This answer mentions that you shouldn't do squat exercises in running shoes. Why is that?

I don't feel like performing squats and dead lifts with running shoes are creating any issues for me, but it's also less than half a year ago since I added weightlifting to my gym routine. I don't remember ever seeing other people at the gym switch footwear between weight lift and cardio routines, but maybe I didn't pay notice.

Would kicking off the running shoes be a viable alternative, or given the choice between that and running shoes, would keeping the running shoes on be better?

5 Answers 5


If you really go heavy, one of the most import things to do in a squat or dead lift is to keep your weight on your heels.

Running shoes tend to have a thick sole and thin toe which in effect pitches you forward.

Bare feet keep you the most connected to the ground, and gives you the best base to control your position.

  • sounds reasonable. I did my weight lifting routine yesterday bare feet and it felt great. The biggest change seemed to be a significantly increased sense of my center of balance. Bare feet seems to be the way to go for me.
    – user240
    Jul 27, 2011 at 6:51
  • Just don't drop a weight on your foot (Sucks)
    – rerun
    Jul 27, 2011 at 7:04
  • 2
    If you drop a weight on your foot, do you really think your shoes are going to cushion much of the weight? Unless you've got steel toed work boots, that's unlikely. Jul 27, 2011 at 12:15
  • Most of the new minimalist running shoes are pretty flat, no heel buildup. The main issue with the heel is it is compressible. Look at the weight lifting shoes used by many squatters and they have a heel, anywhere from .5" up to 1.25" (from what I've seen), but there is no compression. Jul 13, 2012 at 16:13

Flat, non-compressible soles work best for weight-lifting. Chuck Taylors are better than any running shoe. If that isn't trendy enough for you, something like the Vibram FiveFingers or other "free" running shoe will work.

As for what the other people in the gym are doing, that's a terrible gauge for proper behavior. It'd be like learning to drive by watching cab drivers.

  • That's a funny analogy :-) Is the average gym goer really that terrible? It seems to me most of the free weight lifters appear to know what they are doing...
    – user240
    Jul 27, 2011 at 6:53
  • 3
    It definitely varies by gym and the time of day you go. Back in the 80's I spent a lot of time at the gym my mother worked at. At the time I could predict poor form based on how close it was to 7pm and the amount of gel in the hair. These days I spend less time at the gym and most of the other guys have thinning hair so my predictions are handicapped. Jul 27, 2011 at 13:28

Short answer: barefoot is better than running shoes.

Long Answer: Running shoes are designed for providing a cushion to your feet. In essence, they absorb the impact of your foot hitting the ground by compressing the sole and springing back. This is not the behavior you want when you have more than a couple hundred pounds on your back. With that much weight, the soles will start to compress and as you push with your feet you lose stability. That's really bad.

I recommend reading this article by Dr. Lon Kilgore on weightlifting shoes 101.

Now to answer your question:

  • You don't have to have weightlifting shoes, but you won't be able to lift as much with running shoes
  • Even a pair of dress shoes are better than running shoes (I had one of my best lifting sessions in these)
  • Even kicking the shoes off is better than lifting in running shoes.

There are people who believe that the lift in the heel on most weightlifting shoes helps, even with the squat and deadlift. Others say it gets in the way. The most important thing is a stable base.

  • I don't think I could bring myself to wear dress shoes at the gym, but bare feet seems to work great for me.
    – user240
    Jul 27, 2011 at 6:55
  • It was a moment of desperation. My gym requires footwear, and I forgot my normal shoes I use for lifting. The dress shoes I was already wearing fit the bill, so I swallowed my pride. Thankfully I was rewarded for that humility. Jul 27, 2011 at 12:14

Kicking off the running shoes would be a viable alternative, but I'd actually go one step further. Don't wear running shoes for the cardio portion either. Better proprioception is better proprioception. Just like the elevated heel affects your lifting technique, it also affects your running technique, and once again, not in a good way. A thick heel encourages heel striking while running. Technically you can go for a forefoot or midfoot strike with normal running shoes, but it's easier with zero drop shoes (shoes without a difference in sole thickness at the front and rear). Also, running with thin soled shoes encourages a change in running technique with less impact that is overall much better for your joints. Use VFFs for your cardio and your lifting, you have no need to change shoes and you get benefits for both.


If I may, I'd like to supplement the answers by @rerun and @Berin.

They both speak to the same concept, that running shoes might not provide you the most stable platform (since they can be squishy). I am not arguing that point, although I feel it's a generalization and should be treated as such - but it's a generalization that seems reasonable.

So, let's assume the shoes do make you more unstable.

This "instability" isn't necessarily a bad thing. All it means is that you will need to invoke some extra muscle power to counteract the effect. Your muscles are already working to "stabilize" you, but now they have to work a bit harder because you've chosen to increase the challenge to your stability. You could add even more instability by doing a squat on a say, a wobble board.

If you are aware of and prepare for that effect - perhaps by lowering the weight significantly until you are rock-solid in your lift - that instability may be something you want to add to your lift because it can give you a new challenge (resistance training is all about progression, right?).

It depends on what you are trying to achieve.

If your goal doesn't involve controlling the instability the shoes might be providing, then remove the instability. But if your goal is simply to lift as much weight as you can lift, without regard to the rest of your body, then the instability is an extra variable you don't need.

Just like guns don't kill people, shoes don't harm bodies by themselves, but how a person uses them in a given situation can certainly cause unexpected and unwanted results. This is true for ANY piece of gear or equipment.

You need to think about what you are trying to accomplish, and adapt your squat accordingly.

One more comment related to the shoes tilting you forward that @rerun mentioned...

The range of motion in a squat varies depending on the person doing the squat. My range of motion isn't necessarily the same as your range of motion. The bones in your body have a lot do to with your range of motion and at what point your hips start to rotate as you descend (which means you've exceeded your range of motion).

One way to counteract this - for people with a very short tibia compared to the length of their trunk and femur - is to put a small wedge under the heels. This has as similar effect that @rerun is describing, but it's really about increasing your range of motion during the squat artificially. Someone who isn't built this way physically might find that this causes more problems than it corrects.

I am certainly not recommending you do this, but I do point out that there are times when extra room under the heels can be beneficial.

  • 1
    That instability is a very bad thing, as it will lead to injury. Same with the insane practice of doing squats on a bosu ball. Whoever came up with that needs to pay every orthopedic bill as a result of the injuries that come from that unsafe practice. Jul 26, 2011 at 19:51
  • Berin, I can certainly, and in fact, do squats, without weights, on tennis shoes and bosu balls, and I have not had an injury. I never suggested loading weights up, I was only trying to point out that the goal of what you're trying to accomplish is important in order to answer the question, which you obviously missed.
    – Gordon
    Jul 27, 2011 at 19:00

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