3 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Squat In Running Shoes

Posted by Robert King on

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By Robert King

I see this all the time, and I must admit I was guilty of it myself during my first few years of training.

It’s very simple: When possible don’t squat in running shoes.

Running shoes are meant for running, not squatting.

Let me turn this in a different way. 

How would you feel if you had to do bench press, or military press wearing oven mitts?

Think of your feet/toes like hands/fingers because they are.

Watch the video below and you will get a better understanding.

Now let’s go over why running shoes are a poor choice when it comes to lifting weights especially with squats.

3 Reasons Why Shouldn’t You Squat in Running Shoes

  1. Shock Absorption: The sole of a running shoe typically has padding and a shock absorber. This design is meant to absorb impact, which you don’t want when squatting. The squatting motion requires a solid and stable base.

    When you squat you want stable foot pressure with a tripod foot pushing hard into the floor. A shock absorbing pad in your shoes will mess this up.  This is very important.

  1. Padded Heel: Like the point above, a padded heel in a running shoe will cause you to lose strength and power during the squat. You need a firm, unyielding surface to push against.

    An elevated heel may work well for some people squatting, but you do not want any padding, especially in the heel/midfoot as this is where the foot pressure of the squat should be directed. Padding absorbs force, we do not want this in squats.

    While some people prefer elevated heel shoes or flat shoes when squatting if your heel is elevated and padded this makes things way worse.


  1. Stability: Running shoes have a bit of give when moving side to side. You do not want this feature when squatting. The more stable and solid a surface the better.

    When squatting you want maximum foot contact with the floor (foot pressure) and you want minimal to no play in your footwear.  You want stability in your foot and footwear, not footwear that has a lot of give.  A strong stable platform for your feet is essential when squatting.

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What should you wear on your feet when squatting?

I could go pretty deep into this topic alone, but for the most part here is what I recommend for most women.

Start with some barefoot squats.

One of the most neglected areas for most women when it comes to lifting weights is lack of ankle and foot strength.  I think women and footwear play a huge role in this, which is why I try to start almost all my students I train to start barefoot as a base and go from there.

When possible squat barefoot (total barefoot or socks).  This is a great start as it’s important to learn to use your feet, toes, arch, ankles to create a strong and solid base for your squats.

Even as you progress over time I still recommend doing your first couple of sets of squats barefoot to make contact with feet and ground (stability and foot pressure) for proprioception and also mind/muscle connection

Once you free up your feet/toes and learn proper foot pressure and 3 points of foot contact (Big Toe, Pinky Toe, Heel) and learn to create an arch properly then we can look at other options for footwear when squatting.

This is literally a game-changer for most women when they learn and do this.


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What do I recommend for women and footwear when squatting?

It's pretty simple actually.

1. Start with barefoot training if possible (do not neglect this).

2. Play around with elevating your heels with a wedge or small plate.  For anyone with tight ankles this can be a game changer.  You may prefer flat or heel elevation depending on anatomy, levers, stability, mobility, and more

3. Squat with heels elevated and in flat minimalist footwear and try to decide what feels better.  If you look at most female powerlifters almost all wear squat shoes as it generally can help with squat depth and restricted ankles, but elevated heels isn’t for everyone so it’s important to try both.

For most women a good general purpose lifting cross trainer will do.  Go with something that has no thick sole or heel elevation, you can use it then for ALL your training.

After a while you may want to consider investing in a good set of squat shoes.  They are designed for squats, and they will literally last you forever.  I have had my squat shoes now for 12 years and they are perfect, and they get used a lot.

But the most important thing is to ditch your running shoes when squatting, focusing on improving your feet and foot pressure, and then get a quality minimalist shoe with no padding and no thick soft sole.

Once you understand this and do it you will never want to look back at squatting in running shoes again.

- Coach Rob

BTW if you are looking for a great footwear for squats and deadlifts check out our WWLW Training Shoes.

Flat soles, wide toe box, ankle support, super comfy and oh so beautiful. 

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