Should you squat with your feet straight?

One of the messages that seems to have infiltrated the pre/post-partum recovery and return to fitness world is to stand and squat with your feet straight. I am not a fan of this message, and never a fan of a formula or an “everyone should” premise. Saying everyone’s feet should go in one particular trajectory flies in the face of what we understand about biomechanics, and the individuality of everyone’s structure and capacity. In the words of a very wise colleague when I asked for his thoughts on the straight feet recommendation for squats, he responded….”Do they hate hips?”.

Your foot position follows your hip position.

At the end of the day hip health and pelvic health are anatomically intertwined. Pelvic floor access and function is linked to movements and musculature of the hip (glutes). That is a pelvic health segue to this amazing blog series by The Barbell Physio on hip sockets and squat depth to support variation in foot position for squatting. Note the foot position and the variety of foot turn out of all of the “good” squats demonstrated! Please read the blog below and consider how the information applies to you and the patients/clients you work with. What position seems to be your natural foot turnout for squats? Read on….and thanks Zach for sharing! 


By Zach Long, DPT (reprinted with permission) 

Last week in Part I of this series on individualizing squat technique prescriptions, we covered how an athlete’s hip and ankle mobility (or lack thereof) can impact their squat form. These variations in individual anatomy mean that many of the “rules” for what a proper squat should look like are false. So many of the popular things coaches say such as point your toes forward will actually negatively impact an athletes performance and health squatting. Now in part II, we’ll cover hip specific anatomy and how that will lead to widely different squat forms.

The best illustration of how hip boney anatomy will impact the squat that I’ve ever heard comes from Dr. Stu McGill, known worldwide as the leader when it comes to spine biomechanics. If we look at the countries in the world with the highest rates of hip dysplasia we’ll also so excellence in the sport of Olympic weightlifting that is dominated by those that can squat to greater depth.

This is one reason why the areas of Poland, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and West Russia have historically done so well in Olympic weightlifting. Their hip sockets allow them to squat deep and as a result they don’t have to pull the barbell as far off the ground and therefor can lift more weight. In contrast, people from Normandy, Ireland, and Scotland have very deep hip sockets and for the most part don’t excel in Olympic weightlifting.

Now let’s dive into some specifics of hip boney anatomy and how that can impact the squat.

The femoral condyle rotation seen on the right would allow an athlete to squat with a very wide, externally rotated leg as we see with powerlifters. On the left, this hip would not be able to achieve the same positioning.


Femoral torsion

Up next, look at the acetabulum (the socket of the ball and socket joint) of the two above hips. On the left it faces forward and more superiorly than the right, allowing for improved squat depth.

The right hip socket in this photo is less deep, which would also allow for improved squat depth.

Hip Socket variability

When viewing these pictures as a whole it should be undeniable that there is absolutely NO way that any two athletes have the exact same squat.

Add in the ankle mobility discussion from last time and then add in bone lengths and sports participation that we’ll discussion in the next few weeks and we’ve got even more evidence that squat technique prescription must be individualized.


Note: Thanks to for introducing me to the above pics explaining this topic!

Want more? Check out Master The Squat to learn the complete system Zach Long, DPT uses for evaluating and correcting athlete’s squat patterns.


Get to know Zach: Dr. Zach Long is the Director of Physical Therapy at Carolina Sports Clinic in North Carolina and runs an industry leading fitness website “The Barbell Physio” where he is a trusted resource to thousands of athletes, coaches, and health care professionals across the United States and beyond. Additionally, Zach teaches “Adcanced Concepts in the Management of the Fitness Athlete” through the Institute of Clinical Excellence. Zach is an ABPTS Sports Certified Specialist, Level One CrossFit Trainer, NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist, and certified SFMA practitioner.

Related Post

2 thoughts on “Should you squat with your feet straight?”

