Squatting Barefoot vs Shoes: Which Do You Recommend?

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Squatting Barefoot vs Shoes

Squats are a great exercise to strengthen your abs and improve overall flexibility. But what about the squatting barefoot vs shoes debate? Is there an advantage? Let’s find out!

Squatting with shoes or barefoot depends on several factors, including the type of squat and your posture. Barefoot squats are beneficial in several ways, as it is a great way to increase flexibility and strengthen your feet. Regular barefoot squats have been shown to improve balance and strengthen leg muscles. More technical squats, such as low, closed-foot barbells, require high-heeled weightlifting shoes. Barefoot squats require better balance control because weightlifting shoes lack support when ankle mobility is limited. Due to poor support, lifting weights with bare feet can cause pain and discomfort in the knees, ankles, and hips because the low-bar squat involves more bending. Also, if you like to squat barefoot, I recommend wearing socks so your feet don’t get germs.

What Role Does the Foot Play in A Barefoot Squat or Weightlifting?

Squats are designed to strengthen your quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, core, and upper body. All of this is possible when the reaction force of the ground is acting on your foot due to your weight-bearing. The connection of our feet to the ground determines the effectiveness of power transmission from the ground to the musculature throughout the body.

When we lean forward too far, we put extra pressure on the ankle as we try to stabilize the posture by putting all of our weight on the heel. This helps to naturally increase the flexibility of our muscles.

Benefits of barefoot squatting

  • Understand the connection between the foot and the ground: You don’t rely on the advantage of a high heel in an Olympic shoe, which allows you to work hard on the flexibility of your ankle for greater depth. Applying force to the target area of ​​the foot is a skill in the squat. In barefoot squats, there is a strong connection between our feet and the ground at the ball of the foot, heel, and toe joints. This way, when you lose your balance, you will immediately notice a deviation in the midfoot position and react in a split second to correct the problem.
  • Knee and hip muscles are strengthened: By squatting barefoot, the muscles around the knee are strengthened with full freedom of movement. It can relieve chronic back and knee pain in some people and improve posture and mobility in others who have difficulty getting up from a sitting position.
  • Helps you gain confidence by improving your posture: You can better control your weight on your toes or heels when you squat. This allows for a more comfortable position while holding the pose, making it easier to balance on each repetition. So barefoot squats increase the engagement of the foot to stabilize the movement and strengthen its muscles.

Disadvantages of barefoot squats

To protect your feet, you should consider some of the disadvantages of squatting barefoot.

  • If you have flat feet, the barefoot squat is not suitable as it can aggravate plantar fasciitis with repeated impacts. With flat feet, there is no space between the foot and the ground, so there is no shock absorption. So our hips and knees compensate for this shock absorption and take the extra load.
  • For hygiene reasons, some commercial gyms do not support barefoot squats, as your feet may become infected with bacteria or fungi on the gym floor.

Why Can’t I Squat with Running Shoes?

If you squat with running shoes as it will make your feet less sensitive. Our sensory system actually tells us how hard we hit the ground and whether we need to adjust our feet or knees. But wearing running shoes (with wet soles) reduces this feedback, as it dampens the sensation when you squat barefoot or on your heels.

Also, one of the most important things about squatting is keeping the weight in the back foot area. Running shoes usually have a high heel, which moves your center of gravity forward and stabilizes without giving you anything in return. This makes it harder for me to control foot pressure when squatting, which can lead to injuries for some people who have poor muscle control when lifting weights.

How About Squatting in Flat Shoes?

Flat shoes are a great alternative to barefoot squatting, as they provide the same benefits if you have flat feet. Plus, you don’t have to break the bank for flats just to squat. I would recommend Converse sneakers because their soles are stiff (not compressible) and flat. They cost around $50 to $60.

If you don’t have ankle mobility issues, you can go barefoot (with socks) or flats like Chuck Taylors that have excellent grip on the gym floor.

Also, most gyms have rules and regulations about wearing shoes when doing weights or squats rather than barefoot squats because of the risk of heavy objects falling on bare feet. Also, if you don’t want anyone to smell your sweaty socks, you should wear flats.

Why Are the Heels of Weightlifting Shoes Raised?

Squatting Barefoot vs Shoes 2

You might be wondering, weightlifting shoes have raised heels just like running shoes. So why do experienced squatters wear them? Well, the reason weightlifting shoes have higher heels is that they allow you to gain better depth and a more upright torso without pushing your knees further forward. The higher your heel height, the longer your knees will move during squats, snatch, and cleans.

The weightlifting shoe has a rigid heel cup that allows for smooth landing with clean and quick movements compared to regular sneakers. When your heels are raised, you can squat lower with more stability.

Also, if you have limited ankle mobility and can’t do full barbell squats or front squats, heel lift shoes can solve this problem by reducing ankle dorsiflexion and releasing some tension in the hamstrings. If you have enough ankle mobility, a 0.25″ to 0.5″ heel raise is fine.

