Not many people know about deadlift slippers, but they can be highly effective in taking your deadlift training to the next level as well as enable you to comply with powerlifting competitions without hurting your wallet.
In the powerlifting world, deadlifts continue to reign supreme as the king of all lifts. There’s just something about lifting heavy weight off the floor that draws us to the lift. Among the various powerlifting lifts, it is the deadlift in which you can lift the most weight possible. For some people, it will be the squat – but that’s a small minority.
With lifters constantly trying to maximize their numbers on the lift, it only makes sense to try and optimize the deadlift using certain equipment and accessories. Powerlifting suits, belts, knee sleeves, wrist wraps/straps, and powerlifting shoes – you name it. But deadlift slippers? If it’s the first time you’re hearing about deadlift slippers, they come under the category of powerlifting footwear and are a type of deadlift shoes, since they are exclusively used for the deadlift.
What are Deadlift Slippers?
Deadlift slippers are a type of deadlift shoes that are used by competing powerlifters and powerlifting enthusiasts to comply with powerlifting rules as well as optimize their deadlift training.
While they are called “slippers”, deadlift slippers look more like socks. Simply put, they can be likened to socks, with the addition of a thin rubber sole beneath. The idea is to reduce to amount of distance between your feet and the ground. Since your feet produce the pushing force, the nearer they are to the ground, the more optimal it is training-wise. This is why some coaches recommend performing deadlifts barefoot – but this is not always practical and realistically possible especially in competition.
To give you an idea, here’s a video of a perfect sumo deadlift being performed with deadlift slippers on. Notice how the deadlift slippers enable him to get his feet as close to the floor as possible.
The great thing about deadlift slippers is that they’re affordable and enable you to stay compliant to rules without hurting your wallet. There are plenty of options out there, but here are some good ones available on Amazon.
LiftingLarge Powerlifting Deadlift Slippers
This one by LiftingLarge is simple and affordable but does the trick. The sole is extra thin enabling you to get very close to the ground. The good thing about these deadlift slippers is that the top is made of Terry cloth which feels comfortable when you wear them. The sole is made of quality hard rubber as well. You don’t need to worry about legality as it is legal for all kinds of powerlifting competitions and organizations including IPF and USAPL.
LiftingLarge Ground Lock Deadlift Slippers
This pair, while still made by LiftingLarge, is slightly pricier but it may well be worth the additional price. This model has straps over the top to provide extra support. Moreover, LiftingLarge claims that this model is more suitable for sumo deadlifts as compared to the standard one.
Note that both of these are legal for competition and accepted for use by the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF). In addition to these, the deadlift slippers by Titan are also widely known and used in the powerlifting community. There are certainly several options to choose from, you can’t really go wrong with any of them. Try to pick one based on your preferences.
Rationale – Why Deadlift Slippers?
So, here’s the thing. You need deadlift footwear to be able to legally perform the deadlift in most gym situations, powerlifting associations, competitions, and meets. Because deadlift slippers are affordable, they let you comply with these rules without going as far as investing in exclusive deadlift shoes. That said, if you’re in the sport to rank and win, it’s better for you to go all the way and spend some money on high-quality deadlift shoes instead of deadlift slippers.
Competition aside, lifters who perform the deadlift regularly can benefit from deadlift shoes because they’re much better than training shoes, running shoes, or street shoes. These normal shoes are designed for training, running, walking, etc, but not for deadlifting. Because these different kinds of day-to-day shoes usually have a thick sole and soft padding, they do not provide enough rigid support and ankle mobility to the feet. Even Olympic lifting shoes are not always ideal for deadlifts, though they are great for squats. That’s exactly where deadlift footwear comes in. And deadlift slippers make for a good entry option.
In fact, don’t be surprised to add 5 – 10% more weight to your deadlift after making use of deadlift slippers. For many, chuck taylors or even ballerina shoes (at the expense of looking eccentric) may work well, but deadlift slippers can take your training to the next level. It all depends on how seriously you take your training. But if your gym allows you to lift barefoot or in socks, then you don’t need to waste your money on deadlift slippers.
In general, good deadlift shoes and deadlift slippers should have the following characteristics:
- Thin, flat, dense, and hard sole
- Good grip and traction
- Snug, tight fit that feels protective
- Certain amount of side (lateral) support
Usage – Conventional, Sumo or Both?
There’s a debate about whether deadlift slippers can be used for all kinds of deadlifts. For conventional deadlifts, deadlift slippers are especially beneficial. There’s no questioning that. Deadlift slippers minimize the distance between your feet and the floor. They help you get closer to the ground as possible. And this is especially useful in conventional deadlifts. Besides, they enable you to comply with the rules.
For sumo deadlifts, it can be much trickier. Sumo deadlifts require you to place your feet farther apart. This means that in addition to the vertical force, there is an outward pressure applied by the feet. Consequently, deadlift slippers may cause you to lose grip and traction when the feet apply this outward pressure and torque. This may lead to lapses in balance and improper form in general. Worse, you could miss the repetition or injure yourself.
