We offer you a complete guide to the best squat shoes in 2023!
- Squat shoes can help you with achieving the correct posture, squatting deeper, lifting more weights, and looking after your back.
- Extra strap support, build materials, non-compressible heels, and sturdy outsole are the major features that should be considered while buying shoes for squatting.
- Take into account what you are trying to achieve through your squats plus your foot’s physical structure and narrow down choices to flat or heeled squat shoes.
- You can perform squats alternately between going barefoot or wearing shoes.
So why squat, and if you do, why invest in the best squat shoes in 2023?
The short answer for this is, squat shoes help you engage your quads better, maintain the correct form, and contribute to injury prevention.
If you’ve been lifting for a while now, you probably have been squatting for gains and pleasure.
I could stop right there and sell most of you on squat shoes, but I’d like to add that proper shoes prevent both a short-term and lifetime of pain and discomfort. When I say ‘proper’ shoes, I don’t mean any old running or gym shoes. I mean shoes meant for weightlifting.
There are many specific functions of wearing a squat-compatible shoe, but here’s my recommendation for this: The Reebok Legacy Lifter.
These weightlifting shoes stabilize you with a stacked heel and help you achieve your best squatting form. With the Legacy Lifter, you’re also getting ankle mobility, thanks to a low-cut design and great traction with a rubber outsole.
Why Should You Use Squat Shoes?
The best squat involves feet placed flat on the ground, a straight spine, and a lifted sternum. However, we can’t all always achieve this form with our natural anatomy. A little help from the right shoe never hurt anyone.
Yes, you should try to improve your natural posture and mobility but quit being stubborn and get there faster with squatting shoes on.
If you’re looking for a budget option, check out Our Best Squat Shoes Under $100
I feel like what makes squat shoes so unique rests upon a few basic points:
1. Squat Shoes Assist You in Achieving the Correct Posture
While squatting with feet flat on the ground is ideal, the slightly raised heel in some shoes you can wear as you squat helps you lift your chest and keep your back straight.
This helps you lower your hips further and correct your overhead position.
2. They Help You Squat Deeper
Shoes with a bit of a heel also help you engage your quads and squat deeper.
The assistance of squat shoes also means you aren’t increasing your mobility too much but are getting the squat’s full benefit.
3. They Look after Your Back
Since squat shoes help your spine remain straight, they automatically decrease pressure on the lower back and prevent future pain.
Wearing a squat shoe with an elevated heel also means your upper body will not lean in too much, which in turn keeps your lower back safe.
4. They Let You Lift More
The soles of squat shoes are quite sturdy and ideally non-compressible, which means you get the most floor-to-foot transmission of power.
They are also usually reinforced with a midfoot strap as well as an ankle strap, adding stability to your stance and letting you experiment with heavier weights.
12 Best Best Squat Shoes of 2023
Let’s check out our favorite squat shoes in 2023!
1. Reebok Legacy Lifter
In fact, there is no one consensus on the best type of shoe for squats. Lots of my peers advocate the flat-foot squat, which while ideal, is not everyone’s jam. Nor can everyone perform it.
Others recommend a heel-to-toe drop. At the end of the day, your structure, mobility, and personal preference will seal the squat shoe deal.
I like the Reebok Legacy Lifter as the squat shoe to recommend, particularly if you’re not into the completely flat-footed squat. The hard, flat sole keeps your feet in ideal flat form, while a minimal, ¾” heel-to-toe drop keeps your hips in place as you squat while increasing ankle mobility.
- Designed for weightlifting
- Sufficient toe room
- The low-cut design supports ankle mobility
- Wide base aids in achieving stable foot
- Increased traction with grip rubber
- Forefoot flex grooves enhance flexibility
- Upper may chafe the ankle
- Velcro strap may be short for some
This Reebok legacy lifter is designed specifically for weight training. The heel height offers optimal squat positioning, while the forefoot flex grooves let your feet move naturally. Cushion and straps for security add comfort and a great fit.
2. Sabo Powerlift Shoes
The Sabo range of shoes targets specific exercises. They have a shoe built just for deadlifts, and their Powerlift shoe is ideal for squats, with its lightweight sole, which is non-compressible. The non-compressibility means that the force as you squat and lift will not be compromised.
The upper is made with durable, synthetic leather, and breathable mesh makes for extra comfort. The broad sole with non-slip inserts works across all kinds of floors.
- Broad, tough outsole inserts for stability
- SSP system encourages foot flexibility
- Lightweight, non-compressible plastic polymer heel
- The shoe works best for narrower feet
3. Do-Win Weightlifting Shoes
The Do-Win Weightlifting shoes are great for people with wider, though not necessarily bigger feet. They feature a ¾” heel with a leather heel and toe cup. Nylon mesh at the heel cup and toe adds breathability.
