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The 8 Best Barefoot Shoes for Training and Working Out (2024 Update)

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I love training in barefoot shoes. They’re such a fun tool for varying how much you feel the ground when working out while also passively building the tissues surrounding the feet and ankles.

If you’re brand new to barefoot shoes, you’ve likely thought about which are the strongest options on the market. That’s always one of my first asks when I get into new footwear, and as an athlete/lifter, I love finding new barefoot shoes to train in.

Not all barefoot shoes are created equal, especially in the gym. I’m regularly asked on my YouTube channel and this site about which barefoot shoes are ideal for different types of workouts, and this list reflects my fave picks for different activities.

Every model below has been properly tested with countless lifting and cross-training sessions. For example, I’ve squatted over 315 lbs and have deadlifted over 455 lbs in every shoe below. If you’re serious about your training, my list is for you.

Best Barefoot Shoe Picks for Working Out

UPDATE INFO: I updated this article in May 2024 to reflect additions to my athletes, grip, and bang-for-the-buck sections. It’s a good year for barefoot shoes built for the gym. Happy training, y’all!

Testing the TYR DropZero Barefoot Trainer Stability

How I’ve Tested the Shoe Featured

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of big content sites and “influencers” discussing barefoot shoes for training when they’re not truly testing a shoe’s potential or training hard themselves day in and day out.

I’m what many describe as a “hybrid athlete” [oh, such a trendy term these days], so I’m routinely blending strength, power, and cardio in singular workouts. In doing so, I’ve gotten awesome exposure to many barefoot shoes that work better or worse for certain activities.

When I test barefoot shoes for working out, I place them on a spectrum of performance that I then cross-reference with their peers. My training in barefoot shoes ebbs and flows, but I perform consistent tests on every single model to build this context.

Barefoot shoes for lifting performance spectrum

Above is what I mean when I say performance spectrum. The ideal options for versatility will land somewhere in the middle. From there, you can dive deeper into barefoot shoes for lifting or running, and different construction features will contribute to a shoe’s performance in these verticals.

As you read through my list, I implore you to ask yourself what your weekly training looks like. From there, you’ll be able to better narrow down the picks that will align with you and cross-reference my breakdowns to assess pros, cons, and performance.

Best for Lifting: Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III

Strength and Versatility Tests I’ve Performed In This Shoe

  • 500 lb deadlift triple
  • 375 lb squat
  • 275 lb walking lunges
  • 300 lb sled push and pulls
  • Max Mileage Ran At One Time: 2-miles

Pros

  1. Wide forefoot for splaying the toes
  2. The flexible sole with removable insole option
  3. Breathable upper

Cons

  1. High price point
  2. The outsole durability can lack with a lot of concrete use

Primus Lite III Specs

  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 8.85 oz
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Width: Wide, good for 3E feet and below
  • Sizing: True to Size, but there are no half sizes (except for 12.5)
  • For More Info: Read My Review

Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III

$160

vivobarefoot primus lite 3
4.8
Stability
4.8
Versatility
4.7
Durability
4.8

Best For

  • Heavy Weight Training
  • Daily Wear
  • Casual Workouts
  • Lighter Runs and Athletic Training

Falls Short

  • For Cost-Efficiency
  • For Longer Barefoot-Style Running Workouts

Why I Chose the Primus Lite III

My favorite barefoot shoe for lifting and overall strength training is the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III. This model ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to being a strong performer in the gym and when working out.

vivobarefoot primus lite iii shoe review

I like the width of this shoe’s toe box and think it will work with a variety of foot anatomies. The Active Sole in this shoe also provides a nice level of foot articulation and the rubber sole grips different gym floors well.

I also like that you can take the insole out in this shoe to get closer to the ground for things like deadlifts and that the internal portion of the shoe is finished. This is great for durability purposes and for providing you with a variety regarding how this shoe fits and feels.

