting shoes in the first place. There’s nothing wrong with beginners wearing weightlifting shoes, however, it’s a good idea to understand why you’re wanting them.
If you’re just starting out your training journey and you’re not regularly barbell squatting or doing cleans and snatches, then you don’t probably need squat shoes right away as there are not many instances in your current training where they’ll be worth it.
Conversely, if you’re a beginner and you are regularly squatting or getting into the Olympic lifts, then investing in squat shoes could be an awesome idea as your training is more dialed into their specific use cases.
Outside of beginners, I think any lifter who is regularly squatting, doing Olympic lifts, or wanting to explore using an elevated heel for different lifts could benefit from a good pair of squat shoes/weightlifting shoes.
In this context, think of squat shoes as an added tool to your lifting toolbox. They’re similar to a lifting belt or straps as there’s a time and place where they can be useful for accomplishing specific training goals.
2. Do You Want to Get Into Strength Sports?
Another question to consider when investing in squat shoes surrounds if you’re planning to get into strength sports. If you’re wanting to eventually compete in powerlifting, weightlifting, strongman, or even CrossFit, then squat shoes could definitely be worth it.
For these sports, you’ll want geat that allows you to perform your best, and squat shoes/weightlifting shoes can be awesome tools to help you see if you perform/squat better with an elevated heel or flat shoe.
For example, some powerlifters will find that they prefer to compete and squat with an elevated heel while others will opt for a zero-drop shoe. Neither is right nor wrong and I think it can be important to explore different shoes to see what aligns with your needs best.
3. Are Your Heels Coming Up When Squatting?
If you’re regularly squatting and you find that your heels keep coming up when you get deeper in your squat, then squat shoes could be a valuable tool to invest in.
The elevated heel of a squat shoe will allow you to track your knees further over the toes with a more upright torso while keeping the heels planted. This can be awesome for lifters that lack the natural ankle mobility to achieve full depth in their squats.
In this case, a squat shoe can be a useful tool to help you perform strongly with your squats while maintaining good mechanics and without sacrificing gains due to lacking mobility.
Note, a squat shoe isn’t a blanket fix for ankle mobility as it’s not “increasing” your mobility, but instead putting your body into a position that better facilitates the knees to move forward over the toes due to the change in foot positioning.
Coaching Tip: Use squat shoes to make gains on your barbell squats, but don’t neglect to add in ankle mobility work as you need it. The combination of these two can be powerful for improving mobility while not skipping a beat on your squat progress.
The key takeaway here is that squat shoes can be worth it for a wide range of lifting contexts, but they’re not an absolute must for every lifter in the gym. Their ability to be “worth it” will be dictated by your lifting needs and wants.
- If you plan to compete or want to compete in strength sports, then squat shoes can be worth it.
- If you do a lot of barbell squatting and Olympic lifts, then squat shoes can be worth it.
- If you want to improve your squat mechanics and find your mobility lacking, then squat shoes can be worth it.
- If you’re not really squatting, want an elevated heel for a specific reason, or doing Olympic lifts, then you don’t need squat shoes.
On that note, if you have additional questions about squat shoes being worth it for your needs, drop a comment below or reach out to me personally and I can help you out.
Why Are Squat Shoes Good?
Now that we’ve discussed why can squat shoes can worth it, let’s discuss why they can be good and useful for your training. Like other supportive strength gear, the “good” of squat shoes will depend on why and how you’re using them.
Generally speaking, there are three major callouts about squat shoes/weightlifting shoes that can make them good for performance in the gym.
1. Elevated Heels Support Lifting Mechanics
The first reason why squat shoes can be good is their elevated heel. Traditional training shoes will have heel-to-toe drops that sit between 0-8mm in height and their varies based on the shoe’s construction.
While this heel height can be great for cross-training and lifting, it doesn’t compare to the heel elevation that comes with squat shoes. Typically, squat shoes will have effective heel heights that range from 16mm-25mm or .65 inches to 1 inch in height.
This elevated heel will change your foot position when lifting which then changes your knee, hip, and torso mechanics. For certain lifters doing squats, Olympic lifts, some machine work, and quad-biased work, this elevated heel can be awesome for lifting mechanics.
2. Stable Outsoles Give Good Traction
The second reason why squat shoes can be good is their outsole constructions and how they can improve lifting performance. Most squat shoes/weightlifting shoes will be built with thicker rubber outsoles (outsole = bottom layer/material of shoes).
These thick rubber outsoles will promote better stability and balance by keeping the foot planted and they’ll usually have a nice level of grip. If you’re squatting on rubber gym floors or cleaning on wooden platforms, slip issues shouldn’t be an issue whatsoever.
Whether you’re catching weight in cleans and snatches or grounding the feet in heavy squats, a grippy outsole with nice stability can be huge for promoting strong performance.
3. Midfoot Straps Promote Security
The third reason why squat shoes can be useful is their midfoot straps provide an added layer of foot security. If you’re training on an elevated heel doing high-threshold activities like squats, cleans, and snatches, then security can be incredibly to prevent issues like heel slip.
Most squat shoes will utilize a single or double-strap system to help promote security and lock the feet down when training. This is an added perk of this style of footwear that can be useful for different training contexts.
Will Squat Shoes Help?
Squat shoes help more or less based on the context in which they’re being used. For those struggling with squat depth or stability with clean & jerks and snatches, squat shoes can be very useful.
For squats, the ability to translate the knees more forward when squatting with the help of squat shoes will typically relate to better bar position over the midfoot which can help with both balance and power creation when squatting.
For Olympic lifting, squat shoes can be helpful for athletes wanting a shoe to lock their feet down and promote balance and security when training. They can also be useful for maintaining an upright torso when catching weight.
For recreational lifting, squat shoes can be useful on machines that your anatomy doesn’t align with and for occasions where you may want to create a quad-bias and you find it tough to do so with flatter or lower drop shoes.
That being said, a squat shoe’s usefulness will depend on your training and lifting context. They can also relate to your anatomy and how your body responds to the elevated heel of a squat shoe.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q:Are squat shoes worth it?
Q:Why are squat shoes good?
Q:Should beginners use squat shoes?
Squat shoes, more formally known as weightlifting shoes, can be worth it for lifters and athletes from all walks of life. They’re not a must in the gym, but they can be really useful based on your use context.
For example, if you’re getting into strength sports or need help with your squat mechanics, then squat shoes can be a valuable tool to explore and utilize.
If you have additional questions about squat shoes and if they’re worth it for your context, drop a comment below or reach out to me personally via Instagram (@jake_boly or @that_fit_friend).
Author’s Note: I know squat shoes are just weightlifting shoes, but a lot of folks search for information on this topic using squat shoes, so I wanted to meet them halfway and provide useful info about what they know the shoes as.