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The 9 Best Barefoot Shoes to Buy In 2024

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Barefoot shoes have been a huge part of my shoe rotation for years. I use them as tools for boosting my performance when working out and for building my feet passively on a daily wear basis.

I have and prefer different barefoot shoes for various activities. In the context of shopping for barefoot shoes, I have the most fun picking apart the nuance that exists between different models.

Some minimalist shoes are great for training, for example, but fall short for casual wear where you want something nicer. Others excel for road running but stink for heavy strength training and hiking.

As with most great things in life, the devil’s in the details. After spending gobs of my own money on the shoes reviewed in this list, I’ve built a solid lineup of some of my favorite options.

The Barefoot Shoes That Made the Cut

I’ve been formally reviewing shoes for over six years. My educational background is in Exercise Science, so when I review shoes like barefoot shoes, I blend my science and reviewer brain together to assess how a shoe can influence things like biomechanics.

I have purchased every pair of barefoot shoes featured in this article, reviewed them independently, and included them in this list based on their performance compared to their peers. I assess things like:

Xero Shoes Nexus Knit Try On

  • Sole Articulation: I’m huge on paying attention to how flexible a shoe’s sole is. I love a barefoot shoe that moves well with my feet when walking, training, and running. I’ll assess stack height and the flex/feel of material when reviewing articulation.
  • Upper Breathability: Barefoot shoes can vary a TON with their breathability and warmth, and as someone with notoriously cold(ish) feet, I’m assessing how a shoe’s climate to understand which seasons it will work best in.
  • Long-Term Durability: Less material mo’ problems? Not always. However, given how expensive some barefoot shoes are and my frugal lifestyle, I’m constantly weighing whether a shoe’s durability matches its price point.
  • Outsole Traction: Nothing is more frustrating than a shoe that has a sub-par grip. This is not something you want while training, commuting, going on dates, out with friends, you name it. Outsole tread is a huge factor I assess and keep an eye on.

My barefoot shoe tests revolve around pushing a shoe’s sole in the context of durability, assessing how much grip a shoe has, and assessing construction features like the upper’s comfort and durability and how flexible the shoe’s sole is.

New to Barefoot Shoes? Acclimate Slowly

If you’re new to barefoot shoes, then you’ll want to acclimate to this style of footwear. I’d suggest starting to wear your barefoot shoes for low-threshold activities like walking, then building up to things like running and working out.

This style of footwear will feel very different compared to traditional shoes and you must listen to your body when acclimating. Think of it like progressing when getting into things like working out and running.

When acclimating to barefoot shoes there are three pillars I like to consider: Type of barefoot shoe, surfaces you’re wearing them on, and types of acvitivites you’ll be doing in them. These pillars dictate use cases and timelines.

Best for Lifting

Context: When looking for barefoot shoes for lifting, I’m considering two things. First, I want to get as close to the ground as possible when training heavily. Second, I want the toe box to have ample room for toe splay so I can truly grip the floor and equipment with ease.

Top Pick: Tolos Archetype 2.0

  • Pros: Well-rounded performance in the gym and daily wear, good-looking appearance, fair price point
  • Cons: Not great for high-volume feet, toe break can feel odd for smaller sizes
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 7.85 oz
  • Removable Insole: Doesn’t come with an insole
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • For More Info: Read My Review

Tolos Archetype 2.0

$120

Tolos Archetype 2.0 Product Image
4.8
Stability
4.8
Versatility
4.9
Durability
4.6
Quality
4.8

Best For

  • Casual Wear
  • Cross-Training
  • Athletic Workouts
  • Strength Training
  • Sprints

Falls Short

  • For Breathability
  • For Longer Runs

Why I Chose the Archetype 2.0 for Lifting

The Tolos Archetype 2.0 is my top pick for being a well-rounded barefoot shoe for lifting. To be honest, I regularly rotate between my Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III and Tolos Archetype 2.0 (and 1.0) for lifting as they’re both strong performers.

