After making a dent in the running world, barefoot shoes have finally broken into the weight room, and it’d be safe to say strength sports aficionados are already in love with them.
Whether you’re lifting weights or running, barefoot shoes provide a stable platform and help maintain balance, improving your performance while reducing the chances of injury. Also, a pair of barefoot shoes can make you look uber cool in the gym.
Barefoot shoes are specialized footwear that offers improved grip and support, which can be a game-changer for your HIIT, strength, or cardio workouts.
Top 11 Best Barefoot Shoes of 2022 Tested/Ranked:
- Best Overall Barefoot Shoes: Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3
- Best for Heavy Lifts: Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III
- Best Toe Shoe: Vibram Five Fingers V-Train 2.0
- Best for Versatility: New Balance Minimus
- Best for Durability: Xero Shoes Prio
- Best for Barefoot Feeling: Vibram Five Fingers KSO EVO
- Best for Flexibility: Merrell Vapor Glove 4
- Best for CrossFit Athletes: Xero HFS Running Shoes
- Best for Breathability: Vivobarefoot Geo Racer Knit
- Best Value: WHITIN Men’s Cross-Trainer
- Best for Trail Running & Hiking: Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG
How Much Do the Best Barefoot Shoes Cost?
Depending on the brand and quality, the best barefoot shoes for working out can set you back anywhere between $44 to $140. Below is the complete list and what we love about each product:
|Category||Product||Name||Price||Why We Love It|
|Best Overall Barefoot Shoes||Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3||$100||If you like being barefoot while lifting heavy, you’ll love this shoe.|
|Best for Heavy Lifts||Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III||$170||Has a breathable mesh and is made using environment-friendly material.|
|Best Toe Shoe||Vibram Five Fingers V-Train 2.0||$129.95||The thin sole and quick get-in and-out tech make this shoe stand out.|
|Best for Versatility||New Balance Minimus||$110||A great shoe for people who want to experiment with barefoot training.|
|Best for Durability||Xero Shoes Prio||$94.99||Xero Shoes Prio is a budget-friendly pair of sneakers and comes with a 5,000-mile sole warranty.|
|Best for Barefoot Feeling||Vibram Five Fingers KSO EVO||$104.95||KSO EVO has a thin rubber sole that gives you a barefoot feeling.|
|Best for Flexibility||Merrell Vapor Glove 4||$130||If you want shoes that fade into the background, you should go with the Glove 4.|
|Best for CrossFit Athletes||Xero HFS Running Shoes||$124.99||Xero HFS are great shoes if you regularly perform HIIT workouts.|
|Best for Breathability||Vivobarefoot Geo Racer Knit||$165||Arguably the most breathable shoe on the list and should be the first pick for people with sweaty feet.|
|Best Value||WHITIN Men’s Cross-Trainer||$45||If you are on a budget and want to give barefoot shoes a try, WHITIN Cross-Trainers should be your first pick.|
|Best for Trail Running & Hiking||Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG||$160||If you’re looking for an outdoor running barefoot shoe, stop your search at the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG.|
Top 11 Best Barefoot Shoes for Working Out
Given below are the best barefoot shoes in different categories —
Best Overall Barefoot Shoes
Our best overall barefoot shoes are flexible, stable, and provide decent traction and protection during workouts. Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3 ticks all the right boxes and wins the best overall barefoot shoe crown.
Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3
It is a zero-drop shoe whose minimal cushioning gives you a barefoot feeling. The shoe features a wide toe box, providing plenty of space in the forefoot for you to spread out your toes. It gives you a solid base for weightlifting and makes you feel secure in your stance.
The shoes come with a thin and sticky rubber outsole, guaranteeing a non-slip grip. Furthermore, it offers durability, superb traction, and even a layer of thermoplastic polyurethane welded around the toes to protect your forefoot from crashing weights.
Inov-8 popped on the training shoe scene after Reebok introduced its CrossFit shoe range. While Reebok Nano X2 and Nike Metcon 7 are in the lead in the performance and lifestyle segment, Inov-8 dominates the barefoot shoe range.
Who Should Buy Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3?
- Lifters who want the top-of-the-line barefoot training shoe for resistance training.
- People who like ultra-light and flexible shoes.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3?
- Serious runners.
- People who regularly engage in jumpy HIIT sessions. Barefoot shoes are not the best for high-impact workouts.
Best for Heavy Lifts
If you are an advanced lifter who likes to lift in flats, you cannot go wrong with the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III. The ultra-thin sole of the shoe is the closest you’ll get to the barefoot feeling while wearing a shoe.
Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III
Just like the Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3, this shoe comes with a highly flexible upper and a wide toe box. The barefoot shoe comes with a 100-day trial period, allowing you to return your shoes for a full refund.
Plus, the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III’s are environment-friendly. They are made from post-consumer plastic waste and other vegan materials.
Who Should Buy Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III?
- Folks who like to lift heavy in flats.
- People who want a training shoe that can double as a lifestyle sneaker.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III?
- Those on a stringent budget.
Best Toe Shoe
Toe shoes are functional, look cool, and are as close as you can get to a barefoot feeling while wearing footwear. Toe shoes provide your feet with more freedom and improve your balance and stability during workouts.
Vibram Five Fingers V-Train 2.0
While most toe shoes are running shoes, the Vibram Five Fingers V-Train 2.0 are designed to be training and CrossFit footwear. The upper construction on this shoe is specifically designed for heavy training, focused on durability and performance.
The barefoot shoe has a panel lacing system with a hook and loop closure system, perfect for aggressive, lateral movements. It also has distinctive rope traction lugs in the arch that gives you a snug fit and makes it easy to get in and out of the shoe quickly. Plus, they have thick soles that protect your feet during outdoor workouts.
Who Should Buy Vibram Five Fingers V-Train 2.0?
- People who want the best toe shoe for weight training.
- Folks who want shoes with breathable uppers.
- People who want an entry system that gets you in quickly and easily.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Vibram Five Fingers V-Train 2.0?
- Those who prefer the conventional lacing system.
Best for Versatility
New Balance is making its presence felt in the barefoot shoe segment with Minimus. The NB barefoot shoe is versatile and can be used for various physically intensive activities.
New Balance Minimus
New Balance Minimus is a great shoe to help you transition to thinner, less-supportive shoes. They provide a good floor feeling while still maintaining decent comfort and cushioning.
While this minimalist shoe doesn’t include an insole, it does include an ACTEVA foam midsole — a special type of foam that resists any compression.
Who Should Buy New Balance Minimus?
- People who prefer buying their sneakers from a mainstream shoe brand.
- Folks who are new to barefoot training.
Who Shouldn’t Buy New Balance Minimus?
- Individuals looking for heavy-duty barefoot training shoes.
Best for Durability
If you are a hardcore lifter, you need shoes that can take a beating, and this is where Xero Shoes Prio shine. You can wear them to the gym, trek, or a night out, and they won’t disappoint.
Xero Shoes Prio
The Xero Prio is a sleek barefoot shoe that is creating hype. The sneaker has a removable 2mm insole that you can take out if you want a better feel of the ground.
A huarache sandal-inspired reflective lacing system secures your heel so you can lift heavy while reducing your chances of injury. Adjustable instep straps hold down your midfoot for a more snug fit. Additionally, Prio’s women’s version is arguably the best barefoot training shoe for the ladies and comes with a 5,000-mile sole warranty.
Who Should Buy Xero Shoes Prio?
- People who want ultra-thin cushioning.
- Individuals who want their shoes to last a long time.
- Folks who only purchase vegan-friendly products.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Xero Shoes Prio?
- Those who want a lightweight barefoot shoe.
Best for Barefoot Feeling
If you want a shoe that blends into the background and makes you forget you’re even wearing a shoe, you should go with the Vibram Five Fingers KSO EVO.
Vibram Five Fingers KSO EVO
Vibram Five Fingers KSO EVO is a lighter version of the Vibram Five Fingers V-Train 2.0, with the main difference being that KSO EVO does not have a support strap, making it a little less sturdy.
The bungee lace closure is convenient but does not provide snugness like the hook and loop system of V-Train 2.0. Unlike many other barefoot shoes on this list, KSO EVO has a thin upper, making the sneaker more comfortable and breathable.
Who Should Buy Vibram Five Fingers KSO EVO?
- People who want a shoe with a thin mesh upper.
- Those who want a snug-fitting shoe.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Vibram Five Fingers KSO EVO?
- Folks who already own Vibram Five Fingers V-Train 2.0.
Best for Flexibility
Flexible shoes reduce the friction between you and the floor. They can improve your agility, stability, and explosiveness during your workout.
Merrell Vapor Glove 4
Glove 4 are barefoot shoes that come with a Vibram outsole. As the name suggests, Merrell Vapor Glove 4 fits like a glove. Merrell Barefoot 2 construction is designed for enhanced stability during variable movement and explosive workouts.