The final aspect to like about the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III is that it’s a good shoe for daily wear as well. This model has a clear aesthetic which makes it a dynamic option for both working out and wearing daily.

vivobarefoot primus lite iii lifting

Best for CrossFit: Vivobarefoot Motus Strength

Strength and Versatility Tests I’ve Performed In This Shoe

  • 570 lb deadlift single
  • 245 lb reverse lunge triples
  • 90 lb walking dumbbell lunges
  • 20 rope climbs in a single session (to assess friction from high-volume WODs)
  • Broad jump for distance
  • Max Mileage Ran At One Time: 800-meters

Pros

  1. Outsole has good traction
  2. The sidewalls promote additional lateral support and durability
  3. Nice wide toe box

Cons

  1. Expensive price point
  2. Not the most breathable

Motus Strength Specs

  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 8.85 ounces (size 10 high-top model)
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Width: Wide, good for 3E feet and below
  • Sizing: True to size for most
  • For More InfoRead My Review

Vivobarefoot Motus Strength JJF

$200

Vivobarefoot Motus Strength JJF Barefoot Shoes Product Shot
4.7
Stability
4.8
Versatility
4.7
Durability
4.7
Quality
4.8

Best For

  • Lifting
  • Cross-Training
  • CrossFit WODs
  • Short Runs
  • Athletic Sessions

Falls Short

  • For Cost Efficiency
  • For Longer Runs

Why I Chose the Motus Strength

The Vivobarefoot Motus Strength is a fantastic barefoot shoe for CrossFit and it’s one of the first models I’ve thoroughly enjoyed across all of my CrossFit WODs. This shoe works well for CrossFit for a few reasons.

Vivobarefoot Motus Strength JJF Review

For starters, the upper of the Motus Strength is more rigid than other barefoot shoes. This is great for prolonging this shoe’s durability during rope climbs and it’s great for protecting the feet from abrasion.

The grippy outsole of this shoe is also a perk for CrossFit WODs. This model has more aggressive lugs than its peers like the Primus Lite Knit and III which is great for locking the feet down when squatting, snatching, and clean & jerking.

This shoe’s outsole wraps are also a nice subtle perk that boosts this shoe’s performance for CrossFit. The reinforced toe box and lateral side walls give you security and durability which is clutch since this shoe’s price point is higher.

Testing the Vivobarefoot Motus Strength JJF for deadlifts

 

Best for Cross-Training: Tolos Archetype 2.0

Strength and Versatility Tests I’ve Performed In This Shoe

  • 545 lb deadlift single
  • 225 lb walking lunges
  • 90 lb walking dumbbell lunges
  • 250 lb sled pushes and pulls
  • Max Mileage Ran At One Time: 800-meters

Pros

  1. Low stack height promotes ground feet
  2. The grippy outsole has good traction
  3. Wide toe box

Cons

  1. High-volume feet can find these uncomfortable
  2. The not the best breathability

Archetype 2.0 Specs

  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 8.85 ounces (size 10 high-top model)
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Width: Wide, good for 3E feet and below
  • Sizing: True to size
  • For More InfoRead My Review

Tolos Archetype 2.0

$120

Tolos Archetype 2.0 Product Image
4.8
Stability
4.8
Versatility
4.9
Durability
4.6
Quality
4.8

Best For

  • Casual Wear
  • Cross-Training
  • Athletic Workouts
  • Strength Training
  • Sprints

Falls Short

  • For Breathability
  • For Longer Runs

Why I Chose the Tolos Archetype 2.0

The Tolos Archetype 2.0 has been a stellar barefoot shoe for my cross-training and athletic-focused workouts. This shoe is super popular in the movement culture crowd and that’s for good reason.

Tolos 2.0 for Daily Wear

I like the Archetype 2.0’s sock-like fit for cross-training because it gives this shoe a seamless fit and feel. When jumping and doing explosive exercises, this shoe moves well with the foot and has a good amount of upper security.