- Sturdy TPU sole
- Ample support and stability for wider feet
- Double support Velcro straps
- Poor stitching quality
- Base-of-tongue bump causes discomfort
4. Converse Chuck Taylors
Chuck Taylors are the OG powerlifting shoes! Before shoes with powerlifting specs were a thing, Chuck Taylors were everyone’s go-to.
The Chuck Taylor upper is constructed in canvas. Canvas is both breathable and durable, so this is a pair that will last you. A strong rubber sole and rubber cup at the toe add to the stability and durability.
They have a wide toe box, which allows you to splay and remain stable, while the flat sole will balance out your feet well.
Chuck Taylors are lace-ups, and you can wear them as tight or loose as you wish. Perfect for the wide-stance squat, the high-top model, in particular, gives you a bit more ankle support.
A word of caution, though: these shoes can step in well for weightlifting shoes, but they do not transition well to other forms of exercise. If your workout is quickly going to take you from lifting to other types of exercise that will need your foot to be a bit more mobile, for instance, these are not the shoes to go with.
- Durable canvas upper
- Sturdy rubber sole and toe cup
- Versatile – can be used for everyday wear
- No support straps
Enjoy a great fit and stability as you squat with the Nike Romaleos 3 Men’s Weightlifting Shoe. Leather and mesh upper are both supportive and breathable, while the midfoot is locked down with flywire cables and nylon strap.
There is a good heel-to-toe drop, and a wide base allows plenty of room to splay. Nike Romaleos 4 stabilize explosive lifts. The upper parts of these shoes are not very flexible, and some users note that they stick your feet down to the ground, which works very well for Olympic lifting.
- Interchangeable insoles provide soft or firm support
- Lightweight Honeycomb TPU plate
- Great traction with rubber outsole
- May not always be available
6. Adidas 3.1 Powerlifting Shoes
Budget-friendly and sturdy, according to some, Adidas 3.1 Powerlifting Shoes might be the only shoe you’ll ever need for powerlifting.
Snug and secure, the heel cup is reinforced to prevent heel rolling. A thick leather upper ensures durability.
I personally feel that the shoes are great for beginners. Since they are lightweight, they could help someone transitioning over from Chuck Taylors or similar tennis shoes or cross trainers comfortably.
Even seasoned lifters will benefit from this shoe. The ideal or traditionally ideal heel elevation for squat shoes is around ¾”. The height works because it allows the wearer to squat deeper and remain stable while still not being too high.
- Long, thick support strap
- 3/5” heel
- EVA sole isn’t as hard as a TPU sole
How comfortable a shoe is, is just as important as how sturdy it is when you’re powerlifting and, inevitably, squatting. Reebok’s Men’s Crossfit Lifter Plus 2.0 has a comfortable interior, which makes squatting in the shoe a lot easier on the feet than most shoes.
My skin is very prone to chafe, and when I am training for extended periods, it tends to become very irritated. The anti-friction lining in these shoes helps with that. Additionally, my feet will also not become as warm and not sweat as much too.
Apart from this quality, I always pick up the Crossfit Lifter when I need a shoe that fits me to a T. The Reebok Cross Lifter achieves this with design features that make all the difference.
- Midfoot strap
- U Form technology to tailor shoes to your exact foot specs
- Breathable upper
- Only optimal for lighter weights
- Soles not hard enough
8. INOV-8 Men’s FastLift 335 Squatting Shoes
If you’re looking for a shoe that’s got the features to make all your stability dreams come true, this one would be it. The wide toe box lets your toes to ‘tripod’ properly, while the TPU plastic frame known as an External Heel Cage surrounding the heel enhances stance and stability.
The outsole is made from a non-slip rubber material. It’s equipped with a groove that runs in the forefoot region. This groove adds a little flexibility that facilitates moving between different positions. So theoretically, you could use it for other lower-body exercises.
However, due to this flexibility and its lightweight, I wouldn’t recommend using it with large weights.
- Midfoot strap for added stability
- 3/4” sole
- Non-slip rubber outsole
- Grooved sole for flexibility
- Best for lighter-weight work
9. Nordic Lifting Megin
If you’re squatting, you need to drive harder toward the ground to get a deeper lift. For this, a very stable shoe like the Nordic Lifting Megin works great.
Squats can work a little bit better with a slightly raised heel, and these shoes help you better your form.
- Anti-slip sole
- Raised heel improves posture
- Durable: Great stitching and lacing, sturdy Velcro strap
- Not suitable for narrow feet
10. Core Weightlifting Shoes
Olympic weightlifting shoes are great for squats too. The contact point between foot and ground allows you to transfer a lot of force and get the barbell moving. So I find this pair of Cores to be raised a bit higher than I’m used to, but the 1.2” elevation actually helps me squat deeper.
