October 01, 2006
In an article about personal equipment, Coach Mark Rippetoe of Wichita Falls Athletic Club/CrossFit Wichita Falls discusses the good, the bad and the ugly.
Squat shoes are the single most useful piece of personal equipment you can own, and the only one that is really, honestly necessary. It only takes one set of five in a pair of squat shoes to demonstrate this convincingly to anybody who has done more than one squat workout. Squat shoes form a stable position from which to drive, because they are built on a non-compressible wedge of wood or leather.
Any shoe with a compressible heel will not be a stable platform for any barbell movement with a ground-reaction component, since the first part of the force applied to the ground is absorbed in the shoe. What’s worse, they absorb an unpredictable amount of the force in an unpredictable direction each time, depending on your exact position over the center of gravity of the system, making you pay a dear price for very tiny differences in form each rep. The problem with boots is that the tops restrict ankle movement.
Chalk should be provided by your gym. It makes your grip more positive and less likely to slide on the bar, and therefore safer and more efficient.
If you can squat heavy without a belt, do it. But be aware that you can always squat more with a belt, and there may come a time when this is important. If you need a belt, wear one; if you want a belt, use it when appropriate and be aware of how it works.