The outsole tread and design of the Archetype 2.0 are also nice for promoting grip on different surfaces. This shoe works well on turf, wooden platforms, and rubber gym floors so they’re a good pick for versatile training settings.

Another perk of the Archetype 2.0 that transcends lifting and cross-training is that they look good for a fair price. If you want a shoe for cross-training and wearing out and about then it’s tough to fault the Tolos Archetype 2.0’s performance.

Tolos Archetype 2.0 for Deadlifts

Best Pick for Athletes: Inov8 Bare-XF

Strength and Versatility Tests I’ve Performed In This Shoe

  • 455 lb deadlift single
  • 245 lb power cleans
  • 90 lb walking dumbbell lunges
  • 350 lb sled pushes and pulls
  • Max Mileage Ran At One Time: 1.5-miles

Pros

  1. Well-rounded performance
  2. Upper feels sock-like and breathes well
  3. Wide(r) toe box compared to the 210 V3

Cons

  1. Rounded sole may be a miss for some
  2. Laces can run long

Bare-XF Specs

  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 11.15 oz (size 10 model)
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Width: Wide, good for 3E feet and below
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • For More Info: Read My Review

Inov8 Bare-XF

$120

Inov8 Bare XF Product Shot
4.7
Stability
4.6
Versatility
4.8
Durability
4.5
Quality
4.6

Best For

  • Strength Training
  • Cross-Training and CrossFit
  • Walking and Barefoot Beginners
  • Short Runs

Falls Short

  • For Casual Daily Wear
  • For Outdoor Runs On Rough Terrains

Why I Like the Bare-XF for Athletes

When talking barefoot shoes for athletes, I’m looking at a shoe’s ability to perform across pretty much every type of workout. Flexibility, breathability, durability, and grip are all key factors that help the Bare-XF excel in this vertical.

Testing Inov8 Bare XF for Deadlifts

As pointed out above, I describe my training as being more athletic these days. The Bare-XF has been a go-to barefoot shoe of mine when I have workouts that blend things like heavy deadlifts and lunges paired with plyometrics and conditioning circuits.

The rubber outsole on this model has an awesome grip, and the meta-flex break in the forefoot helps this shoe articulate when being explosive and doing single-leg and balance-focused work. I noticed this most when doing heavy lunges and sled pushes.

I also thoroughly enjoy the upper on this shoe and how well it breathes. If you like sock-like fitting and feeling barefoot shoes, too, you’ll appreciate its feel. The final thing that I appreciate about this model is its BOOMERANG Footbed. The additional bounce and cushion it provides is awesome for a wide range of athletes exploring barefoot shoes, IMO.

Testing Inov8 Bare XF for Power Cleans

Strongest Do-It-All Model for $100: Notorious Lift Radix

Strength and Versatility Tests I’ve Performed In This Shoe

  • 475 lb deadlift fives
  • 405 lb sumo deadlifts lb
  • 80 lb walking dumbbell lunges
  • 300 lb sled pushes and pulls
  • Max Mileage Ran At One Time: 400-meters

Pros

  1. Good performance for the price
  2. Has a casual look and vibe to it
  3. 3.3mm stack height promotes ground feel

Cons

  1. Tongue security when cross-training
  2. Model runs short, size up

Radix Specs

  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 8.95 oz (size 10 model)
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Width: Wide, good for 3E feet and below
  • Sizing: Size up a half to full size.
  • For More Info: Read My Review

Notorious Lift Radix

$100

Notorious-Lift-Radix-Product-Shot
4.7
Stability
4.9
Versatility
4.6
Durability
4.7
Quality
4.8

Best For

  • Powerlifting
  • General Strength Training
  • Cross-Training
  • Walking
  • Wide Feet

Falls Short

  • For Long Runs

Why I’ve Enjoyed the Radix

To be quite honest, I wasn’t expecting to like the Notorious Lift Radix as much as I have. As Notorious Lift’s first pass at a barefoot shoe with a price of $100, I figured it would be so-so, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised with this model.

