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4 Different Types of Shoes to Pull Heavy Weight In

Ideal shoes for deadlift will be flat, have a minimal stack height to help you cut down on the range of motion you’re working through, and be wide enough to promote balance and normal foot mechanics.

If you know me, then you know I love two things: deadlifts and footwear. Bridging the art of deadlifts with finding the right deadlift footwear is one of my favorite activities. That’s why I’m constantly testing and assessing the market’s strongest shoes for deadlifts.

The beautiful thing about deadlift footwear is that it takes multiple shapes and forms. So it can be fun navigating the art of finding the right shoes for your deadlifting needs as you grow as a lifter.

1. Vans, Converse, and “Flat Shoes”

Shoes like Vans and Converse are the first and most common type of footwear that you’ll see lifters deadlift in. In fact, most of us start with this style of footwear when getting more serious with our deadlifts.

For example, the first pair of shoes I bought when I became more serious about my strength training and deadlifts was an old pair of Vans Authentic shoes. I picked them up because they were inexpensive, stable, and flat.

These shoes have been popular for deadlifts for quite some time and I’d argue that they’re the most universal type of shoe for beginner, intermediate, and even advanced lifters who want good shoes for deadlifts.

Reviewing Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star for Powerlifting

Why Lifters Deadlift In Vans and Converse

  1. They’re flat. Generally speaking, you’ll want to deadlift with flat shoes because this will give you better balance and means to ground the feet when deadlifting. A flat foot can also lead to more proficient deadlift mechanics.
  2. They’re stable. For the most part, a good pair of Vans and Converse will also be stable enough to accommodate most lifters’ needs. This means that the material that makes up a Vans and Converse midsole (the material between the foot and floor) doesn’t compress easily when lifting.
  3. They have a good grip. The rubber outsole treads used on Vans and Converse provide a good amount of grip for all types of deadlifts. Granted, Converse can fall short here once their rubber fades to the underlying felt-like material.

Pros of Deadlifting With Converse and Vans

For the most part, Vans and Converse can be great options for deadlifting, and below are some of the major pros that I am referring to lifters when they ask about deadlifting in Vans and Converse.

  • Vans and Converse are relatively inexpensive. Compared to shoes designed specifically for deadlifts and even barefoot shoes, Vans, and Converse will usually have lower costs of entry. A normal pair of Vans and Converse costs anywhere from $50-70.
  • Converse and Vans can double as daily wear shoes. If you want a single shoe that you can wear out and about and then to the gym without losing deadlift performance, then Vans and Converse can be good options to explore.
  • Good beginner-friendly “flat” shoe. Flat shoes have a time and place in the gym and for exercises like deadlifts, they can be useful to train in. With their low price point and moderate stack height, these can be good flat shoes to train in that aren’t going to take you super minimalist like barefoot shoes.

Cons of Deadlifting With Converse and Vans

The problems that can come along with deadlifting in Vans and Converse revolve around the fact that they’re not specialized which can be more of an issue as you get more advanced with your training.

  • Their stack height isn’t the best. For deadlifts, the name of the game is optimizing leverages and range of motion. Vans and Converse will have around an inch of material that separates your foot from the floor. For beginners, this isn’t the biggest deal, but as you get more advanced you’ll want less stack height.
  • Toe box width isn’t the greatest. Better balance leads to stronger pulls and having more room to splay the toes and let the feet engage with the floor is important when deadlifting. While Converse and Vans now offer a few “wide” options that can still feel limiting for exceptionally wide feet.

Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star for Lifting

2. Wrestling Shoes

Wrestling shoes are another popular option that lifters and athletes will use for deadlifts. In the world of powerlifting, I often refer to wrestling shoes as being some of the first truly dialed-in footwear options for deadlifts.

I’ve used wrestling shoes before for deadlifts and reached for them during a time when I wanted more ankle support for my hybrid-style deadlifts.

Compared to Vans and Converse, wrestling shoes are a step closer to being a footwear option that will be more “optimized” for deadlift mechanics.

Why Lifters Deadlift In Wrestling Shoes

  1. Wrestling shoes have minimalist stack heights. Wrestling shoes have a low stack height which gets your feet closer to the floor. This is useful for bringing down the range of motion that you need to lift weight and it gives you more “ground feel” when deadlifting.
  2. Wrestling shoes have more ankle support. If you’re a lifter and athlete that loves ankle support or shoes with higher boots for deadlifting then you’ll resonate with wrestling shoes and how they hug the ankles.
  3. Most wrestling shoes have decent grip and tread. Higher quality wrestling shoes often have rubber outsoles designed to provide a lot of grip on wrestling mats and this translates well to most gym floors and the carpets used powerlifting meets.

why use wrestling shoes for weightlifting

Pros of Deadlifting In Wrestling Shoes

I was a big wrestling shoe guy throughout years 2-3 of my powerlifting-focused training. There are multiple pros of deadlifting with wrestling shoes.

