The 5 Best Barefoot Shoes (2024)

Best Overall Barefoot Shoe

Vibram V-Trail 2.0



  • Ground Feedback9.0

  • Stability8.0

  • Traction9.0

  • Weight8.4

  • Durability8.0

Weight (per shoe): 7.3 oz | Stack Height: 5.7mm (3.7mm base + 2mm insole)


Natural toe dexterity

Water-repellent upper is abrasion and puncture-resistant

Aggressive tread


Upper not as breathable

More difficult to put on

Vibram has been leading the charge in barefoot footwear for a while now, and the Vibram V-Trail 2.0 is the next evolution of the OG FiveFinger shoe. The primary draw of this design is the natural toe dexterity that it confers. This is as close as you can get to going barefoot while enjoying a shoe's protection. The thin 3.7mm outsole has an aggressive tread design comprised of raised pyramidal lugs that act like tiny rubber cleats, digging and gripping as needed. Combined with a built-in 2mm insole for a combined stack height of 5.7mm, these trail runners provide plenty of ground feel. The fun features don't stop at the sole. The upper is made of an abrasion and puncture-resistant polyester that also sheds water. Due to this combination of durability, stability, and traction, this shoe quickly became a top contender and favorite of our test team.

One of the only drawbacks we experienced with the V-Trail was the difficulty of donning the shoe. The design makes it a bit of a challenge to get each toe into the right hole. With practice and experience, this does get easier. Another place this shoe fell short of the competition was in the upper's breathability. The more durable woven fabric is not as porous as other trail runners. Also, at 7.3 ounces per shoe, it isn't the lightest of those tested. All told, these minor drawbacks hardly discount the utility and fun of running and playing in these shoes. They are the ultimate barefoot trail runner on the market. If you want a stable shoe with boot-like features and are willing to compromise on weight and ground feedback, check out the unique Tracker II FG. The traction bites down on the trail while providing unbeatable durability for long days on the trail.

Read more: Vibram V-Trail 2.0 review

Best Bang For Your Buck

Whitin Cross Trainer



  • Ground Feedback8.0

  • Stability7.0

  • Traction8.0

  • Weight7.3

  • Durability6.0

Weight (per shoe): 10.2 oz | Stack Height: 6.5mm (5mm base + 1.5mm insole)



Unique barefoot design

Burly tread


Lose traction when wet

Foot moves around inside

Lacks durability

New to the barefoot game, Whitin has a couple of well-thought-out offerings at an affordable price. There are two different styles of the Whitin Cross Trainer — one that looks like a traditional running shoe, with tread designed to grip on hard top. And then there's the pair that we tested, which has more protection around the front of the shoe, a tread geared toward trail running, and a quick drawstring lacing system. We'll focus on the latter since it's the type that we tested. The aggressive tread grips the trail well — in fact, this pair has some of the best dry traction out of all the contenders in our lineup. The outsole is relatively thick, however, at 5mm. Add a 1.5mm removable insole, and these trainers aren't the lowest to the ground. That said, we did really appreciate the ample room in the toe box that allowed our toes to spread out.

One thing we noticed when removing the insole to have more ground feedback is that the heel of the insole is actually thicker than the forefoot. This means that with the insole, these shoes aren't technically "zero drop" — they're slightly more raised in the heel. We didn't feel like this affected the performance much, but it is a technicality worth mentioning in a review of barefoot shoes. The rugged tread grips great on trails and soft surfaces but totally loses grip when wet; this isn't Vibram-quality rubber. Another thing of note is that the drawstring lacing system, while it cinches the shoe around the ankle, does not tighten the shoe much around the midfoot. We found that our foot moved around enough in these to affect stability on slopes and more technical terrain. While not the lightest or most durable, if you're looking for a pair of cheap minimalist trainers, or perhaps two (one for the gym and one for the trail), then this one will do the trick. If you're willing to shell out a few more sheckles for a lighter shoe, the Merrell Vapor Glove 6 is another great deal to explore, with a similar level of performance across all other metrics.

