If you’ve ever been to a powerlifting gym or watched barbell-focused athletes train, then you’ve likely noticed that these lifters wear wrestling shoes fairly often. Wrestling shoes despite their intention of original use (wrestling) can be awesome shoe options for lifting. More specifically, wrestling shoes provide a few key construction characteristics that a lot of lifters look for in shoes.
Personally, I love using wrestling shoes for deadlifts and that’s where you’ll also see other athletes like powerlifters use them the most as well. For deadlifts, squats, and general weight training, wrestling shoes provide three key construction aspects that help them excel in the weight room and I’m going to discuss these below.
Below, I’m going to break down three key reasons why wrestling shoes can be good for lifting. Like with most shoes designed for lifting, there is always context needed so hopefully, this article helps you decide if they’re a good fit for your needs.
On the market for new deadlift shoes? Check out my 7 Best Deadlift Shoes round-up to be matched with the perfect deadlift shoes for your training needs.
Are Wrestling Shoes Good for Weight Lifting?
Wrestling shoes are great footwear options for lifting weights. If you’re a barbell-focused athlete, powerlifter, or someone who loves having ankle support and a 0mm heel-to-toe drop in their shoes for lifting, then you’ll enjoy training in wrestling shoes. Plus, wrestling shoes can be an inexpensive workout shoe option.
However, to better understand the “why” behind the use of wrestling shoes for weight lifting, it’s good to understand a wrestling shoe’s core construction and why that can play into biomechanics when training. Essentially, it’s a good idea to learn why a wrestling shoe’s build can positively influence workout performance.
This will help provide context as to if wrestling shoes are a good shoe for your needs. Below are three construction characteristics that pretty much all wrestling shoes will have especially the models that you’ll want to use for lifting weights.
- 0mm Heel-to-Toe Drop
- Thin Rubber Soles
- Additional Ankle Support
These three core construction traits make wrestling shoes awesome for both their sport and lifting, but why is this?
3 Reasons to Use Wrestling Shoes for Weight Lifting
When discussing footwear for lifting weights, specifics and context matter especially if you’re trying to really dial in performance in any one area or style of training. Wrestling shoes may not magically make you lift more weight, but their use can certainly help you excel in certain areas in the gym.
1. 0mm Heel-to-Toe Drop
The first reason why wrestling shoes are great for weight lifting is their 0mm heel-to-toe drop. When a shoe has a 0mm heel-to-toe drop this means that the shoe will put your foot into a flat position.
- Shoe Definition: Heel-to-toe drop is the height difference between where the base of the heel to the base of the toes sit in a shoe.
When discussing heel-to-toe drop (also referred to as offset) for lifting weights we need to contextualize why and when heel-to-toe drop can actually matter for workout performance.
For example, for most lifters and athletes tackling cross-training and CrossFit workouts heel-to-toe drop may not be the biggest deal and in this training setting it’s more of a matter of personal preference. Since this training setting entails a variety of exercises a drop ranging from 2mm-8mm may be desired.
Conversely, for the powerlifter or barbell-focused athlete trying to maximize something specific like their deadlift, then a 0mm heel-to-toe drop can be a fairly big deal for performance. When looking at the deadlift, we want to make sure we’re always doing three things.
- Limiting our overall range of motion that we need to lift a weight.
- Increasing our overall foot stability to better root the feet.
- Giving ourselves the best chance possible to remain balanced throughout our deadlift.
By utilizing a wrestling shoe, we can pretty much ensure we’re doing all three of the listed performance aspects above. The 0mm heel-to-toe drop and thin rubber sole allow us to better root the feet and get super close to the ground.
The flat position that we’ll get in wrestling shoes will help us better grip the floor and remain balanced throughout our deadlift. Additionally, a wrestling shoe’s super thin rubber sole will also help to limit the overall range of motion we need to lift which can be a big deal for heavy deadlifts and the competitive powerlifter.