  • Minimalist without being a barefoot shoe. If you’ve wanted a minimalist shoe that has more “athletic” regarding their toe box, midfoot, and ankle construction then wrestling shoes can be a good option.
  • Lower price point of entry. While wrestling shoe prices can vary greatly, you can typically find a good pair of wrestling shoes for around $70-90 which isn’t too bad considering you can use them for exercises outside of deadlifts if you really want to.
  • More ankle support. The higher boots used in wrestling shoes can add an additional layer of support for the ankles when doing sumo deadlifts, hybrid pulls, and conventional deadlifts.

wrestling shoes for deadlifts

Cons of Deadlifting In Wrestling Shoes

While wrestling shoes will be arguably better than shoes like Vans and Converse for deadlifts, they still have a couple of cons to keep in mind.

  • Most toe boxes run narrow. Most wrestling shoes, unfortunately, haven’t followed the trend towards offering more wide options, and if you want more room in your shoe’s toe box or through the midfoot, then you’ll want to pass on these or spend time finding wide options.
  • Lack of versatility outside of training. I like that wrestling shoes can be used for most exercises in the gym, but where they fall short is with daily wear, running, and cross-training. If you want a shoe that works for deadlifts and these verticals, then you’ll want to pass on wrestling shoes.
  • Better models cost more. You get what you pay for with wrestling shoes. At times, budget-friendly wrestling shoes lack the performance features you want for deadlifts like full rubber outsoles. Better wrestling shoes can cost $100+ which isn’t always ideal for someone just wanting them for deadlift sessions.

3. Deadlift Slippers

Deadlift slippers are most popular in powerlifting or lifters with a powerlifting bias to their training and are rarely used by recreational lifters.

I’ve used multiple deadlift slippers throughout my lifting career and not all deadlift slippers are created equal regarding their fit, structure, and price points.

Over the last few years, powerlifting slippers have steadily grown in popularity for a few key reasons and more lifters than ever outside of powerlifting are wearing them for their deadlift-focused days.

converse vs deadlift slippers

Why Lifters Deadlift In Deadlift Slippers

  1. Designed specifically for deadlifts. It doesn’t get much more focused than a pair of deadlift slippers regarding footwear designed for deadlifts and the demands they place on the shoes we wear.
  2. Low stack height with good ground feel. The minimal stack height in deadlift slippers will get lifters closer to the ground which is great for cutting down on the range of motion you have to work through and you’ll get more ground feedback with their minimalist sole construction.
  3. Good outsole traction. Most deadlift slippers will have full rubber outsoles to promote traction on different surfaces. This can be great for those that compete and vary the floors they train on.

what are deadlift slippers

Pros of Deadlifting In Deadlift Slippers

I typically find that lifters either love or despite deadlift slippers as they can be a pretty polarizing style of shoe. Below are a few of the pros that come along with deadlift slippers.

  • Lower price points. If you want a deadlift-specific type of footwear and don’t feel like spending $100+ on a pair of shoes for deadlifts or barefoot shoes, then deadlift slippers can be a good option as most cost around $40-65.
  • Good flexibility and articulation. Since deadlift slippers are so minimalist you’ll get a lot of flexibility and articulation out of their soles. This can be great for lifters and athletes that want their feet to be able to move relatively freely while pulling.
  • Consistent fit and easy to slip on. Another perk of deadlift slippers is that they’re usually very easy to slip on without having to adjust their straps and tightness. If you’re lazier with your footwear like me, then this can be a big perk.

Cons of Deadlifting In Deadlift Slippers

For myself and other lifters, there are usually two things that are fairly large knocks on deadlift slippers and their overall performance.

  • Lack of overall versatility. Deadlift slippers are designed to do one thing so if you want a shoe for deadlifting and other exercises then you’ll want to stay away from deadlift slippers.
  • Upper construction can be hit or miss. Some deadlift slippers lack adequate upper security and lateral support so they can feel flimsy and too relaxed for certain styles of deadlifts, especially sumo deadlifts.

4. Barefoot Shoes

Barefoot shoes are growing in popularity at a steady rate and they’ve become one of the go-to options for a lot of lifters wanting shoes that work exceptionally well for deadlifts.

Currently, barefoot shoes are my go-to option for deadlift sessions. I routinely rotate between a few pairs of barefoot shoes for deadlifting and working out.

