Guide to Barefoot Gym Shoes: Top 7 Weightlifting Shoes

Are you tired of traditional gym shoes that hinder your performance in the weight room? It’s time to rethink your footwear choices and explore the world of barefoot gym shoes. These minimalist shoes offer an unparalleled connection to the ground, allowing for better force production, stability, and comfort during your workouts. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about barefoot shoes for weight lifting, including the top picks, benefits, and how to choose the perfect pair for your needs.

woman weightlifting in barefoot shoes

As a big fan of exercising, going to the gym, and working out at home, I found out that moving to barefoot shoes was perfect for me not only in terms of my daily life and general health & feel, but it was very beneficial for my kettlebell training and weightlifting in the gym. In this article, we’ll be covering the different benefits of barefoot shoes in the gym, and what are the top options available right now.

What are Barefoot Gym Shoes?

Barefoot gym shoes, also known as minimalist shoes, are specifically designed to mimic the sensation of training without shoes. They provide a close-to-the-ground feel, allowing your feet to move more naturally and efficiently during weight lifting and other workouts. These shoes typically feature:

  • A wide toe box for natural toe splay
  • A thin, flexible sole for better ground connection
  • Minimal to no cushioning
  • Zero-drop heel (no difference in height between the heel and toe of the shoe)

By wearing barefoot gym shoes, you can reap the benefits of improved force production, enhanced balance, and increased overall strength.

Why Choose Barefoot Shoes for Weight Lifting?

There are several reasons why weightlifting barefoot shoes are gaining in popularity among fitness enthusiasts:

Improved Force Production

Traditional running shoes often have thick, cushioned soles that absorb force and limit the amount of force you can generate through your feet. Barefoot lifting shoes, on the other hand, have thin soles that allow for more efficient force transfer, resulting in greater power output during your lifts.

Enhanced Stability

The wide toe box and flexible sole found in minimalist lifting shoes enable your feet to spread naturally and grip the ground better. This increased stability can lead to improved lifting technique and reduced risk of injury.

Increased Foot and Lower Leg Strength

By allowing your feet to move more naturally, barefoot gym shoes can help strengthen the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in your feet and lower legs. This can lead to improved overall foot health and reduced risk of injury.


Many minimalist shoes for the gym are suitable for a wide range of workouts, including weight lifting, cross-training, and even running. This makes them a versatile and cost-effective option for those looking to invest in high-quality workout footwear.

Top 7 Barefoot Gym Shoes for Weight Lifting

Based on expert recommendations and user reviews, here are some of the best barefoot shoes for weight lifting:

1. Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III

The Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III is a top pick for weight lifting and general strength training. With its wide toe box, thin Active Sole, and removable insole, this shoe offers excellent ground connection and durability. The Primus Lite III is also a stylish choice for daily wear, making it a versatile option for both the gym and everyday use.

2. Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3

Highly recommended by personal trainers and weightlifting coaches, the Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3 provides exceptional performance for CrossFit workouts and other weightlifting exercises. Its thin rubber sole offers excellent grip and durability, while the upper construction features additional layering for enhanced durability during high-impact movements.

3. New Balance Minimus TR

The New Balance Minimus TR is a great transitional shoe for those new to barefoot training. With its zero-drop design, lightweight construction, and wide toe box, this shoe offers a comfortable introduction to minimalist workout shoes while providing some cushioning and support.

4. Xero Prio Neo

The Xero Prio Neo is another excellent option for those transitioning to flat shoes for lifting. With its zero-drop design, wide toe box, and added padding on the upper, this shoe provides a balance of support and flexibility for a variety of workouts.

5. FeelGrounds Highrise Knit

For an urban-inspired design that still delivers exceptional performance for weight lifting, the FeelGrounds Highrise Knit is an excellent choice. With one of the thinnest soles on the market, this shoe offers a remarkable ground connection while remaining water-repellent, breathable, and vegan-friendly.

6. Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO

The unique, glove-like Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO offers an airy, barely-there feel that’s perfect for weight lifting and other workouts. Its separated toe design and lightweight materials provide excellent flexibility and ground connection, making it a favorite among fitness enthusiasts seeking a more natural training experience.

7. Bearfoot Ursus Low-Top

Designed by a world-famous lifter, the Bearfoot Ursus Low-Top offers an ultra-minimalist design with a thin sole and wide toe box for optimal force production and stability. Its durable leather construction ensures long-lasting performance in the weight room.

How to Choose the Right Barefoot Gym Shoes for You

When selecting the perfect pair of minimalist shoes for the gym, consider the following factors:


Choose a size that’s half to a full size larger than your normal shoe size to accommodate natural foot expansion during workouts. Ensure there’s enough space for your toes to move freely without hitting the front of the shoe and that your heel doesn’t slip when walking.


Look for high-quality materials and construction to ensure your barefoot gym shoes can withstand the rigors of weight lifting and other workouts. Options with recycled plastics, rubber, or thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) soles are all highly durable.


Prioritize comfort when selecting your minimalist lifting shoes. Try on multiple pairs to find the perfect fit and feel for your feet.


Barefoot gym shoes come in various styles, from athletic options like Vibram FiveFingers to more casual designs like FeelGrounds or VIVOBAREFOOT. Choose a style that suits your preferences and intended use.

Transitioning to Barefoot Gym Shoes

If you’re new to barefoot training, it’s essential to take a gradual approach in order to avoid injury. Start by wearing your new minimalist shoes for daily walking and progressively incorporate them into your gym workouts. Listen to your body and take your time to adjust to the new footwear.

Are Barefoot Gym Shoes Suitable for Everyone?

While barefoot lifting shoes offer numerous benefits, they may not be suitable for everyone. Individuals with lower leg or foot injuries, foot deformities, sensory loss in the feet, or chronic conditions affecting their gait should consult a healthcare professional before making the switch to minimalist workout shoes.

Final Thoughts

Barefoot gym shoes provide a unique and highly effective way to enhance your weight lifting and overall workout experience. You can enjoy improved force production, stability, and foot strength in the gym by choosing the right pair of minimalist shoes for your needs and transitioning gradually. It’s time to ditch the traditional running shoes and embrace the world of barefoot lifting shoes. Happy lifting!

Photo by Sven Mieke