Squatting without shoes is an interesting approach to the squat. It takes away all the factors of a shoe and directly connects you with the ground. But does that make it a good thing, and is it worth doing? That’s a good question. In this article I will tell you the pros and cons of squatting barefoot, and you can decide whether it’s something to try for you or not.
That being said, listen to your body when you do this. If you lack balance, or feel any pain STOP immediately. This goes for any lift, but is something you should keep in mind if you are switching things up and doing something you aren’t used to.
You don’t want to load up your normal squatting weight that you’re used to doing in a raised heel from the get go. Take your time seeing how things feel and being aware of your form. Working out should never be painful, it should always be enjoyable and safe.
Pros of squatting barefoot:
- No interference from shoes.
First off, when you squat barefoot you take away any shoe sole that is between you and the ground. If you were previously squatting in running shoes, those squishy soles are no longer impeding your connection to drive from your feet. There’s something very freeing about that feeling.
You don’t have to pay a dime to squat barefoot. I’ve only done it a few times, myself. Mainly out of curiosity than anything else, but why not? If I didn’t have my real squat shoes then I did the next best thing available!
If your ankle mobility is good then you’re essentially doing a very pure form of squat that would be similar to wearing a flat soled shoe. However, if you do not have the mobility for it then it could lead to you leaning on the ball of your foot and not pushing from your heels. That could cause you to lose your balance as well, which no one wants to do in a busy gym. Make sure you are at least going to parallel when you squat, even if you have to lower the weight you are using.
- Lack of stability / support
- Gym policy violation
- No one wants to smell your feet (seriously)
When you have a lot of weight on the bar, you want the best footing absolutely possible. You don’t want to trip with any amount of weight on your back, and that’s more likely to happen barefoot than wearing a pair of shoes.
Possibly more important than that, is the support that squatting shoes will offer. The higher the weight you are using, the more important your foot has proper support for it.
No one is going to yell at you for squatting without shoes if you do it occasionally, but if you do it every time you squat then someone is going to notice, it’s just a matter of time. It is also worth considering that you could drop a weight on your foot which even a basic shoe will help shield a LITTLE. Anything is better than just being barefoot if that were to happen.
Nobody wants to smell your feet in the gym. Seriously. Consider it common courtesy to your fellow gym goers by sparing them that awful, potent odor that most if not all people have. I know my feet don’t smell good by the time I get to the gym after work, so I definitely would not want to subject even myself to that funk. Think about slipping your feet back into your shoes in between sets to minimize this effect.
So why not try squatting barefoot?
It’s really just something different to try out in my opinion. You’ll get a good idea of how flexible your ankles are and if you need to improve that, and also have some fun. Which having a good time in the gym is important. When I first started lifting I occasionally wouldn’t have the right pair of shoes on me so I would just take them off for squats. It was better than squatting with a squishy sole.
And if you do decide to try it, consider using a lower amount of weight compared to what you might normally do to make sure everything feels right. Especially if you use higher weights, which I do not recommend for this. The human foot wasn’t designed to compensate for 300 pounds + your body weight going up and down exerting force on it. The wider surface are of a shoe sole helps so much in spreading the weight on your foot, and also supporting the arches of your feet. I highly recommend getting a pair of lifting shoes.
The importance of having a good pair of weightlifting shoes makes more sense for a real work out. It feels good, but the limitations of it are very apparent once you have tried it. You can’t really do anything else while you work out without shoes which makes it also a little bit silly. You’d be chained to the squat rack before you could go anywhere else!
And hopefully by now you aren’t considering squatting without a pair. I’m a firm believer in investing in what will help keep me in good shape and will be used regularly. Weightlifting shoes are not a gimmick, but a necessary part of what I use in the gym. By far one of the best lifting related purchases I’ve made, if not the best. If you are looking for a shoe that is less than a hundred dollars and performs excellently, I highly recommend the Adidas Powerlift 2’s. You can check out my review here for more information, but they are the first pair of shoes I bought for the gym and I still use them to this day.
Hopefully this article was informative and you learned a thing or two. It’s always fun to give new things a try in the gym, or just to be aware that you CAN do it if you feel like it or find yourself without your pair of shoes in hand. You never know what you might get out of trying something new.