Squatting Without Shoes – Worth it?

By | July 27, 2021

It might surprise you… Ken Waller squatting barefoot

Squatting without shoes is an interesting approach to the squat.

It’s been done for decades by various lifters, so is it good?

It takes away all the factors of a shoe and directly connects you with the ground.

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.

You don’t want to load up the 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.
  • Improved balance
  • Core strength / hitting unusual muscles

First off, when you squat barefoot you take away any shoe sole that is between you and the ground. This is a huge plus when you don’t have real lifting shoes yet.

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.

Don’t lose your balance in the middle of a crowded 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’s 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.

Lastly, nobody wants to smell your feet in the gym. Seriously. Consider it common courtesy to your fellow gym goers by sparing them that awful 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 the force on it.

The wider surface area 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.

View weightlifting shoes on Amazon


The importance of having a good pair of weightlifting shoes makes more sense for a real work out.

Squatting barefoot feels good, but the limitations of it are very apparent once you haAdidas Power Lift 2 Squatting Shoesve 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 3’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.

You never know what you might get out of trying it!

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments