Whether you’re gutting your way through “Diane” or loading the bar for your final lift of the meet, the deadlift is the “money lift” for athletes everywhere.
Most lifters (including yours truly!) have a bigger deadlift than any other lift. It is the lift you can squeeze the most out of.
It is the lift where you’re likely leaving money on the table.
We’re not going to talk about bracing, breathing, or any other type of form work now. Today’s discussion is all about shoes.
The best deadlift shoes, to be precise.
If you’ve done the technique work to get your deadlift numbers up, but still think you can go higher, give one of our top 9 best deadlift shoes a try. The shoes can’t do the work for you, but they can definitely help to push harder (literally!)
Table of Contents
Top 9 Best Deadlift Shoes
Sabo Deadlift Pro (Best Overall)
Raise your hand if you’re really serious about deadlifting, only care about deadlifting, and want a shoe that is designed solely (zing!) to help you get the best deadlift possible?
Hand still raised? If so, SABO is for you.
SABO themselves say it best: “These shoes are designed for one certain lift — the Deadlift.”
The SABO shoes are ideal for deadlifting, mainly because they focus on and excel in four main areas:
- Increased ankle support via durable outsole construction and arch support
- A thin, stable outsole, reducing the overall pulling distance
- A lock-jaw grip feeling to the floor
- Wide toe box for a comfortable, non-compressed feel
I am not the biggest fan of the toe box; my toes really dangle in these bad boys. However, the combination of ankle support and thin outsole is unique to SABO Heavy Duty deadlift shoes.
If you’re a non-heeled squat shoe enthusiast, you could absolutely wear these throughout the duration of a powerlifting competition. However, for anything other than powerlifting, you’d be better off with a more multi-functional shoe.
If after reading this entire review, your hand is still raised? Buy these (the best deadlift shoes).
It is crazy to think that these WERE the training and sports shoes back in the day. My uncles used to play competitive BASEBALL in these!
Today, nobody would argue that Chucks are appropriate shoes for any kind of active sport. However, they still hold up incredibly well as deadlift shoes.
..but are they the best deadlift shoes, though?
Chuck Taylors are extremely popular in the deadlifting community due to their extremely flat, extremely hard, and extremely rigid sole.
You wouldn’t want to run a mile in these things, but when you’re deadlifting in them, your feet feel as though they need to ask permission to leave the floor.
The Chuck Taylor’s high top provides more ankle support than Minimus and similar shoes, but is more of an aesthetic accessory than anything else. Additionally, if you decide you want to wear these “stylish” shoes out, they’re going to break down much more quickly than a dedicated deadlift shoe.
However, Chuck Taylors are priced well and possess some of the greatest social proof in the entire deadlift shoe community.
If you’ve been around the mats…ever, you’ve probably noticed the distinctive look of wrestling shoes.
High-tops, yuge amount of ankle support, limited heel…just what a lot of people look for in their deadlifting shoes!
Of all of the possible wrestling shoes to add to this list, we went with Matflex 7 from the beloved ASICS sports footwear brand. Besides being a well-known and trusted shoe developer and manufacturer, ASICS has honed its Matflex line over time, meticulously taking customer input into consideration to generate the most complete version of the 7 iterations of the shoe.
The mesh material not only provides superior stability during the heaviest deadlifting sessions, but also provides a large degree of breathability and ventilation. This may not seem important during a single lift, but over the course of an hours-long training sessions, you’ll come to greatly appreciate the lack of moisture buildup!
The E.V.A. sockliner provides the “cozy” feeling of wearing a sock without having to, ya know, actually slip a cumbersome piece of cloth on your foot. For the barefoot deadlifting enthusiasts, this is about as close as you can get to shoes-free lifting, with a very modest price to boot!
Some have mentioned that their specific shoes ran a little bit small, however, these complaints did not constitute a significant number of the reviews. Worst case, a favorable return policy ensures that you’ll be able to find a size that is just right for you!
The Romaleos 3 were my first weightlifting and squat shoes. You can see that they have been through quite a bit, but the nostalgia just won’t let me throw them away!
I only ever performed Olympic lifts and squats in these, although I am aware of the deadlifting population who prefers a bit of a heel when they lift. In this regard, the Romaleos are second to none.
One of the things I like the most about the Romaleos 4 is the additional strap. Instead of one larger strap across the top of the foot (found in the Romaleos 3), the 4’s go back to the dual-strap construction of the Romaleos 2. These provide stability throughout the foot and add a bit more user discretion (you may prefer one section to be tighter than the other).
