For a sport that's often portrayed as "hardcore" and perceived as hypermasculine, it's ironic how big of a role powerlifting apparel and gear seems to have in our sport.

Specifically, I'm talking about shoes. I can't even count the numerous conversations I've had or overheard discussing the brand, type, or style powerlifter's prefer for each of their lifts. It's a funny thought, but it occurred to me that many of these conversations had a similar feel and tone to conversations I've overhead many of my female friends have in regards to their choice of heels, flats, wedges (and any of the other types out there that I'm simply & happily ignorant to).

So let's talk about heels and flats in powerlifting.

When I first started powerlifting, one of the first "rules" I learned is that we squat in heels ("squat" shoes, aka "olympic weightlifting shoes"). There was simply no other way to squat! So, I adhered to this sacred rule and didn't question it until fairly recently.

The day I tried squatting in flats, I prepared for the worst. I ventured off from the righteous path of squatting in heels, because it simply didn't seem to be working for me. I tried and I tried, and I've actually squatted most of my PR's in "squat shoes". However, I always felt very disconnected from the floor-- not "planted"/grounded, and therefore not stable. I would squat down and it almost felt like I was just hoping for the best-- hoping the heel was gonna do what I needed it to do and give me drive off the floor.

I've been experimenting using flat soled shoes (the reebok converse looking ones from Mark Bell, they were given to the organization I run for free so it was a very low-cost trial for me). While I haven't matched my best squat in them (yet), I feel as though I'm able to feel my glutes and hamstrings in a way that I simply couldn't (or just wasn't technically sound enough to) in shoes with heels.

Some people swear the only way to squat is in flats, and some swear the only way to squat is in heels. I know that it will always depend on the person, but I'm very curious to see how this experiment will unfold as I get back to some of old numbers (coming back from injury, etc. is clearly another factor).


I also want to hear about others experiences, who have either transitioned from flat ---> heels, or vice versa. Are there any documented findings reporting the benefits of one to the other? Or injury rates/wear and tear from using one or the other?

Ultimately, I have no idea-- and maybe there isn't an answer. But I find it to be an interesting phenomenon, the two (sometimes) dogamtic camps.

What do you prefer, and why? Was it through self-experimentation? Or were you indoctrinated by one of the camps earlier on?

I think we should always take a step back and evaluate why we do what we do, or why we believe, because if there's not a clear answer-- I think we should take it upon ourselves to find and discover our own reasons and conclusions that have led us to where we are.