The best Calisthenics shoes get the job done without you even noticing they did. They feel comfortable, almost non-existent and in no way impede on your exercise. At the same time, they give you more traction and they protect your feet and possibly ankles from injuries. The right pair of Calisthenics shoes can make a world of difference. Ordinary sneakers and yes, most other types of sports shoes are only marginally useful while doing Calisthenics. They function, but they don’t perform. You need Calisthenics shoes which combine the right form and function into one, so that you can move without hindrance. For this, a light-weight shoe with a few specific characteristics is needed which you won’t find in any old sneaker. In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of wearing the right shoes, what to look for in the shoes you need and of course, a selection of the best Calisthenics shoes.
Should You Wear Shoes in Calisthenics?
You don’t need to wear shoes while doing Calisthenics. Many professional Calisthenics athletes prefer going barefoot, no shoes at all, while doing their routines. However, most professional Calisthenics athletes have the luxury of owning their own personal gym and will still wear Calisthenics shoes outdoors. We do recommend you wear shoes for your Calisthenics if you make use of a gym, are going outdoors or are using a room which isn’t converted into a Home Gym. If your Home Gym is quite crowded, with an increased risk of bumping into things, we also recommend you wear Calisthenics shoes.
In some cases, wearing overly bulky or heavy shoes can be a detriment during Calisthenics. They do add weight to your body, after all. The shoes might also impede your movements while using certain Calisthenics Equipment combined with certain techniques. While holding on to a Pull-Up Bar and executing a German Hang, bulky shoes or thick soles could interact with the horizontal bar during the roll.
We always recommend getting light-weight and lithe (e.g., not bulky) Calisthenics shoes. Ideally, you have two sets of Calisthenics shoes; one pair for inside training like in a gym or home gym, and one pair for outdoors activities. That way, you keep the gym clean and dirt-free. Regardless of indoor shoe-use, always wear shoes outdoors.
What Are Barefoot Shoes and Their Benefits?
Barefoot shoes are a popular choice for Calisthenics as a go-between being actually barefooted and wearing sneakers. Barefoot shoes are shoes which mimic walking barefooted, creating only a minimal barrier between the soles of your feet and the ground. They also tend to be very lightweight and very minimal in height. Barefoot shoes are typified by the following:
- Thin soles, giving you an almost naked-skin like sensory feedback of the floor or ground.
- No heel drops so your feet stand flat on the ground, giving you a natural pose.
- Light and flexible, as non-existent resistance as can be possible for uninhibited foot movement.
- Wide toe box to give you toes room to spread as necessary during exercise for more grip.
The downside to barefoot shoes is their lack of support. Being lightweight, it means they offer virtually zero ankle support. They’ll also have very minimal, next to non-existent, cushioning.
Things to Look for When Shopping Calisthenics Shoes
Calisthenics benefits most from the unencumbered and uninhibited movement of your body. Whatever you add to your body will, in some way, restrict your freedom of movement or encumber your body. Clothes have a purpose though as they protect us from the environment, and your feet interact with the environment the most in a kinetic sense. It’s important you protect them by investing in a pair of quality shoes which you didn’t skimp on — that’s general life advise outside of Calisthenics. For Calisthenics shoes in particular, what we look for is:
- Comfort is king
The 10 Best Shoes for Calisthenics
Whoever the shoe fits, should wear it. But rather than any negative connotation this phrase is usually applied to, we’ve come up with positively the best Calisthenics shoes and more. There are of course the barefoot shoes, but we’ve also made a selection of more universally applicable footwear for multiple styles of Calisthenics, as well as running track and jogging.
#1 Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III
If you’re looking for a pair of light-weight, flat and breathable Calisthenics shoes, these Vivobarefoot’s Primus Lite III shoes are the right fit for you. Made from recycled PET and flat rubber soles, you can literally roll these shoes up, that’s how flexible they are. The ample use of mesh keeps these shoes breathable and lightweight. The wide toe box keeps your toes mobile and the honeycomb checkering on the soles provide ample grip. We find them the ideal match for doing any indoor Calisthenics since we like to keep these shoes clean and gym-ready. Their traction helps us keep balance and not slip while doing any number of Calisthenics exercise. Despite the thin sole, they provide enough comfort for extended wear in an indoor setting. They add almost no weight to our body either and our feet remain as cool as can be considering the task at hand.