Read more: Whitin Cross Trainer review

Best Barefoot Boot for Hiking and Work

Vivobarefoot Tracker II FG



  • Ground Feedback8.0

  • Stability9.0

  • Traction9.0

  • Weight4.0

  • Durability9.0

Weight (per shoe): 19 oz | Stack Height: 5.5mm (3mm base + 2.5mm lugs)


Superior ankle stability

Excellent traction

Durable construction


Relatively heavy


With this boot, Vivobarefoot claims that "Being tough doesn't mean you can't feel." The Vivobarefoot Tracker II fully lives up to the statement. The 3mm rubber base lends the ground feedback that one would expect from a barefoot shoe, while the durable leather and 2.5mm lugs give you the confidence to tackle tough conditions. For added protection, Vivobarefoot incorporates their Pro5 Puncture Resistant finish, a .08mm layer on the sensitive rubber sole. Along with a welded seam where the outsole meets the upper, this boot is designed to take some licks and keep on kicking.

Weight was the only metric where this boot did not perform at the top of the class. At 19 ounces per boot, the Tracker is considered a heavyweight among the barefoot class. This is easy to understand when considering the beefed-up construction and added material that constitutes a hiking boot. Among burly hiking boots, this one is still lightweight. We also found this to be an excellent work boot due to both the thick leather upper and the puncture resistance of the sole. It kept our feet happy and sound during long work days doing tree work over uneven forest terrain. Whether for work or play, we can't recommend these boots enough for those who prefer the feel of a barefoot platform, no matter how tough the task. The Xero Shoes DayLite Hiker Fusion is another barefoot boot construction to consider. While it isn't as sensitive or stable, it is lighter and comes at a fraction of the cost.

Read more: Vivobarefoot Tracker II FG review

Best Barefoot Gym Shoe

Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III



  • Ground Feedback9.0

  • Stability8.0

  • Traction6.0

  • Weight8.0

  • Durability7.0

Weight (per shoe): 8.4 oz | Stack Height: 7mm (4mm base + 3mm insole)


Super flat outsole

Made from recycled materials

Durable upper


Rubber upper can feel like a flipper

Outsole loses traction when dirty

Lack of versatility

Running can take a toll on your shoes, but strength training can be even more demanding on your feet. That's why building athleticism from the ground up is so important, starting with your feet. The Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III is a shoe built for road running that doubles as a gym trainer — once you build up foot strength. A true barefoot shoe, the toe box has ample room to let your toes spread out, providing the stability to stand up to even the most rigorous training sessions. Though with the insole, this shoe keeps your feet a whopping 7mm from the ground, you can remove the insoles for plenty of ground feel. The even platform of the zero-drop outsole, combined with the wide toe box, provides you with a stable, low-profile shoe that aims to help you improve your performance in weight lifting.

Unlike other options we reviewed, the Primus Lite III is made largely of recycled PET, a thermoplastic polymer resin. While recycled materials don't always hold up to rigorous use, we found the upper of this shoe to take everything we threw at it with nary a sign of wear. One weak point we did find was in the weld of the outsole onto the upper where it flexes at the toes. Because the upper is so rigid, this seam tends to separate, which could affect overall longevity. Another drawback is the lack of versatility. The tread is very low profile and designed for hard, flat surfaces. It tended to slip on dirt trails, which affected overall stability and confidence when running. Lastly, the rubber of the upper is relatively stiff and, well, rubbery. At times, it felt like we were slipping on a pair of rubber flippers. This was easily overlooked, however, once we started working out. One thing is for sure — these shoes are designed to make training fun while enhancing your own natural balance, strength, and ability. The Whitin Cross Trainer is another flat-shoe with excellent traction you might consider if a shoe can transition from the gym to the trail. It also comes at an affordable price, but lacks durability.

Read more: Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III review

The 5 Best Barefoot Shoes (13)

Best Lightweight Barefoot Shoe

Merrell Vapor Glove 6



  • Ground Feedback8.0

  • Stability7.0

  • Traction8.0

  • Weight9.0

  • Durability6.0

Weight (per shoe): 5.6 oz | Stack Height: 6mm (4mm base + 2mm lugs)


Comfortable in rough terrain

Durable Vibram outsole



Extremely sensitive on sharp ground

Upper less durable

In terms of natural feel, the Merrell Vapor Glove 6 continues to help define the barefoot category. This shoe is the lightest weight contender in our test group, achieving this feat through its ultra-minimalist design. There's not much to this shoe. The Vibram rubber outsole with 2mm multidirectional lugs maintains grip without sacrificing ground feel. The recycled mesh upper is thin and breathable. Where there is extra material for abrasion resistance, it's also thin and minimal. Even the lace design is minimalist, utilizing cordage for both the shoelace and the lace rungs. All of these factors combine to create an ultra-lightweight shoe that fits like, yes, a glove, and provides comfort, agility, and that barefoot shoe feel.

