Product Reviews

Which Is Better For Squats, Flat Shoes Or Heeled Shoes?

November 5th 2019

Depending on what type of squat exercises you routinely execute, and your personal fitness goals, it is essential to invest in the right shoe to maximize your results. There are many different variations of shoe types that exist. Each individual will need to be cognizant of their own specific needs. Everything from foot type, high versus low arch, to body type, height versus weight, can play a significant factor in choosing a pair of shoes. If the focus is only on targeting these muscle groups in varying ways, the simple solution is to choose a shoe with a heel that serves these specific needs. Discovering the right shoe can make the difference you have been looking for. 

Flat vs heeled shoes

Heeled shoes provide less stress on your ankles to perform a full range squat.  For beginner lifters, it does not matter what shoes you choose since there are more important things to focus on such as picking a training program and doing solid reps of compound exercises.

Before We Dive Deep Into Recommendation...

The squat exercise is a closed kinetic chain exercise that focuses primarily on the muscles involving hip and knee extension and ankle plantar flexion. Generally, a squat is performed within the confines of a safety rack with an Olympic style barbell resting on the trapezius muscles of the shoulders and neck. Different variations of a squat exercise exist in order to slightly change the focus of the specific muscles targeted with the exercise. An example of this is the comparison of the position of the barbell in relation to an individual’s shoulders during the performance of a “high-bar squat” or a “low-bar squat.”

During both exercises, the barbell will be resting on the trapezius muscles of the shoulders. The difference is in the scapular position of the shoulders. For the “low-bar squat,” the scapulae are in more of a retracted position with the barbell resting towards the lower portion of the trapezius muscles. This retracted scapular position will force the individual to have a slightly wider grip on the bar for stability. 

Low-Bar Squat

By loading the weight of the exercise in a lower position on the shoulders, an individual will typically have more flexion around the back and hips, causing more of a forward lean. This slight lean may not seem like much, but under the weight of the barbell, it will cause an increased load on the muscles of the back and posterior leg muscles involved primarily in hip extension. So if an individual’s goal is to focus on building these muscles of the posterior leg and butt, such as the biceps femoris, gluteus maximus, or gluteus medius, the “low-bar squat” can be a beneficial variation on the exercise.

High-Bar Squat

In contrast, during the “high-bar squat,” the scapulae are in more of a neutral position with the bar resting on the upper portion of the trapezius above the scapulae. This barbell position will create a linear movement throughout the exercise that translates to less flexion around the hips and more focus on the muscles in the anterior compartment of the leg used for knee extension. So, if an individual’s goal is to focus on building the muscles of the anterior leg, such as the quadriceps muscle group, the “high-bar squat” can be a beneficial variation on the exercise.

As always, it should be noted that the muscular involvement of all the usual associated muscle groups involved in a squat exercise. The difference here is the variation of the exercise, which causes an increased or decreased load on the muscle groups being targeted. These variations can be helpful for a variety of different reasons. Particular focus on weak areas of the lift or a need to reduce stress on a muscle group due to injury during rehabilitation are just a few different possibilities.

What Is Important To Consider?

Ankle Position During The Squat

If you want to squat deep, your body will demand a greater range for ankle dorsiflexion. In other words, you will need more flexible ankles in order to complete a deeper squat.

This is one reason why Olympic weightlifters use heeled shoes during their sport; it is one less factor to worry about but can provide a huge boost with stability in training and competition. Your ankles will not need to dorsiflex the typical range since the heels alleviate some of this pressure by allowing you to stand and sit without demanding a certain range.

High Bar Vs Low Bar Squats

As discussed briefly above, there are some mechanical differences when performing the high bar and low bar squats. Usually, the generic advice would be to use heeled shoes for high bar squats and use flat shoes for low bar squats. 

However, for a beginner lifter, this would be out of the scope of your lifting knowledge for now. This is not to say it is not important but you have far more important responsibilities as a beginner lifter to learn about  - getting in solid reps during training, getting on a program, performing compound movements, etc. 

Discussing the factors about limb lengths, hip mobility, hip anatomy, height, stance width, etc. can all impact the amount of dorsiflexion you can exert while doing a regular squat. 

So, the best thing to do as a beginner is to find a good pair of lifting shoes, whether it is heeled or flat. Access whether or not you want to continue working on your ankle dorsiflexion and just commit to a decision. I can guarantee you that time will be better spent if you focus on getting your program ready rather than the type of shoes you are wearing. 

If you are that thrown off by it, would squatting barefoot throw you off as well? What about deadlifting barefoot?

Heeled Powerlifting Shoes 

During the ordinary course of movement of a squat exercise, the feet are flat on the ground, which will cause a decreased ROM through plantarflexion at the ankle. An individual can easily change this by placing a stable object behind only the heels. Another way to alter this ROM is by changing the type of shoes the lifter wears.

Nordic Lifting Powerlifting Shoe

The Nordic Powerlifting Squat Shoe is ideal for heavy weightlifting that can maximize your performance. Nordic is a premium brand that offers a budget-friendly price. They provide Olympic stability to ensure proper foot support. This squat show enhances your work out and provides for superior lifting gains. They also improve posture, which is especially ideal for powerlifters. 

The Nordic Powerlifting Shoe can also withstand an immense amount of pressure having reviewers raving about the quality of the shoe despite the workouts they have put them through. Since these shoes improve stability, they work to prevent the feet from rolling to the outside during a heavy squat. Nordic also provides a warranty, so should any issues arise, past customers have boasted on the company’s customer service and willingness to resolve the issue. 

This Nordic shoe has a higher heel making it the model shoe for powerlifting, squat, and Olympic lifting. Some reviewers have noted that the heel may be a little too high for a deadlift. Overall, this shoe has an excellent reputation along with a fair price point in comparison to other weightlifting shoes on the market.   

Inov-8 Heeled Lifting Shoe

The Inov-8 Fastlift Shoe is one of the most popular heeled weightlifting shoes on the market. This squat shoe is lightweight with a heel for support. This shoe is ideal for beginners as it has a lower heel than other shoes. This shoe also has two BOA lockdown straps allowing the lifter to adjust the fit of the shoe to their preference.

Inov-8 Lifting Women’s Fastlift 400 BOA

The Inov-8 Fastlife 400 BOA shoe is a popular choice among women powerlifters. The shoe is lightweight and provides a great fit for wider feet. The heel provides great stability and ensures that the lifter gets the most out of their squats. They decrease the chance of injury due to their durable quality. The straps allow for a more customized fit to enhance the lifter’s workout. 

Flat Shoe and Neutral Alignment 

In contrast, a flat shoe, such as a Converse Chuck Taylor or Nike free will force the ankle to be in a more neutral alignment, thereby reducing the ROM of plantar flexion somewhat.


In summary, many different possible configurations can be used to accomplish each individual’s personal goals. A careful analysis of all the variables, along with intelligent implementation, can assist any motivated person in a beneficial manner.

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