Notorious-Lift-Radix-Deadlift-Tests-That-Fit-Friend

This shoe’s claim to fame includes its stack height, grippy sole, and minimalist branding. The Radix has a stack height of 3.3mm, and the internal construction is finished if you take the insole out. The stack height is fantastic for giving you maximum ground feel when training.

When deadlifting and training legs, the Radix allows you to fully feel the ground under you, so to my purist friends, you’ll want to explore this option. In addition, the uber-minimal stack height has been awesome for giving this shoe maximal articulation when flexing the midfoot and forefoot.

Another perk of this shoe that isn’t related to its performance in the gym is its simplistic construction and branding. I mentally put this shoe into the same “do-it-all” category as the Tolos Archetype 2.0, with this model being a little more on the lifting end of that spectrum.

Notorious-Lift-Radix-Leg-Day-Tests-That-Fit-Friend

Pick for Max Grip When Benching/Deadlifting: AVANCUS Apex Power 1.5

Strength and Versatility Tests I’ve Performed In This Shoe

  • 525 lb deadlift fives
  • 235 lb power cleans
  • 215 lb walking barbell lunges
  • 280 lb sled pushes and pulls
  • Max Mileage Ran At One Time: 400-meters

Pros

  1. Viziun outsole is incredibly grippy
  2. Flat sole is fantastic for powerlifting/strength work
  3. Wide forefoot and midfoot

Cons

  1. Not the most versatile for cross-training
  2. Some sizes can run long
  3. Breathability can lack

Apex Power 1.5 Specs

  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 10.55 oz (size 10 model)
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Width: Wide, good for 4E feet and below
  • Sizing: True to size.
  • For More Info: Read My Review

AVANCUS Apex Power 1.5

$99

AVANCUS Apex Power 1.5 Product Image
4.7
Stability
4.8
Versatility
4.5
Durability
4.7
Quality
4.6

Best For

  • Powerlifting
  • Sumo Deadlifts
  • General Strength Training
  • Wide Feet
  • Athletic Workouts

Falls Short

  • For Narrow Feet
  • For Daily Wear
  • For Running

Why the Apex Power 1.5 Landed Here

Its grip — simple and sweet. All joking aside, the Apex Power 1.5 is a fantastic option for anyone wanting a barefoot shoe primarily for lifting and strength training. More specifically, powerlifters will resonate with this shoe’s performance.

AVANCUS Apex Power 1.5 for Deadlifts

Of all the barefoot shoes on this list, the AVANCUS Apex Power 1.5 (now V2) has awesome traction. Whether you’re deadlifting sumo and conventional or bench pressing, I’m confident you won’t have slippage issues in this whatsoever.

This model is also a strong pick for static strength workouts and hypertrophy sessions outside the big three. It has good articulation when doing single-leg exercises, and its aggressive outsole wrap helps to lock down the foot from a 360-degree context.

I like the width of this model as well and appreciate how its forefoot can accommodate 4E-width feet with relative ease. The more spacious upper volume contributes to its wider fit, along with its midfoot width and lack of aggressive forefoot taper.

AVANCUS Apex Power 1.5 for Leg Day

Best Beginner Shoe for Lifting: Xero Shoes Prio

Strength and Versatility Tests I’ve Performed In This Shoe

  • 505 lb deadlift fives
  • 275 lb power cleans
  • 195 lb walking barbell lunges
  • 250 lb sled pushes and pulls
  • Max Mileage Ran At One Time: 2.5-miles

Pros

  1. Good entry-level barefoot gym shoes
  2. Decent price point for its versatility
  3. Removable insole for getting closer to the floor

Cons

  1. Upper can look dated and clunky
  2. The long-term durability can be variable

Prio Construction Specs

  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 8.85 oz
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • For More Info: Read My Review

