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Barefoot / Minimal Shoes

Interested in joining the barefoot trail crowd? Check out How to Run or Hike Barefoot on the Trail for help getting started.

Top Picks

How we choose: The best barefoot / minimal shoes highlighted here were selected based on 178 reviews of 29 products. Our top picks are those that are readily-available in the United States and have received the highest overall ratings from reviewers.

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Vibram FiveFingers Classic

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (6 reviews)

After years of trying various shoes, boots, orthotics, socks, etc., and never being quite happy with the way my feet feel, I tried the Vibram Classic. What a difference! Hiking/city walking both work well. Your feet feel very light. After not running for the past 20 years due to bad knees, I'm tempted to break into a run just because it feels like it would be so much fun with these on. You do have to watch where you put your feet; gravel of a certain size can give you quite a poke in the heel or mid-foot.

Read more: Vibram FiveFingers Classic reviews (6)

Top Barefoot / Minimal Shoe / Trail Shoe / Trail Running Shoe / Water Shoe

Vibram FiveFingers KSO

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (18 reviews)

As a children how many of us did not need any shoes and were happy running around barefoot even if it meant to get some blisters here and there? Later on, when we had to put shoes on and go to school and then work and so on, things changed and it would be considered inappropriate to one day show up without any shoes on. I wonder how many of us feel happy with what they are wearing on day to day basis on their feet and how many of us is actually comfortable?The Vibram soles is revolutionary innovation as far as comfortable shoes can be, which is based on the age old methodology that being barefoot helps your balance and will make you feel aware of the nature around and ground beneath your feet.

Read more: Vibram FiveFingers KSO reviews (18)

Vibram FiveFingers Trek Ascent Insulated

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

They extend cold weather running. Added protection for the feet. And extremely lightweight and flexible.

Reasons to Buy

  • Keep the feet a bit warmer
  • Easy to clean
  • Conform to terrain
  • Better ground feeling

Reasons to Avoid

  • Traction could be better. They don’t like ice much, are okay in mud and snow. Do well on frozen terrain.
  • I tried waterproofing them, but discovered the greatest foe is sweating. I can keep cold water out up to the top of the shoe now but there’s still moisture involved. It’ll be the same for any shoe.
  • Ankle deep+ water is chilling.

This is my third winter with my Insulated Trek Ascents. They definitely lengthen my minimalist running season (my first preference is barefoot) into the winter month. I bought a size up as suggested by the website. They fit good barefoot or with an extremely lightweight sock, but the next pair I order will be a size larger than that. Just so it’s clear, my regular Vibram FiveFingers are a size 43. My current Insulated Trek Ascents are not a 44. The next size I order will be a 45 to allow for a thicker (hopefully warmer) sock. Last year I was able to handle -15°C for a couple of hours comfortably when running. I’m hoping to extend that this year with a larger shoe and thicker sock.

Read more: Vibram FiveFingers Trek Ascent Insulated review (1)

Barefoot / Minimal Shoe / Trail Shoe / Trail Running Shoe

Vibram FiveFingers KSO Trek

user rating: 5 of 5 (7 reviews)

Having gotten on board the Vibram Five-Fingers train very much at the beginning, I have nearly two years' experience walking and running in Five-Fingers. And must say that they are unequivocally my favourite running shoes of all time. It certainly took a little time to get used to (muscle ache in my calves like nobody's business at first) and it required changing my stride pattern, but this all benefited my running significantly: I have considerably less knee and back aches than previously, and haven't sprained an ankle since I began using them.

Read more: Vibram FiveFingers KSO Trek reviews (7)

Top Sport Sandal / Barefoot / Minimal

Xero Shoes DIY 4mm Kit

user rating: 5 of 5 (2 reviews)

The closest thing you can get to nothing, without actually having nothing. A perfect shoe for marathons, ultra marathons, camp sandals, beach sandals, lounging, or trail running. The literal "do everything" sandal. Build your own here

Reasons to Buy

  • Ultralight
  • Affordable
  • Customize-able
  • Customer service is exceptional and personable

Reasons to Avoid

  • Not for "everyone"

Note: Although my review is very honest, i am an Affiliate. If these minimal sandals do not work, there are many other styles and shapes for different purposes. All are built upon the same idea of the Huarache, however some are built with thicker souls, bells and whistles etc. Nuild your own here So a few years back I made the transition to become a minimalist all while knowing that my long term plans were transitioning myself into a barefooter. As a "runner", I had done abundant amounts of research on the topic.

Read more: Xero Shoes DIY 4mm Kit reviews (2)

Barefoot / Minimal Shoe / Trail Shoe / Trail Running Shoe

Vibram FiveFingers TrekSport

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (5 reviews)

If you haven't tried Vibram's FiveFinger TrekSport barefoot/minimal shoe for trekking you may be quite surprised how well the shoe functions.

