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GROUNDIES Active Review | Vivobarefoot Alternative But Narrower?

GROUNDIES is a popular barefoot shoe brand based in Europe that has started to gain more traction in the United States. The GROUNDIES Active has been on my radar for quite some time.

For lifting and working out, I’ve historically enjoyed barefoot shoes like the Archetype 1.0, Primus Lite III, and Motus Strength from Vivobarefoot, so I was super stoked to get my hands on the GROUNDIES Active.

In my GROUNDIES Active review, I’ll cover how this shoe performs in the gym and discuss some of the pros and cons that I’ve experienced with this shoe.

Quick Take: The GROUNDIES Active has been an exceptional barefoot shoe for cross-training, lifting, and daily wear. There are foot anatomies that I think will work really well with this model, however, this is not a shoe that will work for all foot widths.

GROUNDIES Active

GROUNDIES Active Product Shot
4.0
Stability
4.6
Versatility
4.2
Durability
3.6
Quality
4.0

Best For

  • Cross-Training
  • Lifting
  • Short Runs
  • Barefoot Shoe Beginners
  • Medium-Width Feet

Falls Short

  • For Exceptionally Wide Feet
  • For Turf Workouts

Who Should Buy the GROUNDIES Active?

The GROUNDIES Active has been a shoe that’s resonated with me for the most part, and there are a few contexts where I think this shoe makes a lot of sense if you’re thinking about them.

1. You Want a Barefoot Shoe for Lifting and Cross-Training

I’m someone who trains a little more “athletically” on a daily basis, so I like to blend exercises like deadlifts and squats with sprints, plyometrics, and multi-directional work.

GROUNDIES Active for Deadlifts

For this training style, the GROUNDIES Active has done a fairly good job. In the lifting vertical, I like the lower stack height in his shoe and how you can take its insole out to get closer to the ground. This shoe feels good to do deadlifts and RDLs in, for example.

I also like that this shoe flexes pretty well and moves with the foot when doing single-leg exercises. For cross-training, this model’s upper has a good level of security especially for multi-directional exercises.

GROUNDIES Active for Cross-Training

On top of this, this shoe’s sole does a good job overall with traction on rubber gym floors, wooden platforms, and even turf if you’re doing lower-threshold work, higher-threshold work can be problematic and I’ll discuss that below.

2. You Want a Shoe for Training and Casual Wear

If you’re big on wanting a shoe for training and day-to-day wear, then I think the GROUNDIES Active can make sense. This model has a good level of versatility in the gym and it looks pretty good, too.

I went with the multicolor colorway because I wanted a model that paired well with different outfits. This shoe looks good with shorts and pants, so it can be dynamic with your daily wear wants which I personally love.

GROUNDIES Active

Additionally, if you like slip-on shoes for training and daily wear, then the lacing system will also be a hit for you in this shoe. I like that you can tighten them and tuck the laces down or wear them looser and not sacrifice security.

3. You Have Medium-Width Feet and Like Sock-Like Fitting Shoes

The last scenario that I think the GROUNDIES Active works really well in for those with medium to slightly wider feet with the fit asks of a sock-like fitting barefoot shoe.

This is not the widest barefoot shoe on the market, however, I think for narrow, medium, and slightly wide feet, this shoe’s fit will align really well with your foot anatomy.

GROUNDIES Active Appearance

Plus, I’m a fan of barefoot shoes that have a more sock-like fit and the Active delivers on this ask. If you’re similar then I think you’ll also find this to be a perk of this shoe and how it hugs the foot.

Who Shouldn’t Buy the GROUNDIES Active?

While there’s a lot to like about the GROUNDIES Active, there are a couple of contexts and scenarios in which I think you’ll want to pass on this shoe.

1. You Need a Shoe With More Width

The GROUNDIES Active is marketed as having a wide and anatomical toe box. For narrow, medium, and slightly wider feet, I think this sentiment will stand true and this model will be fine.

However, if you have notably wide feet, and more specifically EE or wider feet, then I think you’ll have sizing issues with this model. This shoe’s low-profile upper and tapered toe box limiting for this foot anatomy.

GROUNDIES Active Width

To add context here, I have an E-width foot and this shoe fits my foot well for the most part. If I’m wearing thin socks or going barefoot, the fit is great, but I even notice the toe box on the pinky side when wearing thicker socks which is frustrating, to say the least.

All that said, the GROUNDIES Active isn’t the widest barefoot shoe for working out on the market. If you need more width, I’d look into models like the Primus Lite III.

2. You Want a Breathable Barefoot Shoe for Hot Days and Running

Another couple of contexts where you’ll want to pass on the GROUNDIES Active is if want an active barefoot shoe for training in hotter climates or for longer runs and hybrid workouts.