These are great for people with decreased ankle flexibility/mobility while assisting you to plant your feet firmly on the ground.
- Snug fit
- Elevated heel increases ankle’s ROM
- The shoe’s structure helps in achieving an upright form
- Laces and Velcro straps enhance stability
- The stitching seems unreliable in places
11. Adidas Adipower 2
The Adidas Adipower 2’s woven exterior material keeps the shoes flexible and provides a snug, comfortable fit. Designed for Olympic lifters, the shoe has a nice heel-to-toe drop, and the areas around the eyelets are cross-stitched, making them quite durable.
- TPU midsole
- Padded rearfoot
- Great fit
- Non-compressible heel
- May not work for wider feet
12. Sabo Deadlift Shoe
Although these are made for deadlifts, the same qualities make the Sabo Deadlift perfect for squats too.
Great for wide-stance squats, the shoes hug the feet and provide excellent support and stability.
- Locked-down fit with midfoot and ankle straps
- Supported sides allow you extra stability
- Grippy sole for extra traction
- Extra-thin sole
- The upper material and top strap do not seem durable
Squat Shoes: 6 Important Factors to Consider
1. Heel-to-Toe Drop
The heel-to-toe drop in your squat shoes determines how deeply you can squat. The ideal heel height for this ranges between 1/2” to 6/5”. The heel height also corrects your posture to a straighter one and eases pressure on the lower back, allowing the quads to become more engaged as you squat.
2. Extra Strap Support
Yes, laces do keep your feet in place, but they alone cannot keep your foot stable as you squat.
The right squat shoes will be doubly supported with Velcro straps along with laces to really keep your foot in place. The straps are obviously adjustable to deliver the level of tightness you require. Dual straps add more support, thereby decreasing the risk of mistakes and injury.
3. A Skinny Midsole
Since we’re aiming for a decent heel-to-toe drop with squat shoes, we’re not really looking for a cushioned midsole. The only place where there will be a bit of cushioning in a squat shoe is around the heel, in TPU or EVA, with TPU being preferable as it is harder and more non-compressible.
4. A Sturdy Outsole
To really keep you planted to the floor as you squat, your shoe’s outsole needs to be extra grippy. Even the smallest misstep and the slightest slip while squatting can throw you off-balance and cause injury.
Most squat shoe soles are made of rubber, which can wear down faster while holding the greatest traction. This is only a concern if you use your shoes for multiple purposes; if your rubber-outsoled shoes are only used when you squat, you don’t need to worry about wear and tear.
5. Durable Materials
The special materials and design that go into making a great squat shoe also mean they will jack up the price. Your biggest concern should obviously be performance and safety, so don’t worry too much about price; consider your squat shoes to be an investment in your practice.
Definitely don’t think that you can get away with wearing a low-quality pair just because it’s cheaper. This pair will not be designed as well, nor last you as long as a better, albeit slightly more expensive pair of squat shoes.
6. Non-Compressible Heels
One of the things you need most from your squat shoe is for the heel to be non-compressible. Non-compressible heels allow you to squat deeply without compromising the transmission of power from the floor to foot.
Heeled vs Flat Shoes: What’s Right for Squats?
There isn’t just one correct way to perform a squat. Shod vs. barefoot is one of the great debates, but an equally important one is the heeled vs. flat shoe debate.
Honestly, you’re just going to have to decide which type of shoe will serve you best based on your own anatomy and the kind of squat you’re most inclined to perform.
Therefore, let us answer some of the important questions.
1. What Is Your Ankles’ Range of Motion?
If your ankle mobility is on the stiffer side, figure out why first. Chances are, that’s just how your bones interact – in which case, invest in a great pair of raised-heel squat shoes and squat more deeply. If it is because of muscle/ligament impairments, look into exercise and treatments to fix the issue, but still find a heeled shoe to assist your squats during this time.
2. How Long Are Your Legs, aka What’s Your Femur Length?
Your femur length determines just how close the bar will be to the midfoot during a squat. Just to clarify, closer is better.
People with longer femurs will naturally lean inward while squatting. If you’ve got a heeled shoe on, though, your hips will be allowed to dip closer to the ground, and your back will be straighter.
If your femur is longer than your torso or tibia, heeled shoes are the way to go. In all other cases, flat shoes work best.
3. What Is the Width of Your Stance?
Is your stance wide? Where are your toes? Are you trying to ‘spread the floor’? Definitely try to answer these questions before you pick between flat or heeled, and remember a couple of other golden rules:
Your squat stance is defined by your bone structure, most importantly your hip joint.
