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Are you looking for the best barefoot running shoes to keep your feet healthy and secure all year? You’re in luck!
Our team made a list of minimalist running shoes and sandals vetted and verified by thousands of trail runners and trek runners worldwide. Our roundup includes fantastic barefoot trail running shoes that allow for proper posture, balance, and agility for adults and kids.
This post is about the best barefoot running shoes.
There’s a barefoot running shoe for everyone, no matter if you are an avid hiker, city sprinter, or serious trail runner. And it’s no surprise that the best barefoot running shoes must check off all the boxes before we lace up and go.
First and foremost, barefoot running shoes and running sandals should protect your feet from sharp objects (rocks or metal debris) on the road while also letting you connect to the terrain beneath your feet.
Second, minimalist running shoes must be sturdy and durable enough to put up with whatever the trail throws at you. They must be extremely well made and able to withstand constant wear and tear.
And last but not least, especially in the case of barefoot sandals for running, the shoe must offer locked-in stability to perform in wet and slippery conditions.
Luckily, there’s an array of barefoot trail running shoes designed to promote natural movement in the foot while strengthening the muscles for natural stability. The list below includes top-rated minimalist running shoes that are nimble, lightweight, and flexible enough to keep you grounded all while offering great protection and superior grip.
What are barefoot runnings shoes?
Barefoot running shoes have a very thin sole, minimal padding, and a flexible design that allows your feet to move more naturally. They provide traction, protection, comfort, and breathability. The thin, flexible sole allows your feet to feel the ground beneath them.
The best minimalist running shoes have a wide toe box that allows your toes to splay and move freely. On top of that, barefoot trail running shoes usually have less than an 8-millimeter drop. They might also have no drop at all (“zero-drop” or “balanced cushion” shoes), which means that your heel and forefoot are at the same level as they are when you’re barefoot.
Are barefoot shoes good for running?
Barefoot shoes are great for running – but it takes practice. Compared to a heel-striking gait, minimalist running shoes can reduce the risk of certain injuries, such as plantar fasciitis and shin splints, by encouraging a forefoot or midfoot strike rather than a heel strike. That’s because barefoot trail running shoes allow your feet to move more naturally and strengthen the muscles in your feet and lower legs. However, transitioning to barefoot running shoes can take time and should be done gradually to allow your feet and legs to adjust to the new running style.
Is barefoot running healthier?
Barefoot running is very healthy. The University of Delaware and Harvard Medical School mentioned that barefoot activities make arches stronger and higher. Additionally, Corban University proved that barefoot running reduces pronation, which is common among people with flat feet.
According to the 2016 AAOS study, running with a forefoot strike can reduce the impact on the knees, ankles, and hips. Barefoot running lowers the risk of kneecap injuries and possibly stress fractures to the shin. Ultimately, minimalist shoes and barefoot sandals for running offer many benefits, including strengthening your feet muscles to help stabilize your arches.
This post is about barefoot running shoes.
Best Barefoot Running Shoes & Minimalist Running Sandals Of 2023
1. Merrell Vapor Glove 6
Looking for barefoot trail running shoes with a stripped-down construction that guarantees to last for years? The Merrell barefoot running shoes are incredibly lightweight, offering a very spacious fit and exceptional flexibility.
The Vapor Glove 6 has a snug and secure fit without feeling too tight. The upper is made of a recycled mesh material that allows for good airflow and helps to keep the foot cool and dry during runs.
On top of that, Merrel’s best barefoot runnings shoes are treated with Cleansport NXT™ for natural odor control and carry a Vibram® Ecostep recycled outsole designed with 30% recycled rubber, which provides added durability and improved grip on wet and dry surfaces. We love how sustainable these minimalist running shoes are!
Type: Barefoot runnings shoes for trail running and training
Ethics: Sustainable & Recycled Materials, Rethread Recycle, Energy-Conscious Manufacturing
Best Barefoot Running Shoes From Merrell:
2. Xero 360 Minimalist Cross-Trainers
The brand Xero shoes’ best barefoot running shoes are backed with a 5,000-mile warranty and have over 38,000 5-star reviews worldwide. So you already know that they are extremely serious about quality and durability!
The Xero 360 sneaker is a raved-about, lightweight cross-training shoe designed to handle court sports, parkour, CrossFit, and just about anything else that requires quick lateral movement.
It has a non-elevated “zero drop” heel for proper posture and a low-to-the-ground design for perfect balance and agility.
The upper of these minimalist running shoes are made of a tough mesh material that can withstand regular use and abuse, and the sole is made of a high-quality rubber that is resistant to wear and tear.
Type: Minimalist running shoes for cross-training
Ethics: Eco-Friendly & Recycled Materials, 5,000-Mile Sole Warranty
Location/Shipping: USA. Worldwide shipping.
Xero Barefoot Running Shoes:
3. Earth Runners Barefoot Sandals
Inspired by the ancient Tarahumara huarache sandals, Earth Runners are beloved by the barefoot running community.
