Groundies Active: Best Protective Barefoot Cross-Training Shoes

September 19, 2023Barefoot cross-training shoes with 5.5mm road tread, medium toebox, and protective upper.

Hello, my name’s Andrew, and these are the Groundies Active’s, the best barefoot cross-training shoes for max protection.

Features

Over the years I’ve tried a lot of barefoot shoes that are light and soft and flexible, but none of them are quite as a sturdy as a traditional cross-trainer.

So this summer I asked Groundies to send me a pair of their Active’s to test, and while they’re just as flexible as other brands, man, are these things built to take a serious beating.

Upper

Because the Active’s have a medium-wide toebox with a recycled synthetic upper, lace locks, reinforcement panels for durability, and lots of padding for a good heel lockdown.

Inside you’ve got a minimal tongue and silky smooth lining, plus a set of removable insoles for extra padding.

Sole/Tread

Underneath there’s a thin 5.5mm zero-drop sole that’s highly flexible in all directions, along with a minimal tread for roads and gym and a wraparound guard for protection with some rad speckling.

Personally, I went with the taupe’s, but the Groundies Active’s also come in white, black, and multi-color.

Testing

My first impression of the Groundies Active’s was that they felt a lot like my Vivobarefoot Primus Lite’s in terms of fit and flexibility.

Walking

But going out for a walk the inside of the shoe was softer and more cozy and they also looked less a bit less technical, which was ideal for casual and wearing around all day, rather than just for a workout.

Running

For running the Groundies Active’s were way more flexible than a transitional cushioned cross-trainer and the slightly thicker 5.5mm sole stood up better to mixed terrain like gravel and light trails.

That said, for higher road milage I preferred a thinner barefoot shoe like the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite or Xero HFS.

Gym

Doing sets of dynamic movements like lunges the Active’s non-slip sole provided lots of traction and the 360º reinforcement panels were great for preventing tear-outs while twisting or jumping, and in general the upper was laid out perfectly, so that it never caused any crimping.

Conclusion

Overall the Groundies Active is great barefoot cross-training shoe for anyone who wants a little more protection without sacrificing mobility.

Pros/Cons

Because the upper is soft and stable, the zero-drop 5.5mm tread is super durable and grippy for hard surfaces, and the modern design makes it more versatile for casual.

However, the upper isn’t quite as breathable as open mesh, the sole can feel a bit thick for longer runs, and the toebox might not be wide enough for some, although Groundies also has extra-wide “Barefoot+” styles that you can check out.

Alternatives

In terms of similar barefoot shoes…

  • Freet Vibe: budget option with a thinner 4mm sole, hybrid tread for roads and trails, more breathable mesh upper, and wider toebox but minimal reinforcement.
  • Xero HFS: medium budget option with a thin 5mm sole, hybrid tread for roads and trails, breathable mesh upper, medium reinforcement, and wide toebox.
  • Vivobarefoot Primus Lite: premium option with an ultra flexible 4mm sole, minimal road tread, breathable mesh upper, moderate reinforcement, and medium wide toebox.
  • Resources

    If you want to support the channel, you can shop with the referral links below, or watch my Zero-Drop Transition video to learn more about barefooting.

    Finally, if you have a question about the Groundies Active, or about barefoot shoes in general, let me know in the comments.

    Thanks for watching. Catch ya next time. Peace!

    Andrew Folts

    Andrew is a writer/filmmaker who creates video guides and reviews for a community of 25K+ creative rebels on YouTube.