2. Thin Rubber Soles
A wrestling shoe’s thin rubber sole can provide a nice level of ground feedback for a variety of lifting. More specifically, in the squat, deadlift, and other bodybuilding-style training, we want to ensure we’re rooting the feet and feeling the ground below us.
The thin rubber soles used in wrestling shoes can help promote two performance aspects for us when lifting weights. First, a thinner sole will increase our ability to “feel” the ground below us. With less material separating the foot from the floor, we can better engage with the ground and utilize the foot’s musculature to help us remain balanced and rooted.
This can be a positive aspect for any lower body movement where you want to really maximize the surface area of the foot that actively feels engaged with the floor. It’s important to note though that this isn’t to say that a wrestling shoe’s thin rubber sole is the only style of shoe sole that works well for working out.
For example, some lifters enjoy having a thinner and flatter shoe for squats while others love having an elevated heel from weightlifting shoes. It’s a matter of preference and understanding how some footwear will influence your biomechanics differently than others.
Second, a thinner sole will help to limit any additional range that you need to move weight in movements like deadlifts. We discussed this briefly in our heel-to-toe drop section, but a thin sole will help to ensure you’re not making yourself work harder than you need to in movements like your deadlifts.
For the beginner, a thin sole may not be the biggest deal, but when you’re really trying to maximize your performance output, then it can be more important to make sure every skill-focused component of your lifting and training is dialed in.
3. Additional Ankle Support
The final construction aspect that wrestling shoes deliver is additional ankle support. This construction aspect is not a make or break by any means for performance and it’s not as specific as heel-to-toe drop and sole construction, but it can be important for some nonetheless.
If you like having a light layer of ankle support when training, then you’ll enjoy wrestling shoes and how they fit. Wrestling shoes can provide more or less ankle support depending on the pair of wrestling shoes you go with. Ankle support can provide an additional proprioceptive layer of support for the ankle when training.
Some wrestling shoes have additional straps like the SABO Deadlift Shoes (shown below) while others just utilize a normal lacing system.
Personally, outside of wrestling shoes, I love rocking high-top Converse, my SABO Deadlift Shoes, and NOBULL High-Top Trainers for my workouts due to their higher boot constructions.
Are Wrestling Shoes Good for Squats?
Wrestling shoes can be awesome footwear options for squats especially for the lifter that loves having a flatter shoe when squatting. Some athletes prefer an elevated heel, but if you’re in the camp of wanting a flatter shoe with ankle support, then wrestling shoes can be an awesome option for squats.
Typically, wrestling shoes will work best in squats when an athlete and lifter has adequate levels of dorsiflexion or they squat low-bar where they’ll be more hip dominant.
Basically, since a wrestling shoe is flat, generally, a lifter will need greater degrees of ankle mobility to hit depth with good squat mechanics. An elevated heel can assist with depth, but if you don’t necessarily need assistance hitting depth then wrestling shoes can be awesome for squats.
Additionally, if you’re a low-bar squatter and you squat with a more hip dominant movement pattern, then wrestling shoes may also feel natural and more comfortable for you. Hip dominant squatters will require less dorsiflexion mobility and their squats will rely primarily on the hip musculature for execution.
For this lifter who utilizes this squat movement pattern, a flatter shoe can often feel more comfortable. This is why you’ll see powerlifters who low-bar squat utilize Vans and Converse regularly for their 0mm heel-to-toe drop constructions.
Are Wrestling Shoes Good for Deadlifts?
Wrestling shoes are a fantastic footwear option for deadlifts. Wrestling shoes are great shoes for deadlifts for three key reasons. First, they have flat and thin rubber insoles which can be fantastic for promoting grip and limiting the range of motion you need to lift the weight.
Adidas Tech Fall 2.0
- Heavy Training
- Low-Bar Squats
- For Cross-Training
Second, they have 0mm heel-to-toe drop constructions which can be fantastic for balance and promoting your overall stability when deadlifting. A flatter heel-to-toe drop can help you maximize the surface area in which your foot can actively engage and grip the floor.
