Deadlifting In Socks vs Barefoot (What’s the difference?)


I own a lot of deadlifting socks. I have purchased just about every pair available in stores like SBD, CEP Compression, and PRO Compression. Yes, I have an addiction, but I also do it because it helps me to gain a biomechanical advantage.

Today I will explain why people wear socks while deadlifting and clarify what are the benefits.

In general, people wear socks while deadlifting because it reduces the distance to the floor, and shortens the range of motion. Lifting weights in socks also change biomechanics and helps to better engage the posterior chain muscles (glutes and hamstrings).

Here you have my overall answer, but below I’ll give more detail about what’s the point of deadlift socks and provide scientific proof on why lifting weights in socks helps with your posture.

What Are Deadlift Socks And How Do They Work?

If you train in the gym regularly, chances are you’ve seen people squatting and deadlifting in socks without wearing any type of footwear.

Deadlifting socks (or deadlifting stockings) are knee-high socks that are designed to prevent the barbell from scraping the shin and scratching the skin. They also gently squeeze legs a bit more than typical socks, which helps to improve blood circulation.

I generally prefer to lift without shoes because it helps to feel the lift

According to the strength and conditioning research, lifting unshod (socks only or barefoot) provides a stable platform and force transfer from the ground to the bar. For me, it just feels more natural when I perform the lift.

I feel like I have much better balance because training in socks shifts my weight towards the back, which helps to engage the glutes and hammies better.

Is it safe to deadlift in socks?

In general, it is safe to deadlift in socks, as long as you have strong body awareness and you won’t drop the weight directly on your toes. Dropping something heavy on your foot is a common cause of fractures and can result in foot injury and stop you from working out for weeks or months.

You also have to be mindful of your surroundings. Just because you don’t drop the weight on your toes it does not means that others won’t do it accidentally.

Deadlifting In Socks vs Shoes

There is a great debate shoes vs socks in the strength and conditioning world. On the one side, you have people who say that weightlifting shoes help to generate more power and allow to lift heavier weights.

On the other side, you have people who say that going barefoot is better for your biomechanics and foot health.

For example, Rudy Meir, Ph.D., a professor from the Southern Cross University in Melbourne said that deadlifting at 60% of 1RM in socks was better than in shoes. However, for the deadlifting of 80% 1RM was the other way around.

Dr. Meir also pointed out that deadlifting in socks had a higher rate of force development, but deadlifting in shoes was more effective in improving time to peak force.

As you can see, it’s complicated. To be frank, I wouldn’t make my decision to deadlift with or without shoes based on research, but on the matter of personal preferences.

Should you wear shoes or socks when deadlifting?

People who want to get better peak strength and lift more weights should wear shoes when deadlifting. However, people who want to work on their balance, improve foot mechanics, and improve the range of motion in their foot and ankle joints, should be wearing socks.

Apart from foot biomechanics, wearing socks while lifting weights helps to reduce the formation of bunions, hammertoes, or other foot problems.

Why Do I Deadlift In Socks?

One of the biggest reasons why I deadlift in socks is because I work hard to get rid of my bunions. In the picture below, you can see that my big toe on the right foot is shifted to the side more, compared to the left one.

Lifting weights in socks helps me to combat bunions and calluses

I’ve been wearing improperly fitted shoes for many years when I was growing up. This made my toes clench and shift my big toes to the side. After visiting my physiotherapist, he gave me a laundry list of things to do. One of them was to lift weights in socks.

Another reason why I like to deadlift in socks (without shoes) or wear minimalistic footwear is that it helps with my lifting position. I feel like I put more pressure on my posterior chain muscles, instead of my quads.

Does lifting in socks really helps?

Deadlifting in socks really changed my life because it improved my foot mechanics, which then translated into better mobility in the knee and hip. I know it may sound strange, but not wearing shoes in the gym also helped me with foot stability and balance.

Nicholas B. Holowka, Ph.D., a professor from Harvard University, explained that people who habitually wear minimal footwear have a longitudinal arch that is stiffer both statically and dynamically than those who habitually wear conventional modern shoes.