The wide, flat outsole and supportive midsole contribute to an incredibly stable and sturdy feeling from setup to lock-out. Even with the large (20 millimeters) heel, I still feel closely connected to the ground when squatting in these.
I personally like for my toes to feel more compressed within my shoes. The wider front, toe box area of the Romaleos 4 almost requires I purchase a smaller size in order to get this feeling. Another, more general issue is the downside to having two straps instead of one. If one of these straps (which are, admittedly, a bit flimsier than the big strap on the Romaleos 3) busts, you’re in a bit of trouble.
Nordic Lifting is an excellent fitness accessory brand. I regularly use my Nordic Lifting grips and straps for shrugging and similar movements.
I would be using my Nordic Lifting shoes…had I bought them in the correct size. Instead, I get to hear one of my old lifting partners rave about them (my loss was his gain!)
For deadlifters who like the heel of the Romaleos, but don’t want to shell out $200 for a lifting shoe, the Nordic Lifting Shoes are an excellent alternative.
One of the most glaring statistics with the Nordic Lifting shoes is the ~35 millimeter heel. I personally think this math is a little off (it feels closer to the 20-30 millimeter range), you’re still sitting pretty high in these.
Like the Romaleos 4s, the Nordic Lifting shoes have a narrow strap; unlike the Romaleos 4s, there is only one of them. Located in the center of the shoe, the single strap is sufficient for tightening the shoe. Unfortunately, if its flimsy material takes a little bit of damage, you might be looking for a new shoe.
The Nordic Lifting shoes have much less of a “boxy” feel to them. If it weren’t for the heel, you might feel as though you’re wearing a Nano X. Even at a size larger than optimal, my toes felt more snug in these and could more easily dig into the ground.
An excellent low-cost option from a known brand, these otherwise solid lifting shoes suffer from the lack of color options (hopefully you like baby blue or black!)
I understand that a lot of people prefer a shoe that is well-suited for deadlifting, but don’t want to devote a decent amount of money to a dedicated deadlifting shoe. For those who want to crush their deadlift PRs as well as their best “DT” time with the same shoe, look no further than the Nano X2s.
These are my personal favorite training shoes of all time. Interestingly enough, they also happen to be some of the cheapest ones I’ve ever bought.
The elephant in the corner with these is the 7-millimeter drop. If you can’t bring yourself to go this high (or this low, if you prefer the high-heeled shoes discussed earlier), the Nano X2s may not be for you.
However, the stability I feel from the completely flat Floatride Energy midsole and platform keeps my feet grounded. I have hit multiple deadlift PRs in these and will keep going with what works!
I really like how easily my feet “breathe” in the Flexweave textile while still feeling compressed. I also really like how good I look wearing them; I actually enjoy wearing these out and about (when they’re not completely scuffed up, that is).
Are the Nano X2s THE best deadlifting shoes, though? If your workouts involve ONLY deadlifting, probably not. They are too much of a general athletic shoe, serving a lot of different areas and movements really well, but not being great at anything.
If your workouts involve a lot of deadlifting…and then box jumps…and then some running, then yes. You’re going to be able to pull A LOT in these shoes and still be able to do everything else the WOD requires.
Most of us probably associate Adidas with it’s football offerings (apparel for other popular major sports). However, their The Total shoe shows that the brand is also ideal for those involved in power sports.
The Total may as well be named “Deadlift Max” as Adidas itself refers to the shoe as featuring a zero-raise heel and low-to-the round stance that’s optimized for deadlifting.”
The Total’s rubber outsole and wide toe box create a stable and supportive foundation while also ensuring a slip-free experience.
Some have complained about the durability of The Total shoes, claiming that they started to show signs of wear within 6 months of purchase. However, Adidas has a good track record in the realm of durability so there is no reason to think that this is a regular “feature” of these.
Remember when they first came out and seemingly every one of…”those guys” were suddenly running in these or wearing them to the gym?
I was never one of “those guys”, but I did sport some of Vibram’s other models when I won the Chick-fil-A Race Series back in 2012.
I’ve never felt more “in touch” with the ground as I have in those Vibram soles and for those who want the barefoot feel while wearing shoes, the 5 Fingers are the best option.
The incredible grip the Vibram Five Fingers provide is largely attributed to being able to dig your individual toes into the floor. This is a feeling preferred by barefoot deadlift enthusiasts everywhere.
Because the Vibram Five Fingers were originally designed as minimalist, trail-running shoes, they are incredibly durable and will be able to withstand any beating you can dish out.