Now, several lifters successfully use deadlift slippers on sumo deadlifts without any problem. The video showcased earlier in the post is a great example. While one factor might be your anatomy, another variable is how well you master your feet position and control during sumo deadlifts. It is best to keep your stance width moderately wide and not too wide. Slightly rotating your feet forward may help with the balance as well. With regular practice, you can reduce unnecessary outward pressure and focus on pushing down more. Some lifters may never reach this point in which case it may be best to stick to deadlift shoes.
In summary, all conventional pullers can use deadlift slippers quite safely. They can be superior to deadlift shoes for the conventional deadlift. For sumo deadlift, deadlift slippers may be used if your form allows it. That is, if your stance is not too wide and your feet point relatively forward to allow for greater balance. But if you can’t achieve this form, stick to deadlift shoes for the sumo deadlift.
Deadlift slippers have a lot going for them. For one, they look sleek and can be moved around easily as compared to shoes which can be rather bulky. In your training sessions, they’re fairly easy to put on and off as well, saving you time to actually concentrate on the lift.
Another obvious advantage is the price point of around $20. Deadlift slippers are the most affordable form of proper deadlift footwear. They can be great for younger lifters or even students who don’t want to shed out too much cash for more expensive options. But even as an entry option, performance is hardly compromised.
Of course, the biggest advantage is hinged on the performance aspect – why you should buy them in the first place. They enable you to comply with the rules and perform the deadlift with peace of mind. Not only do deadlift slippers provide a sufficient amount of ankle mobility, but they also reduce the likelihood of injury. They give you that barefoot feel with a virtually invisible feel of albeit, minimal support. Deadlift slippers are especially good for conventional deadlifts, though they can be used for sumo deadlifts if the lifter is skilled.
Deadlift slippers also have low-key advantages compared to lifting barefoot or with socks. First, deadlift slippers provide more grip and traction compared to lifting in socks or barefoot, without compromising much on the feet-to-floor distance. Second, deadlift slippers eliminate any unwanted compression that could be caused by the meat of your feet directly coming in contact with the floor.
It may be relevant to mention that for many lifters within the powerlifting community, deadlift slippers worked so well for them that they cannot imagine going back to shoes. However, some powerlifters and coaches remain apprehensive about them. There’s a good thread on reddit about this if you want to have a look.
You can’t have it all, can you? One caveat of deadlift slippers is that they can only be used for the sole purpose of well, deadlifting. Do not even bother using them for squats or other lifts. Because of this lack of versatility, forget about wearing them in public as they look silly and are far from being stylish in any way.
In addition, some lifters may come across sizing issues. Deadllift slippers generally come in general sizes (e.g. small, medium, large), so not everyone can enjoy a custom snug fit. Things get worse if you have particularly wide feet, in which case they might not fit as desired. This can defeat the purpose of deadlift slippers, so be wary.
Compared to deadlifting or wrestling shoes, they offer limited support in two ways. First, the thinner sole in deadlift slippers while otherwise ideal, offer less support compared to thick-soled shoes. Second, there is usually no support over the top of your feet.
It is important to emphasize that optimal is not always better. Yes, deadlift slippers enable you to get your feet closer to the ground. Physics tells us that this is the best-case scenario. However, some lifters may primarily require the support and rigidity provided by shoes. This is why you should experiment with what works best for you as the results can be different from lifter to lifter.
Finally, just like other kinds of supplemental powerlifting equipment, deadlift slippers are also an extra investment at the end of the day.
DIY Deadlift Slippers
While this route should be taken at your own risk and is not recommended, you can resort to making your own deadlift slippers if you really don’t have the budget. Do note that DIY deadlift slippers can be used only for training purposes and not for competition or meets.
You’ll basically need a pair of quality thick socks and a thin sole from an old pair of slippers or shoes. Ankle socks or foot socks work best for this. For the sole, make sure it is thin, flat, flexible, and hard. Otherwise, you’ll be defeating the purpose. Stitch or glue the lower surface of the socks to the hard sole and you’re good to go.
Deadlift slippers offer an affordable yet effective way to legally perform the deadlift in various types of situations. They are also great for common lifters who want to take their deadlift training seriously. While they are great for conventional deadlifts, they aren’t always ideal for sumo deadlifts.
Make no mistake, deadlift slippers will add to your numbers but will not necessarily make you stronger in the long run. Don’t be afraid to test and experiment with what works best for you. It is important that you approach your deadlift training from an empirical, practical, and pragmatic standpoint. Even if someone as great as Eddie Hall is successful using a certain technique or cue, it may not work for you.
Overall, deadlift slippers are an excellent addition to your powerlifting toolbox. But if you have the budget, go ahead and invest in high-quality deadlift shoes.