Third and lastly, they have higher boots which can be great for those that love additional ankle support when deadlifting. Ankle support is not a must by any means for deadlifting, but if this is a shoe characteristic that you like for deadlifting, then you’ll enjoy how wrestling shoes feel for deadlifts.
Can I Use Wrestling Shoes for Olympic Weightlifting?
You can technically use wrestling shoes for Olympic weightlifting, but they may not be the best option for your training needs. When talking about the sport of weightlifting which consists of the snatch and clean & jerk, we have to conceptualize the mechanics needed to properly execute those movements.
In both the snatch and clean & jerk, an upright torso can be a make or break for great lifts especially during the catching phase. A wrestling shoe’s flatter heel-to-toe drop may make them feel limiting for some athletes than need a bit of assistance maintaining proper torso mechanics.
This is why weightlifters use weightlifting shoes as their elevated heel assists their performance by helping them to maintain a more upright torso. Plus a pair of weightlifting shoes will provide a firmer and more stable outsole which can also be useful for limiting ground impact on the heels and foot when catching weight.
The thin sole of a wrestling shoe may lead to discomfort during the snatch and clean & jerk as catching heavier weight with less material separating the foot from the floor can be uncomfortable.
That all being said, you can use wrestling shoes for the sport of weightlifting, but in my coaching opinion, if you have the option to find footwear that will feed into this sport and style of training better, then I’d suggest using those as opposed to wrestling shoes.
Wrestling Shoes Vs Deadlift Shoes
Truthfully, there aren’t a ton of differences between wrestling shoes and deadlift shoes when comparing both styles of footwear for deadlifting specifically.
Both wrestling shoes and most deadlift shoes will utilize full thin rubber soles, 0mm heel-to-toe drop constructions, and additional ankle support. This makes both options awesome for deadlifts and promotes a similar fit and feel for both shoes.
If you’re looking into something like a general wrestling shoe versus a SABO Deadlift Shoe or Reebok Power Lite Mid, then I’d suggest going with the model that matches your price point best. All of these options will be great for the avid powerlifter and deadlift-loving athlete, and they all work for powerlifting competitions.
SABO Deadlift Shoes
- Conventional Deadlifts
- Sumo Deadlifts
- For Anything That Isn’t Deadlifts!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q:Can you use wrestling shoes for weight lifting?
Q:Are wresting shoes good for deadlifts and squats?
Q:Can I use wrestling shoes for powerlifting?
Wresting shoes can be awesome shoes for weight lifting in certain contexts. If you’re looking into wrestling shoes for working out, then I’d suggest understanding how wrestling shoes can benefit performance, then relating this to your style of training.
This will provide you with a better means of deciding if wrestling shoes are good footwear options for your training needs.
If you have additional questions about wrestling shoes and lifting weights, drop a comment below or reach out to me personally via Instagram (@jake_boly)!
I buy and test the products featured on That Fit Friend using a regimen of training tests that I’ve developed over years of testing training shoes and gear. I may earn commissions on sales made through the links on my site.
Any suggestions for a mid or high top for pickleball? A weight lifting shoe? Something that would provide more lateral support for pickleball. For me..shoes with too much sole height (padding) risks an ankle role..Michael
First, I LOVE that you’re into pickleball. I play literally every week — such a fun sport! Second, wrestling shoes might work, but if you do like having some cushion throughout the midsole then you may find these uncomfortable especially if you’re playing for a while or your feet aren’t as conditioned for that much impact on concrete.
Check out the NOBULL High-Top Trainer, they’re a decent model with a fairly stable midsole and their stack height is on the lower end. I’ve worn them for pickleball before, too, ironically! They’re probably my top pick for a mid/high-top trainer that has a flatter construction with a good stable/versatile build. I’m writing about the GORUCK Ballistic Trainers Mid-top model now, but their stack height will be too much, IMO.
Check out the Knapper Deo Hockey shoe. Great for lateral movement, starts and stops. I put a lot of miles on them in Del Hockey and badminton. Might even be good for lifting!
Maybe a review?
There are super interesting! Which model did you go with and enjoy?