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When looking for the best cross-training shoes, what are you looking for? Some want a supportive cushion for running, while others are looking for a stable sole for heavy lifting. Still, others prefer a good mix of both. However, some of the best barefoot shoes are great cross-training shoes, even though they have a flexible outsole and minimal support.

The concept of barefoot shoes comes from providing minimal support to the foot to allow the foot muscles to strengthen and provide the support you need. One such cross-trainer is the Forza Trainer, made by Xero Shoes. Italian for “force,” these shoes emphasize the connection between your feet and the floor during lifting to maximize your force and power.

But how do these shoes stack up as lifting shoes? I got to try out the Forza Trainers, and as a competitive weightlifter, I’ll give you the ins and outs of this shoe in my Xero Shoes Forza Trainer review.

Experts in Lifters, Trainers, and Other Gym Shoes

Our team of product testers consists of certified personal trainers, coaches, and lifelong athletes—including competitive runners and weightlifters—so we’ve had our hands on all sorts of shoes, from the best weightlifting shoes, to the best running shoes and trail shoes. We know what we’re looking for when we discuss gym shoes because we’ve had our hands (and feet) on so many of them.

Since the Forza Trainers emphasize being great shoes for lifting, I had to try them out since I’ve had a competitive career in Olympic weightlifting for over two decades. I noted how they felt through a range of exercises, both with and without a barbell, to see how connected they were in heavy lifts, as well as dynamic movements.

Xero Shoes Forza Trainer

Xero Shoes Forza Trainer

GGR Score: 4.3 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Barefoot, minimalist shoe with focus on staying connected to feet
  • Midfoot strap that wraps around heel for extra security
  • Durable rubber outsole
  • Molded sidewall for more lateral stability
  • Moisture-wicking upper
  • Optional 2 mm insert for additional cushion
  • Zero heel-toe drop

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Heel strap keeps foot secure
  • Supportive for cross-training
  • Molded sidewall
  • Flat sole ideal for deadlifting
  • 2-year warranty
  • Wide toe box

Cons

  • Won’t appeal to those used to lifting with a raised heel
  • Thin shoe laces
  • Short velcro strap

Bottom Line

The Xero Shoes Forza Trainers are a unique barefoot shoe that emphasizes staying connected with the foot. With a midfoot strap that also tightens the heel, you’ll stay very connected through dynamic movements as well as heavy lifting. These bootie-style shoes are minimal, providing limited support and a zero heel-toe drop.

A Quick Look at the Xero Shoes Forza Trainer

Founded in 2009, Xero Shoes has focused on minimalist shoes, starting off with DIY sandals made with rubber soles and laces modeled after traditional Mexican huaraches. With headquarters in Denver, they later expanded their footwear to include barefoot running shoes, cross-training shoes, workout shoes, and more. The company even made an appearance on an episode of Shark Tank.

RELATED: Training Shoes Guide

The concept behind Xero Shoes is that barefoot shoes are made to mimic barely having anything on for footwear. For that reason, their running shoes—like the Mesa Trail II, Zelen, or HFS for example—are lightweight and provide minimal support outside of a flexible rubber sole and breathable upper.

Xero Shoes have created training shoes, like the Prio Neo and Xero 360 shoes, and now the Forza Trainer. Made with an emphasis on lifting, this lightweight shoe has a midfoot strap that locks down on the foot and tightens around the heel and ankle, really securing your foot. Like their other shoes, this trainer has a zero drop from the heel to toe and a wide toe box to allow your toes to spread while in use.

A pair of black Xero Shoes Forza Trainers

Another thing that Xero Shoes boasts about these shoes (and most other shoes that they make) is that the trainers are comfortable. The bootie-style construction makes them lightweight, plus they’re made with moisture-wicking fabric, leading to a pretty comfortable experience.

Before You Buy

  • The Forza Trainers are available in men’s and women’s sizes. There aren’t any major design differences between them, but the men’s and women’s shoes come in different colorways.
  • Men’s shoe sizes go from 6.5 to 15, and women’s sizes are from 5 to 12. The product page says these shoes run true to size, which was accurate in my experience.
  • These barefoot shoes can be worn with or without socks—hence the term “barefoot.” For a bit more cushioning, the shoes come with a 2-millimeter insole that doubles as a sock liner. You can also take it out and wear socks; I tried both, and tended to wear socks without the liners, just out of habit.
  • If you’re looking less for a cross-trainer and more for a running shoe, Xero Shoes also has the Forza Runner, made even lighter and without the midfoot strap.

