Groundies Performance Review – Barefoot Sneakers With A Retro Look

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This post was sponsored by Groundies, but I retain full editorial control of the content.

A side view of a row of 3 people's feet from the knees down standing on asphalt outside wearing Groundies Performance barefoot sneakers. In the front is the Flow in white leather, in the middle is Balance in black, and in the back is Relax in taupe wool.

Groundies Performance sneakers have the appearance of a wedge heel but are actually totally flat, thin, and wide in the toe box – so you can get that retro sneaker vibe and still be aligned and comfortable! With the help of my friends, I tested and reviewed all 3 Groundies Performance sneakers models and am here to give you the lowdown. Check out my in-depth review below!

Getting To Know Groundies

A row of 3 women sitting on a log outside talking and laughing wearing Groundies Performance barefoot sneakers. On the left is the Balance in black, in the middle is Flow in white leather, and on the right is Relax in taupe wool.

Groundies Barefootwear is a German barefoot shoe brand that focuses on healthy shoes with a mainstream look. In fact, in my experience Groundies shoes are one of the most popular “First Barefoot Shoes” for newbies. I’m pretty sure this is because they are killing it in the style game – barefoot shoes do not have to be ugly y’all!

Here are some more things I love about Groundies.

  • All Groundies shoes are zero drop, flexible, and thin (even if the sole doesn’t look like it)
  • They carry tons of styles that are WAY better for you than most traditional footwear
  • They are climate neutral
  • They ship worldwide for free (but it’s slow, so you might want to opt for DHL Express, which is $10 to the US)
  • They have a 3 year warranty against the soles wearing out
  • You can return shoes within 14 days of receipt even if worn outside.

You can read my previous Groundies Barefootwear reviews here.

At Groundies you can also find many models that comes in a “regular fit” with a pointier shape, but all the rest have a more anatomical foot shape. Personally, I say go with the barefoot shape – it’s better for your feet.

A woman squatting down on grass smiling and looking at a phone on a tripod wearing a suede jacket, jeans, and Groundies Flow Performance barefoot sneakers in white leather
Just using my full range of motion in shoes that let my feet be free, no big deal.

Sizing & Fit

Groundies Sizing: Fortunately sizing is true in Groundies shoes and usually consistent across models, so I almost never have trouble finding my correct size. The only exception for me so far is the Bella flats, you can read my Bella review for those sizing details.

Men’s and Women’s shoes are identical, but separated out into different listings (why tho?), and they come in sizes EU 36-47.

Groundies Fit Type: Groundies has a mountain shape in an average width, and works well for people who are new to barefoot shoes or who don’t have extra wide feet. The foot volume of Groundies varies depending on the model.

You can read more about foot type and shoes that match it here.

The 4 Groundies Outsoles

A collage of the four different outsole types available from Groundies Barefootwear - The GO1, the GS1, the GX1, and the Performance
  • GO1: Groundies original sole (formerly called TrueSense) that is extremely responsive, grippy, flexible, and soft. I love this sole.
  • GS1: This gives the appearance of a thick traditional sole, but it is actually quite thin. The construction of it is slightly less flexible than the GO1.
  • GX1: This one is thicker than the TrueSense to be more rugged for hiking and cold, but still flexible.
  • Performance: Meant to feel like the TrueSense GO1 but with a slightly more cushioned sole and the appearance of a wedge heel. It also has a slightly elongated toe to give a more traditional appearance (but it’s no narrower than other Groundies shoes).

It’s my opinion that the toe box on Groundies could angle out at the big toe more, to allow for a bigger toe splay – this is something I feel most in the Groundies GS1 shoes because the walled sole comes up higher and you feel the edges of it more starkly. I have a wide toe splay, and the GS1 shoes from Groundies are the only ones I don’t feel comfortable in. Of course if you don’t have a wide toe splay you probably won’t notice this, and I still adore my other Groundies shoes.

Now let’s move on to the main entree – the Performance Sneakers!

Groundies Performance Sneaker Review

A close up view of a pair of feet wearing white leather Groundies Performance Flow barefoot sneaker on a log with the heel and Groundies logo in focus

Currently the Performance sole is available on 3 different sneakers with different upper materials – the Flow (€119), Balance (€109), and Relax (€119). I recruited two of my friends, Shay and Megan, to help review all 3 on different foot types and shoe sizes.

Groundies Flow

A side view of a pair of feet outside on grass wearing Groundies Performance Flow barefoot sneakers in white leather

Leather | True To Size | €119
Best for Average Width, Low to Medium Volume Feet

For myself I chose the Flow sneaker in a size EU 37 (the size I wear in all my Groundies sneakers). The Flow is made of leather and I was really digging the classic look. They remind me of retro Nikes or Adidas.

I have to admit though, I was skeptical of the toe box shape. It looks almond-shaped both in photos and in person. Given my history of pain, it’s important for me to not have my big toe pressed in. But somehow there is a lot more space than it looks like and they actually fit my width. Of course I was thrilled, because they’re so cute. I do wear the Flow sneakers barefoot, both for the extra toe space and because that’s just how I do.

Another question I had about the performance sole was whether the wide heel base would feel restrictive on my ankles. Since I wore these Flow sneakers casually – running errands and walking in my town – never once was I bothered by it.

The leather upper is soft, and there was no rubbing or break in time. It is moderately breathable, but still a teensy bit sweaty in warmer weather (somehow it was over 60 degrees and sunny for a few days while I was testing these).

