Squatting – Flat vs. Raised Heel

Squatting – Flat vs. Raised Heel

     Many lifters believe that a squat shoe with a raised heel is only for a lifter who has issues with their ankle range of motion or a lifter who wants to be more upright. If you are a wide stance squatter or a squatter who likes to sit back with minimal knee travel, then they proclaim that flat shoes are the way to go. In the picture above, we have the same lifter with the same limb lengths in 3 different positions.

Position 1 is if the lifter were to use a flat shoe and have their shins and torso pretty close to parallel. The knee is slightly past the toe and the hip joint is about twice as far from the mid foot as the knee joint. This is a pretty typical squat, one you may see a diagram of in a text book.

Position 2 is if the same lifter were to use a squat shoe with a ¾” raised heel and allow their knees to track forward more. The knee is now considerably past the toe and the hip joint and knee joint are about equal distance apart from the mid foot. This is typically called an “Olympic” squat as this is the style used by Olympic Weightlifters when training their squat to build their snatch and clean and jerk. You will see some powerlifters squat like this as well.

Position 3 is if the same lifter were to use a squat shoe with a ¾” raised heel but sit back more and minimize forward knee travel. The knee is slightly behind the toe and the hip joint is about 3 times as far from the mid foot as the knee joint. This is typically called a “powerlifting” squat or “low bar” squat.

As you can see, even with the raised heel, the lifter can achieve various positions depending on how they would like to squat. Position 2 will allow the lifter to turn the squat into a more knee dominant movement and place a larger load on the quadriceps. Position 3 will allow the lifter to turn the squat into a more hip dominant movement and place a larger load on the hamstrings, glutes and lower back.

There are many things to consider when choosing what type of shoe to wear for the squat. But you will notice that many IPF competitors will wear a shoe with some level of a raised heel regardless of their weight class or squatting style. Even outside the IPF, you will see wide stance squatters like Dan Green wearing a shoe with a raised heel. Hopefully this gives insight into some of the advantages of wearing a shoe with a raised heel. And if you are a lifter who wears flat shoes because you sit back into the squat and minimize forward knee travel, then maybe you’ll want to give a shoe with a raised heel a shot.

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Arian Khamesi
Head Coach at Squats & Science
Arian is the Squats & Science Head Coach. He has built himself the reputation of being one of the brightest up-and-coming powerlifting coaches in the country. He has done attempt selection and meet handling for a who's who of the best lifters in the US, and has earned the honor of coaching the 2016-2018 Junior and Sub-Junior national teams at IPF Classic Worlds.
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