#2 WHITIN Men’s Cross-Trainer
As a cross-trainer shoe, the WHITIN Men’s Cross-Trainer is a jack of all trades. It is lightweight and breathable with a zero drop, flat sole. It retains a bit more of a cushion, so they aren’t barefoot shoes per se. However, the wide toe box gives you plenty of room to spread your toes for that extra grip. These Cross-Trainers are a great choice if you want to do both outdoor Calisthenics and run track. The added support for your ankle and slightly rounded tip facilitating a better running posture, while the flat soles and relatively light weight being beneficial to doing squats and lifting.
#3 Reebok Men’s Nano X Cross Trainer
For a little more cushioning and a more supportive fit, these Reebok Nano X Cross-Trainers are an excellent choice. With a nearly full mesh body and rubber soles, these Reeboks perform well in both running track and as Calisthenics shoes. They’re definitely meant for doing cardio, lifting and running with good cushioning qualities and a sturdy ankle. The padded sock allows for a comfortable slip-on or slip-off and although not a zero-drop, your feet are positioned very flat on the floor. You can even wear these everyday as part of a sportive or casual-sportive attire to boot. Being very versatile, we also like these shoes for outdoor ball sports like cage soccer and basketball.
#4 Under Armour Men’s Charged Assert 9 Running Shoe
These Under Armour shoes are the perfect wear for running track. With good support all around and mesh where needed to keep your feet cool, these Under Armour shoes keep your feet straight and heading for your next best time. Cushioning in these shoes make you feel like you’re floating over the track and the curved tip rolls your strides effortlessly. For that extra traction, the tip is rubberized as well to give you that extra explosive power with every step. The rubber outsole is thicker in high-impact areas and kept thinner elsewhere which gives you the shock absorption and you need while keeping the shoes as light as possible. The soft sock inlays facilitate a swift step-in and step-out method of putting them on or removing them.
#5 Vibram FiveFingers Men’s V-Train 2.0
With aggressive, lateral movements in mind, these Vibram FiveFingers shoes have mobility written all over them. These Calisthenics shoes combine the sneaker/runner with the barefoot shoe and feature a higher, enclosed back with a mesh and thin-soled toe box. This gives you good stability and support for your ankles but also great traction on the floor. There is ample of room for your toes in each of the toe segments in the toe box. The rubber soles feature aggressive checkering which grab hold to any surface almost by their own. They are perfect for the gym or the indoor Home Calisthenics gym and for doing mobility exercises which see you doing a lot of jumping back and forth and side to side.
#6 Xero Shoes Men’s Aptos Slip-Ons
Boat shoes? Wait until you slide your feet into these Xero Aptos’ barefoot Calisthenics shoes and a new world opens up. They slip on and off just as easily as boat shoes but the hemp body perfectly adapts to your feet, giving you breathable outer shells around your walkers. The soles are flat, with zero drop and designed to cushion just enough while maintaining a good ground feedback. You can twist them pretty much 360 degrees in any direction and they’ll pop right back into shape and they are extremely lightweight. If you’re looking for a little weight and as easy to wear as possible, these Xero Aptos’ Calisthenics shoes are your future companion to the gym, the track or the park.
#7 Inov-8 Men’s Bare-xf 210
Balance and agility are achieved with these Inov-8 Bare-xf shoes. As barefoot shoes, they are lightweight and low-profile. Their thin soles give you excellent floor feedback while the rubber adheres to the floor very well, giving you the traction you need for some seriously dynamic Calisthenics. With a wide toe box, your toes can do what they need to do. These Calisthenics shoes offer you a middle ground between aggressive traction and comfortable wear and cushioning. With a lightweight mesh body and slightly rounded off tip, they also perform well as running shoes. As Calisthenics shoes go, these Inov-8’s perform best indoors on flat surfaced floors, like you find them inside gyms.
#8 Weweya Barefoot Shoe
The Weweya Barefoot shoe is a minimalist shoe which mimics the shape of the barefoot. It retains enough of a rubber sole to provide ample protection for both the underside of your feet as well as bump protection for those delicate toes. The sole is checkered in a backward pointing scales pattern, allowing for easy forward movement even if you slide across the ground but really dig in with the backward movement when you make a stride. The mesh body keeps the Weweya lightweight and breathable while a pull-string achieves a quick slip-on feature. These Calisthenics shoes are perfect for indoor activities like, of course Calisthenics and its many variants as well as indoor ball sports like basketball, fitball, indoor hockey and much more.
