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Can You Wear Barefoot Shoes for CrossFit?

Whether you’re new to barefoot shoes or you want to change up the shoes that you use for CrossFit by going more minimalist, then you’ve likely wondered, “Can I wear barefoot shoes for CrossFit?”

CrossFit is a strength sport rooted in versatility with WODs that can serious tolls on shoes, so when considering the best CrossFit shoes, you want to make sure you’re wearing shoes that can actually accommodate your training asks.

Otherwise, you’ll likely find that you go through shoes entirely too quickly because general gym shoes can take a serious beating when doing things like rope climbs, handstand push-ups, and burpees.

Testing the Tolos Archetype 1.0 for hiit workouts

In this article, I’ll discuss if you can wear barefoot shoes for CrossFit and cover a few things to keep in mind when opting for minimalist shoes for tough CrossFit WODs.

Can You Wear Barefoot Shoes for CrossFit?

You can absolutely wear barefoot shoes for CrossFit and there are countless athletes and lifters who have begun making the switch to using more minimalist shoes for their CrossFit WODs.

In the context of CrossFit, barefoot shoes can have a few benefits and applications. For starters, they can be useful for exposing the feet and ankles to different stressors based on the WODs you’re doing.

Testing the Xero Shoes 360 for Lifting

Additionally, they can require your body to move through different ranges of motion that you normally wouldn’t work through as going from a higher heel-to-toe drop to a zero-drop shoe will change lower body mechanics, and this can be good for variability.

Now, instead of framing the above question as, “Can you wear them?”, I think it’s more productive to explore topics like,

  • Have you acclimated to using barefoot shoes for CrossFit?
  • What type of barefoot shoes do you plan to use for CrossFit? 

If you can answer the above two questions then you’ll be well on your way to strategically implementing barefoot shoes more regularly for CrossFit.

crossfit shoes and rope climbs

Have you acclimated to using barefoot shoes for CrossFit?

The biggest question to consider when debating using barefoot shoes for CrossFit is whether you’ve acclimated to this style of footwear. Unlike cross-training shoes, barefoot shoes require an acclimation period for different WODs.

Barefoot shoes have a lot less material separating the feet from the floor which means they don’t have additional comfort and support. Their minimalist stack height and lack of material then create a higher demand on the feet and ankles.

vivobarefoot primus lite iii lifting

CrossFit WODs can vary greatly with their exercises. How much demand or stress a WOD puts on the feet and ankles will depend on the workout, how it’s structured, and what it entails.

For this context, I’d suggest thinking about WODs as existing on a spectrum of intensity regarding how much stress they’ll place on the feet. If you can plot out which WODs will be more demanding on the feet and ankles, then you can make better footwear selections.

How to Use Barefoot Shoes for CrossFit

Author’s Note: There are MANY ways to approach using barefoot shoes for training. Below, is my approach for myself and my clients,  feel free to experiment with a means of using barefoot shoes for WODs that works best for you!

If you’re new to barefoot shoes, then you’ll want to start implementing barefoot shoes slowly on low and medium-threshold WODs. This will help your body adapt to the “feel” of barefoot shoes to prevent excessive foot and ankle soreness.

For barefoot shoe newbies, I’d also suggest gauging the frequency of your barefoot shoe use based on your history of being and training barefoot. If you grew up always being barefoot and are used to walking around barefoot but not using barefoot shoes for working out, then you can typically get away with a higher frequency than a true newbie.

Xero Shoes 360 Try On Review

That being said, if you’ve never worn barefoot shoes and are rarely barefoot on a daily basis, then you’ll want to start with low-threshold WODs 1-2x a week, then work your way up. I’d also suggest using barefoot shoes for daily wear 1-2x a week to help accelerate your acclimation without overdoing it.

Athletes and lifters that are regularly using barefoot shoes for working out their WOD use will depend more heavily on your stress tolerances. For example, if all you do is work out in barefoot shoes, then you could start experimenting with using barefoot shoes for every WOD threshold.

Inov 8 bare xf 210 v3 for crossfit

If you’re like me and primarily use barefoot shoes for lower-body strength days and athletic sessions, then you may want to start with more medium-threshold WODs, then ramp up slowly, or use them primarily for low and medium-threshold WODs with 1-2x high-threshold WODs a week versus using them every single day.

The big takeaway here is that you’re implementing barefoot shoes for CrossFit in a means that makes sense for the context of your tolerances and training background. In my opinion, the idea of “just using barefoot shoes all of the time” is oversimplified.

Testing the Xero Shoes 360 for HIIT

I equate this logic to having a beginner with no training background get under the bar and squat a true 20-rep max. This beginner is going to be incredibly sore which is fairly counterproductive to their long-term training goals and they may even build a bias towards squatting or training.

Everyone has different comfort tolerances and if we can learn to implement barefoot shoes for CrossFit at a pace that works for our individuality, then we can both train more productively and reap the benefits of their use without causing training setbacks in the process.

What type of barefoot shoes do you plan to use for CrossFit? 