  1. Brenda says:

    My sense is that there’s some confusion going on here which is not all that surprising, is it?! I’m guessing that the “feet straight” idea is coming primarily from the Katy Bowman camp (although I could be wrong as I’ve heard others including PTs & podiatrists concur with that). It’s my understanding that the kind of squat Katy speaks about is a “corrective” squat rather than “fitness” squat. Obviously people are going to squat more deeply with fitness squatting (if that’s their goal) when they follow what their individual hips are “saying” however the idea behind a foot straight ahead correction is to go backwards & ask the question where did this particular hip anatomy come from & what is the best way to make the body more functional? Within biomechanical engineering (Katy’s specialty), certain alignment markers are used that indicate the best possible function – so for instance, just like there’s a a neutral for the pelvis, there’s also a neutral for the feet and other areas of the body. Someone like Katy would have a grand ole time looking at populations of specific countries (Poland, Bulgaria, etc.) & analyzing how their lifestyle patterns and habits have had an effect on how the bones are actually shaped, allowing for individual differences of course. In my own particular pelvic floor journey, I have very weak abductors & it is clear from the wear-pattern on my shoes that I have a tendency to put more weight on the outside of my feet. When I have my feet straight & my weight evenly distributed over my feet, I can feel my abductors fire and there is overall greater stability to my pelvis. Does one need to go this far to correct PFD? Maybe not, but every little bit helps in my book! I very much encourage you to read her books as I often see what she says taken out of context. It’s fine when people downright disagree (I’m all for that!) but it’s sad to see people disagree with what they “think” others are saying rather than what they are actually saying. If none of what I said is the case, then just ignore my comment!

    1. Julie Wiebe says:

      Yes, the KB camp does promote this, and as you noted so do others. So rather than call any particular person or philosophy out my intention with the post was to present anatomical variations in visuals that are hard to ignore and allow folks to draw their own conclusions regarding the recommendations they are making to clients (and for the clients themselves to understand). So this isn’t that I misunderstand the intentions….it is that I am trying to address an issue I see frequently in my clinic….no matter how they came to the decision to stand or squat with feet straight. The biomechanics of the hip joint are very much dictated by structural variations. Regarding your comment on alignment markers, please be clear that a discussion of structure is not the same thing as alignment. Alignment has the capacity for change, has variables in it that are malleable-neuromuscular patterns, muscular length/strength, coordination, restoring balance of pressures and forces. But structure, like seen in the pictures in the article are no longer malleable after a certain point in our development. Your hip socket depth and position, the angle of your femoral neck, the length of your femur…..all are dictated variables in the equation. The structure you are dealt, plays into alignment, which is why optimal positions are a range (a direction, not a dot).

      I find a lot of over-recruitment issues (pelvic floor is one of them, but other postural muscles too) in women that are standing un-naturally for them in a foot forward position. I actually use foot turn-in to help women feel the pelvic floor a bit more if they are having trouble (like pulling on the edges of a parachute), it sort of gives them a head start. So it has it’s place as a tool….but for a habitual use I am not a fan. I am glad it worked for you, but you may find now that you have experienced some improvement that you could take on more variability in your positioning without sacrificing your pelvic health. And if you were coming to see me for any issues, and it was a positive for you I would not change it. Part of the purpose in presenting this in the way that I did was to help folks appreciate that not everyone is the same, and what worked for you may or may not work for someone else.

      The other big issue for KB, and me, and anyone trying to speak into issues via the online medium is that ideas that are meant to address a specific issue get water downed and applied to every issue out of there original intent. I appreciate that ( I really do). However, the prescriptive deep hunter, gather corrective squat is not achievable by some for different reasons (not just hip structural issues). The fitness squat is not deeper, in fact for many they do not go anywhere near as deep as that hunter gatherer positon promoted in the Restorative Exercise world. So we will have to respectfully disagree there. However, if the intent of this ‘corrective’ positioning is to be specific vs globally applied, which I have unfortunately seen quite a bit particularly as it relates to pelvic health issues, then this post should hopefully support proper application of the idea. Thanks for weighing in.


Comments are closed.

This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician or other health care worker.

Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog or in any linked materials. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.

back to top