The perks of the Tolos Archetype 1.0 for lifting revolve around its low-profile and athletic fit and how well it articulates. For heavy deadlifts and squats on rubber gym floors and wooden platforms, the Archetype of 2.0 grips the floor well.

Tolos Archetype 2.0 for Deadlifts

I also like how well the Tolos Archetype 2.0 can articulate with exercises like lunges and active foot exercises where you’re getting a lot of flexion through the toes and midfoot. These also feel better as you break them in more.

I think the only drawback that some lifters may have with the Tolos Archetype 2.0 is that its toe box isn’t as boxy as models like the Primus Lite III. If you have a foot that tends to work best with barefoot shoes that have a boxier toe box, then you’ll want to consider this.

Top Pick for CrossFit

Context: Until recently, there hasn’t been a ton of barefoot shoes designed for CrossFit. Barefoot shoes for CrossFit need two characteristics, a durable upper construction and outsoles that provide grip for multi-directional activity. Durability is key here.

Top Pick: Vivobarefoot Motus Strength

  • Pros: Strong well-rounded performance for CrossFit, grippy outsole, durable upper construction
  • Cons: Upper lacks breathability, high price point
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 9.2 oz
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • For More Info: Read My Review

Vivobarefoot Motus Strength JJF

$200

Vivobarefoot Motus Strength JJF Barefoot Shoes Product Shot
4.7
Stability
4.8
Versatility
4.7
Durability
4.7
Quality
4.8

Best For

  • Lifting
  • Cross-Training
  • CrossFit WODs
  • Short Runs
  • Athletic Sessions

Falls Short

  • For Cost Efficiency
  • For Longer Runs

My Rationale for Choosing the Motus Strength Here

The Vivobarefoot Motus Strength performs exceptionally well for CrossFit and it’s been one of my favorite models for WODs to date. Compared to other barefoot shoes, the Motus Strength has a little more structure with its upper and outsole.

For example, TPU overlays cover the toe box protecting this shoe from exercises like burpees. Plus, the sole wraps over the medial and lateral midfoot which is great for durability and rope climbing support. 

Vivobarefoot Motus Strength JJF On Feet

Compared to other Vivobarefoot shoes designed for lifting like the Primus Lite III, the Motus Strength also has more aggressive lugs which is great for things like heavy deadlifts, catching cleans, and gripping turf, rubber gym floors, and wooden platforms.

Outside of CrossFit, the Motus Strength also performs exceptionally well so if you’re on the fence about this shoe’s price I think you’ll get a wide range of versatility with this model which can make it more worth it.

Best Barefoot Shoes for Running

Context: Since barefoot shoes have thin soles you want to find pairs that have enough tread for traction and long-term scuff support. Note, I am by no means someone who is running marathons in barefoot shoes, I use mine for short to mid-range runs (1-5 miles).

Top Pick: Xero Shoes Zelen

  • Pros: Strong shoe for hybrid runners and athletes, breathable upper construction, highly flexible sole
  • Cons: Not the best for exceptionally wide feet, the tread can be slippery on wet concrete
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 8 oz
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • For More Info: Read My Review

Xero Shoes Zelen

$129.99

Xero Shoes Zelen
4.7
Stability
4.8
Versatility
4.7
Durability
4.6

Best For

  • Short and Mid-Range Runs
  • Outdoor Training
  • Recreational Lifting
  • Environmental-Conscious Shoppers

Falls Short

  • For Cost-Efficiency
  • For Colder Months

Why I Chose the Zelen for Running

My favorite barefoot shoe for running is the Xero Shoes Zelen for a couple of reasons. This shoe delivers a strong performance for hybrid training sessions where you want to blend running with lifting.

I like that the Xero Shoes Zelen utilizes a tire-like tread on the sole. This feature gives you a nice bite on different surfaces and it feels grippy for faster sprint sessions and steady-state runs.

Me Training In the Xero Shoes Zelen Barefoot Shoes

The upper in the Zelen is also a perk for running as it breathes super well. This can be a good model to wear with or without socks in warmer settings, so if you like to vary your sock use in barefoot shoes when running, you’ll enjoy this feature.