Due to the thinness and type of rubber, we also found the sole of the Vapor Glove to be the most sensitive in terms of ground feel. In fact, they were too sensitive for some trails with sharp rocky ground, despite the fact that they seem to be built for dynamic terrain. This heightened ground feel will only appeal to the most diehard of barefoot fans. The sticky Vibram rubber outsole grips in most conditions and recovers quickly when wet. This is partly due to the lug pattern, which helps easily shed dirt and water. As noted, the upper that helps achieve the lightweight title is less durable mesh, with scant abrasion coverage. Due to this fact, it may not last as long as shoes that incorporate more protection. All told, if you're looking for that intense, barefoot ground feel, then you'll want to try a pair of these minimalist barefoot "gloves". The Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3 is another to consider if you prefer a narrow foot bed and a relatively lightweight, minimalist design. While it doesn't perform relatively well, its unique design may be exactly what you've been looking for.

Read more: Merrell Vapor Glove 6 review

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Why You Should Trust Us

We purchase all of the models discussed in this article and put them through a rigorous testing process. Based on the fact that each shoe is designed for specific purposes — road running, trail running, hiking, or gym training — each pair is given preference in its respective specialty. We compile research, closely examine each shoe, and take a lot of notes to put together our opinions on which models work best in each particular discipline. Most importantly, we work out in these shoes; each model sees at least 15 miles of pavement, trail, or both, as well as multiple gym sessions.

Our barefoot shoe testing is divided across five key metrics:

  • Ground Feedback (30% of overall score weighting)
  • Stability (20% weighting)
  • Traction (20% weighting)
  • Weight (15% weighting)
  • Durability (15% weighting)

Our barefoot and minimalist shoe experts are Aaron Rice and Jon Oleson. Aaron grew up on the Atlantic coastline, spending his summers comfortably barefoot and only donning sandals to navigate hot pavement. One of his earliest coaches encouraged him and his teammates to go barefoot as much as possible, explaining the important role our feet play in developing strength. Now living full-time in Santa Fe, NM, Aaron maintains a lifelong devotion to mountain fitness to further his ambitions in endurance sports like trail running, alpine climbing, and ski mountaineering. As a fun fact related to barefoot running, Aaron hates wearing socks.

Jon also comes with a wealth of barefoot experience. Over a decade and a half ago, he ditched his conventional shoes after a pair of narrow and constricting hiking shoes damaged his feet. Slowly, Jon rebuilt his foot dexterity, mobility, and strength by exercising barefoot and donning barefoot shoes when protection was required. Now, if he even looks at a pair of narrow shoes, it makes his feet hurt. And if he wears them, he feels it from his feet all the way through his hips to his shoulders. Jon notes, "One thing about going barefoot is that, once your body becomes accustomed, it's hard to go back."

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Analysis and Test Results

A few things are worth pointing out before we dive into the metrics we used to score each shoe. First and foremost, all of the shoes included in this review comprise some of the best and most popular options for barefoot and minimalist shoes available on the market. Since our side-by-side testing is based on comparisons, a low score does not mean that a particular pair of shoes isn't worthy of consideration. It simply means that they do not perform quite as well relative to the competition in that respective category — all of these shoes are excellent in at least one aspect, and often low-scoring shoes are fantastic options for specialized use.

The other — and perhaps the more important thing to consider — is that your specific needs may differ from the weighting we applied to each metric. We encourage you to first consider your own preferences and your specific needs. Then, with that as a baseline, use our suggestions to help inform your purchase. That said, since minimalist footwear is intended to enhance the abilities of your own body — rather than some innovative shoe design doing the work — ground feedback and stability receive the majority of the weight, at a total of 50% of the final score.