Is the Xero Shoes Forza Trainer Worth It?

I enjoyed the Xero Shoes Forza Trainers, and I found them to be solid barefoot shoes in training. I stayed very connected to the shoes throughout movements and lifts, and they were very comfortable…so comfortable that I wear them when I’m coaching weightlifting on my feet for three hours at a time.

These shoes will appeal to a certain crowd. I’ve enjoyed barefoot running and barefoot training, and practiced it back when I owned a CrossFit gym. Because of the zero drop of the shoe, they make for a great shoe for deadlifting. Still, if you’re used to or need a cross-training shoe with a raised heel—which is pretty common in Olympic weightlifting—this will be a very different feeling.

Having used weightlifting shoes like the Nike Romaleos 4 throughout my lifting career, these shoes lack a lot of the support and stability that I’m used to for the snatch and clean and jerk, along with a flat heel. That’s part of the allure of a barefoot shoe, as it will help strengthen the muscles in your feet, but that aspect may not appeal to all lifters and fitness enthusiasts.

For about $130, I think they’re priced fairly and pretty competitively. Other competitors, like the Vivo Primus Lite from VivoBarefoot, are priced at over $50 more. So if you’re looking for a solid minimalist shoe for CrossFit or cross-training, the Forza Trainers have pretty good value.

Great for:

  • Minimalist enthusiasts in the gym
  • Lifters wanting a flat deadlifting shoe
  • People looking for a good pair of cross-trainers

Not recommended for:

  • Gym users who want more ankle support in their training shoes
  • Athletes wanting a dedicated lifting shoe or running shoe
  • Fitness lovers wanting a raised heel

Xero Shoes Forza Trainer Specs

Price$130
Weight8.7 oz (men’s size 9)
Heel-to-toe drop0 mm
Men’s shoe colorwaysBlack, White/Blue Sapphire, Micro Gray/Red, Frost Gray,
Women’s shoe colorwaysBlack/Asphalt, Elderberry/Fig, Frost Gray, White/Scuba Blue
FeaturesMidfoot strap, molded sidewall, grippy tread
Warranty2 years

Using the Xero Shoes Forza Trainer 

The Forza Trainers are supposed to be comfortable and connected to your feet, so the first thing I did when testing them out was wear them all day long. In the release video from late 2022, CEO Steven Sashen said some users were so comfortable in the shoes they forgot they were wearing them and wore them to bed. 

While I never fell asleep with them on, I did find them very comfortable, and as someone who walks around barefoot as often as possible, they quickly became my coaching shoes, and felt great after hours of use. 

Man adjusting the midfoot strap of the Forza Trainer

I will say that if you’re new to barefoot shoes, you may feel some soreness or discomfort after extended wear, only because other muscles are being engaged to stabilize your foot than when wearing a regular shoe. These shoes also force you to run a bit more on the toes, instead of heel-to-toe, due to the minimal cushion on the heel.

Man performing sled pushes with the Xero Shoes Forza Trainers

During use, the shoe was very connected to my foot. I noticed it first while doing some sled pulls and pushes in my warm-up, but also felt solid during box jumps, jogging, and deadlifting and squatting. The instep strap cinched up my heel to where I never felt my heel wanting to fall out of the shoe. 

RELATED: The 16 Best Deadlift Variations

Man deadlifting with the Xero Shoes Forza Trainers

Along with the midfoot strap, the shoe has a wide toe box to let the toes splay out, which is also great for wide feet like mine. Because of how stable it felt while working out, I gave it a solid rating of 4.5 out of 5 for stability.

Man squatting with the Xero Shoes Forza Trainers

Being an Olympic weightlifter for so long, I prefer a raised heel for snatches and clean and jerks, so trying to perform these lifts with a flat heel was awkward and, at times, made this Olympian feel like a beginner again. The raised heel helps me get into a more upright position in a squat, and the flat shoes shifted my hips back too much. While not the type of shoe that I preferred for Olympic lifting, I can definitely see its merit for deadlifting and people who prefer training in barefoot shoes.

