Deadlift With or Without Shoes?

The question of whether you should deadlift barefoot or not has been the subject of some debate over the years. While on the one hand deadlifting barefoot has proven benefits to your strength and lifting capabilities, one does wonder if the said benefits are worth it.

It is important to remember that while the improvement you see in your strength may be minor; going barefoot has many other benefits that tend to go unnoticed. On the other, it is also entirely possible that it just doesn’t feel right to you. Regardless, it’s worth looking into.

The Problem with Cross-Trainers

With the growth of consumer culture, it can be easy to fall into the trap of assuming that you can’t be fit until you own that shiny pair of the trainers by that top global manufacturer. When it comes to deadlifts, in particular, the problem runs even deeper.

With cross-trainers or deadlifting shoes, you get a soft heel that provides an extra 1 or 1.5 inch of elevation. Meanwhile, even an amateur will know that a good deadlift starts with pushing your feet into the ground to generate momentum. However, the sole of your trainer absorbs part of the force you are driving into the ground. It can cause you to perform below your real potential, and thus limit your gains.

Deadlift With or Without Shoes

How You Can Lift More Weight

Of course, the logical answer to that is, with consistent training over time. But you can also lift more by merely minimizing your energy wastage. Think about it. If you apply enough force to lift 20 lbs, why is it that you can only go up to 15?

That is where deadlifting barefoot come in. By ditching those trainers, you will be able to use that extra bit of force that was previously being wasted in squishing their sole. Now all of the force you apply with your legs will be pushed directly into the ground, and actually, translate into your lift.

Ensure Stability by Keeping You Weight on Your Heels and Back

The raised heels also increase the chances of your overall posture being angled forward, which can shift your center of gravity and cause lesser activation of the back muscles. If you want to make the best of each repetition, even something as small as this can make all the difference.

With your heels now working as your foundation instead of the balls of your feet, you will have a straighter posture. It will make it easier to activate the back muscles when you bring your gluts in for the final pull. Moreover, it will eliminate any possibility of imbalanced loading of the back muscles and the core.

Minimize Anterior Tilt

An anterior tilt in simple words is when your pelvis rotates and drops forward such that it points downwards, instead of forward, making your hips jut out. Even though this is a highly unfavorable position to be in, it is also your body’s way of maintaining balance when your ankles are elevated.

However, the most significant downside of an anterior tilt is that it curtails your core, lower back, and glute strength. If you are deadlifting in high-heeled trainers, there is a chance that it causes a minor anterior tilt, that limit your core activation, while also increasing the chances of added strain on the lower back.

A Better Work Out for Your Legs

You might have found that the deadlift is as much of an exercise for your leg as it is for your back. As such, the posterior chain, which primarily comprised of the muscles at the back of your body, plays a pivotal role in a good deadlift.

While going barefoot is excellent for the entire posterior chain as a whole, it does wonders for the gluts and hamstrings in particular. As you drive your ankles into the ground, you will realize that you can now achieve much more tension in the gluts and hamstrings, both when lifting and going back down.

Deadlift With or Without Shoes 1

Get Stronger Ankles and Calves

Once again, the simple act of having shifting your weight back to achieve a more balanced posture is what will make the difference here. In addition to eliminating the energy wastage, deadlifting barefoot also helps ensure more strength by helping you activate your muscle more effectively.

The feet and ankles are no different. You can try this yourself.  Perform one squat with elevated ankles and another with your ankles on the floor. You should immediately feel the superior activation of the calves and hamstrings during the latter. The same logic applies to deadlifting barefoot. Over time, you will also feel your ankles becoming much stronger.

Sensory input

Even though this one is more of a matter of choice and preference, many would agree that lifting barefoot, feels better. You have a better connection with the ground, which allows you to shift into a more stable footing.

Working out barefoot can also help in engaging more muscles. Others argue that evolutionary biology has caused a large number of nerve endings to develop in our feet, which help us sense our surroundings better. Regardless, you can’t deny that working barefoot heightens sensory input, which can help our brains develop a better sense of balance.

Know Where to Draw the Line

Deadlifts should be executed barefoot because they require maximum strength and stability. Performing other exercises with bare feet may or may or not be as useful. As such, it is essential to not go overboard with barefoot workouts.

For example, doing high impact cardio with bare feet is like asking for trouble. Deadlifts do not incur direct impact on your feet like a burpee or jumping jack would. Such exercises can not only cause unnecessary strain on your feet. After all, the whole reason training and running shoes are soft is so that they can absorb the impact that your joints would otherwise have to.

Remember to Check with Your Gym First

Before you decide to start deadlifting barefoot, remember to check whether it is allowed in your gym or not. Many gyms prohibit barefoot workout for hygienic reasons. The floors are after all dirty, and your sweaty feet are socks are not going to make it any better.

Conclusion

It is best always to keep switching things up in the gym. Not only does keep you on edge, but it also prevents you from falling into the trap of complacency. With that in mind, adopting the habit of deadlifting barefoot can be a massive shock for your system. If that’s not your cup of tea, merely remember that deadlifting barefoot is downright better. It allows the deadlift to serve as complete exercise. That on its own should be enough for you to at least consider giving it a try.

References:

https://www.t-nation.com/training/tip-deadlift-barefoot-heres-why