Best Minimalist Weight Lifting Shoe Alternatives
Updated: May 6
Ah.. This a tricky one right from the start..
A conventional weightlifting shoes 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 potentially do not exist yet is in order to function they need an elevated heel which goes against the ethics of the barefoot code. Though shall not have a heel and though 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 insole actually is compared to my foot!
Our personal opinion is that you should never sacrifice ankle mobility for a heel lift and it can only should be used in competition or training for one in Olympic weightlifting.
With that being said the list here are not all true weightlifting shoes ( with an elevated heel) but rather niche shoes that we feel excel in gym and strength 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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With that being said here is a round up of what we feel are the best niche barefoot shoes all 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 are also releasing a slip on later in the year.
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 TBSR for 10% off.
They also make these really cool trainer socks which similar to their shoes have the same grippy outsole but are even more minimal.
I find these particular useful when a floor is really dirty or a gym does not let you be completely barefoot but you still want as close to barefoot as possible.
They can be purchased here as well.
You can apply code TBSR as well for 10% off.
#3 Xero shoes
Xero are known for their wide variety of shoes available and their closest alternative to a weightlifting shoe is the Xero 360. It also does not have a heel lift but it does have a extremely grippy outsole that I have used in the gym for both heavy lifting and more athletic movements like jumping and changing direction.
It also looks like a regular sneaker!
You can find it here.
Due to the fact that we are looking for something of an oxymoron 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 a 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 the only true Weightlifting shoe on this list. It is more flexible then most weightlifting shoes out there, in particular in the forefoot and it is particularly lightweight weighing in at 360 grans. 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.
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 on the left 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.
In summary, a true weightlifting shoe does not exist *Yet* we will be sure to update this article once it does. What we are looking for is a elevated heel with a wide toe box as well as stiff enough to support power and driving into the floor but flexible enough to not compromise our precious toes. The real feet 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 and in barefoot shoes)