More specifically, if you’re looking for a barefoot shoe for running and lifting, the Zelen does a good job. Its flexibility, removable insole, and durability for both of these contexts are solid across the board.

Top Barefoot Shoes for Women

Context: When it comes to barefoot shoes for women, I defer greatly to my YouTube community and the feedback they provide on reviews. The summation of the feedback I receive from women athletes is how I created the list below.

Top Pick: Vivobarefoot Primus Lite Knit

  • Pros: Good well-rounded performance in the gym, great for casual wear, clean and good-looking shoe
  • Cons: Knit upper can lack for lateral exercises, not the warmest shoe for winter wear
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 8.85 oz 
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size (if you’re in-between sizes, size down as these can run long)
  • For More Info: Read My Review

Vivobarefoot Primus Lite Knit

$170

Vivobarefoot Primus Lite Knit Product Shot
4.6
Stability
4.8
Versatility
4.4
Durability
4.6

Best For

  • Recreational Lifting
  • Casual Cross-Training
  • Short Runs
  • Daily Wear
  • Wide Feet

Falls Short

  • Serious Athletic Training Sessions
  • Multi-Directional Exercises

Why the Primus Lite Knit Earned This Spot

The Vivobarefoot Primus Lite Knit is an awesome barefoot shoe pick for women. There’s a lot to like about the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite Knit from its appearance for daily wear and its performance in the gym.

The first thing to like about the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite Knit is its upper construction. The knit upper on this model breathes well for warmer weather use and it looks good from a daily wear appearance point of view.

Vivobarefoot Primus Lite Knit Price

Another perk of the Primus Lite Knit is the Active Sole used in this shoe. This Active Sole has a stack height and thickness of 4mm so you get a nice low-to-the-ground feeling with this model.

For working out, the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite Knit works well for lifting and most cross-training contexts. The upper could be a little more secure for advanced plyometrics, but for most general training sessions, the Primus Lite Knit works well.

Top Barefoot Shoes Pick for Men

Context: When considering barefoot shoes for men, my first concern is the overall width of the shoe’s midfoot and toe box. Since men generally have wider feet they’ll want to ensure their barefoot shoes are plenty wide for their anatomical needs.

Top Pick: Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III

  • Pros: Great option for lifting and daily wear, good-looking and simple upper, highly flexible Active Sole
  • Cons: Outsole tread can fade fast with high-volume concrete use, high price point
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 8.85 oz
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size, but there are no half sizes (except for 12.5)
  • For More Info: Read My Review

Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III

$160

vivobarefoot primus lite 3
4.8
Stability
4.8
Versatility
4.7
Durability
4.8

Best For

  • Heavy Weight Training
  • Daily Wear
  • Casual Workouts
  • Lighter Runs and Athletic Training

Falls Short

  • For Cost-Efficiency
  • For Longer Barefoot-Style Running Workouts

My Rationale for Choosing the Primus Lite III

For guys, my top pick is the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III for three key features that I think play well into what guys typically look for in their barefoot shoes. First, the width of this shoe’s forefoot and mid-foot are really wide so there’s never an issue with sizing and fit in this model.

Second, the overall durability of this model is pretty solid across the board. Whether you’re lifting, running, or wearing them daily, the upper construction should last you a while.

Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III for Men

Third and lastly, this model looks good for daily wear and has a clean aesthetic to it. I like this for giving this model more versatility concerning when it can be worn.

For a final bonus perk of this shoe, Vivobarefoot uses some recycled materials in different elements of this shoe so it is a decent model regarding responsible material sourcing. If you’re looking for a singular barefoot shoe to do a little bit of everything in, then the Primus Lite III is a good bet.

Favorite Pick for Beginners

Context: When discussing barefoot shoes for newbies, I’m constantly wondering, “What is the best barefoot shoe for someone’s first pair?” Below are two awesome models due to their budget and overall functionality.

