What shoe you choose to wear into the gym for squat training can really effect your training outcome. Flat shoes, Olympic Lifting Shoes, Minimalist shoes, or even bare feet all have some pros and cons. I am going to do my best to help you figure out what style of shoe is best for you. All of us have very different structures in how we are put together. Some people are built to squat, and it just looks effortless and comfortable for them. Others may have very long legs and a short torso, and in the bottom of a squat they appear to resemble a lawn chair being folded up.

The first thing to consider is how well you squat with no special footwear. Take a dumbbell, hold in a goblet position, and see how easy it is to drop down into a deep squat position. Assuming there are no mobility issues and a good deep squat position can be achieved, I would suggest that you do most of your squatting in a minimalist style of shoe or even barefoot if your gym allows it. Squatting in this type of shoe will give you a solid feel of the ground and will allow you to strengthen your feet to a higher degree.

One possible drawback to this minimalist style of shoes to consider is that it offers “Minimalist” support meaning practically none. If you have weak arches it is possible for the ankles to collapse in, and this causes the knees to follow in. This is, at the very least, not a strong position to be in, and I will also argue it's very dangerous when under high loads or when moving with high levels of velocity. If this is you, we want to work on strengthening the feet and correcting this issue. However that doesn't mean we can not squat during this time, but maybe choose a slightly more supportive shoe.

A good shoe with a flat sole and minimal heel drop such as Van’s High Sk8s, Chuck Taylor, or many specialized squat shoes such as the Sabo Heavy Duty will give us the same natural flat foot stance that barefeet allow. But, these shoes are bigger and can be made or modified after purchase to have arch support added to the shoe.

Arch support is going to help you maintain a strong arch in your foot as you squat so that the foot does not fall and collapse the knee in as mentioned. Do not make a mistake of simply trying to pad up the arch of your shoe and then just ignore the foot. Try to correct the problem as best you can with drills and variius techniques, but we still have to train in the meantime.

Let’s go back to our Goblet Squat assessment from earlier. Unfortunately for you it didn't go so well. You find yourself struggling to get into a deep squat position unless you lean very far forward at the hips and find yourself folding up like the lawn chair we talked about. This could be from many different things such as a lack of ankle mobility or you were born with very long legs and a short torso. For you an Oly Shoe may be the best bet.

An Oly Shoe is a shoe that is built with a very solid sole usually made of wood that has been raised up. This heel lift can range anywhere from a half inch to one and a quarter inches high. The heel lift is going to allow you to drop down into a squat with a more upright torso, because it artificially increases your ankle flexion. This allows the knee to travel forward a little bit more making the squat slightly more quad dominant.

What about Oly shoes being used even if they are not needed? Many lifters who are built great to squat and have good mobility still like to wear Oly Shoes because it increases range of motion, increases quad activation, and sometimes they just simply feels better. Many body builders and Olympic Lifters use Oly Shoes because they allow them to be in a deeper position at the bottom of a squat or clean. From a powerlifting perspective squatting excessively deep simply just to do so, may not be the best option. This is why I suggest if you can squat in a to a good position without the need of a heel lift, then you should squat with a shoe as close to neutral and natural as possible.

Lastly, no matter the shoe you choose must be stable over anything. Heeled or flat, pink or green if the shoe is a squishy, built up, rubber cinder block looking thing like most running shoes are you are in trouble. I imagine putting 500lbs on your back and trying to squat on one of those Bosu exercise balls. At the very least you move less weight at the worse you injure something.

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