Reasons to Buy

  • Minimal weight
  • Increased foot dexterity on rough terrain
  • Comfortable fit
  • No break-in period required

Reasons to Avoid

  • Not the easiest shoe to put on
  • Debris easily finds its way into the shoe
  • After a long hike the interspaces between my toes begin to hurt
  • Once in a while the 4mm of sole is no match for an intrepid stone
  • Not at all water resistant

I've worn Vibram FiveFingers (VFF) exclusively since May 2013 for everyday footwear, hiking, traveling, etc. The VFF TrekSport model has been my go-to shoe for hiking and backpacking during the same time period. In all honesty, getting them on is not as easy as your everyday shoe. I've been trying these shoes on for years with some frustration always turning my back on them until a friend recommended them for greater stability, foot dexterity and balance. That's all I had to hear, I was sold! Always interested in finding a better performing shoe I decided I no longer could turn my back on these funky looking footwear.

Read more: Vibram FiveFingers TrekSport reviews (5)

Barefoot / Minimal Shoe / Trail Running Shoe

Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove

user rating: 4 of 5 (6 reviews)

A true 'barefoot' shoe with a tough sole that is good for trails, provided they're not too muddy. The very 'precise' fit makes them a good shoe for technical trails.

Reasons to Buy

  • Precise fit
  • Tough sole protects the foot well
  • Wide toe box

Reasons to Avoid

  • Tread is too shallow for muddy trails
  • Thin, fiddly tongue

***See bottom of review for my most recent experience, using TGs for a 100 mile ultra!*** The Merrell Trail Glove (TG) is one of the new generation of 'barefoot' running shoes. The TG's cushioning is very minimal, but what makes it a true 'barefoot' shoe is that it has no heel-forefoot differential, that is the shoe does not lift the heel relative to the forefoot at all. Standard running shoes have 8-12mm (1/3-1/2 inch) differential, with 'minimal' shoes around 4mm. I bought them in May 2011. I'm a UK-based ultra runner who is used to minimal (but not 'barefoot') shoes, ie Brooks Mach Spikeless, Inov8 F-Lite 230, and even I have found the Trail Gloves a huge change! The TGs engage all the leg and core muscles, not just the more limited range...

Read more: Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove reviews (6)

Barefoot / Minimal Shoe / Sock

Skinners Sock Shoes

user rating: 4 of 5 (4 reviews)

Is it a sock? is it a shoe? Yes! Skinners sock shoes might be a new category in outdoor footwear.

Reasons to Buy

  • Comfort
  • Warmth
  • Ease of use
  • Novelty
  • More protection than socks

Reasons to Avoid

  • Cost or perceived value
  • Less protection than minimalist shoes

I recently acquired some Skinners Sock Shoes. What? They are basically a sock covered on the sole with a protective rubber polymer. I believe that this might be new category of outdoor footwear. I'd say they offer more protection that a sock and perhaps less protection than a minimalist shoe. I suppose the closest comparable footwear might be minimalist footwear like FiveFingers Shoes, Merrell Trail Gloves Shoes, and Xero Shoes. Or perhaps a traditional leather moccasin. The Skinners are put on just like any other sock.

Read more: Skinners Sock Shoes reviews (4)

Barefoot / Minimal Shoe / Trail Running Shoe / Water Shoe

Vibram FiveFingers Sprint

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (4 reviews)

Eye-catching minimalist shoes which can be used for free running, pose running, as sail shoes or even for yoga. Not recommended for daily use (build up to it) but for those certain events that can use these shoes.

Reasons to Buy

  • Minimalist
  • Many uses
  • Unique appearance

Reasons to Avoid

  • Waterlogged easily...heavy
  • Can irritate upper foot

I've had my Fivefingers since spring of 2008. There were only three designs and these were the ones for me.  I preferred the Sprint style over the Classic as the upper foot would be supported by a rubber and velcro strap. They will be snug and difficult to get on at first, you'll have to do it one toe at a time, but eventually it is easy to slip them on and off. I used them for indoor rock climbing, yoga class, and whenever I didn't want to wear shoes or sandals. It has a thick sole, so walking in creek beds or on rocky surfaces are a breeze.

Read more: Vibram FiveFingers Sprint reviews (4)

Barefoot / Minimal Shoe / Trail Running Shoe

Merrell Barefoot Pace Glove

user rating: 3.5 of 5 (4 reviews)

Versatile minimal shoes — don't have to be hardcore barefoot if you don't want to.

Reasons to Buy

  • Good arch support (for normal arches)
  • Comfortable for walking and hikes
  • Can wear them with socks
  • Washable

Reasons to Avoid

  • Expensive!

I was moving out of the country with a pretty limited baggage allowance, so I got these shoes for walking around, light workouts, and trails. Over a year later and they've been great for all of that and have held up pretty well! I should mention that I haven't trained to do barefoot running and so I don't attempt to in these (I only jog a bit in these if I'm late!) and cannot comment on how they perform for that. These were my first official barefoot shoes, though I've always preferred wearing form-fitting, thin-soled shoes.

Read more: Merrell Barefoot Pace Glove reviews (4)

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