Top Pick: Xero Shoes Prio

  • Pros: Good entry-level barefoot shoes, decent price point for its versatility, removable insole is great for comfort
  • Cons: Upper can look dated and clunky, long-term durability can be highly variable
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 8.85 oz
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • For More InfoRead My Review

Xero Shoes Prio

$89.99

Xero Shoes Prio
4.7
Stability
4.7
Versatility
4.6
Durability
4.7

Best For

  • Heavy Barbell Work
  • Recreational Lifting
  • Casual Runs
  • Barefoot Shoe Newbies
  • Cost Efficiency

Falls Short

  • For Dedicated Barefoot Runners

My Rationale for the Xero Shoes Prio for Beginners

It’s tough to fault the Xero Shoes Prio as the first shoe for a barefoot shoe beginner. This model’s price point of $89.99 is fair and it’s a good model for tackling a little bit of everything.

You can lift in these shoes, wear them daily, run in them, and even tackle HIIT workouts with them. The sole is pretty good for everything and it has a nice level of durability.

Xero Shoes Prio Review

I also like that the Xero Shoes Prio has a removable insole and finished internal construction. This is great because it gives you a variety of cushioning so you can experiment with what you prefer and need when starting out your barefoot shoe journey.

As a tried and true budget-friendly option, the Prio is a good pick. Plus, Xero Shoes come with a 5,000-mile sole warranty, so the long-term durability of this model’s sole is also not a huge concern which is great for the first-time barefoot shoe wearer.

Best for Walking and Daily Wear

Context: When it comes to testing barefoot shoes for daily wear and walking, I’m mostly concerned with a shoe’s comfort, appearance, and long-term durability. Likely, you’ll be wanting these barefoot shoes for commuting and wearing out and about that look casual.

Top Pick: Icarus Ascent Gen 2

The Icarus Ascent Gen 2 is a strong barefoot shoe for anyone who wants a model for a range of casual and formal contexts. I’ve enjoyed this shoe for travel, work meetings, running errands, and walking my dog. This shoe can also be a great option for barefoot shoe beginners.

  • Pros: Strong performance for walking and casual wear, good beginner-friendly construction, 3 different insoles
  • Cons: Upper lacks breathability, upper volume can lack for super thick feet
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 12.2 oz (for my size 10 model)
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • For More Info: Read My Review

Icarus Ascent Gen 2

$144.99

Icarus Ascent Gen 2 Product Shot
4.7
Stability
4.5
Versatility
4.6
Durability
4.7
Quality
4.7

Best For

  • Casual Wear
  • Business Formal Settings
  • Spring, Fall, and Winter Wear
  • Casual Training

Falls Short

  • For Warm Weather Wear
  • For Serious Working Out

Why I Chose the Icarus Ascent Gen 2 Here

The Icarus Ascent Gen 2 is my top pick for walking for a few reasons. First, it’s a good option for walking in a wide range of contexts. For example, I like wearing and walking in the Ascent Gen 2 for travel, running errands, and working.

This shoe has been one of my go-to barefoot shoes for contexts where I want to dress up a little more. Whether I’m going to a coffee meeting or going into a WeWork and want to dress up a little more I like the Ascent Gen 2.

Icarus Ascent Gen 2 Review

Second, this shoe can be a great option for a wide range of users because of its different insoles. This shoe comes with three different insoles that all vary in thickness and cushion. It gives this shoe a nice edge for comfort in different walking settings.

Third and lastly, this shoe’s herringbone tread pattern does a good job with durability and grip. Nothing is worse than commuting with barefoot shoes and sliding around on subway platforms or damp streets.

Best for Trail Running and Hiking

Context: To assess barefoot shoes for trail running and hiking, I’m most concerned with three features of every barefoot trail shoe. First, I assess the outsole tread. Second, I assess upper durability. Third, I assess comfort and foot protection. 