Another great question to consider when using barefoot shoes for CrossFit is the shoe you plan to use. In my opinion, barefoot shoes are still very much in their infancy stage of development and growth, especially in the context of CrossFit.

Unlike cross-training shoes built for CrossFit which have a ton of options, you’ll be a little limited when it comes to barefoot shoes that work well for CrossFit.

Ideally, you’ll want to explore barefoot shoes that deliver a nice blend of versatility when it comes to performance, but also have some baseline layers of durability to protect the shoes from breaking down super quickly during WODs.

When looking into barefoot shoes for CrossFit, I’d suggest keeping an eye on three key construction details.

  1. Sole material and thickness. Most barefoot shoes will have super minimalist soles and stack heights which is great for ground feedback, but thin soles can lack long-term durability, especially for things like rope climbs and WODs where you’ll be doing running. Generally, you’ll want to find barefoot shoes with soles that are around 4-5mm thick for CrossFit.
  2. Reinforced uppers. Minimalist shoes often utilize the least amount of upper materials as possible, however, when using a barefoot shoe for CrossFit you’ll want a little more reinforcement, especially around the heel, toe box, and midfoot. Typically, you’ll want to find shoes that have additional overlays in these areas to prolong your shoe’s overall durability.
  3. Adequate Lacing System. On top of reinforced uppers, you’ll also want to ensure that the barefoot shoe you plan to use has good midfoot security. The last thing you want while tackling a tough WOD is to have to re-lace your shoe mid-workout or have the feet sliding around. Oftentimes, you’ll want to avoid knit uppers and laces that have wax finishes.

If you can identify these three construction features in the barefoot shoe you plan to use for CrossFit, then you should be well on your way to having a model that should last longer than some of its non-focused peers.

Xero Shoes 360 Upper

I’ve written about some of my go-to barefoot shoes for CrossFit WODs before, but if you’re new to my site and have never read some of my round-ups, then below are two of my favorite options along with some of the pros and cons of each model.

Go-To Option: Xero Shoes 360

The Xero Shoes 360 is a barefoot shoe designed for cross-training and CrossFit and it does an okay job compared to its peers. This shoe is a little more specialized so you’ll typically get more out of them for CrossFit, but it’s not a foolproof barefoot shoe.

Testing the Xero Shoes 360 for CrossFit

  • Pros: Decent sole traction and durability, moderate upper durability, removable insole for variance in cushion and comfort.
  • Cons: The heel isn’t the most durable for handstand push-ups and they don’t have the best appearance.
  • Price: $119.99 USD
  • For More Info: Read My Review

If you have additional questions about the Xero Shoes 360, drop a comment below or reach out. I have a bunch of content on this model so I’d be happy to answer whatever you have.

Runner-Up Option: Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3

The Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3 is another great barefoot shoe option for CrossFit and cross-training workouts. This shoe ticks a lot of the construction asks listed above sans the sole thickness. This model has a 3mm thick sole, however, they’ve lasted me quite a while.

inov-8 bare xf 210 v3 lifting

  • Pros: Good upper durability, great barefoot shoe option for narrow and neutral-width feet, super minimalist sole construction.
  • Cons: Not the widest barefoot shoe on the market and no finished internal construction with the insole removed.
  • Price: $125.00 USD
  • For More InfoRead My Review

Like the Xero Shoes 360, if you have questions about the Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3 I’d highly suggest checking out my review content on them and asking questions as you have them.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can you do CrossFit barefoot?

Instead of doing CrossFit barefoot, opt for a good pair of barefoot shoes. This footwear will give you a barefoot feel while protecting the feet from the demands of different CrossFit WODs.

Are zero-drop shoes good for CrossFit?

Zero-drop shoes can be great for CrossFit, and more specifically, athletes that prefer a flatter fitting shoe. A zero-drop shoe is not necessarily better than a shoe with a slight heel-to-toe drop, but if you prefer it, then it can be great for your training.

Takeaway Thoughts

Barefoot shoes are becoming increasingly popular and more athletes and lifters are using them for CrossFit workouts. Some athletes use them for every WOD while other will rotate them in like me based on what they’re doing.

Whether you’re new to barefoot shoes or train in them often, I’d suggest basing their usage for CrossFit on your individuality regarding what you can tolerate and find comfortable.

Hopefully, I was able to clear up some of the questions that come along with using barefoot shoes for CrossFit. If you have additional questions on this topic, drop a comment below or reach out to me personally via Instagram (@jake_boly or @that_fit_friend).

Jake Boly, CSCS, MS Sports Science

Jake Boly, CSCS, MS Sports Science

Jake Boly is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of That Fit Friend. He's often regarded to as a go-to resource in various performance shoe communities. He’s been formally reviewing shoes and training gear for over 7 years and has hand-tested over 400 pairs of shoes. Jake is known on the internet and YouTube for blending his review process with his educational, strength sports, and personal training background.

Jake has a Masters in Sports Science, a Bachelors in Exercise Science, a CSCS, and he's been personal training for over 10 years helping hundreds of clients get stronger, lose weight, and accomplish their goals. He uses his exercise science brain and personal training background to make curated and thoughtful review content on the fitness gear he's testing.

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