Whether you are a seasoned barefoot enthusiast or looking to purchase your first pair, figuring out which shoe will offer the best value can be tricky. While many assume that the highest-priced product will perform the best, our experience in this category — and with outdoor gear in general — has proven that this is often not the case. What is often true is that the more expensive products, being constructed of higher quality materials, tend to last longer. That said, some products buck that trend too, so it's our aim to get to the bottom of all of it.

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We highlight products as exceptional values only if they both perform well across the board and are reasonably priced. Not only does the Merrell Vapor Glove 6 provide great ground feedback, but it is one of the more affordable options. It may not be the right shoe for everyone, particularly those who are used to a lot of cushion — there's no additional insole in these shoes, so there's little between your feet and the ground. In fact, we felt the ground the most in these shoes — every little pebble. If you want slightly more cushion for your feet at an even greater value, check out the Whitin Cross Trainer. The Whitin's outsole is thicker than the entire sole of the Vapor Glove 6, and it has a 1.5mm insole for added cushion.

Ground Feedback

Freeing your feet is what minimalist and barefoot shoes are all about, and it all comes down to ground feel and responsiveness — how close can each shoe come to feeling like you are actually barefoot? The soles of the feet are among the most sensitive parts of our body because the information fed through our feet is directly related to proprioception, or our sense of positioning in space. With an activity like running, to understand our body positioning as we move through space, our feet must flex, move, and feel the ground. The best minimalist shoes limit their interference of, and perhaps even enhance, our natural "sixth sense."

Most designs in our lineup allow for increased proprioception through a precise combination of design features like a thin outsole, zero heel-to-toe drop, a wide toe box, a lot of flexibility, and, of course, a lack of conventional support that would otherwise inhibit the foot's ability to feel the ground. True barefoot designs — like the award-winning Vibram V-Trail 2.0 — incorporate all of these design attributes and will provide the highest level of natural, i.e., barefoot feeling.

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Flexible shoes like the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III and Merrell Vapor Glove 6 offer tremendous freedom of movement and an overall accurate ground feel. But it is difficult for any shoe to quite touch the 'real feel' and barefoot accuracy of the V-Trail 2.0. This is an updated model, built for trail running, of the original FiveFingers shoe and is, without a doubt, the closest thing to actually running barefoot. While this is the OG shoe for barefoot diehards, the feel may be a bit funny for many who are not used to this style. If you can't stand the idea of having material in between your toes, the Primus Lite III is the next best thing.

A barefoot shoe represents an ideal, an attunement to natural states of being, but not everyone interested in the benefits of barefoot footwear wants to walk around on a super thin sole, like on the Merrell Vapor Glove 6. That is why minimalist shoes exist — to bridge the gap between conventional footwear and barefoot shoes. Based on our scheme of evaluating natural feel, these shoes will always score lower in this metric than the barefoot options. If a minimalist shoe combines certain aspects of its barefoot counterparts but has a thicker stack height and more confined toe box, then it's given points for the barefoot design aspects but inevitably scores lower than the true barefoot options. A great example of this is the Xero HFS — it has a zero drop, flexible design, breathable upper, and low weight, but a little more stack and a slightly narrower toe box. If you're new to barefoot shoes, this is a great place to start.

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It is also important to consider each of these shoes through the lens of their intended discipline. If it is a trail runner, like the Vibram V-Trail 2.0, how well does it handle uneven terrain, mud, rocks, and water crossings? If it's a boot, like the Vivobarefoot Tracker II FG, how well does it hold up to rocky trails and worksites? If it is a road shoe, like the Xero HFS, how well does it handle the abrasion of concrete and rough gravel on road shoulders? If it is a gym-specific trainer, like the Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3, how well does it allow you to engage the natural support structure of your feet without slipping or feeling off-balance? Other versatile trainers — like the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III — may be designed for a particular use but perform well in many disciplines.

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Training Tip
If you do not have experience running in barefoot shoes, we cannot stress enough how important it is to take the minimalist nature of these shoes seriously. Trying to run your normal distance or at a normal pace right off the bat may result in nagging injuries, even if you feel OK during your run. We suggest cutting back significantly on your usual mileage until your feet have time to adjust to this particular type of shoe.

