Should You Deadlift Barefoot?

reeves deadlift

Ditch the shoes and socks for Deadlifts?

When you deadlift, especially in a commercial gym, chances are you are wearing a pair of shoes or socks. However, is it better for you to deadlift completely barefoot? While it may sound gross and unsanitary, there are some studies that point to deadlifting barefoot having some good results. 

In this post, we will discuss the pros and cons of deadlifting barefoot and how can help increase balance and reduce tension between you and the ground. However, if you’re a competitive powerlifter you’re required to wear some sort of shoes. We will provide valuable recomendations for your training.

Deadlift Overview

deficit deadlift

It has long been debated whether the deadlift is a leg exercise or back exercise, so which is it? The deadlift is honestly a full body exercise. When you perform a deadlift you use just about every single muscle in your body, which is not something you get with most other movements. You utilize your arms and forearms to hold onto the barbell, your shoulders and traps are used to hold and stabilize the weight, your back and core help keep your entire body stable, and your legs and entire posterior chain act as a lever to lift the weight off of the floor.

On top of that, the deadlift is a basic human movement, it is functional. The deadlift means you are picking up deadweight from a set position. For example, everything from moving a piece of furniture to picking your child up off the floor, you are technically deadlifting. 

As you build solid form deadlifting in the gym, your form for deadlifting in real life will also improve. This means you’ll be less likely to injure yourself now and later down the road when it comes to moving stationary objects.

Steps To Perform The Deadlift

Here’s how to do a conventional barbell deadlift:

  • Stand mid-foot under the barbell. Feet slightly angled outward, hip width apart. Look down – the bar should be over the middle of your feet.
  • Bend over and grab the bar with a shoulder-width grip.
  • Bend your knees until your shins touch the bar.
  • With a neutral spine, lift your chest up and flex your butt.
  • Take a big breath, hold it, and pick the bar up off the ground (It helps to think “drive through your heels”).
  • Continue pressing with your legs and thrusting your hips forward until you are fully standing up.
  • Hold the weight for a second at the top, with locked hips and knees. Then return the weight to the floor by moving your hips back while bending your legs. Rest a second at the bottom and repeat.

Improving your form is one of the fastest ways to increase your deadlift weights. 

Deadlifting Barefoot Overview

So, with proper form comes more weight, and with more weight comes more muscle mass and strength. That being said, where does deadlifting barefoot come into play, and how does it affect your deadlift? 

Believe it or not, a barefooted deadlifting method might actually provide you with a significant advantage. It all comes down to “rooting”, meaning you are establishing a firm connection to the floor during the lift. When your bare feet are pressed against the floor, you are able to learn how to better distribute your weight, and the “push while you pull” concept is very helpful.

Basically, going barefoot will put you physically closer to the floor. This brings the benefits of removing part of the range of motion, though it is a very small bit, and also helps you stabilize your feet better. Some shoes have too much padding, which can really take away from the stability aspect of the movement while you are trying to pull heavy weight.

Why Deadlifting With Shoes is Bad

When it comes to deadlifting with shoes on, there are plenty of reasons that this puts you at a disadvantage. For starters, deadlifting with shoes takes away from the ability to establish a stable base with your feet. Most shoes are not custom fit to everyone’s feet, and many people have different sized feet, meaning their right and their left feet are different sizes and they hardly notice it because it is so small of a difference. 

Even speaking just from the way shoes are made, they are made for the general population. That being said, basic shoes do not give you the same advantages during deadlifting that being barefoot would. Sure, your shoes may be comfortable when you are just walking around, but when you are engaging in a serious lift and need to really pay attention, perhaps going barefoot is ideal.

Cons of Deadlifting Barefoot

As with anything, there are drawbacks. The first drawback of deadlifting barefoot is the transition to doing it. If you are trained to deadlift with shoes on consistently, then transitioning to barefoot may be difficult, and you may not be able to do as much weight at first, but do not let that deter you. 

Another con is risking foot injuries or infections. Not every gym is the cleanest facility in the world, so that being said you should watch your step when deadlifting barefoot. Things like foot fungus can pop up before you know it, and that is not pleasant. There also could be sharp objects on the floors, or worse, the floors can be slippery, and that can cause a load of injuries during your deadlift. 

Deadlifting Shoes

While deadlifting barefoot is what we are advocating for, and deadlifting with regular shoes is not ideal, there are specific weightlifting shoes to help you stabilize yourself and improve your lifts. Weightlifting shoes are generally hard and flat soled shoes with an elevated heel and straps to allow for adjustability as you seek your desired fit. So, what are the best options for deadlifting shoes?

Reebok Legacy Lifter LI Cross Trainer

Reebok Legacy Lifter Li Cross Trainer is a great lifting shoe to provide support for your ankles and low back. Good sizing and a snug fit ensures comfort and versatility.

Reebok Legacy Lifter Li Cross Trainer is a great overall weightlifting shoe for whatever workout comes your way, and that includes a heavy deadlift session. The design includes a textile upper for consistent and comfortable air flow to avoid overheating and provide the best feel. 

The lockdown straps provide for a good all-around fit to match your desired adjustability and the raised heel offers maximum stability. With natural contours, these shoes fit you just right for support and max power with the best position.

Price: $131.18 – $340.42

Deadlifting Barefoot Wrap Up


Overall, deadlifts are a fantastic exercise that work your entire body. When it comes to form, you can make some major improvements by deadlifting barefoot. While it will take a bit to get adjusted, deadlifting barefoot allows you to establish a base much more than you would be able to with regular shoes. There are also deadlift shoes made specifically for that exercise. 

Do you deadlift barefoot?

Let us know what you think in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

Dylan Wolf
I work mainly in content writing, focusing my free time on bodybuilding and strength sports. I was introduced to fitness in high school and after watching Generation Iron movies. I love to train. I have competed multiple times, even winning a junior title in classic physique. I have a bachelor's in criminal justice and business obtained through Alvernia University. When I am not focused on work or training, I enjoy watching films or reading about anything and everything.