In the many years that I have been going for squat, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have seen squatters working out in proper squatting shoes.

It seems that while other athletes will wear specialty shoes for whatever sport they participate in, most squatters do not consider the benefits that proper shoes can make to their performance and strength.

Your bed’s mattress is for sleeping, not squatting.

But when you squat in flat sneakers it is as if you are performing the lift while standing on your bed. The shock absorption provided by sneakers is great when you are jogging, but the compressibility of the sole hampers the squat (and other lifts) in multiple ways.

Primarily, the absorption in flat sneakers is actually absorbing part of the energy you are forcing between the floor and the barbell.

This in effect reduces the efficiency of the lift and causes you to lose strength you could be putting into lifting more weight. Second, lifting in sneakers makes the foundation of your squat and other lifts unstable.

This instability makes every lift seem as if you are performing the movement for the very first time. Good technique is developed by reproducing the correct movement over and over; however, this is simply not possible when done on a surface that is unsteady.

Finally, lifting in sneakers can be considered somewhat dangerous, especially when performing Olympic styles lifts.

Landing from a jump on a surface that is unstable can cause balance and technique problems which can easily result in injury, especially when using heavier weights.

Proper squatting shoes resolve these issues by providing a stable, non-compressible sole that improves the efficiency of the lift and helps you keep good form, reducing the risk of injury.

The heel on a squatting shoe also makes it easier to keep your torso upright, knees in the right position-slightly in front of the toes, and to get into a deeper squat.

You will not only notice that you have a better sense of the weight, allowing you to push with greater force, but you will also be able to sit back better and keep your heels on the floor.

Many lifters find that after trying flat squatting shoes, they can’t believe that they ever were able to lift without them. Indeed, famed author and strength coach, Mark Rippetoe, states in his book, Starting Strength, that weightlifting shoes are the only real piece of personal equipment you need when performing a squat.

When you consider the price you can pay for a good pair of flat sneakers or other sports shoes, it really makes sense to invest in a pair of shoes that can make such a difference to the lifting experience. You do not need to spend a lot of money to get weightlifting shoes.

What to consider before buying squat shoes

Other than covering up your naked butt, most of your gym attire has little impact on your training itself. The flat squat shoes you wear, however, can play a pretty significant role in the exercises you do.

Just like every other sport in existence whether it is soccer, baseball, tennis, running, rock climbing etc., there are also shoes specifically designed to provide proper support, grip, and function while lifting at the gym.

The flat squat shoes you wear to weight train at the gym are designed to allow you to do your exercises at the gym better. Proper form when weight training is one of the catalysts for tremendous results.

Proper form also helps to prevent injury. As part of your weight lifting gear, a good pair of gym shoes will help you keep proper form and therefore are directly related to better results and fewer injuries. For the minimal investment that a good pair of gym shoes are they are more than worth it for these exact reasons.

The top three benefits that shoes provide is:

  • support
  • stability
  • grip

These directly relate to three key parts of the shoe:

1) vamp/upper (this is the part of the shoe that holds it onto your foot)

2) insole (the part your foot stands on)

3) outsole (the part in direct contact with the ground).

We’ll give you some tips on what to look for in these three key areas of a gym shoe.

Vamp/Upper

The lacing system of a good gym shoe will begin above the ankle and continue to where your toes meet your foot. The shoe should be able to fit the whole foot snugly.

We prefer shoes that incorporate two extra support straps. One that is just above the ankle for extra ankle support and another across the mid section of the foot providing additional metatarsal support.

Your gym shoe should feel like it would help prevent you from rolling your ankle. The vamp / upper of the shoe should hold your foot well against the insole of the shoe.

Insole

The insole of your shoe is vitally important. One of the big keys to muscle conditioning and growth as well as injury prevention is proper form.

The key to proper form is proper balance and the best thing you can do to help ensure a proper balance is stand on a firm stable surface. It will be very hard to maintain proper balance if the surface on which you are standing is unstable.

You should look for gym shoes that have a good firm sole. Air, gel and springy soles are not the ideal thing to find in a good gym shoe.

The reason is that they are like strapping an unstable surface to the bottom of your foot. The last thing you need when you have 200, or 300, or maybe 400 pounds on your shoulders doing squats is an unstable foundation stuck to the bottom of your feet.

Outsole

The outsole is the part of the shoe that makes contact with the floor or ground and is the last truly vital part of your gym footwear. If you have great support from the vamp/upper part of your shoe and also a comfortable but firm and stable sole, what good will it provide if your shoes have the awful grip on the floor?