Top Pick: Vivobarefoot Primus Trail Knit FG

  • Pros: Great for training, trail running, and hiking, good outsole tread, strong overall durability
  • Cons: High price point, not the best for high-volume feet
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 11.35 oz (for my size 10 model)
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size (if you’re in-between sizes, size down as they run long)
  • For More Info: Read My Review

Vivobarefoot Primus Trail Knit FG

$180

Vivobarefoot Primus Trail Knit FG Product Shot
4.7
Stability
4.6
Versatility
4.8
Durability
4.7

Best For

  • Hiking (Easy to Technical Terrain)
  • Weight Training
  • Daily Wear
  • Versatile Workouts

Falls Short

  • For Winter Hiking
  • For Half-Sizes

Why I Chose the Primus Trail Knit FG Here

The Vivobafrefoot Primus Trail Knit FG is my top pick for hiking and trail runs for a few reasons. And on that note, this shoe is taking the win here by a fairly comfortable margin.

There’s a lot to like about the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail Knit FG and one of my favorite things about this shoe is its versatility. For example, this shoe works well for hiking, trail running, working out, and even daily wear.

Vivobarefoot Primus Trail Knit

The knit upper construction gives this shoe a comfortable and breathable fit while the thicker lugs do a good job of promoting traction on different surfaces. I like doing versatile training in the Primus Trail Knit FG over the Primus Lite Knit for this reason.

Outside of its upper and grippy outsole, I also like FG tech in this shoe and how it provides a bit more protection for trail use. It’s not as minimalist feeling as the Vapor Glove 6, however, if you like a little more protection then you’ll appreciate this.

Favorite Budget Barefoot Shoes

Context: Barefoot shoes can vary pretty greatly in price, and not everyone wants to drop $100 plus on a pair of barefoot shoes, especially if you want them for more casual use or for experimenting with.

Top Pick: WHITIN Barefoot Sneakers

  • Pros: Surprisingly well-rouned performance, awesome price point, great for wide feet
  • Cons: Not great for serious training, durability can sometimes be variable
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 10.15 oz
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size (if you’re in-between sizes, size up)
  • For More Info: Read My Review

WHITIN Barefoot Sneakers

$59.99

4.6
Versatility
4.7
Durability
4.5
Quality
4.6

Best For

  • Barefoot Shoe Beginners
  • Walking and Standing
  • Budget Conscious Shoppers
  • Medium to Wide Feet

Falls Short

  • For Long-Term Durability
  • For Squeaking On Certain Floors

My Rationale for Choosing the WHITIN Barefoot Shoes

The WHITIN Barefoot Sneakers are taking my top pick by a comfortable margin. Not going to lie, I was skeptical of this shoe going into them based on their price point and the fact that WHITIN is Amazon-owned.

However, I’m happy to say that I’ve been subtly impressed with the WHITIN Barefoot Sneakers, especially for their price point. These shoes have a normal price of $59.99 but are often on sale and I bought my pair for $41.99.

WHITIN Barefoot Sneakers Try On Review

For beginners who are just getting into barefoot shoes, these can be a great low-cost option. Plus, these shoes do have a bit more thickness to them regarding their sole and stack height which is great for those transitioning into barefoot shoes.

This may be a knock for those who love super minimalist feeling shoes, but for beginners and from a general comfort standpoint I enjoyed this model for walking, standing, and daily wear. These are also decent all-season shoes for what they are.

Why Use Barefoot Shoes?

Barefoot shoes can be used for a variety of reasons and I think it’s important that you define why you want to wear them if you’re investing in a pair. Most commonly, barefoot shoes will be worn to support one’s “natural movement”.

what are barefoot shoes (1)

Basically, when we wear shoes we’ll alter our movement mechanics slightly and barefoot shoes will be utilized to limit this and provide a barefoot approach for regular movement. This can then influence our lower body mechanics when walking, running, and lifting because our feet will have a 0mm heel-to-toe drop and be a lot closer to the ground.