Xero Shoes Prio

$89.99

Xero Shoes Prio
4.7
Stability
4.7
Versatility
4.6
Durability
4.7

Best For

  • Heavy Barbell Work
  • Recreational Lifting
  • Casual Runs
  • Barefoot Shoe Newbies
  • Cost Efficiency

Falls Short

  • For Dedicated Barefoot Runners

Why I Chose the Prio

My favorite beginner barefoot shoe for lifting is the Xero Shoes Prio. This barefoot shoe is what I would consider a tried and true barefoot shoe that works well in a variety of contexts.

xero shoes prio lifting performance review

The Xero Shoes Prio can work well for lifting, casual running, daily wear, and pretty much everything else. This model has a durable sole and upper construction that helps it be a dynamic barefoot shoe in a variety of performance contexts.

I also like that this shoe has a removable insole with a finished internal construction. If you’re new to barefoot shoes this is great because it provides you with a little bit of variance to acclimate to this style of footwear.

Regarding price, the Xero Shoes Prio costs $89.99 USD which is less than the other performance-specific barefoot shoes featured in this list. As a first barefoot shoe for beginners, I think the Xero Shoes Prio is a good pick.

Xero Shoes Prio Budget Friendly

Best Budget Shoe for Lifting: WHITIN Minimalist Shoes

Strength and Versatility Tests I’ve Performed In This Shoe

  • 475 lb deadlift triples
  • 225 lb walking barbell lunges
  • 75 lb over the shoulder sandbag throws
  • 180 lb sled pushes and pulls
  • Max Mileage Ran At One Time: Didn’t use them for running.

Pros

  1. Surprisingly well-rouned performance
  2. Awesome price point
  3. Great for wide feet

Cons

  1. Not the best upper security for serious training
  2. Durability can be variable

Specs to Know

  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 10.15 oz
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size (if you’re in-between sizes, size up)
  • For More Info: Read My Review

WHITIN Barefoot Sneakers

$59.99

4.6
Versatility
4.7
Durability
4.5
Quality
4.6

Best For

  • Barefoot Shoe Beginners
  • Walking and Standing
  • Budget Conscious Shoppers
  • Medium to Wide Feet

Falls Short

  • For Long-Term Durability
  • For Squeaking On Certain Floors

Why I Chose the WHITIN Model Here

It’s really tough to fault the WHITIN Minimalist Shoes regarding price. WHITIN is an Amazon-owned company that has a variety of minimalist shoes and styles that generally range from $30-$60 USD.

Testing the WHITIN Barefoot Sneakers for Multi Season Use

Compared to the other models on this list, these are by far the most cost-efficient barefoot shoes on this list. This model works well for its price and it can also be a good option for beginners who want to spend the least amount possible.

This shoe has a rubber sole that grips different surfaces well and in the gym, these shoes do an adequate job. Their upper is fairly durable for their price and the lacing system is decently secure.

The only two drawbacks to these shoes are their smell and appearance when they first arrive. These shoes have a strong rubber smell when they’re brand new, and their appearance is not the best. For example, my girlfriend says I have dinosaur toes and feet when I wear them.

Testing the WHITIN Barefoot Sneakers Sizing

Are Barefoot Shoes Good for Lifting?

Barefoot shoes can be good shoes for lifting for a couple of reasons. Before diving into these reasons though I want to make it clear that barefoot shoes can be great footwear options for lifting, but they’re not an end-all-be-all.

For example, I personally like rotating barefoot shoes in with my training shoes and weightlifting shoes because each style of footwear will be slightly better for certain contexts.

I think it’s important to keep an objective eye in regard to your footwear usage and to not fall into the trap of being “this is the best and only thing that works.” Below are two of my favorite reasons for using barefoot shoes in my training.

1. Great for Deadlifts and  Deadlift Variations

If you love to deadlift and regularly hit different deadlift variations with your training, then you’ll enjoy how barefoot shoes feel for this performance context.

