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By now, no one has to explain why you never skip leg day, but sometimes we need a reminder why we need to squat in the proper shoes.
When it comes to the king of compound movements, every muscle group must be working in sync in order for you to execute a squat both effectively and safely — whether you’re throwing a 45-pound plate on each side of the barbell for three sets of 10 or lifting ton-like strength like icon Chris Duffin. Proper squatting requires shoulder stabilization, core strength, proper spinal positioning, knee and ankle stability and adequate foot support. Any structural breakdown along that chain, especially at the ankles and feet, can lead to not only a missed 1RM but a possible injury.
What to look for in the best shoes for squats
A good squat requires a solid and stable feet-to-floor connection — meaning your toes should have enough room to spread and your heel should be secure and comfortable enough to grip the floor rep after rep.
“We can’t be chasing things if we don’t have a really good connection to the floor,” says Duffin, who’s squatted a record 1,001 pounds for three reps, is the founder of strength equipment company Kabuki Strength and is known in strength circles as the “Mad Scientist” for his innovative influence in strength gear. “If our toes are picking up, we’re rolling in, not actively controlling a squat, going into supination or pronation with the ankle complex to a greater degree, not driving down with the large toe and don’t have enough room for toes to splay for enhanced control, we can end up with back, knee and hip problems.”
(Note that Duffin recorded his squatting feat while barefooted — a method some athletes love — but this is not always comfortable for all, let alone hygienic.)
When shopping, remember that even the best cross-training shoes are not ideal to squat in.
John Wolf, chief fitness officer at supplement, health food and fitness equipment brand Onnit, recommends looking for styles with wide toe boxes for greater stability and solid heels to give you that “tripod” of support along the big and small toes and rearfoot.
“When it comes to squatting, the width of the toe box is something to be concerned about, along with the material density of the heel,” Wolf says. “Those are primary, especially when you’re working for getting maximal loads. At the same time, you also want to take into consideration the shoe’s comfort factor.”
If you’re only using your squat shoes for, well, squatting, you’re in luck, as you’ll probably be able to keep a quality pair for a few years. But, there are signs to be on the lookout for that may mean it’s time for a new pair.
If your feet begin slipping more often on the platform, this could indicate that the shoe’s gripping force is breaking down. Also, if your feet begin rolling out a bit more, the outer edges may be wearing down. “Maybe your toes are starting to kind of push out on certain areas of the shoe,” Duffin says. “That may be telling you you might need to upsize that shoe a little bit.”
Ahead, shop the 7 best squat shoes we’ve tried and that customers love, too.
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Top Squat Shoes
- Best Overall: Inov-8 FastLift 360 Squat Shoes
- Best for Stability: Reebok Legacy Lifter 2 Squat Shoes
- Best for Comfort: Nike Romaleo 4 Squat Shoes
- Best for the Environment: Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III Squat Shoes
- Best for Versatility: Adidas Powerlift 4 Squat Shoes
- Best for Minimalist Feel: Bearfoot Ursu Squat Shoes
- Do-Win Classic Squat Shoes
Inov-8 FastLift 360 Squat Shoes
If you’re looking for a perfect blend of stability and protection for heavy squats, the FastLift is the shoe you gotta try. The latest model comes with a newly designed upper and supportive base while also keeping your feet secure with its tight and comfortable midfoot strap. Weighing just 13 ounces with a 16.5 millimeter drop, these are the shoes for either competition or weekend leg day workouts.
Reebok Legacy Lifter 2 Squat Shoes
Best for Stability
As the weights get heavy and heavier, the stability gets better and better, thanks in part to Reebok’s decision to go with a 22-millimeter heel drop. The Legacy’s textile upper lends comfort, while its lockdown straps keep the entire foot nice and secure rep after rep.
It only comes in two colors, which may be a turnoff to some, but the style still looks cool, nonetheless.
“Wish I would have got these sooner,” writes one reviewer. “The stability these offer has definitely reduced aches that I usually incur with heavy lifts, and at the age of 59, that is a great benefit.”