Another reason why folks will utilize barefoot shoes is to build up their foot musculature. There are 29 muscles associated with the foot and ankle. (1)

When we’re constantly wearing shoes, especially pairs with thicker midsole and outsole constructions, we can lose out on potentially building up the musculature of the feet and ankles.

By using barefoot shoes, we’ll be exposing the foot to a more variable environment so we can slowly build the intrinsic muscles of the foot.

In layman’s terms, barefoot shoes will help our feet rapidly change their positioning when moving due to them fully feeling the ground below them which can result in us using some of the smaller muscles in the foot.

Barefoot Shoes Benefits

Barefoot shoe benefits can vary pretty greatly depending on who you ask. For diehard barefoot shoe lovers, some of the benefits can be a bit grandiose.

To remain objective with my coaching point of view, below are some of the benefits that are pretty consistent across the board with barefoot shoes.

1. Increase Proprioception With the Ground

Since most barefoot shoes provide you with soles that are 6mm or less, you’ll have a much better means of “feeling” the ground below the feet. This can help your body better sense the surfaces you’re working on.

barefoot shoes and balance (1)

Proprioception is our body’s ability to sense the world around it, provide feedback to the brain, then calculate movement patterns that are conducive to the feedback it’s receiving.

Imagine stepping on a rock barefoot, your brain is going to rapidly process that sensation, then create a movement pattern to strategically move around it and keep you moving.

This is an example of the feedback loop we enter when our body is utilizing proprioception to help direct us to move efficiently and with strategy.

Improved balance can also be an aspect that comes along with better proprioception. More contact with the ground means more feedback to the brain. (2)

2. Improve Foot Musculature

As mentioned above, there are 29 muscles associated with the foot and ankle. Within the foot, there are smaller intrinsic muscles that help provide our foot with its shape. The foot has three major arches including the lateral longitudinal arch, medial longitudinal arch, and anterior transverse arch. (1)

benefits of barefoot shoes

These arches are made up of muscles and multiple tissues that can be trained and strengthened through both direct and indirect work. Direct work would mean doing active foot exercises and drills and indirect work would be doing something like wearing barefoot shoes.

By simply wearing barefoot shoes, we can better train some of the smaller muscles of the foot that may be neglected when wearing thicker training, running, and normal shoes.

3. Promote Full Contact With the Ground

In a training context, barefoot shoes can also be useful for promoting how much contact the foot is making with the ground. For example, in movements like deadlifts and Romanian deadlifts, we ideally want the foot to be in full contact with the ground in what we often refer to as a tripod foot positioning.

What is tripod foot position

This entails grounding and gripping the floor with the base of the heel, big toe, and pinky toe, and I also like to coach grounding the big toe as well. With a barefoot shoe’s wide toe box and minimal sole, you’ll be able to easily feel the ground under the feet and promote stability from the ground up.

How Should Barefoot Shoes Fit

Ideally, to have your barefoot shoes fit properly you’ll want to have between .3″ to .6″ of clearance in the toe box of your barefoot shoes.

This is generally enough room to ensure your toes are NOY crammed at the end of the shoes, but also not too loose to where they’re sliding off.

how should barefoot shoes fit

If you have a wider foot, then I’d suggest going with the larger end of the scale, and if you have narrow or neutral foot anatomy, then air on the smaller side.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q:
Is wearing barefoot shoes good for you?

A:
Barefoot shoes can be good for you based on the context of your needs and preferences. For many, barefoot shoes can be useful tools to keep in rotation with other footwear options to help build up foot musculature and provide variance in ground feedback for the feet.

Q:
Can you wear barefoot shoes everyday?

A:
Yes. You can certainly barefoot shoes every day if you love how they fit and feel. Remember though, it's important to acclimate slowly to this style of footwear if you plan to wear barefoot shoes every day.

Q:
Why are they called barefoot shoes?

A:
Barefoot shoes get their name from their ability to replicate what it's like to walk and move around barefoot. They provide minimalist soles to protect the feet while replicating a barefoot feeling.