You are a disaster just waiting to happen if you are walking around your gym with slippery shoes. You should look for shoes with soles made of neoprene or crepe and with a good gripping low profile tread. Deep treads can work like the air, gel or springy kinds of shoes.

Aerobic exercise shoes

Without proper shoes, you can’t even begin to do any aerobic exercise on land, whether it’s high or low-impact. So while choosing shoes that fit whenever you begin any exercise program is important, you should also pay particular attention to when you need to replace your exercise shoes.

Continued use of shoes that are worn-out while engaging in an exercise regimen can lead to all sorts of foot pains, soreness, blisters, knee injuries, ankle sprains and hip injuries.

Finally, if you want to engage in a new exercise routine but have been sedentary for a long time, don’t think of getting the old pair you have stored in your closet which has gone unused for a long time.

It’s better to buy a new one since old and unused exercise shoes also wear out even when they have not been subjected to any form of workout.

Shoes can be expensive purchases and as such, you should strive to get the most use of them when you can by taking care of them.

First, you need to mark the date when you first started wearing your shoes so you know when to replace them. If you can afford it, buy two pairs of shoes that you really like and feel comfortable in and wear them alternately during your workouts.

Try to wear your exercise shoes only for exercise so that they don’t wear out easily. Moreover, make your purchase (or at least find the best size and style for you) at an actual sports shoes or running store. This way, you will be able to give yourself a good fit before purchasing the one that’s right for you.

You can save a bit of money by purchasing online but make sure you have already tried on the exact size and style before making an online buy.

If you feel that buying a new pair is too expensive then think about it this way: The hospital bills would even be more expensive for you if you don’t get a new pair and suffer an injury while you work out using your old pair of cross trainers.

I never took much of a liking to squats as a teenager. Actually, I hated them. Sure I did them, but at the same time, I dreaded them. I followed the techniques I read about in the bodybuilding magazines, with the foam-padded bar high up on your neck and feet close together with your heels on a 2″ board.

I felt really uncomfortable doing these and they hurt my knees. But since they were supposed to be of such tremendous benefit and all, I did the stupid things anyway cursing the whole time.

My attitude toward the squat changed completely after I was introduced to the powerlifting-style squat. This was a totally different animal. I was living in Colorado at the time where I met a great powerlifter and a great guy named Curtis Bentley. He invited me to start going to his gym every Saturday, where he would teach me a better way to squat. And boy, did he ever!

I loved these new squats, holding the bar down low on my shoulders and with a wide foot stance because I could immediately handle more weight which was a big ego booster.

Not only that: they didn’t hurt my knees. In fact, I have since read that wide-stance squats are actually good for your knees. Before I knew it I was squatting over 400 lbs.

This is the way to squat: Grasp the bar with your index fingers just outside the power rings. Duck under the bar and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Let the bar settle into the “shelf” created by your rear delts and traps.

Unrack the bar and take a step back. Assume a wide stance by stepping sideways – your left foot first, then your right.

Take a deep breath into your stomach and push out with your stomach against your belt. The descent of the squat should begin by bending at the hips first. Not at the knees. Keep your head upright and stay tight as you sink down, down, down until the tops of your thighs are parallel with the tops of your knees.

Pause for a second at the bottom. Arch your lower back hard and then EXPLODE upwards driving your traps into the bar. Keep your head upright and your knees spread out over your toes.

Squat Tips:

1. Be sure to warm up thoroughly with some stretching and light squats before going heavy. If you aren’t warmed up, your hips will be tight and you’ll have a hard time achieving the desired depth. Not to mention, you’ll be more prone to injury.

2. If you plan to compete in powerlifting, don’t squat in front of a mirror. At the meet, there won’t be any mirrors and you’ll feel really awkward like you might lose your balance and tip over, if you’ve always squatted in front of one.

3. A flat soled shoe is popular for squatting, but if you have trouble achieving the desired depth, a shoe with a slight heel might help.

4. Save your belt for the heavier sets. And don’t tighten your belt so tight that you can’t push out against it with your stomach.

5. A common error in heavy wide-stance squatting is bringing the knees together during the up phase. Don’t do this. It’s considered bad form. Keep your knees pushed out over your toes. It might help to push out to the sides with your feet.

6. One of the best assistance exercises for the squat is good morning.

7. Make sure to include plenty of trap and rear delt work so you’ll have a thick, sturdy “shelf” to rest the bar across.

8. Don’t use the Smith Machine for squatting. It eliminates the stabilization portion of the exercise.

9. Squeeze the bar with your hands. This will help you stay tight throughout the lift.

10. Train with other experienced lifters who can coach you and tell you what you’re doing wrong.