Construction & Durability

There isn’t a lot of material in the Forza Trainer, since it’s a minimal shoe, weighing only 8.7 ounces for a men’s size 9. While I’m not sure about the exact weight of my size 14 trainers, they were extremely lightweight. The materials used are also 100% vegan-friendly.

I was a little torn on the midfoot strap. I loved its purpose, being able to not only lock down my midfoot, but also my heel into the shoe better; however, I felt that when I really cinched up the velcro strap, there was hardly any velcro to connect to the shoe. If there were a future redesign, I’d like to see a longer velcro strap to really be able to secure my foot in the shoe.

Man adjusting the velcro midfoot strap of the Forza Trainer

The forefoot is secured by another strap, controlled by the shoelaces. The shoe laces are a little thin, which makes me worry about how long they’d last, but they performed just fine over the few weeks I had with them.

The rubber outsole has a grippy tread, which also wraps up a little bit around the heel for more stability while lifting. With its grippy feel, I believe you’ll be able to get some wear on these shoes before wearing out this outsole. Additionally, the rubber is still flexible, as you can bend and flex the shoe any way you want.

Man rolling up the flexible Forza Trainer

The upper is a breathable mesh made from a moisture-wicking fabric to keep your feet feeling nice and fresh while in use. Because of the lightweight construction and materials of the shoes, I am a little worried about long-term use, but Xero Shoes provides a two-year warranty, which should have you covered for a long time if anything does happen.

Ergonomics

This shoe is comfortable. It may take some getting used to if you’re new to barefoot shoes, but after that initial breaking-in period (more for your feet, not the shoes), these shoes feel great. 

In addition to the lightweight materials and feel of the shoe, the Forza Trainer has included a 2-millimeter sock liner—or insert—that can be used for a bit more cushion. I typically wore socks (out of habit) without the liner, but trying them with the liner barefoot felt great as well. If you need extra padding, you can try socks and the inserts, although for most, it’s probably not necessary.

Comparison to NOBULL Outworks

NOBULL Trainers

NOBULL Outwork

GGR Score: 4.5 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • 4mm heel-to-toe drop
  • Stylish looks
  • Versatile
  • Durable
  • Great for CrossFit

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Performs well across a variety of exercises
  • Stylish look
  • Durable
  • Several height levels

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Takes a while to break in
  • 4mm heel-to-toe-drop may not be good for some movements (such as squats)

Bottom Line

A versatile and durable cross-training shoe with some unique colorways.

It’s difficult to compare the Xero Shoes Forza Trainers to another cross-training shoe, since barefoot shoes have such different goals than other shoes. However, I decided to highlight some of those differences with another minimalist shoe, the NOBULL Outworks.

The two major differences between these shoes are the weight and the heel-toe drop. The NOBULL Outwork is over 2 ounces heavier than the Forza Trainer in a men’s size 9. Additionally, while still a low heel-toe drop, the NOBULL Outworks have a slight drop of 4 millimeters, which is large compared to the zero drop of the Forza Trainers.

While both are considered pretty minimal shoes, the NOBULL Outworks definitely have a little more support than the Forza Trainers. Still, the Forza Trainers aren’t made for foot support but for stability. The Forza Trainers also have much less material than the NOBULLs, with a thinner heel and less in the upper. 

Which shoe will work for you better depends on what you’re looking for, although the Forza Trainers are a little more affordable depending on which NOBULL Trainer you’re looking at. 

You can see more of our thoughts on these trainers in our NOBULL Outwork review.