These shoes have a breathable mesh upper and a Trail Protect pad to provide the right support and stability. It also features M Select™ FRESH antimicrobial agents that help reduce shoe odor.
Who Should Buy Merrell Vapor Glove 4?
- People who want zero-drop minimalist shoes.
- Those who like lifting unshod.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Merrell Vapor Glove 4?
- Folks looking for super durable barefoot shoes.
- Individuals who routinely go for a run on the road.
Best for CrossFit Athletes
If you want shoes that’ll make you stand out during your next WOD, you should go with the Xero HFS Running Shoes. They are shaped for comfort and support, built for speed, and designed to draw eyeballs.
Xero HFS Running Shoes
Although some shoes are designed for a specific sport, they end up being great at other things due to their design and versatility. Xero HFS is one of those shoes.
Xero HFS’ tire tread-inspired patented 5.5mm FeelTrue sole strikes the perfect balance between protection and feedback. Plus, they come with a 5,000-mile sole warranty.
Who Should Buy Xero HFS Running Shoes?
- People who want training shoes they can wear to a casual hangout with friends.
- Folks who follow a HIIT training program that has them running, jumping, and lifting heavy.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Xero HFS Running Shoes?
- People with narrow feet.
Best for Breathability
Folks who train outdoors or in a facility that does not have air conditioning, a breathable shoe can make all the difference as they can keep your feet sweat and odor-free.
Vivobarefoot Geo Racer Knit
Vivobarefoot Geo Racer Knit is one of the better-looking shoes on the list. It is primarily a running shoe but can be efficient in HIIT workouts that involve explosive moves.
The knit upper is lightweight and maneuverable, making it a great option for indoor and outdoor workouts. The zero-drop design makes it the perfect fit for heavy resistance training workouts.
Who Should Buy Vivobarefoot Geo Racer Knit?
- People who have sweaty feet.
- Folks who love to run.
- People who want a training shoe that can be worn outdoors.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Vivobarefoot Geo Racer Knit?
- Individuals with broad feet.
If you are on a tight budget but want barefoot shoes that can take your training to the next level, WHITIN Men’s Cross-Trainers should be a no-brainer.
WHITIN Men’s Cross-Trainer
One of the most highly and positively reviewed barefoot shoes on the market. At the time of this article’s publication, WHITIN Men’s Cross-Trainers have over 12,500 four and a half star reviews on Amazon. It’d be safe to say that they are the most popular and budget-friendly barefoot shoes on the market.
WHITIN Men’s Cross-Trainers come in 21 different designs — probably the highest on the list and offer different lacing systems. The $45 price point makes it a value buy.
Who Should Buy WHITIN Men’s Cross-Trainer?
- Folks trying out barefoot shoes.
- People on a tight budget.
Who Shouldn’t Buy WHITIN Men’s Cross-Trainer?
- Advanced lifters.
Best for Trail Running & Hiking
If you’re on the market for a trail running or hiking shoe, you should consider the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG.
Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG
“FG” in the name refers to firm ground, which is a feature designed to help protect the foot during outdoor use. Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG is splashproof with quick drain zones for faster drying time.
The shoe has 4mm lugs that span the entire outsole, which provides better grip and freedom on rocky and rough, rural, or urban terrain. Plus, the awesome design of the Primus Trail II FG makes it a great casual wear sneaker.
Who Should Buy Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG?
- Serious runners.
Who Shouldn’t Buy Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG?
- People on a stringent budget.
- Lifters who primarily want a training shoe.
How We Ranked the Best Barefoot Shoes
We used the following criteria to pick the best barefoot shoes:
Barefoot shoes are generally of two kinds. The first type is funky-looking toe shoes with individual slots for each toe, and the others look like minimalist regular shoes.
For this list, we looked at the ergonomics, padding, and cushioning of a shoe and selected some of the most aesthetically appealing barefoot shoes that didn’t compromise on their functionality.
If you’re going to spend your hard-earned money on a shoe, it needs to stand the test of time (and hardcore workouts). Some barefoot shoes use thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), commonly found in the soles of safety shoes. All shoe options on this list are highly durable. Plus, many shoes come with a 5,000-mile sole warranty or a 100-day money-back guarantee.
Barefoot shoes are constantly evolving. Most shoes on this list come with advanced tech in the upper for improved breathability and rubber in the outsole for better traction.