#9 Nike Free Metcon Men’s Training
Running, training, lifting, ball sports; it’s all made easy and comfortable wearing these Nike Free Metcon Men’s Training shoes. As Calisthenics shoes, they are relatively lightweight but provide you with ample cushioning. This works out really great when you’re doing lifting or are engaging in weighted squats. The checkered rubber soles also provide good traction on smooth surfaces, like you find in a gym, some parks or on the track. The shoe is kept lightweight by use of a mesh body, with a proprietary foam inlay sole providing cushioning at negligible added weight. These shoes are certainly one of the more dynamic and all-round on our list of Calisthenics shoes; capable of performing well at many different sports. They’re quite the lookers too and could easily double as sportive everyday attire shoes.
#10 Nike Free Metcon Men’s Fitness
These lightweight shoes from Nike combine lightweight characteristics with a sturdy ankle and center. In a similar vein as the Nike Free Metcon Men’s Training shoes, these Fitness shoes give you both support and traction on the floor and on the track. This Fitness version is slightly flatter, with less tip roundoff and more emphasis on stability rather than cushioning. They serve fine as Calisthenics shoes, next to being great for indoor cardio, running track and doing other dynamic or mobility related exercises. Although sold in the Men’s department, we see no reason why women’s couldn’t wear these for almost all their sportsy needs; there are unisex appropriate colors available too.
Conclusions About Calisthenics Shoes
Shoes are probably the single most important clothing you can possibly wear, more so than the clothes on your upper or lower body. Your feet make the most kinetic interaction with the outside world, so protecting and supporting them is important. In Calisthenics, we want a lightweight and breathable pair of shoes just like we want a light and breathing Calisthenics T-Shirt.
We want shoes which give us ample of traction but which also give us enough tactile feedback with the floor. Barefoot shoes come to mind and these make excellent Calisthenics shoes. Alternatives bridge the gap between Calisthenics and other sports, including Calisthenics-related sports. Lightweight running shoes one such an alternative which allow you to do many things with just one pair of shoes. There are also less likely candidates like sneakers (or runners), which may sound appropriate but are in reality just regular shoes with a sportsy look to them.
You could also go barefooted, no shoes at all. Professional athletes tend to do this in their own private gym. If you’re going outdoors though or to a communal gym, you should always wear shoes. In this case, you shouldn’t ever bring shoes you use outdoors, indoors either. Either do all your exercises outdoors or indoors, or have two different pairs of Calisthenics shoes ready.
Frequently Asked Questions about Calisthenics Shoes
We found a couple of frequently asked questions about Calisthenics Shoes floating around and which we thought you wanted answered.
The best Calisthenics shoes are lightweight, flat and comfortable while retaining good ground feedback with your feet. For us, the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III combines all these traits the best for doing both indoor and outdoor Calisthenics. If you're also running track and want to combine Calisthenics shoes with runners, the Nike Free Metcon Men's Fitness is a good jack of all trades. Alternatively, getting two pairs of shoes for either purpose could see you combine the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III's with dedicated track runners like the Under Armour Men's Charged Assert 9's.
A barefoot shoe is a type of minimalist shoe made to mimic the feeling of walking barefooted. They are lightweight, with very thin soles which give you a tactile sensory input of the floor or ground underneath your feet. Like minimalist shoes, they are typically very low with no heel drop.
If you exercise indoors and on a clean surface, it is OK to go barefooted. If you exercise outdoors or in a communal gym, you should always wear shoes. Likewise, never exercise wearing socks (not even the anti-slip kind) since these pose a real risk of slippage. The soles of your feet provide superior traction, only mimicked by checkered rubber.
You could use practically any pair of shoes for Calisthenics. The lighter the shoe though, the better and where running shoes offer great support and cushioning, they do greatly diminish your tactile sense with the floor. They can be quite bulky too.
Runners or sneakers (both the same type of shoe) are fashionable shoes which mimic some of the esthetics of running shoes. They are not to be confused with the actual thing, running shoes. You can use running shoes for Calisthenics but we find that runners/sneakers tend to be too heavy and clumsy to be of good use.
Jari Dohmen has a B.A. in physiotherapy and has been involved with Calisthenics since 2013. Around the time Calisthenics began to proliferate in the Netherlands, he was already keenly interested in both the physiotherapeutic and general lifestyle benefits Calisthenics possesses. Jari started Calisthenics Worldwide (CWW) in 2016, after numerous internet searches for Calisthenics topics that sparked his interest yielded barely any information. Today, CWW is one of the largest and most widely recognized Calisthenics blogs in the world. Become part of the Calisthenics community by commenting on this article.