The Best Barefoot Shoes for the Gym

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Megan & Anya

A collage of 7 different barefoot gym shoes, trainers to wear in the gym, on foot and in use with kettlebells, barbells, etc for lifting and crossfit

Whether it’s for weightlifting, Crossfit, or HIIT, barefoot shoes can help stabilize you in the gym for maximum output.

We’ve compiled here the tried-and-true best barefoot gym trainers on the market – they allow your feet spread out and can withstand the rigor of your workouts.

Why We Love Barefoot Shoes for Training

Top down view of 2 people standing side by side at the gym with kettlebells on the floor in front of their feet. The person on the left is wearing Xero Shoes, and the person on the right is in Bearfoot Ursus high top canvas in white. Both have a wide toe box.

Feet are a highly underrated part of our body, and they become especially important when we are physically active. Good form in the gym starts with the feet!

But unfortunately most of the gym shoes on the market don’t let your feet do their job, and consequently throw off the rest of your body. A tapered pointy toe box and an unnecessarily cushioned & heeled sole do not make for natural positioning of the feet.

A side by side collage of the Nike Metcon gym trainer shoes showing that the toe box is narrow and pointy and the outsole is cushioned and raised with a heel lift

So we wear barefoot shoes because they don’t interfere with your body’s connection to the ground. We also love the strength, balance, and sensory gains of being totally barefoot, but at times the workout calls for shoes.

So when we are shopping for gym shoes we look specifically for the following:

  • A wide toe box so the toes can spread out and support the body
  • A thin sole for better stability and proprioception
  • Zero drop or a totally flat sole for neutral alignment
A 3 photo collage showing the TYR Drop Zero barefoot gym shoe from the top, side, and rolled up to demonstrate flexibility.
Barefoot gym trainers have a wide toe box, zero drop sole, and are thin & flexible.

These features make for a shoe that lets your feet function at full capacity in the gym!

The Best Barefoot Gym Shoes

I’ve joined forces with my friend Megan, who is a physical therapist and gym enthusiast. Together we tested all the barefoot gym shoes on the market to determine which ones have the best grip, functionality, durability, and of course a good fit for healthy feet.

There are our favorite options that are as close to the barefoot experience as possible while giving your foot the protection it needs, whatever your preferred form of exercise is.

This article is about gym trainers, not lifters, which are especially made for a specific type of weightlifting – Olympic lifting. If you would like a wide toe box alternative to your standard Olympic lifter, check out this option from TYR.

Now on to the best barefoot training shoes!

Xero Forza

Sizes US Women’s 5 – Men’s 15 | Available from:

Best for: All gym & court workouts

This model ended up being the favorite for both of us because they were the most versatile for lifting/static exercises AND dynamic cardio workouts. And they are just dang comfy while being super secure to the foot! They have that perfect balance of being soft and flexible while still providing the right amount of grip and protection.

We love that you get both the lace adjustment and the strap adjustment to really fine tune the fit. That velcro stability strap provides a lot of security the whole length of the shoe, so we found that they work both on my really low volume foot and Megan’s high volume foot.

Cons: The uppers on the Forza are not reinforced so won’t be as durable as some of the other trainers we tested, especially for rope climbs. But because we love how soft they are, it’s a fair trade in our opinion (increased comfort, a little less durability).

And second, if it were up to us they would have more room in the toe box. Even though the soft upper is stretchy and forgiving, these are not ideal for people with a really wide toe splay. But because they are so secure you can size up for more room!

Sizing & Fit Type:

  • True to size
  • Medium to wide width
  • Works for any foot volume with removable insole

Men’s Xero shoes are wider than women’s, so I recommend ordering based on your foot width (since otherwise the shoe is the same).

Vivobarefoot Motus Strength

Sizes Women’s EU 35-43 & Men’s EU 40-49 | Vegan | Available from:

Use code ANYA25 for 25% off

Best for: All gym workouts

The Vivobarefoot Motus Strength is especially designed with a grippy, flat outsole for stability on the gym floor. They are a little more cushioned than other Vivobarefoot models for a bit of extra protection in high impact workouts. The quality is great, and we expect them to be really durable over time and with heavy use on gym floors.

The Motus Strength shoe can easily be worn for all gym exercise, but are just a tiny bit stiffer in parts of the shoe than the Xero Forza. Though we do expect them to get more and more comfortable over time (as has been the case with all my other pairs of Vivo shoes).

One bonus about the Vivobarefoot Motus Strength is that they look more like a regular sneaker than most of the barefoot trainer options, so they can easily be worn straight from the gym to the town. This is a big plus if you’d rather not buy a different pair of shoes for every activity.

Cons: The stitching on the inside was a little irritating without socks, but with socks was not noticeable.

And we’d love them to be just a teensy bit more flexible for dynamic workouts and quick direction changes. However, they seem to be more durable than the Xero Forza with a higher walled rubber sole for protection against hard equipment, so again always a trade off.