GROUNDIES Active Upper

To be honest, these two contexts somewhat go hand in hand since breathability can be a major player in the context of running. The textile and TPU upper materials in this shoe are great for appearance and security, but the breathability of this model isn’t the best.

Plus, if you’re wearing thicker socks then I could see this being even more problematic for you. For training in hotter climates and running, I think you’d be better suited with models like the Xero Shoes Zelen, Primus Lite Knit, and Xero Shoes Speed Force.

GROUNDIES Active Pros and Cons

Over the course of my testing process with the GROUNDIES Active, I’ve made multiple mental notes about some of the pros and cons of this shoe. Below are some of the big takeaways to keep in mind before you buy.

Report Card: Get the Quick Facts

GROUNDIES Active

GROUNDIES Active Pros and Cons
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Stack Height: ~8.5mm (with insole in)
  • Removable Insole: Yes (comes with 2)
  • Sizing: Size Up .1-5 Size
  • Width: Medium/Slightly Wide

Pros

  1. For lifting and cross-training, this shoe does a really good job and it’s comparable to other top-performing shoes in these verticals.
  2. This shoe’s appearance is pretty stellar and if you like the lower-profile and a classic silhouette with your shoes, then these can be a good option for training and wearing out and about.
  3. This shoe should resonate well with medium to slightly wider feet, and it will really hit for those that like low-profile sock-like fitting barefoot shoes.

Cons

  1. The toe crease can be a little uncomfortable when breaking this shoe and if you’re often sensitive to this, then you’ll want to keep this in mind.
  2. The toe box of this shoe is low volume and it has a taper.  If you have EE-width feet or wider, then you’ll want to either pass on this shoe or size up knowing that it may be snug for you.
  3. This shoe’s textile and TPU upper cut into its ability to breathe and this model can run pretty hot in warmer climates.

If you’ve worn and trained in the GROUNDIES Active, what are some of the pros and cons that you’ve noticed with this model? Did I miss anything you’ve experienced? Let me know in the comments below.

Performance Assessment

To break down the performance of the GROUNDIES Active, I tested this shoe in a variety of settings. More specifically, I tested this shoe with lifting, versatile training, short runs, and daily wear.

Testing the GROUNDIES Active for Lifting

In the context of lifting, the GROUNDIES Active has been a pretty strong shoe overall. I put the Active into the same wheelhouse as models like the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III and Tolos Archetype 2.0.

The Active has a pretty low stack height and is fairly comparable to stack heights that you’ll get with Vivobarefoot, so if you’ve worn those models then I’d expect a similar level of ground feel with the GROUNDIES model.

Testing the GROUNDIES Active for Working Out

For deadlifts and lower body exercises, I liked how much feel I got with this shoe. Another perk is that you get a good degree of articulation with this shoe’s flexible sole for exercises like lunges and split squats.  

This shoe’s upper and boot construction are also nice perks for lifting purposes. I found the upper to provide a good level of security when doing kettlebell work and explosive exercises like cleans.

Testing the GROUNDIES Active for Leg Workouts

The padded boot is also a nice subtle perk that’s grown on me due to its comfort and security. If you’re buying this model for lifting, then I think you’ll enjoy its performance, and it’s slightly more budget-friendly than its peers like the Primus Lite Knit.

Testing the GROUNDIES Active for Versatile Training

For versatile training, I’ve enjoyed the GROUNDIES Active for the most part. There’s a lot to like about this shoe. However, I do have a couple of concerns about this shoe for HIIT workouts and training on turf.

The perks of this shoe revolve around its upper, flexible sole, and fit. The textile upper and its reinforced TPU layers do a really good job of preventing spillover. I have yet to have issues in this model when doing skater strides and lateral box jumps.

Testing the GROUNDIES Active for Versatile Workouts

I also like how the sole performed for most exercises due to its flexibility. This shoe is easy to flex and move in so you should get a nice dynamic feel with them when training. Note, on MOST surfaces, the GROUNDIES Active’s sole has done a decent job with traction.

I also think the fit of this model is also a perk for certain foot anatomies when it comes to versatile training. If you’re like me and enjoy a more sock-like fitting barefoot shoe for explosive work then you’ll enjoy the Active’s fit.

Testing the GROUNDIES Active for Lateral Exercises

This model reminds me a lot of the Tolos Archetype 2.0 but with a more structured boot and classic training shoe silhouette. I also like that this model is relatively easy to slip on and off which is always a nice subtle perk for “lazy” athletes like myself.

Now, my gripes with this shoe for versatile training revolve around its lack of breathability, its slip issues for higher-intensity turf work, more specifically sled pushes, and how the elastic lacing system can come out from being tucked at times.

Testing the GROUNDIES Active for Turf Training

Testing the GROUNDIES Active for Short Runs and Daily Wear

Thus far in the GROUNDIES Active, I’ve done a few workouts where I’ve done sprints on concrete and 400-800 meter intervals in grass. For these running contexts, the Active has done a pretty good job.