Thankfully, Vibram has expanded its color palette over the years and there is a large array of schemes to choose from.
The only “downside” to the Vibram Five Fingers? If you’re working out in your own home or garage, you don’t have to worry about a gym owner yelling at you to “put your shoes on!” If you REALLY want the barefoot feel while deadlifting at home, skip these and just take your shoes off!
For those of you who don’t have the heart (or do have the brain!) to look like “those guys in the Vibram Five Fingers shoes”, but still want the barefoot feel, the Tolos Archetype 1.0 is a good alternative.
The “traditional” construction of the front of the shoe doesn’t allow the individual toe flexibility that the Vibram Five Fingers do. If being able to dig each toe into the ground as you set up for each lift is important to you, the Tolos may not be for you.
However, wearing a Tolos Archetype 1.0 feels more like wearing a sock than wearing a shoe (the Vibram Five Fingers feels more like your barefoot). At the same time, they feel like a sock you can actually lace up (feeling more secure on your foot) while feeling like shoes you would actually feel comfortable wearing somewhere other than places named “the forest” or “Bonnaroo”.
If you’re interested in deadlifting in a shoe with insoles, the Tolos Archetype 1.0 probably isn’t for you. However, if you’re in the market for “pure” deadlifting shoes, you’re probably not interested in any type of bulky insole anyways.
Best Deadlift Shoe Buyers Guide
Narrowing down to the 9 beat deadlift shoes was hard. Narrowing down to the best deadlift shoes for you might be even harder.
Do you go with what this guy has to say?
Or this guy?
Naturally, your deadlift priorities are probably different from the guy on the platform next to you. If you plan on doing a few sets of deadlift then shooting some hoops, you’re going to want different shoes than a guy chasing a 500 wilks score. Our best deadlift shoes list reflects these different preferences and priorities so you can make the best decision for YOU.
So what exactly goes into one of the best deadlift shoes? Some items to consider:
Many of the shoes on your best deadlift shoes list are comprised of the same materials you would find in an everyday sneaker. Leather will comprise much of the shoe. However, any shoe you actually want to deadlift in will almost universally have a hard, rubber sole.
The rigid rubber material of the outsole is a key contributor to providing stability and support when deadlifting. For those who prefer the most extreme barefoot-replicating deadlift shoes, there is no material on the outsole because…there is no outsole.
Sole Heel Height
The majority of deadlifters will prefer as little heel as possible on their shoes, many opting to deadlift barefoot. Most of our picks on the best deadlift shoes list take this preference into consideration and many of the shoes have little, if any, heel drop.
There is a subset of the deadlifting population that prefers an elevated heel and it is not uncommon to see some beast walk up to the deadlift platform in Olympic weightlifting shoes. Guys like this might opt for the Nike Romaleos 4 or the Nordic Lifting Shoes.
A more rigid sole helps your feet feel more “grounded” and attached to the floor. Shoes with pliable rubber in their soles are more flexible and are usually more versatile in the activities they can accommodate.
For purely deadlifting purposes, the more rigid the deadlift shoe sole, the better. So long as your feet are comfortable enough and the soles do not overly compress the sides of your feet.
Shoes like the Sabo Heavy Duty deadlift shoes and the Romaleos 4 provide a large degree of ankle support and stability in their built-in high tops. Ankle support is particularly important when deadlifting since a slight wobble can throw off your lift or even injure your ankle.
Barefoot and minimus-lifting enthusiasts demonstrate that this support is by no means required. Personal preference, along with ankle flexibility and stability will dictate how much ankle support you like in your deadlift shoes.
Deadlift shoes are renowned for having wide toe boxes, allowing much of the very front part of the foot to roam free. This design is in line with most deadlifters preferring a non-compressed feeling around their toes.
This is another personal preference area; I LOVE a compressed feeling in the front of my shoes. I feel a much stronger sense of stability and support when my toes are snug against each other.
Benefits of Deadlift Shoes
Are you going to increase your deadlift by 100 pounds when you slip on your first pair of dedicated deadlift shoes?
Probably not (unless you’ve been deadlifting in high heels or something).
But the benefits of deadlift shoes (particularly the best deadlift shoes) are numberous!
The hard, flat rubber (or sometimes wood!) soles of deadlift shoes ensure that your feet remain “attached” to the ground. The harder the sole, the more stable the shoe is and the less slippage you will encounter.
Harder, more rigid deadlift shoe soles can be difficult to perform other athletic movements in. If you plan on doing a deadlift WOD that involves deadlifts AND something else, you will need to sacrifice some stability.
