Choosing the Best Barefoot Shoes

This is a writing sample from Scripted writer Ascari Pena

If you're new to the concept of barefoot shoes, you may quickly realize that there are a variety of different styles to look for, which could leave you feeling overwhelmed; these types of running shoes aren't the only minimalist shoes on the market. When you delve into the world of barefoot shoes, you'll find that there are different kinds that people prefer for different activities. You'll find a shoe for anything from trail running, to hiking, and even activities like Crossfit training. With so many shoe options available to you, it's important to understand what makes great shoes and how you can choose the perfect pair for you.

What are Barefoot Shoes?

Barefoot shoes bring athletes and adventurers alike back to the basics. They offer the wearer a sense of simplicity that can bring new experiences to the table when it comes to the way that you interact with the terrain below your feet; to put it simply, barefoot running shoes offer protection from weather and harsh terrain, and nothing else, technically speaking. Technicality aside, though, they offer various benefits to the wearer that you just can't experience with traditional rigid and cushioned trainers.

Minimalist vs. Barefoot Shoes

While barefoot shoes and minimalist shoes are sometimes used interchangeably, it is important to note that they can, and often do, boast significant differences when compared. While barefoot shoes are made to deliver a true barefoot experience to wearers, minimalist shoes can be a hybrid between traditional sneakers and good old-fashioned barefoot shoes. If a minimalist is mentioned interchangeably with a barefoot running shoe, the shoe needs to be lightweight, thin, flexible and must have a low heel-to-toe drop without frills.

The Benefits and Characteristics of a Barefoot Shoe

There is a set of key elements that make a barefoot shoe, and these elements combined create

One of the most unique shoe experiences on the market. The best way to spot a barefoot running shoe is by looking for:

The Stack Height: regular running shoes often possess a thick sole that elevates the wearer from the ground and provides cushioning from the ground below them. When it comes to minimalist shoes (barefoot shoes), the sole is made as thin as possible to simulate the feeling of, well, being barefoot.

The Toe Box: A standard toe box hugs the toes and doesn't allow for much spread or movement. The toe box on barefoot shoes gives the wearer a wider space, allowing you to spread your toes and take advantage of lost strength and agility.

Heel-to-toe Drop: This is the term used to describe the difference between the forefoot and heel of the shoe. Barefoot shoes should always have a zero drop (the same as your feet).

Pronation: Pronation refers to the different ways of padding on a traditional running shoe. You won't find characteristics like arch or ankle support in barefoot shoes.

Flexibility and Weight: Barefoot shoes keep you connected to the ground and nothing else, simulating a barefoot feel. This makes minimalist shoes the lightest and most flexible shoes around.

Finding your Style of Barefoot Shoes

As mentioned before, barefoot shoes come in a variety of styles, and it's imperative that you choose the right shoe for your preferred activities. Shoes with a mesh upper may be the best option for long-distance runners who are looking to stay cool while on the run, while trail runners may benefit more from a shoe that offers more protection along the top. Additionally, avid climbers may look to barefoot shoe options that offer individual toe slots and enhanced traction for more grip.

A Review of the Best Barefoot Shoes

Reading other peoples' reviews on the different barefoot shoes available is one of the best ways to narrow down your choices. While it's still important to form your own opinions on products by trying them yourself, these reviews can often give valuable insight into what you should expect from a specific item.

Here is some valuable information on some of the top-rated barefoot shoes on the market today and how they square up against one another:

#7: Merrel Trail Glove 5 (Starting at $49.83):

Pros: The Merrel Trail 5's are an airy, breathable, and responsive shoe that offers the wearer tremendous grip and a solid outsole.

Cons: This shoe has too many added features to really be considered a true barefoot shoe. You'll also find that they can be hard to size and the midsole has sometimes been described as "uncomfortable."

#6: Vivobarefoot Primus Lite (Starting at $75.00)

Pros: The Vivobarefoot Primus Lite shoes are sleek, lightweight, and maintain a low profile that helps the wearer truly experience the magic of a barefoot shoe.

Cons: The downsides of this shoe come from the hot toe-box and the price. While it's not the most expensive shoe, there are more budget-friendly alternatives that offer more desirable features.

#5: Vibram FiveFingers KSO (Starting at $84.95)

Pros: Aside from offering individual toe-slots, the Vibram FiveFinger barefoot shoe is inexpensive for its category and boasts one of the more rugged and durable designs out of the bunch.

Cons: If you decide to go with this shoe, you should be prepared for the extended break-in period and difficult sizing.

#4: New Balance Minimus Trail 10v1 (Starting at $99.88)

Pros: One of the most versatile shoes on the list, this shoe can be used anywhere from the most rugged trails to the open road. This is a perfect entry-level minimalist trail runner.

Cons: The New Balance Minimus can be a snug fit with a lack of downward flexion and a tough sole.

#3: Vibram V-Trail (Starting at $119.95)

Pros: If you're looking for durability, the Vibram V-Trail shoe comes with a tough exterior, snug lacing system, and provides some of the best stability around. The individual toe-slots are a bonus.

Cons: Some wearers may have a hard time with the odd flex pattern, decreased sensitivity, and the lack of dexterity in the toes.

#2: Xero Shoes Prio (Starting at $90.00)

Pros: Durability and versatility are the top things that come to mind when thinking of the Xero Shoes Prio barefoot shoes. Xero is the definition of an underdog, beating out well-established brands with its tough and unique design.

_Cons: Those who are new to barefoot running shoes may find the shoe to be heavy and too intense in terms of barefoot design. _

#1: Merrel Vapor Glove 4 (Starting at $55.73)

Pros: Surprisingly, the number one rated shoe also happens to be the most affordable. The Merrel Vapor Glove 4's are extremely lightweight, provide you with exceptional freedom of movement, and can't be beaten when it comes to true ground feel.

Cons: The shoe can be inconsistent in its grip on occasion, comes equipped with short stock laces, and doesn't last as long as some of the other shoes on the market.

Barefoot shoes are the best way to experience a more natural connection between you and the ground you're standing on. If you think you're ready to make the switch and start conditioning your feet to perform in barefoot running shoes, make sure to take the information you've read here so that you can rest easy knowing you've picked the right barefoot shoe for you.


Are barefoot shoes bad for you?

While barefoot shoes are not bad for you, they do take some getting used to. It is recommended that you progressively introduce yourself to this type of shoe.

How long do barefoot shoes last?

It is recommended to replace traditional running shoes anywhere from 300 to 600 miles or when the midsole breaks down. Since minimalist shoes and barefoot running shoes do not have a midsole, you should look to replace your shoes when the tread begins to wear down and or when the shoe upper breaks down.

Can you wear barefoot shoes every day?

Yes, you can wear barefoot running shoes every day. In fact, it is recommended that you wear your minimalist footwear every day to break in the shoe. Wearing your barefoot running shoes regularly helps condition your sense of balance and coordination.

Written by:

Ascari Pena
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Ascari is an industry-trained content writer from Salt Lake City, Utah. His passion for writing combined with the opportunity to work in an advertising agency setting starting at the young age of just 19 has led him to create quality work for clients across the board.
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