The use of shoes with built-in features like arch supports, toe boxes, or elevated heels restrict foot motion and is associated with weaker foot muscles and reduced foot stiffness, Dr. Holowka added.

What Are The Benefits Of Deadlifting In Socks?

Overall, deadlifting socks are worth it because they keep your feet protected from any splinters or scratches. Plus, it helps to keep your feet clean from dirt and bacteria that can accumulate on the gym floors.

Walking without socks in the gym is not that different than showering at the gym without shower shoes. It’s just gross.

Here are the benefits of deadlifting in socks.

Wearing socks absorb moisture

Lifting weights in socks helps to absorb sweat and moisture, which helps to reduce the risk of slips, trips, and falls, especially when the floor is wet. Cleaning the gym floor often happens multiple times per day. Not wearing socks is a major trip hazard.

Accidents from trips are very common in the gym, even among the people who wear shoes. Most athletic shoes come with a synthetic rubber sole, which provides better grip and traction. However, if you don’t wear socks, the chances for trip and losing balance go up, not down.

Deadlifting in socks reduces bad smell

Smelly feet is no joke. People’s feet can develop odor and smell bad because of the build-up of sweat and bacteria. The amount you sweat can be affected by things like hot weather, excess weight, medications, and so on.

Plus, some studies have shown that people who exercise without any socks have a 22% greater foot sweat production, compared to people who train with their shoes on.

My point is that nobody wants to smell anyone’s stinky feet. For god’s sake, if you choose to train barefoot, train with your socks.

Socks Protect Your Shins

You wanna know how to stop your shins from hurting when I deadlift? Wear deadlifting socks. Most of the deadlifting socks are knee-high, which means they cover the whole lower leg up to the knee.

This is really important for powerlifters and Olympic lifters because you don’t want the bar to scratch your skin.

Wearing socks while deadlifting that have a tight-knit fabric helps to reduce the drag and protects the shin during pulling movements.

Learn more: Click here to learn more about “how to get to 4 plate deadlift

Deadlifting In Socks Gives You Extra Compression

Deadlifting in socks is much better than going completely barefoot because of the extra compression that helps with better ankle stiffness. Plus, the full-length deadlifting socks are designed to stabilize, support, and stimulate pressure around your calf as well as with your foot.

Technically, you could use just regular long socks that cover the shin and call it a day. However, I prefer to use deadlifting socks with some level of stiffness and compression.

Are Compression Socks Good For Deadlifting?

In general, compression socks are good for deadlifting because they are light, easy to use, and they increase tissue oxygen “saturation” or “congestion” by an increase of pressure. Higher oxygenation means better delivery of oxygen to the muscles and less lactic acid build-up.

How tight should be your deadlifting socks? Well, it depends.

I like to do deadlifts in my socks that have a medium compression (around 15 to 20 mmHg). Wearing compression not only helps to improve the flow of blood from the periphery (outside of the heart) back to the right atrium (inside of your heart).

Plus, I also feel like my legs are less tired during the workout, as well as later on during the day. Compression socks significantly improve the post-recovery time, while decreasing muscle fatigue and soreness.

Learn more: Click here to learn more about “how to do deadlifts at the planet fitness

Conclusion

I’ve been deadlifting in socks for over 2 years now and I don’t go back. It helps me feel more grounded, I have better foot and ankle mobility and I feel less DOMS after my workout.

Wearing socks is better than going barefoot because it gives better control of your foot when standing on the ground. Some socks from CEP compression don’t slip and their proven blend of materials prevents blisters.

I like to use compression socks for the gym, but you can use any knee-high socks, as long as they feel tight and have a good layer of protection at the front.

Michal Sieroslawski

Michal is an exercise physiologist (MSc), nutrition coach, Ashtanga teacher, and fitness blogger. He shares his successes and failures to help busy men and women squash down 20, 50, or even 100 pounds of fat without leaving their home.

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