The deadlift shoes on our list with the most amount of ankle support assist in a couple of ways.
First, they permit you to get into the best possible deadlifting position by allowing the foot to move more in line with the shin. Without this support, your foot would be more out of line, requiring the bar to sit further away from the body.
Second, as previously mentioned, solid ankle support ensures that there is little, if any, ankle “wobble”. This keeps the ankle secured in the most ideal position to support the pull from the ground and prevents possible injury from a momentary shift of weight onto an unsupported ankle.
Range of Motion
Deadlift shoes with thinner soles decrease the required range of motion necessary to complete the lift. Think about it, if Gene Simmons is trying to deadlift, he has to lift the bar an extra 6 inches due to his 6- inch, leather heels!
For those who appreciate the position that a squat or Olympic weightlifting shoe heel puts them in, this extra 1-1.5 inches of range of motion to overcome might be an acceptable price to pay. However, “pure” deadlift shoes will always prioritize creating the smallest range of motion possible.
When you GOTTA Wear Something
I get that not everyone has transitioned to the garage or home gym yet
(you’ll get there…soon…)
For those who are still working out in a Globo gym and are barefoot deadlift enthusiasts, you might be taking regular earfuls from the gym’s management.
If this is you, it might be time to bite the bullet and to purchase a pair of Vibram Five Fingers or Tolos Archetype 1.0. You’ll still get a VERY barefoot feeling and won’t have to hear a peep out of management!
You’ll Just Pull More!
If you lace up some old New Balances or slip into a pair of Crocs and try to hit a deadlift PR…well…prepare for some heartbreak.
Your feet will be out of position, elevated in the wrong places, and probably sliding all over the place. ALL of your energy and focus will be on simply keeping your balance on trying not to hurt yourself.
When you’re wearing deadlift shoes…you’re not focused on any of these things. Your feet are positioned perfectly and completely supported to allow you to lift to your body’s fullest capacity.
There is a reason why the strongest powerlifters in the world lift in the best deadlift shoes:
They all want to be the best deadlifter on earth!
Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve thrown out a lot of new and strange terms having to deal with shoe construction, heel drop, and durability. Let’s close out with a few final common, but “simple” questions:
There are a number of successful deadlifters who swear by their heeled lifting shoes. For many, the greater emphasis on quad muscle recruitment when deadlifting at a slightly forward angle is reason enough to opt for weightlifting shoes.
In a purely technical sense, the increased range of motion that Olympic weightlifting shoes create make them less–than-ideal deadlifting shoes. Try lifting in a low or none-heeled shoe as well as in a squat or weightlifting shoe and see how you feel!
Many of the low or none-heeled shoes have little, if any, ankle support. Even the high-topped Chuck Taylors provide minimal ankle support
Barefoot lifters or those who lift in just socks will tell you ankle support is absolutely not necessary!
For safety reasons and to ensure that the ankles remain in line throughout the duration of the lift, “pure” deadlift shoes have specifically-engineered ankle support. This universal addition does not mean that extreme ankle support is necessary, but it does imply that it can be beneficial.
The choice to deadlift without shoes is purely personal. Some people love it and it has grown in popularity in recent years.
Deadlifting barefoot is the surest way to cut down on range of motion. When you deadlift without shoes, you are guaranteed to pull the bar the shortest distance to lockout.
When deadlifting barefoot, there is no ankle support and any stability that a shoe would provide is non-existent. For those with exceptional ankle mobility and strength, this might not be a problem. For those who require this support, deadlifting barefoot is definitely “harder”.
The Best Deadlift Shoes are DEAD Giveaways of a Serious Lifter!
As we have seen, the best deadlift shoe for YOU will be the one that best accommodates your needs and goals.
Want a shoe with a flat sole that you can deadlift in AND wear while drinking out of a mason jar? Chuck Taylors are the shoes for you?
Need to go 5×5 on deadlifts before knocking out a bunch of wall balls in “Karen”? Nano Xs or Metcon 8s might be more your speed.
Vibram Five Fingers and Tolos Archetype 1.0s will be the best for barefoot enthusiasts.
And SABO Heavy Duty deadlift shoes are THE best “pure” deadlifting shoes.
Maybe you purchase a pair of each to cover all of your bases? That’s the strategy we suggested in the power bar vs. Olympic Bar debate?
Worst case scenario: you start a deadlift shoe collection (and this collection should start with the Sabo Deadlift Pro!)