Using Flat Shoes To Fix A Forward Weight Bias In The Squat
I wrote an extensive article on pwerliftingtechnique.com regarding the variables at play in the decision of choosing heeled vs. flat shoes for squatting. CLICK HERE for those who want to check it out, but in this post I want to make a situational addition to that argument on whether someone should choose heeled vs. flat shoes. For @thejackedmclovin, many of the variables that would lend itself to a lifter needing heeled shoes is present. He is a tall lifter, long legs, average ankle mobility, and an average stance width. For a long time heels have suited him well, as most of the checkmarks for reasons to use a heeled squat shoe were present. But an issue Payton has had is he just tended to push forward in his squat, no matter the cueing or adjustments we made. You can see in the left video (CLICK HERE) he is very knee drive dominant and the resulting bar path from it (even with cueing more torso lean and hinge). Anyone who has followed me for a bit knows I am a proponent of “drive the knees forward”, but just like anything, there is a limit to the efficacy of that.
For Payton, the combination of the dorsiflexion that heels allowed, as well as the slope of the shoe, made it very hard for him to maintain his center of mass over his midfoot. I think in particular, the slope of a heeled shoe gets underplayed sometimes in how that can affect someone. Have someone squat on an uneven platform in flat shoes and it feels super weird, and you might even notice their form changes and they start shifting in ways that they normally wouldn’t. Well in a heeled shoe, you are effectively doing the same thing. Now I am not arguing against heeled shoes, as many of my lifters wear them, it’s just that this is a variable that I myself have overlooked at times. For Payton, something about the heels combined with his individual leverages resulted in difficulty of not following the slope of the shoe in his squat pattern, and it constantly shifted him forward. As well as he actually was allotted more dorsiflexion than he actually needed. We tend to want to reach end ranges of joint range of motion and rely on that passive stabilization at the bottom of a squat. So commonly for people where a heel allows for too much dorsiflexion, you will see an over dramatic shift to driving the knees forward, or some instability at the bottom if they don’t reach that end range of dorsiflexion. As can be seen on the right, not only was Payton’s squat pattern improved from the switch to flats, that’s also 20kg more at the same speed. The forward shift would cause upper back positioning issues that would be his weak link at near max weights. Now as he is able to maintain his center of gravity better, it changes the moment arm of the bar position in relation to his center of gravity and no longer places his upper back in a disadvantaged position.
Again, this isn’t a call for everyone to switch to flats, but more so an addition to my prior article and what I’d consider an outlier for a situational issue that presented itself with heels. What this does show is that while parameters for certain characteristics of heeled vs. flat, close vs. wide, or sumo vs. conventional can help guide us, don’t let that be an unbreakable standard.