Xero Shoes Forza TrainerNOBULL Outwork
Price$129$129 – $159
Weight8.7 oz (men’s size 9)11 oz (men’s size 9)
Heel-to-toe drop0 mm4 mm
Men’s shoe colorwaysBlack, White/Blue Sapphire, Micro Gray/Red, Frost Gray,Over 20 options
Women’s shoe colorwaysBlack/Asphalt, Elderberry/Fig, Frost Gray, White/Scuba BlueOver 20 options
FeaturesMidfoot strap, molded sidewall, grippy tread, moisture wickingWater repellent coating, SuperFabric upper, sidewall guards
Warranty2 years1 year

Customer Experience

All Xero Shoes are backed by both a 2-year warranty and a 5,000-mile sole warranty, which mean different things. The 2-year warranty covers manufacturer defects during the 24-month period. The 5,000-mile sole warranty basically says that your shoes’ FeelTrue outsoles will last that many miles. If they don’t, you can get them replaced or the same product at a discount: 60% MSRP off, to be specific.

Xero Shoes also offers returns for unused shoes 45 days after receipt of the product. You’ll have to cover shipping costs, though. You can also exchange items for other shoes or for store credit. You can contact the company through phone, email, or contact form.

Ordering the Xero Shoes Forza Trainer

The Xero Shoes Forza Trainers can be purchased directly from the company website.  They offer financing options through Klarna, which breaks the price down into four payments. Some people may have a higher initial payment this way, depending on their credit score.

Customer Reviews

The Forza Trainer ranks well amongst customers, as it is rated 4.7 stars for the men’s Forza Trainers and 4.9 out of 5 stars for the women’s, with nearly 300 reviews total between the two. Even with a couple complaints, almost all reviews were still above 3 stars. Most of the issues revolved around the thin shoelaces or how the midfoot strap could use more velcro to really be tightened adequately (something I ran into in my testing).

Final Verdict of Our Xero Shoes Forza Trainer Review

The Xero Shoes Forza Trainers are a supportive barefoot, minimalist shoe. With a midfoot strap that tightens around the heel, you’ll feel connected to the shoes during all sorts of movements: lifting, jumping, and running. It should definitely lend itself to some heavy lifts more than others, as deadlifts will feel more comfortable than overhead squats and snatches.

These shoes might not be for everyone, especially those used to cross-trainers with a larger heel drop. With that said, if you’re looking for a good cross-training shoe with a barefoot feel, the Forza Trainers are a solid choice.

Xero Shoes Forza Trainer Rating

Xero Shoes Forza Trainer

A minimalist shoe that’s good for lifting? Check out our thoughts on the latest barefoot shoe in our Xero Shoes Forza Trainer review.

Product Brand: Xero Shoes

Product Currency: USD

Product Price: 129.99

Product In-Stock: InStock

Editor's Rating:
4.3
Appearance – 4
Construction and Durability – 3.5
Stability – 4.5
Outsole – 5
Adjustability and Ergonomics – 4.5
Value – 4
Warranty, Returns, and Exchanges – 4.5
Customer Service – 4
Check Price

Xero Shoes Forza Trainer FAQs

Are Xero Shoes good for your feet?

The concept for the Xero Shoes and other barefoot shoes is to strengthen your feet with the use of minimal cushion and support. Barefoot running’s concept of striking the forefoot instead of the rear foot has been shown to reduce injuries for runners, according to a review from 20121. More research is needed to ensure that minimalist footwear can provide the similar benefits as barefoot running, but initial studies2 show the possibility of them providing the same benefits.

Is it possible to buy Xero Shoes online?

Yes, Xero Shoes can be purchased online directly from the website; xeroshoes.com.

Can Xero Shoes be worn without socks?

Yes, Xero Shoes can be worn with or without socks. With moisture-wicking fabric, the shoes will help your feet breathe while in use, too.

What size shoe does the Xero Shoes Forza Trainer come in?

The Forza Trainer is available in both men’s and women’s sizes, from size 6.5 to 15 for men and 5 to 12 for women. The shoe sizes tend to run true to size.

References

  1. Altman AR, Davis IS. Barefoot running: biomechanics and implications for running injuries. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2012 Sep-Oct;11(5):244-50. doi: 10.1249/JSR.0b013e31826c9bb9. PMID: 22965347.
  2. Fredericks W, Swank S, Teisberg M, Hampton B, Ridpath L, Hanna JB. Lower extremity biomechanical relationships with different speeds in traditional, minimalist, and barefoot footwear. J Sports Sci Med. 2015 May 8;14(2):276-83. PMID: 25983575; PMCID: PMC4424455.

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