Takeaway Thoughts

There are more barefoot shoes on the market than ever and they continue to innovate based on the activity they’re designed to tackle. Whether you’re looking for barefoot shoes for running or CrossFit, there’s more than likely an option out that will fit your needs best.

If you have any questions about the barefoot shoes featured in this round-up, drop a comment below or reach out to me personally via Instagram (@jake_boly).

Works Cited

1. Card, R., & Bordoni, B. (2021). Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Foot Muscles. Statpearls Publishing.

2. Cudejko, T., Gardiner, J., Akpan, A., & D’Août, K. (2020). Minimal footwear improves stability and physical function in middle-aged and older people compared to conventional shoes. Clinical Biomechanics71, 139-145.

 
Jake Boly, CSCS, MS Sports Science

Jake Boly, CSCS, MS Sports Science

Jake Boly is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of That Fit Friend. He's often regarded to as a go-to resource in various performance shoe communities. He’s been formally reviewing shoes and training gear for over 7 years and has hand-tested over 400 pairs of shoes. Jake is known on the internet and YouTube for blending his review process with his educational, strength sports, and personal training background.

Jake has a Masters in Sports Science, a Bachelors in Exercise Science, a CSCS, and he's been personal training for over 10 years helping hundreds of clients get stronger, lose weight, and accomplish their goals. He uses his exercise science brain and personal training background to make curated and thoughtful review content on the fitness gear he's testing.

18 thoughts on “The 9 Best Barefoot Shoes to Buy In 2024”

  1. Hi Jake,

    Thank you for yet another amazing roundup/review! I’ve been wearing Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III Mens for a number of years and absolutely love them for daily wear however find that they just don’t provide enough protection for daily / long distance walks (5+ miles). I read the above review and purchased the Prio Neo’s and while they provide a good balance of ground feel and protection (imo!) the toe box just isn’t wide enough (even with a .5 and 1 full up) as when I take a step my forefoot splays into the sides of the shoe and feels compressed. Might you be able to make any shoe recommendations with the same ground feel and protection as the Prio Neo but with a wider toe box that is suitable for long distance (5+ miles p/d) walking on pavement / road? I also would not complain if they were super-breathable and looked good lol! Thank you in advance for any thoughts you may have to share!

  2. Hi, you are very thorough and detailed. Great review. But I would like to be able to try on before buying. Thank you for great reviews. Won’t be clicking on your links but will definitely support in future. Love how much work and effort you put into this.

    1. That is allllll good about the links! Just you being here and reading/commenting is more than enough. I’m glad you found the content useful. Shout if you ever have additional questions!

  3. Hello Jake,

    Thank you for your passion and enthusiasm for barefoot shoes. I am learning a lot from you. I was recently given a pair of Softstar Switchback boots as a gift and I have fallen in love. I live a very active lifestyle as I lift weights and regularly do cardio. I also work on a farm taking care of livestock which means I’m outdoors for 10 hours a day and am often in mud, rain and animal waste. I am wondering if you have come across any barefoot shoes that you would recommend for that type of work. Currently I wear LL Bean boots with the rubber across the toe box while at work and I have not come across anything that durable as far as barefoot shoes go. Do you have any reccomendations?

    1. The Vivobarefoot Tracker boots and Xero Shoes Scramble Mid may be worth looking into! Pro tip, wear long socks when breaking in the Tracker Boots because the boot can be pretty tough on the heels at first. Let me know what you end up going for!

  4. Jake hi,

    thanks for the article!

    I have been wearing Vibram Five Fingers for working out, walk, and at work.
    If you have ever tried them, I would like your opinion.

    1. To be honest with you, I haven’t worn them and it’s because I’m just not a fan and don’t want my opinion on their appearance to ruin my ability to be objective. Maybe I should buy a pair, though, and give them an honest shot because I have heard good things about them over the years!

  5. Thanks for the article Jake! I have a short pinky toe that doesn’t like to plant, meaning I tend to pronate which leads to my knees coming inward (bad). I’ve ordered the Tolos and toe spacers to try addressing my situation. One question: what do you wear at home? Barefoot / sandals / socks? Much appreciated!

