The Shoes I Use: SABO Deadlift Shoe Review

After releasing the guide to Powerlifting Shoes, I’ve been flooded with questions about one pair of shoes in particular: The SABO Deadlift Shoe.
SABO Deadlift Shoe

In this article, I’ll cover exactly what to expect when you order from Max Barbell, how to “convert” the European sizing to American sizing, the specifications of the shoe that make it so great and, of course, I will show the shoe up-close and personal.
If you think you can get a better feel for the product through video, check this one out:

SABO Deadlift Shoe Specifications

So, why would anyone want to buy a pair of SABO Deadlift shoes?
Well, unlike virtually any other powerlifting shoe that is currently being manufactured, the SABO Deadlift shoes are only 2mm-5mm thick AND they have a metatarsal strap. Now, you may find shoes with a metatarsal strap, and you may find a thin pair of wrestling shoes, but you will not find both.
The metatarsal strap sucks the foot into the shoe and prevents any intra-shoe movement. This “tightness” in the shoe increases force transfer and directly leads to more weight being lifted. Additionally, the metatarsal strap is going to prevent any pronation or supination of the foot. Again, when your foot is flat against the ground, you have a more stable surface to push again which increases force transfer and thus the amount of weight you can lift. Don’t underestimate the value of a metatarsal strap on a lifting shoe.

The metatarsal strap is conveniently labeled "DEADLIFT".

The metatarsal strap is conveniently labeled “DEADLIFT”.

Additionally, these shoes are almost as low to the ground as deadlift slippers. Deadlift slippers are 1.5mm-3mm off the ground. The SABO deadlift shoes are 2mm-5mm off the ground. This is virtually an undetectable difference. I mean, we’re talking fractions of fractions in terms of inches. As everyone should be well aware, when it comes to a deadlift shoe, the closer to the ground you are, the shorter your pull; the shorter your pull, the more weight you can put on the bar. It’s just basic physics.
In my opinion, deadlift slippers are not the best option for sumo pullers. For me personally, when I try to spread the floor in slippers, my feet roll over the sides of the grip pad. This decreases my stability and tightness.
The SABO deadlift shoes, however, have reinforced sides. You can push into those suckers as hard as you want. Keeping the knees flared by pushing down and out with the feet is critical to the sumo puller. In my opinion, SABOs allow you to spread the floor effectively — slippers do not.

The re-inforced sides make a huge difference when you try to "spread the floor" with both wide stance squats and sumo pulls.

The re-inforced sides make a huge difference when you try to “spread the floor” with both wide stance squats and sumo pulls.

The Other Lifts and SABOs

Now, I understand that many of you are going to be wary about buying a pair of shoes for one specific lift. Luckily, I think the SABOs work just fine for the other lifts as well.
In terms of the Squat, there are two disadvantages: one is that the shoe doesn’t have a heel and the other is that, because the shoe is so thin, there isn’t as much support for your feet. However, they are specifically designed to offer SOME arch support.
That in mind, not all of us want a heeled shoe for our squats. If you use the PowerliftingToWin Squat Technique, or you’re just a wide stance squatter in general, chances are you probably don’t want a heel either.
Now the support may be an issue for those of you with achey feet, but, in actuality, the thinness can be interpreted as bonus because, unlike say, Chucks, the shoe will not compress under heavy loads; there is no rubber pad in the soles to be compressed. You’re going to get efficient force transfer.

I use my SABOs for squatting as well.

I use my SABOs for squatting as well.

Unless you bench in a federation that requires flat feet, it doesn’t particularly matter what bench shoes you wear. For those of you who bench with your heels up, the SABOs will work just fine as they have VERY solid grip and a decently flexible forefoot.

Ordering SABO Deadlift Shoes

As far as I know, Max Barbell is the only supplier of SABO Deadlift Shoes in North America. The shoes are manufactured in Russia and Max Barbell is the sole distributor here in the states.

Shop Now Max Barbell

However, for those of you who have ordered from Max Barbell before, you know this isn’t a problem if you live stateside. Nearly all of the orders placed on Max Barbell are shipped within 24 hours of placement. I ordered my shoes on a Friday and got them Monday morning in time for my workout. You can expect similar service.

This is my pair of SABOs still fresh in the box at the time.

This is my pair of SABOs still fresh in the box at the time.

The SABO Deadlift Shoes currently cost $79.99 including shipping. I do have to say that this is a limited time introductory price (as of 4/12/14). Joseph from Max Barbell has informed me that another shipment of SABOs is on the way in a few months. As of now though, the stock is running low and the price is going to go up with the next shipment. If you want to take advantage of the current pricing, you’ll probably need to act sooner rather than later. That’s not a sales pitch; it’s a fact.

Sizing the SABOs

Again, the SABO Deadlift shoes are manufactured in Russia. The sizing is standard European sizing. You can try to pull up a conversion chart on Google, but I found that many of them just conflict. Luckily, there is a very simple way to get the sizing 100% perfect: measure your foot.
Take a piece of paper, a pencil/pen, and a ruler. Draw a straight line down the middle of the paper. Wearing the socks you’ll use with the shoes, place your foot on the line and draw a mark at both ends of your foot. Measure the distance between the marks in millimeters.

Add 5mm to this measurement and use the following sizing chart to determine your optimal shoe size:
SABO Deadlift Shoe Size Guide

SABO Deadlift Shoe Pictures


My Personal Recommendation

Frankly, I love the SABO Deadlift shoes. I know it sounds unbelievable but all of my deadlift work sets are up 10-20lbs since making the switch. The added stability, particularly that reinforced side support, makes the world of difference when pulling sumo. I actually like them enough to wear them for squats as well.
In my opinion, the SABO Deadlift Shoes are currently one of the best overall flat shoes on the market. If you’re looking for a flat shoe, do yourself a favor and check out The SABO Deadlift shoe.
My SABO Deadlift Shoes

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