Sizing & Fit Type:

  • Run slightly long
  • Medium to wide fit
  • Low to high volume with removable insole

Like Xero Shoes, Vivobarefoot men’s are wider than women’s otherwise no different. So order based on your foot type.

They fit Megan’s high volume feet well, but bunched a little bit on my low volume feet – more of an aesthetic issue than a fit issue!

TYR DropZero

Sizes US M4.5/W6 – M16/W175 | Available from:

Best for: Lifting & static exercise

If you need a shoe for lifting only, the TYR DropZero trainer is the best of the bunch. The quality is excellent, they are durable with reinforcements at high pressure points, have a grippy sole, and are breathable thanks to a soft knitted upper.

The two velcro adjustments make for an ultra secure fit without any pinch points or rubbing. We also found the toe box to be a good width, wider than both Vivo and Xero. I consider this shoe to be the best made of all in this list! And the one we recommend for serious lifters who want a shoe that lasts.

Cons: There is just one thing we would change to make them more versatile as a gym trainer, and that is a bit more flexibility in the sole for quick movements. The outsole is bendy, but not as flexible as we would like in all directions, so they don’t move as dynamically with the foot for full body cardio exercise like HIIT & CrossFit.

But they have gotten more flexible over time and certainly can be used as an all purpose gym trainer. It’s just that they’re not our top pick for those exercise modalities!

Sizing & Fit Type:

  • True to size
  • Wide to extra wide fit
  • Low to high volume with removable insole

Bearfoot Shoes Ursus

Sizes US M4/W3.5 – M16 | Available from:

Use code ANYA10 for 10% off

Best For: Lifting & Casual use

The Bearfoot Ursus is a really soft comfortable shoe with no pinch points anywhere. We hardly notice we’re wearing them, which is the goal of a barefoot shoe! These are especially good for Megan, who has a wide high volume foot -they offer a whole lot of room in the toe box.

Despite the fact that the Bearfoot Ursus is soft, it still is durable and abrasion resistant. And the high top version can be useful to bring awareness to the ankle if you are in need of that.

Cons: The canvas does get dirty easily (they’ll need to be washed occasionally), and we found them better for lifting or casual wear than for dynamic sports – because they aren’t as responsive to quick movements.

I would also add, from a fit perspective, that the toe box is a little shallow over the toes, so if you are someone with “tall toes” or upward pointing nails they might feel tight.

Bearfoot Shoes also has a grip toe sock that you can use in the gym too. It doesn’t offer any protection against equipment, but are a nice alternative if you want to lift barefoot but aren’t allowed to.

Sizing & Fit Type:

  • Runs slightly short (mostly because the very front of the shoe doesn’t have a lot of toe clearance)
  • Wide to extra wide fit
  • Medium to high volume fit in the arch (insole not removable)
  • Low volume over the toes

Notorious Lift Radix

Sizes EU 35-47 | Available from:

Best for: All gym exercise

Notorious Lift shoes are like a classic gym shoe but with more grip for stability while lifting (and of course a wide toe box and flat sole). These shoes cross over well to the more dynamic exercise modalities because they are very soft, flexible, and move with the foot.

The performed well for us as an all purpose trainer and are really comfortable!

Cons: We wish there was a stability strap for better security on the whole length of the foot. This will be especially noticeable in people with lower volume feet.

Sizing & Fit Type:

  • Runs small
  • Wide fit
  • Medium to high volume with removable insole

I found these too roomy on my low volume feet and needed to add an extra insole to get a good secure fit. This is fine for high impact sports when I want some extra protection, but specifically for lifting I don’t want extra padding because it makes it harder to stabilize my foot. So if you have low volume feet and want to use these weightlifting, I’d go for another model here.

Vibram Five Fingers V-Train

Sizes EU 34-50 | Available from:

Get 15% off automatically through the above link

Best for: Crossfit & all gym exercise

Vibram Five Fingers offer full toe articulation and awareness in the feet. Back in the day they were Megan’s go to for minimalistic shoes! The V-Train is specifically designed as a gym trainer so that’s the model we tested out, but they have others that work well as a gym shoe.

The V-Train has some padding on the balls of the feet which is good for high impact exercise and running on pavement. They are also flexible enough to allow natural foot patterning. The arch area is reinforced with hard lugs for rope climbs, which is good for durability but it does make them less flexible and open.

Cons: Really snug in the midfoot due to the firm rope traction lugs in the arch, so this particular model didn’t work for Megan’s wide, high volume feet.

If you like the idea of five finger shoes but want something without the firm arch reinforcement, I would suggest the KMD Sport LS or the KSO EVO. These are both designed for indoor gym use but without the rope lugs and should still give you a real barefoot feeling with the grip you need.

Sizing & Fit Type:

This is for the V-Train model.

  • True to size
  • Medium wide fit
  • Low to medium volume

If you choose other models they fit wider and higher volume feet better! And the Men’s versions are wider than Women’s, so we recommend choosing based on your foot type.