This model also fits my volume very well. I have shallow feet and often have to add an extra barefoot insole to sneakers, but the Flow fits me very comfortably with the laces tightened a little bit. While I don’t mind adding insoles to my shoes, it’s really nice to not have to fiddle with any adjustments. I think they would work easily for medium volume feet, but this particular model might be a stretch for high volume. If you really wanted to try them on high volume feet I would consider sizing up.

A top down view of a pair of feet standing on concrete with the left foot bare and the right foot wearing a white leather Groundies Performance Flow barefoot sneaker

My only complaint about the Flow is that the laces are really long. They won’t be so long on a higher volume foot with the laces loosened, but on me they were dragging on the ground and got dirty. Otherwise, I am very pleased with this sneaker.


Groundies Balance

A side view of a pair of feet outside on grass wearing Groundies Performance Balance barefoot sneakers in black

Mesh (vegan) | True To Size | €109
Best for Average Width, Medium Volume Feet

The Groundies Balance is a vegan mesh sneaker that is more airy than the other options from the Performance line. The upper is made of a combination of bamboo and recycled materials, and the toe box has a light reinforcement so it doesn’t look baggy. Shay is very happy with these sneakers, she’s been wearing them on long midday walks pushing a stroller and hasn’t once had any irritation or discomfort.

Shay has a size 40 narrowish foot (somewhere between narrow and average) and she has plenty of space in the toe box of these Balance sneakers. They seem to fit slightly narrower than the Flow reviewed above, but the mesh has the potential to stretch on the sides.

A top down view of a pair of feet standing on concrete with the left foot bare and the right foot wearing a black Groundies Performance Balance barefoot sneaker

The Balance fits Shay’s low volume feet and narrow heels very well, but she did notice that when she tightened the laces the material bunched. This model will be a little more suitable to higher volume feet than the Flow, but still is probably best for medium or low volume (again, sizing up is an option for extra high arches).

Groundies Relax

A side view of a pair of feet outside on grass wearing Groundies Performance Relax barefoot sneakers in taupe wool

Wool Upper, Microfiber Lining | True To Size | €119
Best for Average Width, Medium Volume Feet

The Groundies Relax is made of Burel wool and lined with soft microfiber. They are reminiscent of Allbirds, which I used to own and love. What I would have given for a totally flat alternative back then! Megan tested these out for us and found them extremely comfortable and perfect for transitional weather. They felt a little hot in warm weather (more so than the Flow) and she wouldn’t want to exercise in them for that reason. But as a casual, everyday sneaker they were perfect.

Megan has a wide, high volume foot. We decided to go for a size 38 for her, even though she can sometimes wear a size 37. The 38s fit her well, and you can see that she doesn’t tie the laces very tightly across her foot (below, left). I also tried on the size 38 (below, right), and by contrast I needed to tighten the laces over my shallow arches which caused the material to buckle a little. Even still, the 38s fit me pretty well and I could easily have gotten this size – I can thank the close-fitting heel area for that.


Are They Athletic Sneakers?

Given the name “Performance,” I wondered whether these were athletic sneakers. After our testing we collectively determined that the Flow and Relax would probably feel hot and uncomfortable during exercise, but the Balance could very easily work as a trainer. The sole is grippy, flexible, and works well on pavement and indoor gym environments.

Conclusion

Here is a summary of our experience with the Groundies Performance sneakers:

  • They are most suitable for average or narrow width feet, but possible for some wide feet (like mine!).
  • They cater to medium and low volume feet, with the Flow being the best for low volume and the Relax and Balance models better for medium (and some high) volume feet.
  • Relax and Balance are very soft and don’t press down on the toes.
  • All fit securely and comfortably around the hind foot – our feet were not sloshing around at all.
  • There were no pressure points, blisters, or break in time.

Ultimately, we all had success with the Groundies Performance sneakers and found them very comfortable and stylish!

A row of 3 women standing on dirt outside near trees smiling at the camera wearing Groundies Performance barefoot sneakers. On the left is Relax in taupe wool, in the middle is Balance in black, and on the right is Flow in white leather

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Comments

9 thoughts on “Groundies Performance Review – Barefoot Sneakers With A Retro Look”

  1. Hi. I really like your comparison of soles as I have 3 pairs of Groundies which feel very different and now I really don’t know what to choose. I have a medium-wide feet and I wear a 42 in Groundies and I love my Ibiza and Odessa with GO1 soles, but I don’t feel confortable in my Milano GS1, they feel narrow, mostly in the medium zone (not toebox). Given my experience, what do you feel about me trying the Performance sole or another model with GS1 sole? Thank you.

    1. The GS1 is definitely more restrictive feeling, even in the midfoot (but I feet it most in the the toe box). The Performance outsole feels more like the GO1, but it does taper in at the midfoot a little more than the GO1.

  2. I ordered the Balance after reading this. It only took 4 days for them to arrive! I love them! So cute! I order up for sneakers and I have plenty of wiggle room. So happy with these.

  3. Newbie question: what does low, medium and high volume mean? It was never defined. For example, I have relatively narrow, high arched feet.

    Thx. I appreciate your analysis.

  4. How does the width of the Balance compare to the Bella? I usually wear Be Lenka Primes, but I do wear the Bellas once in awhile for their style. Their width is at the limit of how narrow I can go, depending on how my feet feel that day. My feet are somewhere in-between plateau and square.

    1. It’s hard to compare a ballet flat to a sneaker, since the fit is so different. But it seems the Groundies Performance sneakers are a little wider in the toe box than the Bella flats.

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Hi. I'm Anya.

Hi. I'm Anya.

I first discovered barefoot shoes after a long history of foot issues. By changing my footwear and strengthening my body I was able to completely transform my life. Anya’s Reviews is my way of sharing with the world that healthy feet are happy feet!

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