A barefoot shoe has a zero-drop sole that helps improve your performance in compound exercises. Furthermore, the toe shoe design mimics the barefoot running experience that can improve your gait and performance.
On the other hand, shoes with excess cushioning can hamper your performance in big lifts like the squat, deadlift, bent-over row, etcetera.
What are the Benefits of Barefoot Shoes?
Wearing barefoot shoes during your workouts entails the following benefits:
Many people like to lift barefoot, especially on the squat and deadlift. However, unshod lifting can increase the risk of injury due to weights falling on your feet.
Furthermore, gyms aren’t the most hygienic places, and training shoeless can be an invitation to infections. Barefoot shoes are the next best thing to lifting shoeless as there’s not a lot of material between your feet and the ground.
Lifting barefoot or in socks can be slippery and increase the odds of an injury. Most toe shoes come with a rubber outsole which adds traction while keeping your feet flat on the floor throughout the lift.
Shoes with excess cushioning might be great for running as they reduce the impact on your joint with every stride. However, resistance training wearing shoes with foam soles can negatively impact your balance and stability.
Squatting heavy while wearing conventional running shoes can compress and decompress the foam under your sole with every rep. While they might feel comfortable, running shoes negatively impact your ability to push against the floor and drive through your heels during the squat or deadlift.
On the other hand, barefoot shoes have minimal cushioning and wide toe boxes (or toe compartments) that add to your stability and help you generate power.
What to Look For in the Barefoot Shoes for Working Out?
Below are the things to consider before buying training barefoot shoes:
Comfort and Aesthetics
While barefoot shoes are not the most comfortable sneakers in the industry, the minimal cushioning on the shoes could be a deal-breaker for people with issues like plantar fasciitis. Furthermore, barefoot shoes come in two different shapes — toe shoes and the more subtle-looking variant.
Toe shoes’ design bars you from wearing socks, which could lead to overheating and sweating while wearing training. While buying toe shoes, make sure the upper is breathable and promotes airflow to your feet.
Breathability also improves their versatility for hiking and outdoor wear. Knit uppers can help a shoe dry faster if completely drenched.
Minimal Arch Support
Barefoot shoes are designed to let your feet move naturally as if you weren’t wearing footwear. Sneakers with a lot of arch support can alter your gait and cause muscle imbalances, aches, and pains.
Wearing shoes with arch support for a long time can weaken your feet’s muscles. However, if you’re already dealing with such issues, switching to barefoot shoes can help strengthen your feet by reteaching them how to support themselves.
A zero-drop heel keeps your feet level, improves your posture, and encourages proper running and walking techniques. While some sneakers claim to be barefoot shoes, they actually have a little cushioning in the heel, making them low-profile shoes. A barefoot shoe is a minimalist sneaker that keeps your foot as close to the ground as possible.
Note: Everyone’s feet are different so keep this in mind while reviewing all the factors mentioned above.
If you want to learn more about training shoes, we recommend you check out:
- 10 Best CrossFit Shoes For Women Reviewed (2022)
- 16 Best Workout Shoes For Better Performance in 2022
- Best Running Shoes For Heavy Men Reviewed for 2022
- 13 Best CrossFit Shoes For Men Reviewed for 2022
- 10 Best Weightlifting Shoes Reviewed for 2022
Why are they called barefoot shoes?
As the name implies, barefoot shoes, also known as minimalist shoes, give an exerciser the feeling of training nearly barefoot, although without the risks of training unshod.
What is a zero-drop shoe?
A “drop” refers to the height difference between the heel and toe of a shoe. In the case of zero drop shoes, the sole is designed as a straight, single plane.
Zero-drop running shoes are minimal ‘barefoot’ running shoes and have minimal to no cushioning, leaving the feet laying directly flat on a level surface of the shoe.
What makes a good barefoot shoe?
A barefoot shoe should have the following qualities:
- It should have a zero drop.
- Minimal to no cushioning.
- A wide toe box to allow your feet to spread naturally.
- A thin, flexible sole so you can feel the ground beneath your feet.
Can you wear barefoot shoes every day?
Yes. If you find barefoot shoes comfortable, you can wear them every day. However, take your time transitioning to this footwear as your feet might need some time adjusting to the new setup.
If your current training program mostly consists of performing compound movements like the squat, deadlift, bent-over row, barefoot shoes can help take your performance to the next level.
Furthermore, toe shoes are also a great option if you’re into CrossFit-style high-intensity functional training. If you’re on the market for barefoot shoes, we’re confident this guide will help you make an informed decision.