T Nation

Single-Leg Deadlifts and Flat Feet


I've been doing single-leg deadlifts for about a month now and have finally worked up to a decently heavy weight. Each time I've added weight I've found that it is my balance that needs work more than my strength, however, the balance improves quickly and I'm able to add more weight easily, sometimes even in the course of just one workout. But now I am having a much more difficult time with balance and seem to be a bit stuck because of my flat feet.

I am completely flat-footed. If I allow myself to stand "naturally" I have no arch at all. As a child I wore arch supports for a few years but eventually took the advice of a (possibly ill-informed, as I grew up in a small town) chiropractor and started correcting the problem by consciously faking the arch and basically pronating just a little bit.

I am unsure if this artificial arch is a good thing but I have no trouble maintaining it and have no pain or problems standing for long periods of time, walking or running (my running shoes are the only shoes I have that have much arch support). My shoes wear evenly on the balls but are a little more worn on the outside of the heels.

I had been driving through the heels for the deadlifts and having no issues as far as how to balance my weight on my feet but now I am finding that it is as if I cannot find a proper stable surface to drive through. When I try to keep my weight on my heels my arches want to collapse. If I allow my weight to be balanced more on the middle or ball of my foot I just feel plain unstable. Letting my arch fall flat feels wrong, so I keep trying to pronate and raise the arch but that makes balance even more difficult. The whole process is confounding and frustrating.

Can anyone offer me some advice? Should I get shoes that have more arch support? (I currently lift in Converse All-Stars). Should I allow my arch to fall? Or should I keep trying to somehow keep my artificial arch and yet drive through the heels? (Maybe I just need more practice).

Thanks in advance for your replies.


I'd say get some Nike Frees, do some ankle/lower leg mobility work, lateral lower leg soft tissue and flexibility work, and keep workin' on single leg DL, lunge, and step up variations.


All our athletes do these barefooted or in Nike Frees. We don't cue them to go through the heels exclusively, but instead encourage them to grab the floor as if they're trying to pick up a basketball with their foot. Works like a charm.



I am also pretty flat-footed and used to have a lot of trouble with the SL DL. Mine improved (weight, form, and speedwise) tremendously after learning to do them barefoot. I have to say practice really helps too. How often do you do these a week? I've found that the more often I do them, the easier the motion is.

As a side note, SL DLs can take a lot of concentration (though I doubt this is your problem). Most of my clients can't do these when distracted.


Thanks for the recommendations. I think I have been neglecting mobility work and soft tissue work.

I think this may have been exactly what I needed to hear. I just took off my shoes and socks and tried it out and it felt much more stable. I'm not sure if my gym will let me lift barefoot but I think I can get around that by bringing my yoga mat with me. People already look at me like I'm crazy at my gym, now I'll be the weirdo that uses a yoga mat for weightlifting. I am definitely going to look into getting a pair of the Nike Frees. Thanks!

I'm only doing them once a week and I've got only one session with them left on the program I'm on right now. After a short break (2 week trip to Germany) I'm planning on starting the WSFSB3 template and I'd like to keep working on this exercise so I'll see where it can fit in there. I really enjoy the challenge of the various single-leg exercises.

My concentration is usually great but last time with these balance issues causing frustration I wasn't as focused as usual--I'm sure that was adding to my problems.

It sounds like barefoot is the way to go. Thanks. :slightly_smiling:

Thanks again, everyone. These answers were really helpful. I love T-Nation! (And I have boundless newbie enthusiasm, ha!)