You might think that weightlifting shoes and running shoes have high heels, so why buy expensive weightlifting shoes? Well, you can get the answer from a comparative study that focused on squat kinematic changes in weightlifting and running shoes.

In this study, it was found that weightlifting shoes offered a greater 38-degree foot angle, while running shoes offered a 35.5-degree segmented angle, as shown in the image below. The reason for the higher foot angle in weightlifting shoes is their rigid and incompressible raised heel. Running shoes also have a raised heel structure. But their soft cushioning sinks the heels and brings them closer to the ground when squatting.

Additionally, weightlifting shoes help reduce torso lean, which reduces shear stress on the lower back.

You might be wondering, weightlifting shoes have raised heels just like running shoes. So why do experienced squatters wear them? Well, the reason weightlifting shoes have higher heels is that they allow you to gain better depth and a more upright torso without pushing your knees further forward. The higher your heel height, the longer your knees will move during squats, snatch, and cleans.

The weightlifting shoe has a rigid heel cup that allows for smooth landing with clean and quick movements compared to regular sneakers. When your heels are raised, you can squat lower with more stability.

Also, if you have limited ankle mobility and can’t do full barbell squats or front squats, heel lift shoes can solve this problem by reducing ankle dorsiflexion and releasing some tension in the hamstrings. If you have enough ankle mobility, a 0.25″ to 0.5″ heel raise is fine.

You might think that weightlifting shoes and running shoes have high heels, so why buy expensive weightlifting shoes? Well, you can get the answer from a comparative study that focused on squat kinematic changes in weightlifting and running shoes.

In this study, it was found that weightlifting shoes offered a greater 38-degree foot angle, while running shoes offered a 35.5-degree segmented angle, as shown in the image below. The reason for the higher foot angle in weightlifting shoes is their rigid and incompressible raised heel. Running shoes also have a raised heel structure. But their soft cushioning sinks the heels and brings them closer to the ground when squatting.

Weight Lifting Shoes vs Flat-Sole Chucks for Squatting

Generally, if you prefer to do low-bar squats with a wider stance, then barefoot or flats like chucks will do just fine. If you’re transitioning from low-bar to high-bar squats, weightlifting shoes are worth the investment.

The rules most lifters follow when choosing squat shoes are:

The general rule is the wider, the flatter. The narrower you are, the higher the heel.

But it’s still up to you whether you want to wear Olympic-style lifting shoes like the Romaleos, Adidas Powerlift, or flats like the Chuck Taylors for low-bar squats. One of the things Olympic shoes provide for any type of squat is stability. I’ve seen people do low-bar squats in medium-width or relatively narrow stances. So you need to test different squats for both flat feet and Oly shoes to see which works for you as it all depends on one’s squat mechanics.

The effective squat technique is that there should be no powerful arms between the balanced midfoot and the actual bar. When the arm is strong, the lift becomes more difficult for you.

For the low bar squat, you need to bend more to minimize the moment arm. Therefore, in the low-bar squat, a wider stance allows you to stay more upright on the squat by reducing the vertical distance between your knees and moment arms. So if you feel stable and comfortable on the low bars and wide stance, you don’t have to spend a fortune on weightlifting shoes.

Also, with a wide foot space, your ankles roll outward, so you’ll need flats to reduce lateral roll. When you wear heel lift shoes in wider squats, your ankles are more likely to roll outward because the vertical distance from the ankle peg point to the floor increases in the lift shoes.

Should I Wear Orthotic Insoles When Squatting?

In many cases yes. If you’ve been diagnosed with a specific foot condition that requires a brace to improve your balance and stability while walking or standing, it’s likely that squat wear will provide similar benefits. If your knee doesn’t follow properly and tends to bend inward, you can wear orthotics, which will further unbalance your squat.

However, if you are new to squats, you must learn how to do them properly before wearing orthotics. Barefoot squats are a must to increase the sensitivity of the foot muscles to ground contact.

If squatting is causing pain, wearing insoles can help relieve squatting, especially if your feet are naturally flexible and flat.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed the article about barefoot squats vs shoes. I hope by the end of this article you have a better idea of ​​when to choose which shoe to squat. Barefoot squats are a great starting point to strengthen the muscles in your feet by feeling the contact between your feet and the ground. After that, you can start squatting in flat shoes (like chucks), which have similar benefits to squatting with bare feet, protecting your feet from germs.

Let’s say you’re not a recreational weight lifter and you’re serious about this workout. In this case, if you want to squat very low with limited ankle mobility, I would recommend buying Olympic weightlifting shoes like the Adidas Powerlift or Romaleos. Weightlifting shoes anchor your foot around the midfoot for improved stability. When you squat in shoes, your feet are supported by the shoes, which allows you to use the muscles in your thighs, hips, and back to support your weight.