The Best Barefoot Shoes

casual barefoot shoes

Photo by Vivo Barefoot

Barefoot shoes are footwear designed to closely simulate the feeling of going around barefoot. They are generally known for being light weight and having thin soles. A couple of years ago, there were just a handful of barefoot shoe makers. Nowadays, they are manufactured by a wide variety of sporting companies. Some of the top brands include: Vibram, Vivo, Sanuk, ZEMgear, New Balance, Barefoot Freedom Shoes, and Nike.

General Benefits and Importance of Barefoot Shoes

Because of the unique nature of barefoot athletics, barefoot shoes help minimize injuries and promote comfort. Typically, when sporting barefooted, feet are exposed to all of the elements. Barefoot shoes help minimize injuries by protecting the feet from hazards such as rocks, debris, litter, and glass that may be present on a path.

Comfort-wise, barefoot shoes can also provide support to sustain long runs. Since they are light in weight, they are pretty comfortable and also do not interfere with the act of running or walking about.

Types of Barefoot Shoes

barefoot shoes

Photo by Chris Schrier

Barefoot Shoes come in a wide variety of types including:

  • Foot thong
  • Minimalist shoes
  • Trail shoes
  • Barefoot shoes
  • Road shoes

Foot Thong

The foot thong is a small strap that is placed on the foot pad and which is designed merely to protect the ball of the foot. It is extremely light and hence quite suitable for gymnastics and dance enthusiasts.


Minimalist running shoes are hybrid barefoot shoes in the sense that they display the features and characteristics of both the traditional running shoes and the barefoot running shoes. The sole on these tends to be thinner--often coming in at between 4-8 millimeters.


trail barefoot shoes

Photo by Vivo Barefoot

Trail running shoes are designed for running on rugged and difficult terrain. Unlike other conventional barefoot running shoes, they have relatively thick soles to guard against injuries resulting from direct contacts with the ground. They provide additional grip and protects against abrasion as well as comprehensive coverage of the upper parts of the feet.


running barefoot shoes

Photo by Poi Apeles

Barefoot running shoes are the typical shoes one might find. They are designed to simulate the barefoot running experience while simultaneously protecting the feet against injuries arising from direct contact with the ground and other debris. They feature extremely thin and flexible soles and minimal height from the ground to the heel. They allow for greater flexibility of motion.


Road running shoes allow, to a large extent, the ability to run around at higher speeds and across greater distances. They have very thin, flexible and flat soles that can be easily shaped to fit most figures. They tend to have a sole designed to absorb more of the impact of foot to pavement.

How to Choose the Right Barefoot Shoes

In order to choose the most appropriate barefoot shoes, there are several things you might want to take into consideration which including when you're going to use it, what function it will serve, and how your foot is structured.

Intended Use

As previously mentioned, barefoot running shoes comes in various shapes, sizes, and are designed for a variety of uses including walking, running on smooth regular surfaces, and traversing difficult and rugged terrain. Wearing one shoes, designed for the wrong activity, can have a negative impact on performance and health. If running, for instance, a foot thong would probably ont provide adequate suspension to protect against constant foot to pavement action.


Most barefoot shoes weigh between 5 ounces to 6 ounces (between 141 grams to 170 grams). Although the added weight of a more heavy duty shoe may be negligable, it is always better to run with less stress and weight on the foot.


Differential is the thickness of the sole under the heel compared to the thickness of the soles under the toe. The ideal differential or drop should be zero (unless your foot structure is different, requiring a higher or lower differential).


The ideal barefoot shoe should have no extra spaces between the tip of the toes and the shoes and should literally fit like gloves. Extra space may lead to build up of sweat pockets and general discomfort.


This is a measure of the overall life expectancy of the shoe. The longer the life expectancy of the barefoot shoe, the better since it guarantees higher return on investment. Information regarding durability can be often found through third-third party customer review sites.


Some shoes require more care than others to keep them in the best possible shape. Some questions to take into consideration include “Are the shoes machine-washable?” and “Do they require polish?” This piece of information can often be found on the manufacturer’s website.

Closures Systems

This is the mechanism by which the respective barefoot shoe can be affixed to the foot. There are two main types of closures namely: quick lace and strap closures. The closure types determine the ease with which the feet can be inserted and removed into and from the shoe. As a general rule, quick lace closure system is better for athletes since they are much easier to insert and remove from the shoes.

The Possibility of Wearing Socks

Barefoot Shoes can generally be worn either with socks on or without socks altogether. Not all types can accommodate socks though. Extremely thin barefoot shoes, for instance, cannot be worn with socks. The specific type of barefoot shoe to acquire largely depends on the intended use. If it's for running, then it might be best to look for barefoot running shoes that can be worn with socks. In this case, they would provide additional grip and absorption of sweat.

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