Tolos

Sizes US M5/W6.5 – M14/W15.5 | Available from:

Use code ANYA10 for 10% off

Best for: Weightlifting

Tolos sneakers are very minimal and lightweight. We found them to be best for weightlifting when you are mostly static and not pounding the concrete. They have very minimal cushioning, so might not have enough foot protection for high impact exercise and sports.

But because they aren’t over-designed with a bunch of fancy doo dads, you are able to easily take them from the gym to just about anywhere. They are a good balance of function with minimalism. And you can add an extra insole if you want a little more cushion for running or jumping.

Cons: If you have a low volume foot it’s difficult to cinch the laces tight enough for a good fit. And they aren’t as secure throughout the whole foot as we’d prefer for dynamic exercise that involves quick movements.

Sizing & Fit:

  • True to size
  • Wide fitting
  • Medium to high volume – no insole

Affordable Barefoot Gym Trainers

If you are looking for an affordable barefoot gym shoe to test the waters in, I recommend the following two brands. Both are light, grippy, super flexible, and come with a removable insole for a little extra padding.

Whitin Shoes

Whitin has a variety of sneakers and trainers with a wide toe box and flexible sole. They’re basic, but do the job! And I like that they have mainstream looking styles if you want a classic sneaker look in the gym.

I recommend choosing shoes either from the “Wide Barefoot” section of their shop, or the style above right with the 5 nubs (like toes). And they run on the smaller side, so many people size up.

This brand ships from Amazon, which can be convenient if you are unsure about your size and want to be able to easily return.

Saguaro Smart

A top down view of a pair of feet standing on concrete. One is bare and the other is wearing Saguaro cheap barefoot sneakers

Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 15% off

The Saguaro Smart has a mesh upper that is soft and breathable. They run a little bit small, so many people size up a half or whole size. The width is generous, and they’re a pretty solid shoe! Not as durable as the others we’ve reviewed here, but that is to be expected at this price. And they are genuinely very comfortable.

Saguaro has other barefoot shoes that can be used as gym shoes, but this one if my favorite.

The most important thing to note is that Saguaro ships from Asia, so can take a little while to arrive depending on where you are ordering from.

Find your perfect barefoot gym shoe

While we’ve shared here the best barefoot gym trainers that are specifically designed for that environment, many gym enthusiasts are enjoying other barefoot shoes for exercise! So don’t feel limited to only these options. Wear what feels good to you!

Below are two additional resources that covers more barefoot sneaker options:

May your feet support you in all that you do!

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Comments

16 thoughts on “The Best Barefoot Shoes for the Gym”

  1. Hi Anya,

    The Notorious Lift Radix looks really interesting! I assume all the offers in this list have just a outsole and insole but no midsole?
    Thanks kindly.

    1. I would say that most have some material in the midsole. The Tolos is the most minimal of them with just an insole and outsole, but the others I believe all have an extra layer of material. Nothing too cushiony though. It’s not so common, even in barefoot shoes, to have no middle layer whatsoever.

    2. In addition to what Anya stated, I’ve found that many, if not most, barefoot and minimalist shoes are designed to still be fully functional with the included insoles removed. Especially athletic shoes.

  2. Thanks for the excellent review opening up some new companies to me.
    You state that you have tested all those available? Does this mean all the options that the company specifically say are for the gym or all potential options that are not specifically gym shoes? I have used Tadeevo bliss for 12 months in the gym with no issues . However I now wonder if your review options would be even better? Thanks again

    1. These are the ones that are specifically designed for the gym, but you absolutely can wear others with success. In the end of this article I link to a couple other sneaker resources, and one of them reviews the Tadeevo Bliss as a great athletic sneaker. But for some people the specialty trainers will be better (because they’re doing rope climbs, etc and need reinforcements in the right places).

  3. Any idea where I can find widths for the TYR DropZero? Do you know if the men’s version is wider than the women’s fit?

    1. The men’s and women’s versions are the same width. I did not find internal widths on their website, but you can reach out to their customer service to see if they can provide that.

  4. Lars Pauli Hansen

    Hi, and thanks for many great reviews!

    Can you recommend a shoe for playing tennis?
    I have been using Altra hiit xt 1.5, but the have stopped producing them years ago..

    Best Lars

  5. What brand/style would you recommend for boot camp style classes hopping on an off a bike to the floor for weight training?

    1. Honestly any of these! I think the Xero Forza and Notorious Lift Radix would work great in that situation, because they are really flexible so have that versatility for different types of exercise.

  6. Have you tried out any of the Groundies Active – for the gym or other sports? I don’t see it here or on the running or sports shoes list. According to Groundies, they are good for sports but I trust your reviews much more. πŸ™‚

    1. Yes, I have a pair. I honestly don’t love them. I find the fit to be too narrow and the upper material kind of bunches and feels stiff. They seem nicer if you have a slim foot.

  7. I love that you always list a variety of options! Sending the link for this article to my trainer since my preferred gym shoes (Freet Pace) didn’t work for her as well as they do for me.

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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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