Vegan, GOTS Certified, and ridiculously secure, the Alpha Adventure Sandals are a great option for those new to minimalist footwear or looking to go the extra mile. The collection’s thickest model is equipped with extremely durable performance laces that guarantee ultimate security and longevity on all of your adventures.
Lastly, these barefoot running sandals feature a Vibram® Morflex Outsole that’s ethically designed in Italy.
Type: All-terrain barefoot running sandals
Ethics: Small Batch, Low Impact Dye, Los Angeles Dye House, GOTS Certified Dye, donations
Location/Shipping: USA. Worldwide Shipping.
Minimalist Running Sandals:
4. Luna Sandals Barefoot Running Sandals
Your search for the best barefoot sandals for running ends here! The award-winning Luna sandals offer several unisex designs adorned with Performance laces for an effortless fit.
From trail running to thru-hiking to the hills, the mountains, and more, Luna Sandal’s Middle Bear Winged Edition covers all your healthy running needs.
The shoes are enhanced with the GEN3WINGS harnessing system that secures you in while letting you get out quickly. The lacing system is Infinitely adjustable, which means that your barefoot running shoes will fit your foot like a glove thanks to the patented one-continuous-loop lacing system.
Type: Minimalist running shoes for trail running
Ethics: vegan-friendly materials, made in the US, small-scale, sustainable production,
Location/Shipping: Sold from the US
5. Wildling Shoes
Nebula is a high-performing and super stylish pair of minimalist running shoes made of a soft blend of knitted merino wool fabric. Thanks to the snug fit, it gigs the foot tightly and offers great protection as well as s maximum freedom of movement.
Breathable, lightweight, and completely handmade in Europe, these barefoot running shoes can also double as a fantastic casual shoe for your daily strolls. Moreover, the award-winning brand has made it its mission to downscale its emission sources while promoting a natural walking experience for everyone.
Type: Minimalist running shoes for trail and working out
Ethics: Eco-friendly & recycled material, handmade in Europe, German founders award, Fair labor
Location: Germany and USA. Worldwide shipping.
6. Softstar Megagrip Primal RunAmoc
Known as the best barefoot running shoes for runners with wide feet, the Softstar Megagrip Primal RunAmoc is ethically made in the USA.
The shoes combine Softstar’s innovative foot-shaped design with the added grip and durability of VibramTM Megagrip soles. These soles perform well in both wet and dry conditions and are a favorite among extreme trail runners.
On top of that, the minimalist running shoes come with an added 3.5mm midsole for an extra buffer from sharp rocks while maintaining a streamlined, minimalist design.
That’s not all! The protective toe cap is sustainably upcycled from used bike innertubes, and therefore, each pair of barefoot trail running shoes is unique!
Type: Minimalist shoes for trail running
Size: Unisex 5-13
Ethics: Made with premium, responsibly-sourced leathers, designed and handcrafted in Oregon using US-sourced materials
Location: USA. Worldwide shipping.
7. Vivobarefoot Primus Running Shoes
Vivobarefoot running shoes can cope with most conditions– whether you are going for a run on a wet, dry, rocky, rubbly, or firm path.
It is part of VivoBarefoot’s “Primus” line of running shoes, made from recycled materials and designed to be lightweight and flexible. You can thank the FG sole (armed with 4mm lugs) for that. This rubber addition grants multi-terrain traction and enough grip and durability no matter what life throws.
These minimalist running shoes also have a breathable and water-resistant upper made from recycled PET bottles, which helps to keep feet dry and comfortable.
Plus, the barefoot running shoes have a low-profile design, which helps to keep the foot stable and in contact with the ground, and a removable thermal insole that can be removed for warmer weather or to create more space in the shoe.
Type: Barefoot sandals for trail running
Ethics: Sustainable & Recycled Materials, Fair Labor, B-Certified Corporation, Livebarefoot Fund
Location/Shipping: USA & UK. Worldwide Shipping.
8. Vibram Five Fingers
Let’s start with the shoe that kicked off the entire barefoot running craze – Vibram five fingers. Lauded as one of the best minimalist shoes for running, the instantly-recognizable Vibram XS TREK fits like a glove and easily keeps your foot from sliding around during any type of dynamic movement. You’ll get the slip-on comfort of a soft, knitted upper combined with a grippy, minimalist outsole.
The strategically-designed toe pockets help splay your toes lightly to increase your stability further. What’s more, It’s very responsive even on unpredictive terrain which promotes natural foot movement and can help to strengthen the muscles and tendons in the feet.
Overall, Vibram five fingers are the first and one of the best barefoot running shoes for women and men who prefer think and flexible soles that can last for years.
Type: Barefoot runnings shoes for All-terrain (outdoor, mountain bike, snow sports, and water sports)
Ethics: Handmade In Europe, Innovative Technology
Location/Shipping: Germany. Worldwide Shipping.