A barefoot shoe’s minimalist stack height, thin sole, and wide construction are fantastic for helping you get closer to the ground and promote stability.

In the context of deadlifts and deadlift variations, this can be great because it helps you cut down on the total range of motion that you need to lift weight and it can help you better root the feet through the floor which can help with power production in some contexts.

If you’re really trying to optimize your deadlift performance, then it’s hard to fault barefoot shoes and how their construction support deadlifts.

2. Good for Foot Articulation and Active Foot Exercises

Another reason why barefoot shoes can be great for lifting is for the contexts of promoting foot articulation and building the feet. The thin soles on barefoot shoes promote their ability to easily bend and move with the natural mechanics of the foot.

Barefoot Shoes for Lifting and Working Out

This is great for anyone working to train their feet doing things like active foot exercises. It’s also a perk for lifters that want a high level of ground feedback for sensory purposes and for creating biases in how they’re sequencing the displacement of load through certain parts of the foot.

For example, if you’re tackling something like walking lunges in barefoot shoes, then you’ll likely notice that the shoes move really well with you and provide you with a high level of maneuverability.

How Should Barefoot Shoes Fit?

Generally, I recommend sizing your barefoot shoes so you have between .3″-6.” of space at the end of your shoe’s toe box. This is generally a good range for most foot anatomies and it doesn’t make barefoot shoes feel too cramped when working out.

how should barefoot shoes fit

If you have a more narrow foot, then you may want to stay on the lower end of this range, and if you have a wider foot, then you may want to opt for the larger range here. With so many different foot anatomies, barefoot shoe sizing needs to be individual.

This range is also generally a good bet for preventing any form of heel slip in your shoes. However, if you have additional barefoot sizing and fit questions, drop a comment below and I can try to help you out accordingly.

What Does Zero Drop Mean?

Zero drop indicates that a shoe’s heel-to-toe drop is 0mm. This means that the base of the heel and forefoot are sitting even with one another in a flat position.

What does Zero Drop Mean

Barefoot shoes are often referenced as having zero-drop construction, which simply means that the barefoot shoe’s heel-to-toe drop is 0mm. This is standard for pretty much all barefoot shoes since their purpose is to promote and flat and “natural” fit and feel that replicates being barefoot.

If you’re interested in the nitty-gritty details of using a zero drop shoe for lifting, then I’d suggest checking out my flat shoes for lifting article. This piece of content goes into more depth on the use of flat shoes for lifting and the contexts in which they’re useful.

Takeaway Thoughts

Barefoot shoes can be great footwear options for lifting and working out. They come with minimalist soles and zero drop constructions which can be useful and beneficial in certain lifting contexts.

With so many barefoot shoes on the market, it can be overwhelming trying to find the perfect pair of barefoot shoes for lifting.

If you have any questions on the barefoot shoes mentioned above, drop a comment below or reach out to me personally via Instagram (@jake_boly).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q:
Are barefoot shoes good for weight training?

A:
Barefoot shoes can be great footwear options for weight training. More specifically, barefoot shoes can be great footwear picks for deadlifts and lower body days where you desire a high amount of ground feedback.

Q:
Are barefoot shoes good for deadlifting?

A:
Barefoot shoes are great footwear options for deadlifts. Their minimalist soles help limit the total deadlift range of motion that you need to lift weight and their wide toe box construction promotes full toe splay for stability.
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.

4 thoughts on “The 8 Best Barefoot Shoes for Training and Working Out (2024 Update)”

    1. Thank you! I used to rock the older models and liked them, but haven’t had a chance to test the 5 thoroughly yet. They remind me of the Bare-XF 210 V3 from Inov-8. This is perfect timing because I bought a pair a couple of days ago because Merrell is having a nice sale atm. Stay tuned for a full review, friend!

    1. Ah, I’m sorry the UX was sub-par for you and the ads were populating in poor locations. The ads do help keep the business alive and going though, so I apologize on that front!

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