For most squats, unless your stance is extra-wide, a heeled shoe works best. Think shoulder-width-apart. However, if you tend to double that distance for squats, consider wearing flatter shoes.
4. Are Your Arches Strong?
Flat arches put more pressure on the knees during squats and deadlifts. This isn’t conducive to knee health or performance. You can address the limitations of flat feet with shoes that support the arches, so a heeled shoe is best. You can also use removable shoe inserts.
Your torso needs to be upright for a high bar squat. To be able to squat deeply, you will need high dorsiflexion, which necessitates the use of heeled shoes.
Conversely, you can perform low bar squats in either flat or heeled shoes. As we’ve noted earlier, a flatter foot will have you leaning in slightly, so a heel is desirable. However, a wide stance requires your feet to lie flat against the floor, so a flat shoe is best. You’ll have to use your own judgment here to determine what kind of shoe will optimize your performance.
Personal Strengths and Weaknesses
I want to play the devil’s advocate for a second and take this debate in a different, more personal direction:
Basically, if the heel on your squat shoe is elevated, all it does is shift focus from your hips to your legs. This doesn’t mean you won’t be engaging your hips at all, just that you will be engaging them less.
Now you might wonder if this is a bad thing. I’d like to think that this is where personal preference plays in. Do you want to lift more weight? Then utilize your strongest muscles. This translates into: go with an elevated heel if your legs are stronger, go with a flat shoe if your hips are the star of your squat show.
The opposite also works here. See, I told you I would be ‘devil’s advocating.’ If what you are trying to achieve through performing a squat is to strengthen weaker muscles, then that’s where all the attention should go. In this case, flip what I said above.
And now for the real headscratcher/tie-breaker: if you’re lifting heavy weights, your body will automatically employ your strongest muscles to support you. Assuming this is true for everyone, I would recommend enhancing your stronger muscles with a supportive shoe so you can bring the most power to your squats.
This does not mean I’m advising you to abandon your weak points. Make use of some assistance moves to work these muscle groups and strengthen them. But play to your strengths first to build the strongest foundation possible for the best results you can achieve.
What about Barefoot Squatting?
Barefoot squatting has its place. A very beneficial place, at that. Many of the benefits associated with barefoot squatting come with the fact that the direct foot-floor contact allows your feet to fire up your neurons with direct messages.
This means that the minute you are off-balance, your ankle or the balls of your feet are placed wrong, or you have too much mid-foot pressure; you can self-correct immediately. Plus, squats are best when performed flat-footed, and what is flatter and closer to the ground than your own bare feet?
I’ll definitely recommend giving barefoot squats a try. And then I’ll tell you that barefoot squats tend to encourage your upper body to ‘lean in’ a little. This is great if you’re performing a low-bar back squat, but for other stances, not so much.
In all other scenarios, the upper body tilting forward exerts pressure on your spine, leading to pain. So shoes are definitely a good idea. If you feel going barefoot is the only way for you, then consider alternating between squatting shod and unshod, depending on the stance/lift.
I will also always advise you to wear shoes to the gym or any other shared working out space to avoid stepping on unclean surfaces.
Frequently Asked Questions
Sure. But what I’d really advise is to hone into what you aim to get out of your squat and see if the addition of a shoe to your workout adds something beneficial. There are a ton of pros to going barefoot, but there are tons to wearing a great shoes too. I personally mix it up according to my stance, the type of squat, and the muscle group I’m focusing on, on any given day and alternate between going barefoot or wearing my shoes.
Torn stitching, peeling glue, a loose upper strap are all signs your shoe is wearing down. Take a loose strap most seriously, as it adds to the risk of the shoe slipping or not maintaining your balance as well.
If I have one final thought to share with you on the matter of best squat shoes of 2023, it is: invest in a pair now.
I have tried to address a bunch of things above, from the reasons you should buy a shoe for squatting, to what the exact construction of these shoes means for your squats, and I hope every point has driven home. In case it hasn’t, I’d like to revisit some of these themes.
We squat because it is one of the most important exercises to engage and work out the large muscle. Apart from simply making you look like a million bucks working these large muscles – plus smaller supportive ones – means that you’re investing in your future body.
Now, this is important, so pay attention: the modern, sedentary lifestyle we lead is a surefire way to ensure our future bodies are weak and unsupported. Lifting, and inevitably, squatting, means you are not only strengthening your muscles and ligaments, but you are also strengthening your bones, encouraging the production of the Human Growth Hormone and promoting the production of collagen.
All of this means that in 20, 30, and hopefully even 40 years, you will be in much better physical shape than if you had simply given in to a life of tapping away at the computer and slouching in front of the TV.