9. Bedrock Sandals Cairn Adventure Sandals
Bedrock Sandals are not only one of the best barefoot running shoes on our list but also the only re-soleable and repairable but also made with Bluesign Certified and sustainable materials.
These minimalist running sandals are designed with patented premium webbing, 3 adjustment zones, and sole-hugger wings for locked-in stability to perform in wet and slippery conditions.
Additionally, the exclusive Vibram XS Trek soles were added to provide lightweight, rugged, long-lasting grip—especially in dry conditions, as the brand mentions. So if you are hunting for the best minimalist running shoes that do the job just right and are free from all the extra fluff, this one is for you!
Type: Sustainable barefoot running shoes for trail running
Sizes: W6-15 / M5-14
Materials: Vegan, Bluesign Certified Sustainable Materials & Plastic Free Packaging, donations
Location/Shipping: Sold from the US
10. Freet Connect 3
Moving on to Freet’s best barefoot running shoes – a brand dedicated to fair trade business ethics and the highest material standards.
Freet Connect 3 is super flexible and enhanced with a roomy toebox for natural movement. More precisely, these minimalist running shoes carry a Freet 5in1 asymmetric forefoot that mimics the natural foot shape allowing toes to spread naturally. The material of choice? BottleYarn – aka recycled plastic bottles!
While the ConnectMax EVA 2mm midsole is very protective on its one, you can further increase the shoes’ shock absorption by adding the removable 2.5mm insole. Lastly, the durable GripPlus outsole is suitable for trail use and everyday wear.
Type: Trail running barefoot shoes
Sizes: Unisex 37-48
Thickness: 6.5/7mm with insole; 4mm without insole
Ethics: Fair working conditions, Charities
Location: Czech Republic, EU shipping
Best Barefoot Runnings Shoes For Kids
11. Vivobarefoot Primus Trail
The sustainably made and kid-favorite Primus Trail is the best minimalist running shoe for kids who need a running shoe for all terrains and weather.
Ultra-flexible and super grippy Firm Ground sole is made with recycled plastic bottle uppers for quick drain-and-dry. Kid-friendly heel webbing to help kids of all ages pull them on and off.
The 2mm base and 3.5mm multi-directional lugs, with durable sticky rubber, toe protection and arch grip, allow wild feet to climb trees, jump rocks, and everything in-between.
Type: Barefoot running shoes for athletic activities & everyday wear
Sizes: US9 – US1
Ethics: Sustainable materials, made in Vietnam, Fair working conditions
Best Kids Barefoot Running Shoes:
12. Xero Prio Kids
We are all very aware of the importance of letting our kids’ feet develop and function naturally. And luckily, Xero launched a kid’s version of their best-selling Prio barefoot shoe in a slew of colors–woohoo! They thinned the sole a little bit to make it extra flexible and give kids the right amount of ground feel and protection.
Like the adult options, Xero’s best barefoot running shoes for kids are also equipped with wide-toe box pairs backed up by a 5,000-mile FeelTrue® rubber sole warranty.
Also, you can freely remove the 3mm insole for a more “barefoot feel.” Lastly, the middle strip in the heel and instep straps are highly reflective for evenings and nights.
Type: Minimalist shoes for running & everyday wear
Sizes: Kids 12 – Youth 4
Thickness: 7mm with insole; 4mm without insole
Ethics: Eco-Friendly & Recycled Materials,, 5,000-Mile Sole Warranty
Location/Shipping: US. Worldwide Shipping.
13. Junior Freet Zennor
Freet’s “Junion” collection is as amazing as their adult lineup! The Junior Freet Zennor, in particular, is one of the best barefoot running shoes for kids that can be worn daily, on the train, or in the water.
That’s right, this performance multi-activity open summer kids trail shoe does it all!
It has a Connect Max midsole and removable Flexile insole for connectivity and comfort. The Freet 5in1 asymmetric forefoot for a natural foot shape allowing toes to spread naturally. The adjustable heel velcro strap and elasticated lace are strategically designed to offer a fine-tuned fit.
Type: Barefoot sandals for trail running and everyday wear
Thickness: 6.5/7mm with insole; 4mm without insole
Ethics: Fair working conditions, sustainably made, various donations
Location: Czech Republic, EU shipping
This Post Was About The Best Barefoot Running Shoes & Minimalist Running Sandals Of 2023
Whether you are an avid road runner, a trail runner, or a hiker, the best barefoot running shoes above will certainly offer you the unique ground-feel sensation you’ve been craving. Minimalist running shoes can absolutely protect you from the elements whilst engaging and strengthening the muscles in your feet. Just make sure to choose the best barefoot options that suit your needs!
Looking for more? Check out these other articles:
- 15 Best Barefoot Shoes For Healthier Feet in 2023
- The 15 Best Kids Barefoot Shoes in 2023 For Every Season
- 50 Best Sustainable Fashion Brands Fighting Against Fast Fashion in 2023
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