Olympic Shoes or Chucks for Squats?

Interesting article on which type of shoe makes a difference in squatting by Justin Kompf at T Nation.

Here’s what you need to know…

  Heel lifts help you stay more upright during the squat and prevent a valgus collapse caused by imbalances in the lower body musculature.

  Olympic shoes could help you early on in your squatting career, but they could hinder performance later.

  The majority of record-holding powerlifters don’t wear Olympic shoes.

  If you have a quad dominant squat with a narrow stance, or have hypertrophy-oriented goals, Olympic squat shoes may be right for you.

  If you have a hip dominant squat with a medium to wide stance and strength-oriented goals, Chuck Taylors may be your best choice.


As an undergrad and squat newbie, I struggled to reach 300 pounds. Having long legs, a short torso, and long arms, I was built to deadlift. By the end of my senior year I’d pulled 500 pounds but was still sorely behind on my squat. That summer a strength and conditioning coach gave me his old Olympic lifting shoes. My squat jumped 20 pounds as I was no longer turning the squat into a good morning. I continued to squat with Olympic shoes for a year before returning to wearing Chuck Taylors. After taking my Olympic squat shoes off and switching back to Chucks, the squat got easier. What the heck happened?

The proposed benefit behind using the squat shoe is that it allows the torso to stay in a more upright position, which reduces the shear stress in the lumbar spine while also increasing the engagement of the quadriceps muscles. Clearly, heel lifts helped me stay more upright during the squat and they help plenty of lifters by preventing a valgus collapse that may be caused by imbalances in the lower body musculature, but will they help a more advanced lifter squat more weight?

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