MF editor Isaac Williams has spent the last few months testing out Vivobarefoot’s new flat-bottomed lifting shoe. Here’s his verdict…

Vivobarefoot’s brand mission is all about minimalist footwear that allows your feet to work as nature intended. That means toes splayed out wide, the ankle and heel free to move, and soles in maximum contact with the ground. That natural feel that is also aligned with sustainability, with each shoe treading lightly on the planet thanks to the use of recycled plastics and bio-based materials.The result? The Motus Strength is one of our best gym shoes in 2024.

Men’s Fitness verdict

Featuring the brand’s usual wide toe box, ultra-thin soles and a flexible upper for a barefoot feel, these flat and grippy shoes are ideal for all manner of weight-lifting drills.
Pros
  • Wide, flat base is perfect for heavy weight lifting
  • Comfortable sock-like fit
  • Made from recycled materials
Cons
  • Ultra-minimalist design won’t be cushioned enough for some

How we tested the best gym shoes

Our team of reviewers are experienced testers of all manner of fitness kit. They put each gym shoe through its paces in a variety of workouts, from cardio to strength training to heavy lifting, assessing them in terms of fit, comfort, and performance. They also paid close attention to the materials used throughout the shoe, the sizes and widths available, and the shoe’s total weight.

Vivobarefoot Motus Strength on wooden table
A flat base and grippy outsole makes for a first-class lifting trainer

Design and features

With Vivobarefoot’s latest minimalist creation, the Motus Strength, all the usual brand hallmarks are in place: wide toe box, ultra-thin soles and a flexible upper for full ankle mobility. All of which makes for an outstanding weight lifting shoe – if your feet can handle it.

Lifting heavy weights off the floor is best done in flat shoes that allow you to drive through your heels, and the Motus Strength definitely ticks that box. Compound strength exercises, particularly squats, also require mobility in the ankles if you want to reach full range of motion, and unlike many built-up trainers this shoe also allows for that full ankle flexion.

Performance on test

Whenever I wear most regular gym shoes I tend to take them off for squatting or deadlifting, but the beauty of the Motus Strength is that you don’t need to. In fact the lifting experience is improved by the high-traction outsole – featuring a jigsaw pattern of 1.5mm lugs that do a good job of gripping the ground.

There’s actually a touch more protection across the outsole compared to other Vivobarefoot models like the Primus Lite III, but it’s marginal and doesn’t sacrifice ground feel or stability. In fact, when wearing the Motus Strength for general weight lifting, I found that slightly thicker layer of rubber and higher ‘sidewalls’ improved comfort and made my feet feel more locked in compared to previous models.

Dynamic, lateral movements are also benefitted by that more locked-in feel. Although if you tend to do more circuit-style HIIT workouts than traditional strength training – and you haven’t used Vivobarefoot shoes before – you might want to wear the Motus Strength for less intense movements before chucking your feet in at the deep (thin) end.

That slightly bolstered outsole does mean this shoe isn’t as feather-light as you might expect, at 282g per shoe (based on US 9 / UK 8), and there are four colour options to choose from: the Bright White I tested, along with Obsidian, Sunbaked, and Burgundy.

Is the Motus Strength a good gym shoe?

There’s no denying this level of minimalism takes a fair bit of getting used to for the unaccustomed. And that bedding-in period is increased dramatically if you intend to run in a pair of these.

Complete beginners might be better off building up their strength and fitness in a pair of more conventional kicks, before focusing on their feet. But if you’re willing to see out a bit of initial discomfort – or at least unfamiliar feeling – this shoe is an excellent option for hitting the gym floor.

Material:Recycled polyester upper, plastic-free laces
Weight:282g
Colours:4 colours available
Sizes:6.5 – 14.5 (US) / 6 – 14 (UK)