    1. Hey Gary! Thank you for checking out the content, sincerely. I’m typically barefoot at home and rarely wear socks/sandals around the house. I’m often walking the dogs around my neighborhood barefoot, so I’m sure I get some looks from my neighbors, LOL. If you find that barefoot shoe help address your issue, then I’d slowly try to find more ways you can wear them without overdoing it/accumulating a bunch of fatigue. Barefoot around the house can be a great low-threshold way to build the feet, too!

  6. I see numerous shoes marketed as natural foot shape and stressing they are good for wide feet. I have been wearing Altras for years now but their selection for people with wide feet has grown slimmer (pardon the expression) over the years … to the point where there are only two of their shoes that fit my feet. I have U.S. 9.5 EE with narrow heels … are any of these compatible with my feet?

    1. Hey Neil — I feel that. I wish definitions within the shoe industry would be consistent. It’s like Inov-8 “fit” scale…their wide is not really wide, LOL. For daily wear, the Splay Freestyle could be a good option. Wildling may also deliver a width that works well for you, I have some written reviews on their shoes.

      For training, I’d stick to something like the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III/Geo Racer Knit! If you want, I can send you some sizing videos via Instagram of these shoes so you can better first-person look. Just hit me on my personal or That Fit Friend page!

      1. Hi Jake, I have had two pairs of the Xero HFS and love the width and minimal amount of cushion. However, they wear out extremely quickly, so I’m not sure buying them continually is worth it. Also, they do not have great grip, making them less than ideal for things like heavy sled pushes. What shoes would you say are the most similar to the HFS in terms of fit and cushion (with hopefully a higher quality tread)? I’m afraid that Merrell and Inov-8 will be too narrow, while Vivobarefoot will have absolutely no thickness in the sole. Thanks!

        1. Hey Chris! I think you’d have better luck with the Merrell, but to your point, they both do run a smidge more narrow, relatively speaking. If the HFS did feel roomy for you, however, I think the Merrell would likely be fine. The Xero Speed Force may be worth exploring, too, especially if you can find them on sale anywhere.

  7. I just want to say thanks for putting this out there. I found this site through your YouTube channel and it’s very nice to see someone doing a good job reviewing barefoot shoes. It seems a bit more awkward for me to get a lot of these brands affordably as I’m living in Europe, but I’ll keep looking. Hopefully I can find the right casual shoe reviews on this site or your YouTube channel that’s on sale without expensive shipping!

    1. Just to return to my comment above if anyone is wondering, Groundies is pretty good for a European buyer. Free shipping to most of Europe & still Black Friday deals atm if you’re reading this today!

  8. I am a female who has had weak arches all my 71 years and developed a manageable bunion on one foot. Ten years ago I was introduced to the barefoot shoe and it change my life! My feet and body responded well while wearing them to gym and daily walking on asphalt. However within the past year walking 3 miles a day on asphalt has caused me to need more of a cushion between the shoe and the road. I bought a pair of Topo Ultra Fly 3 a couple months ago thinking this might help. But in the last month the Topo’s made my feet ached…I really wanted to love this shoes for active walking. I have the Zero HFS and Merrell Glove Trail 5 for the gym but to active walk on hard services it’s not working. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. Hey! Thanks for sharing so much context. Check out the Xero Shoes Kelso — I just published a review on them. They have a slightly thicker sole than the HFS. I put them in the category as being a good beginner-friendly barefoot shoe because their sole is a bit thicker than other barefoot shoes and they have a removable insole so they have a bit more “cushion”, relatively speaking. I know you’re not a barefoot shoe beginner by any means, but that’s how I categorize this model due to it being a good option for helping with the acclimation process to barefoot shoes and it sounds like they may match your context really well.

      They might be a good pick for you in the context of walking long distances! They’re sold out on Xero Shoes site, but you can get them on REI for $99 which is actually an error and they should be $109 — so may be worth looking into!

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