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Interrelated with ground feedback, stability is how well the design aspects of each particular shoe affect natural balance and responsiveness. Attributes like sole thickness, sole edging, toe box width, tread, and how well the shoe hugs the foot all play a role in the stability of the platform.

The boots that we tested inevitably scored the highest in this category. Lacing up all the way up to the calves, they provide great stability to both the foot and ankle. The Vivobarefoot Tracker II FG, with its relatively thin sole (although with a puncture prevention layer for added protection), wide toe box, and compression fit, performed the highest in this category. We tested the Softstar Switchback in a "wide," which proved to be very wide even for a barefoot toe box. This made them extremely comfortable to wear but lowered their score in this category since the boot sometimes slipped while edging on rocky terrain.

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Whether or not the toes are able to naturally splay can greatly affect stability. A good analogy is trying to do push-ups or yoga with tight mittens on your hands. Without the ability to splay, the fingers can't properly balance the weight of the body. It's the same with the toes, and that's where true barefoot shoes shine. The Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III has the widest toe box of the runner-focused shoes we tested. Along with the thin sole, zero drop, and breathable upper, they are the epitome of a barefoot workout shoe. The Whitin Cross Trainer likewise has plenty of room in the toe box, but the sole is a bit thicker, making them more appropriate than the Primus for trail running.

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Shoes with a narrower toe box received a lower score in this category. One test that we performed was standing on one foot to balance. As you might guess, the narrower the toe box, the less balance we had. Shoes like the Whitin Cross Trainer, Xero HFS, and the Xero Prio have a hybrid toe box that is wider than conventional, yet not as wide as we like. On the other hand, we found the Inov-8 BARE-XF 210 V3 to be so narrow that we don't even consider it a hybrid. They're more like a minimalist conventional shoe.

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For barefoot runners, grip with the toes is an essential input that feeds into the greater sensory perception of movement. For hikers, it's important to maintain traction on technical trails, especially when carrying weight. The best barefoot shoes are designed with outsoles that support this natural function without diminishing ground feel. Maximum points were awarded to shoes with thin, flexible outsoles made of sticky-rubber compounds that utilize lugs to assist — not outperform — the natural grip of our feet.

To assess the grip of an outsole, we test shoes side-by-side, scrambling up and down the same rock face — much like how we would test the stickiness of climbing or approach shoes. We also seek out particularly steep and loose trails and note how well the shoes brake when running downhill. We make specific notes on the design of the lug patterns and how well they perform in dry, wet, loose, and rocky trail conditions, as well as how effectively they propel you over concrete.

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Shoes designed specifically for trail running or hiking tend to perform best in this metric since they are designed to encounter varied surface conditions. The natural FiveFingers design of the Vibram V-Trail 2.0 certainly allows your toes to grip the ground with accuracy, and the tread is designed to grip the trail through all conditions. The much more affordable Whitin Cross Trainer surprised us with how well they grip the trails and slopes, nearly as well as the V-Trail. This is due to an aggressive tread that, while thicker than the Vibram sole, was obviously designed with traction in mind.

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The boots we tested all fared quite well in this metric. Both the Vivobarefoot Tracker and Softstar Switchback did exceedingly well. Whether there was dirt or mud, wet or dry, the lugs of these hikers kept us feeling confident and agile. The Xero DayLite Hiker Fusion also has enough tread to keep you right side up, even technical trails.

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Merrell has nailed the outsole construction of the newly redesigned Trail Glove 6, incorporating tacky lugs into a low-profile trail runner that finally belongs in the beloved "glove" series. On the other hand, the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III, with an ultra-thin, flat outsole design, provides the best traction over pavement. While it performed well enough on flat trails, we wouldn't recommend the Primus Lite for technical trails with slopes. Likewise, with its road tire-inspired tread, the Xero HFS is best kept to pavement or flat, non-technical trails.

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Another essential function of a lugged sole is to shed loose dirt and water. As a lab experiment, we pour water over the outsole to examine how quickly it passes through the lugs and grooves. We also do our best to seek out puddles, mud pits, and sandy spots while out on runs to test this capability and adjust points for traction based on our findings. No matter the lug pattern, Vibram bases seem to do the best in this regard — shoes that use this outsole are the Vapor Glove 6 and the Vibram-owned V-Trail 2.0.