The flexibility of the sole and the fact that you can change its insole are both perks that help boost this shoe’s running potential for shorter-duration running workouts.

For longer runs, or basically runs over one mile, I’d suggest passing on this shoe. Its lack of breathability is a major hindrance to this shoe’s running potential, especially in warmer climates.

Testing the GROUNDIES Active for Daily Wear

For daily wear, this shoe has things to like and things that I’m not the biggest fan of. I really like the appearance of this shoe. It also has a fairly comfortable boot and the fact that you can easily slip it on and off is a nice perk.

My two knocks against this shoe for daily wear are that I think some folks will find the upper in the toe box to be too limiting and the taper to be too aggressive. The toe box crease can also be “meh” during the break-in period. And lastly, the lacing system can be annoying when it gets uneven.

GROUNDIES Active Sizing

For the GROUNDIES Active, you’ll want to pay attention to how you size this shoe. This model runs a little short and they have a medium to slightly wider width through their toe box.

On GROUNDIES’ site, they recommend sizing up a full size in the Active and I think that will be a safe call for most with this model. I went up a size to 44 over my normal size 43 (US 10) and that’s given this shoe a better fit.

Testing the GROUNDIES Active Sizing On Feet

As mentioned above, I can wear these barefoot and with thin socks with relatively no sizing issues whatsoever, especially through the toe box, and I think similar foot width will be fine in this shoe.

The caveat, though, is that if you have a more square forefoot and you’re constantly running into pinky toe rubbing issues, then you’ll want to pass on the Active, in my opinion. Even if you size up, I’m not convinced these will fit you the best.

GROUNDIES Active Sizing Thoughts: Go up a size.

GROUNDIES Active Sizing and Fit Assessment

If you have additional questions about the GROUNDIES Active and which size you should go with, drop a comment below.

Price Breakdown

For the GROUNDIES Active, you can expect to pay around 129,90 Euros which converts to about $138 USD. This price point is a little more premium in nature in the world of barefoot shoes.

Now the question is, are the GROUNDIES Active worth that price which is higher than models that all have good versatility like the Xero Shoes Prio Neo and Tolos Archetype 2.0.

GROUNDIES Active Sole Flexibility

I do think the GROUNDIES are worth their price if you have the fit asks they deliver and the anatomy for their width. This shoe’s performance has been exceptionally strong and they look good.

On top of this, I like that they come with two different insoles and that you can use them without insoles. It adds a nice level of versatility to these shoes.

With all that in mind, I don’t think these are necessarily the strongest barefoot shoes on the market for working out, so if you’re not worried about price, then you may want to explore stronger performing models like the Vivobarefoot Motus Strength.

GROUNDIES Active

GROUNDIES Active Product Shot
4.0
Stability
4.6
Versatility
4.2
Durability
3.6
Quality
4.0

Best For

  • Cross-Training
  • Lifting
  • Short Runs
  • Barefoot Shoe Beginners
  • Medium-Width Feet

Falls Short

  • For Exceptionally Wide Feet
  • For Turf Workouts

Construction Details

There are a few unique and cool construction features with the GROUNDIES Active. Below are some of the construction details to note that can influence this shoe’s performance and durability.

  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 9.85 oz (for my size 10 model)
  • Removable Insole: Yes (2 insoles)
  • Textile and TPU Upper
  • TrueSense® Active sole (2mm base and 2.5 mm lugs)
  • Elastic Drawstring Lacing System
  • External Heel Tab
  • Padded Boot
  • Additional Tongue Loop
  • Full Rubber Outsole

If you have additional questions about the GROUNDIES Active construction, drop a comment below and I can clarify whatever you have asked about.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q:
Are the GROUNDIES Active good for lifting?

A:
For strength training, the GROUNDIES Active has done a pretty good job. This shoe is stable for heavy training and its sole grips most surfaces in the gym really well.

Q:
Is the GROUNDIES Active good for wide feet?

A:
The GROUNDIES Active will work for medium to slightly wider feet, but if you have exceptionally feet as in EE-width or wider, then you may find this shoe limiting with its fit.

Q:
Can you run in GROUNDIES?

A:
The GROUNDIES Active have done an okay job for short runs and sprints. This shoe's breathability isn't the best, so for long runs, you may want to pass on this shoe due to its lack of breathability.

Takeaway Thoughts

Going into the GROUNDIES Active, I didn’t really know what to expect. They looked like the culmination of a bunch of my current favorite barefoot shoes for training so I was stoked when these shoes ended up performing well.

I think if you want a barefoot shoe for cross-training and lifting, then these can be a good option, especially if you have a foot style that will align with this model’s fit.

If you have additional questions about the GROUNDIES Active, drop a comment below or reach out 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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