The awesome thing about barefoot shoes is that they have a lot of functionality outside of deadlift-focused lifting sessions. Below are a few reasons why lifters will wear barefoot shoes for deadlifting.

Tolos Archetype 1.0 workout review

Why Lifters Deadlift In Barefoot Shoes

  1. Barefoot shoes have super low stack heights. Most barefoot shoes have stack heights that range between 3-8mm which gives them a low-to-the-ground feel and can help you cut down the range of motion you’re working through.
  2. Barefoot shoes are built to be wider. Compared to Converse, deadlift slippers, and wrestling shoes, barefoot shoes will generally deliver the most width through the toe box and midfoot which is great for balance and ground feedback when deadlifting.
  3. Soles of barefoot shoes usually have good grip. Most shoes for deadlifts are built with full rubber outsoles which can increase their traction on different surfaces and prolong their durability.

Pros of Deadlifting In Barefoot Shoes

Barefoot shoes come with a lot of pros in the gym, for daily wear, and deadlifting. 

  • Cross-functionality. The main reason why I love deadlifting in barefoot shoes is their ability to excel for deadlifts, general lifting, cross-training, and daily wear. Basically, you can use barefoot shoes for everything which gives you more range with them.
  • Minimalist stack height and found feel. In barefoot shoes, you get a lot of ground feedback which is great for “feeling” the ground when you’re driving the feet down and pulling big weight.
  • Good width throughout. When you deadlift, your feet will be moving through different ranges of motion as you balance while displacing force through the ground. A barefoot shoe’s width can be great for accommodating this.
Vivobarefoot Motus Strength JJF Barefoot Shoes Product Shot

Motus Strength JJF

Pros: Versatile, Good Traction
Cons: Pricey
Weight: 9.2 oz
Size/Fit: True to Size/Wider Width
Offset: 0mm
Lifting Threshold: ~570 lbs
Mileage Threshold: <1 Mile
Price: $200
TF2 Rating: 4.7
vivobarefoot primus lite iii

Primus Lite III

Pros: Versatile, Breathable
Cons: Pricey
Weight: 8.8 oz
Size/Fit: True to Size/Wider Width
Offset: 0mm
Lifting Threshold: ~500+ lbs
Mileage Threshold: <3 Miles
Price: $160
TF2 Rating: 4.8

Cons of Deadlifting In Barefoot Shoes

There aren’t many cons that come along with deadlifting in barefoot shoes. The only cons that come with deadlifting in barefoot shoes revolve around prices and using pairs that aren’t designed for working out at all.

  1. Can lack upper security. Much like some deadlift slippers, there are barefoot shoes that will lack upper security and support to lock the feet down when doing things like sumo and hybrid deadlifts.

Testing the Vivobarefoot Motus Strength JJF for Working Out

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q:
Are you supposed to deadlift in flat shoes?

A:
Generally, you'll want to deadlift in flat shoes for two reasons. First, they'll help with balance and not pitch you forward like a shoe with a drop can. Second, they'll help you maintain stronger mechanics as they'll feel consistent every time you lift.

Q:
What shoes should you wear when deadlifting?

A:
If you want to use the best type of shoe for deadlifting, then you'll want to reach for a flat shoe with a minimalist stack height like a barefoot shoe or deadlift slipper. For general lifters, shoes like Vans and Converse can work well, too.

Q:
Do deadlift shoes make a difference?

A:
Absolutely. Do soccer cleats make a difference? As you get more specific with your training that's when your footwear choices get more important. For intermediate and advanced lifters, deadlift shoes can make a big difference.

Takeaway Thoughts

If you’re getting serious about strength training, and more specifically your deadlifts, then you’ll want to explore footwear that will give you the “most” regarding your performance.

As you progress through your lifting career, it’s normal to gravitate and try different types of shoes for deadlifts. More than likely you’ll ebb and flow with what you use as well.

If you have additional questions about finding the right pair of shoes for deadlifts your individual needs, drop a comment below.

Jake Boly, CSCS, MS Sports Science

Jake Boly, CSCS, MS Sports Science

Jake Boly is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of That Fit Friend. He's often regarded to as a go-to resource in various performance shoe communities. He’s been formally reviewing shoes and training gear for over 7 years and has hand-tested over 400 pairs of shoes. Jake is known on the internet and YouTube for blending his review process with his educational, strength sports, and personal training background.

Jake has a Masters in Sports Science, a Bachelors in Exercise Science, a CSCS, and he's been personal training for over 10 years helping hundreds of clients get stronger, lose weight, and accomplish their goals. He uses his exercise science brain and personal training background to make curated and thoughtful review content on the fitness gear he's testing.

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