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A shoe's weight can greatly influence the overall experience, particularly for a running-specific design. But even in the gym or on a hike, a lightweight shoe will allow you to push the limits of your adventure without feeling like a pair of cement blocks are weighing you down. For both minimalist and barefoot options, we want our feet to feel as free and unencumbered as they are in their natural, barefoot state. The top performers are not only objectively lightweight but also provide the airy experience of going barefoot.

At merely 5.6 ounces per shoe, the Merrell Vapor Glove 6 is objectively the lightest shoe in this review — indeed, it amounts to little more than a protective sock with a gum sole. On the other side of the scale are the barefoot boots that we tested. At 19 ounces per boot, the Vivobarefoot Tracker II FG is the heaviest — that said, they are still much lighter than a conventional hiking boot. The weight comes from the additional material (no surprise there), which conversely provides additional durability and stability, increasing overall performance for their intended use.

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We take each of these shoes out on many, many runs and hikes and make subjective comparisons about how light they feel when our feet are moving, though this doesn't sway our objective scoring for this metric. Swing weight, of course, relates to scale weight, but these two alone do not form a full picture of a shoe's relative weight. The material design of the upper plays a major role in breathability and thermoregulation, two important factors if you plan on running in the heat of the day or at the height of your heart rate. Not only do hot, sweaty feet make you feel sluggish, but a more breathable shoe can actually dump water weight through progressive evaporation. Just some nerdy things to keep in mind as you decide what shoe is right for you.

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A standout in terms of breathability is the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III, which is comprised of recycled rubber with polyester mesh lining at the top of the foot. The Xero HFS works along similar design lines but with a bit more padding between the foot and the mesh. The glove-like fit of the Merrell Vapor Glove 6 balances both aspects well — the simple, majority mesh design is one of the lightest in this review, and the stretch collar wraps the shoe comfortably around your foot for improved agility.

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It is also important to know how these shoes will perform when wet, as trail runners and hikers are likely to encounter stream crossings, and road runners often face puddles — and a waterlogged shoe is a heavier shoe. We subject each shoe to the hose before taking off on a short loop, testing each pair sequentially on the same day to directly compare their performance. The Vibram V-Trail 2.0 is specially designed with a water-resistant upper, giving it superior water resistance but diminished breathability. We also wanted to test the waterproofness of the boots, as keeping your feet dry on the trail can be the difference between sad and happy feet when putting in the miles. The Vivobarefoot Tracker II FG lived up to this claim — we felt not even a trickle in our boot when standing in streams. Conversely, the Softstar Switchback proved not to be waterproof in the same way — walking through a stream left us with soggy socks.


We put these shoes through their paces, literally, through miles of running and hiking on a variety of terrain and through hours in the gym. While we are limited by our testing period, certain design features and early signs of material failure — plus our years of experience with product testing — give us a good idea of how well these shoes might hold up after a couple hundred miles.

To support any conclusions we reached on durability through our training period, the shoes were closely examined for any manufacturing flaws or shortcuts. Researching material specifications also gave us a good idea of how long a shoe might hold up to regular wear. We also consider the warranty programs offered by manufacturers, giving some preference to those who might offer to replace a shoe that is defective.

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Thankfully, none of our shoes fell apart during the testing period. However, some details caught our eye on particular models — elements that made us question how well they might hold up throughout a couple of running seasons. Unsurprisingly, the Vivobarefoot Tracker II FG and Softstar Switchback hiking boots rank the highest for durability. Particularly, the Tracker II is comprised of durable leather with a welded sole margin — an innovative design that provides durability and waterproofness. Although we saw some wear along this welded seam during our rigorous and aggressive testing, overall, they held up to the abuse. Similarly, the Primus Trail III has a sole that's welded to the upper, which is comprised of durable, recycled rubber.

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Vibram has a reputation for outsole design and keeping shoes alive season after season with their superbly durable rubber. Combine that with a tough mesh upper, and the V-Trail 2.0 is a tank of a barefoot shoe. Although the design of the Merrell Vapor Glove 6 incorporates a Vibram sole with similar toughness, it is important to note that the upper is significantly less durable than the V-Trail 2.0.

