T Nation

Not Wearing Shoes at the Gym


So I like to take off my shoes to Squat (in my socks) and been doing so for about a year now at my gym because I get a better grip doing back squats ATG. I found other shoes like Chucks to be bulky but I wear Nike Free for my other exercises so I only go barefoot when doing squats.

Anyways, I've been doing this for about a year with no complaints til this past weekend when a staff member told me I need to put on my shoes at all times, he cited a safety issue in case i drop bunch of weight on my feet. But I told him that's ridiculous because even with shoes if someone drops a bunch of weight it's going to cause injury, in addition, I've seen people wear those Vibrams glove shoes around so those pose the same threat as going barefoot.

What about accidently dropping the BB while bench pressing, see USC football RB, I mean, any free weight exercise there's going to be risks. So then he starts to backpedal and brings up hygiene issue and a potential lawsuit if someone gets hurt while he is working out barefoot which could be a loophole? I don't get that.

I can see if someone walks all around the gym barefoot it would be strange, but just at the squat rack while doing a couple sets and putting their shoes back on for the remainder of the workout, what's the harm of that. The only point i could see if they told me if looks bad for the gym when taking potential members around for tours, but that really isn't too bad. Dirty locker rooms or disheveled free weight room like dumbells scattered around is worse.

Thoughts? Do i need to buy those goofy looking vibrams?


Yes, you can still break your foot in regular shoes or even Vibrams. However, if you're hurt at the gym without shoes or open toes insurance will not cover the gym in case of a lawsuit.

They're only protecting themselves as a business.

Wear Vibrams and you will be ok, they may be goofy lookin, but they're comfortable and you shouldn't be harassed by the gym staff. Adidas has come out with their line and I believe Reebok perhaps too


Just continue not wearing shoes- its pretty hard to drop a weight on your foot unless you're doing something dramatically wrong.

He'll probably forget he told you in a short period of time.


not likely, in the past I would be on the lookout for the same person breaking such a rule. It's blatant disrespect.


If you're a medium to close stance squatter, get some Olympic Squatting shoes. I use some Rogue Do-wins. Awesome shoes and more stable than barefoot. I'm actually thinking about investing in some Metal Squat shoes for deadlift, though. Just don't get the Vibrams. lol


As a part owner of a gym...it's a legal thing.

Do it or find another place to lift (your garage maybe).

You disrespect the owners if you just continue to do it, and you put the employees in the uncomfortable position of having to confront you.

If Chuck's are good enough for multiple world record holders, they are not good enough for you?

You must be awesome.


lol, I had the same problem in once. I was pretty pissed (the staff member was rude and ignorant). But in the end... Their gym, their rules.

Funny thing, when I had a garage gym, no one complained when I was shoeless. God I miss that place.


Serious question, are you squatting 405 or more?

If not, please refer to the following quotation, a la UtahLama:


Bah. Just blow off the staff member. Wear your shoes around the gym, ad take them off during the lifts. Just keep doing that until you're told so often that they threaten to revoke your gym membership. Then decide if you want to continue lifting there or go somewhere else.

Most "safety issues" are really insurance issues. The gym could be liable if you drop a plate on your foot, and you're not wearing shoes. If you file a complaint or lawsuit then it turns into a huge rigamarole. Easier to just tell everyone to put their shoes on.


How would the gym be liable for it? Don't we all sign a waiver when we join a gym. And there are a million ways to get hurt in a gym.


Just wear your Frees with no socks and squat in them...feels just as good as barefoot.


Close. It's an insurance thing that insurance companies say is a legal thing, which kind of makes it a legal thing.

There was some study done by some underwriters that shoes prevent injuries back in the 1970s because idiots would get toes stuck in Nautilus machines, along with other things that prevent injuries.

Shirts, too, for disease reasons.

To get insurance, gyms have to agree to the rules, logic be damned.

Nothing requires the gyms to enforce the rules, however.


Go with chuck taylors if bare foot is not an option.


Our manager enforces all the rules, to prevent the inevitable "well you don't make him wear shoes, why do I have to wear PANTS argument"




this is absolutely false.


lol. was this tongue in cheek?

a few things....

reference this dubious study please;
underwriters do not conduct studies;
risk management might be what you're referring to but they don't do studies either.

Anyway, it's not a safety issue for dropping weights on your feet. It's a general safety issue as it pertains to the the risk of walking around barefoot in that setting, including health reasons. It's really not complicated.

To the OP, you can't walk into most businesses barefoot so why do you feel like you should be able to prance around barefoot at your gym?


.... women are barefoot in the exercise room doing yoga.....

FWIW the exercise room has db's too.


Did you ask what would happen if you ignored the rule?


Incorrect, dropped a 45lb plate on my foot from chest height over the summer and broke four toes. Shit happens, plate loaded machines break, gym doesn't put up sign stating machine broken, load machine, turn to get another plate, first plate slides off pin, which is no longer properly secured, falls on foot. Wearing nike frees offers no more protection than being barefoot.