Best Minimalist Weight Lifting Shoe Alternatives
Ah.. This a tricky one right from the start..
A conventional weightlifting shoe is designed with a heel lift in order to allow for greater range of motion in the squat, the clean and the snatch.
They are notoriously stiff, narrow toe boxed, with extra laces and straps to make them as rigid and attached to the foot as possible.
The reason why they do not exist yet is perhaps because in order to function they need an elevated heel which goes against the ethics of the barefoot code: Thou shall not have a heel and thou shall have a wide toe box.
As you can see, here in the picture are traditional weightlifting shoes that come with a slight heel lift and a notoriously narrow toe box.
Check out how narrow the shoe and the insole is compared to my foot!
Our personal opinion is that you should never sacrifice ankle mobility for a heel lift and it can and only should be used in competition or training for someone in Olympic weightlifting.
With that being said, the shoes on this list are not all true weightlifting shoes (with an elevated heel) but rather niche shoes that, we feel, excel in gym and strength training and have other characteristics of both a weightlifting shoe and a minimalist shoe.
Here is me attempting a PR (personal record) in a clean and jerk wearing my VivoBarefoot Stealth 3. In other words I don't feel true weightlifting shoes are required unless competition is on the horizon.
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Here is a round up of what we feel are the best niche barefoot shoes all of which have wanted characteristics to weightlift or strength train in.
Bearfoot shoes were founded by Chris Duffin in an effort to make a gym shoe that had extra grip to really allow you to root yourself into the floor for heavy movements like squats and deadlifts. What I really like about the Bearfoot Ursus shoe is that it was designed for lifters by a world-famous lifter. In other words, take my money Mr. Duffin!
They also released a slip-on and a boot.
You can purchase them here. They are available in both low tops and high tops and a wide variety of colors.
You can also use our discount code TBSR10 for 10% off.
They also make these really cool trainer socks which, like their shoes, have the same grippy outsole but are even more minimal.
I find these particularly useful when a floor is really dirty or a gym does not let you be completely barefoot, yet you still want to be as close to barefoot as possible.
They can be purchased here as well.
You can apply code TBSR10 for 10% off.
#3 Xero Shoes
This is one of the more unique releases in this article. It is very similar to a weightlifting shoe, just without the elevated heel, with a nice Velcro strap to tighten the shoe onto your foot, and molded side walls that really mold the shoe to your foot for all your gym needs. The sole is somehow hard and rigid but still flexible, making it perfect for Olympic weightlifting or box-jumps and the like. In Men's they come in a grey/red/black, and in Women's they come in elderberry (as seen above), black and a white/scuba blue combo.
Sizing: US Men's : 6.5-13, 14, 15 US Women's: 5-12 EU Men’s: 39.5-46, 47, 48 EU Women's 35.5-42.5 (whole/half)
Weight: 8 oz/ 266.8 g
Stack Height: 6mm + 3.5 mm Insole
Xero are known for the wide variety of shoes they have available and another close alternative is the Xero 360. It also does not have a heel lift, but it does have an extremely grippy outsole that I have used in the gym for both heavy lifting and more athletic movements like jumping and changing direction quickly.
It also looks like a regular sneaker!
You can find it here.
Due to the fact that we are looking for something of a paradox it has caused us to stray beyond what is conventionally called a barefoot shoe, but the inov-8 most minimal shoe is very popular for minimalist gym goers. While it is does not have an uber-wide toe box, it does have zero drop and it is rather flexible. It has a sticky rubber outsole and is designed for CrossFit or the gym.
It can be purchased Here
This is a cool one and the reason why it made this list is because it comes with 3 removable insoles each one a slightly different stack height allowing you to choose more cushion or less cushion based on your needs. Like all barefoot shoes it quite flexible and has quite a grippy sole as well. It also looks very much like Nike trainers which is a big plus for those looking for that niche aesthetic. You can see us testing them out here and TBSR gives you 10% off.
#6 Tolos. A shoe designed by an athlete for athletes. Tolos is A cheaper alternative to higher end shoes like Vivobarefoot but performs just as well. We tested this in a variety of settings and found it to be a great fashionable and grippy gym shoe! It comes in White & Black with improvements to the model coming next year. You can also see us testing them out here and TBSR saves you 10%
This is the only true Weightlifting shoe on this list until Squats University comes out with theirs. It is more flexible than most weightlifting shoes out there, particularly in the forefoot and it is very lightweight, weighing in at 360 grams. Its toe box is unfortunately narrow, but it is likely the best alternative for competition at the moment. It also has a particularly grippy sole.
It can be purchased Here.
#8 TYR Weightlifting Shoes. As of January 2023, a New Wide toe box weightlifting shoe exists on the market which is a combination of Squat University's Fame and TRY.
They flew off the shelves in their first release and now we are patiently waiting for the January stock to come in.
Here are the specs according to their website
Stay grounded and build your power with TYR’s L-1 Lifter. The most anatomical lifting shoe on the market, TYR’s L-1 allows for natural foot movement and added power, while the 21mm heel-to-toe drop deepens movements and increases stability.
Technology - Patent pending anatomical toe box - 21mm heel to toe drop - Back heel support
- Wider toe box allows for a more natural, non-constrained fit for comfortable and powerful lifting - 21mm heel height allows for a more upright torso in lifts & improves squat depth - Adjustable double straps at midfoot to secure foot position - Flat wide sole for extra stability
They can be found here
A runner up is Splay Athletics
Splay athletics used to make only kids brands but recently expanded into the adult range with their super flexible and wide toe box sneakers.
As converse all stars were always popular with powerlifters due to the zero drop and stiffer sole, the Splay, specifically the coal one, can still let you walk into the gym with that traditional gym look while still optimizing foot health with a wider toe box.
Splay shoes can be found here and you can use our discount code of "TBSR" for 10% off.
As you can see, below are conventional Converse all-stars (left) and on the right are their barefoot friendly version Splay Athletics Coal
Another runner up and my favorite option is your own bare feet with a heel lift using plates or a slant board as shown in picture below.
While this may not be good option for Cleans or Snatches it can be great for increased depth or for more quad dominant squats.
What we are looking for is an elevated heel with a toe box that is wide as well as stiff enough to support power and driving into the floor, but flexible enough so as not to compromise our precious toes. The real 'foot' for thought is are you willing to sacrifice foot health and longevity for performance?
As I am no longer competing here are where my weightlifting shoes are ;)
This is a joke, they are sitting gathering dust in my gym, the first person to visit us in Jerusalem is welcome to them (as long as you only wear them for competition and spend the rest of time time barefoot or in barefoot shoes)