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Shoes that incorporate a more durable upper and sole design scored higher in this category. The Xero DayLite Hiker Fusion has a durable rubber sole and an upper comprised of abrasion-resistant material. The Huarache-inspired tension straps are tucked under the tough upper, increasing longevity. Likewise, the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III is made of tough, recycled rubber with a welded sole that will hold up to miles of road wear.

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We put each pair of these shoes through more than just their metaphorical paces. Even in a niche market like barefoot shoes, dozens of models are available each season, so narrowing down your options can be a real challenge. We hope that our extensive, side-by-side testing highlights key differences to make your selection process a little bit easier. We also encourage you to research the field of barefoot shoes to decide if it is the right style for you and your feet.

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The 5 Best Barefoot Shoes (2024)


Do barefoot shoes actually help? ›

The thin, flexible bottom of a barefoot training shoe can help you get a better sense of the ground you are walking on,” she explains. “This can lead our feet to have better proprioception, which is our body's ability to sense where it is in space." This can also improve your overall balance, she says.

Are barefoot shoes good for older feet? ›

These findings only showed slightly better results compared to individuals who were wearing traditional shoes. We feel that the main takeaway from this early research is that a barefoot style shoe can be a good option for many older adults and may actually be advantageous.

What is the No 1 shoe? ›

1. Nike. Nike is an American multinational corporation that designs, develops, manufactures, and markets footwear, clothes, equipment, and accessories in the whole world.

Why are podiatrists against barefoot shoes? ›

Because of the lack of heel cushioning, minimalist shoes have been associated with an increased incidence of heel (calcaneal) fractures, especially in high arched, rigid foot types.

Why do podiatrists not like zero drop shoes? ›

Walking with little to no support as with zero drop shoes on hard surfaces allows our foot to collapse which can lead to a tremendous amount of stress not only to the foot but to the rest of the body.

Who shouldn't wear barefoot shoes? ›

While most otherwise-healthy individuals can adapt over time to barefoot and minimalist shoes, if you have the following you might consider working with a professional: Ehlers Danlos/severe hypermobility. Rigid musculoskeletal deformities. Any pre-existing chronic foot condition.

What are the disadvantages of barefoot shoes? ›

Modern shoes have built-in cushioning to help reduce the amount of stress that is directed into the heel; with Barefoot shoes, that lack of cushioning can lead to more significant stress being put onto the muscles & bones within the foot, ankle, knee, hip and sometimes into the spine.

What is the difference between barefoot and minimalist shoes? ›

By definition, minimal shoes are supposed to be a step above being barefoot and just below trainers or running shoes. Minimal shoes will typically have a wider toe box to simulate being barefoot by allowing your toes to spread out, but will have a sole that is thin with little to no arch support, and fairly flat.

Can you wear barefoot shoes everyday? ›

Well in our opinion, you would use these shoes on a day to day basis. This allows your foot to wake up and rehabilitate, your muscles, bones and joints to get stronger and for neural pathways to develop. The only time we don't wear a minimal or barefoot shoe is when we need a dress shoe for weddings etc.

Are barefoot shoes meant to be worn with socks? ›

This is understandable given that the term barefoot shoe is an oxymoron: going barefoot while wearing shoes at the same time isn't actually possible. A frequently-asked question: do you have to wear the shoes barefooted, without socks? The short answer is: socks are allowed!

What brand of shoes is the healthiest? ›

Shoe Brands That Are Good for Your Feet
  • Allbirds. Allbirds provide enough support for day-to-day activities. ...
  • Vionic. If you are looking for a variety of styles fit for most occasions, the Vionic brand has you covered. ...
  • Brooks. Brooks produces supportive athletic shoes. ...
  • New Balance. ...
  • Chaco. ...
  • ABEO. ...
  • Ecco. ...
  • Hoka One One.
Nov 16, 2022

Should you wear barefoot shoes everyday? ›

There is an increasing amount of evidence that wearing barefoot shoes every day can improve your balance. This is because barefoot shoes don't compress the toes as much as conventional footwear, and they allow your feet to move in their natural manner to help you maintain balance while standing, walking, and running.


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