Nike Romaleo 4 Squat Shoes
Best for Comfort
The newest edition of Nike’s signature weightlifting footwear brings Olympic-level quality to everyday training sessions. The Romaleos fit your feet like a secure glove for no-slip confidence rep after rep, providing maximum stability to generate the max power you need for every squat and deadlift. Its wider heel is meant to create more stability when going for 1RMs, and although the 20-millimeter heel drop may seem to be a concern for some lifters, those who wear the shoes seem to have no issues it.
“Initially I was a bit apprehensive about both the increased 20-millimeter heel lift and stiff sole,” writes one shopper. “Thought my toes might smash up against the front of the toe box, and they’d feel like walking on bricks compared to the Powerlifts and their softer EVA midfoot, flexible forefoot and 15-millimeter heel lift. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes they’re quite a bit harder to get into, but once laced and strapped in my feet, they stayed planted. The straps are positioned to pull and hold the foot and heel back towards the heel cup. No forward movement or heel lift. The toe box actually felt roomier then the Powerlifts. It didn’t take long to get used to walking in them. Once under weight is when they shine. They just feel rooted to the platform. Laterally, they very little give. I think the way the midsole just widens out also has a lot to do with it. The sole is actually wider than the shoe.”
Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III Squat Shoes
Best for the Environment
Good for your feet and the planet, these minimalist shoes from Vivobarefoot are made with sustainable materials and not only suitable for squats but for running and walking as well. Although these are on the more expensive end, their performance tech is well worth the splurge. In fact, the Primus Lite III has become this writer’s favorite pair of workout shoes. So much so, I’ve neglected the Reeboks and Nikes in my collection. Being able to feel the ground more has changed my workouts and strengthened my feet. I even wear them out as much as possible. My only gripe is the price. If it weren’t for that, I’d have numerous pairs.
Adidas Powerlift 4 Squat Shoes
Best for Versatility
Comfortable and secure, the Powerlift 4s are always a solid choice for your squats and deads. The shoe’s flexible toe box and 15-millimeter drop allow for a sturdy and comfortable squat, while its hook-and-loop midfoot strap keeps you secure with each lift.
“These shoes have resulted in significant improvements to my range of motion on back squats,” says one shopper. “They have also been great for deadlifts, shoulder press, cleans, etc. I am satisfied with my decision to buy them.”
Bearfoot Ursu Squat Shoes
Best for Minimalist Feel
Hence its name, Bearfoot’s Ursu may offer the closest sensation you’ll ever get to lifting in your bare feet. Created in collaboration with Duffin, the Ursus were designed with a wide toe box and zero drop, allowing this minimalist shoe to help you grip the floor with maximum strength — almost making it feel like you’re not wearing at all. And the ratings speak for themselves. “I never realized how unstable normal shoes wore until I tried these,” writes one shopper. “I was recommended this brand by Chris Duffin, and as soon as I put on my Ursus, I felt like I had small platforms on my feet to keep me balanced. These also have a ton of room inside, so they’re not cramming my feet/toes together. Would recommend for anyone lifting.”
Do-Win Classic Squat Shoes
One of the original weightlifting shoes, these Classics are solidly built with a leather heel and suede and mesh upper, hook-and-loop straps that keep them fitting comfortably during any lift. and a 19-millimeter drop. The shoe’s rounded toe box has earned mixed views, but overall works quite well for max lifts, shoppers say. “I’ve had my pair for a few months now,” notes ones. “I really like them. They’re solid and durable. The wooden sole makes weightlifting even more fun with the sound it makes. However, the toe box is pretty small, so if you have wider feet, the fit might not be great.”
Meet the author
Jeff Tomko is a fitness journalist and enthusiast. He is currently the senior editor at Muscle & Fitness magazine whose work has also appeared in Men’s Health, Esquire, Runner’s World, GQ and Metro, among other publications. When he’s not writing, he loves to hit the gym while wearing the best cross-training shoes for men.
Meet the expert
Chris Duffin is a world-renowned strength athlete who’s squatted a record 1,001 pounds for three reps. He is also a fitness and health author and educator and founder of strength equipment company Kabuki Strength. He is known in strength circles as the “Mad Scientist” for his innovative influence in strength gear.