Home » 7 Best Barefoot Shoes (2022 Update) | Picks for Lifting, CrossFit, Women, Running, and More

7 Best Barefoot Shoes (2022 Update) | Picks for Lifting, CrossFit, Women, Running, and More

Barefoot shoes continue to innovate and grow in popularity. People are turning to barefoot shoes for their CrossFit workouts, weekly runs, lifting sessions, and daily wear. Barefoot shoes come with a fairly wide range of benefits depending on the context in which you plan to use them.

If you’re new to barefoot shoes, then you’ll definitely want to check out my barefoot shoes guide. This guide will help you properly acclimate to barefoot shoes, so when you make your selection below, you’ll be much more poised to wear your new barefoot shoes without running into a bunch of foot fatigue.

Below, I’ve broken all of my favorite barefoot shoes into different sections based on the context in which you plan to use your barefoot shoes. I’ve tested every single model in this list and if you have any questions about barefoot shoe comparisons and so forth, please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask.

On the market for new cross-training shoes, too? Check out my best cross-training shoes article to find your perfect pair of trainers.

Best Barefoot Shoes for Lifting

When looking for the best barefoot shoes for lifting, I’m considering two key aspects. First, I want to get as close to the ground as possible when training heavy and lifting so models with removable insoles are often my preferred choices.

Second, I want the toe box to have ample room for toe splay so I can truly grip the floor and equipment with ease. Below, are two of my favorite options for barefoot shoes optimized for lifting.

1. Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III

The Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III is an awesome option for lifting-focused individuals. This shoe has a toe box that is plenty wide for accommodating toe splay so even if you have wide feet you should never run into issues in this model in regard to width.

 

I also like that this model has a removable insole with a finished internal construction. The Active Sole is only 4mm thick. For deadlifts, you can get super close to the ground in this model and it’s an awesome barbell-friendly barefoot shoe. The upper construction is breathable and it’s made with recycled materials which is a nice perk for being a bit more environmentally conscious.

For my lower body sessions, I’m constantly finding myself reaching for the Primus Lite III. The minimalist sole allows for easy foot articulation so if you’re lunging, doing active foot exercises, or biasing any areas of the feet while training it’s super easy to do so in the Primus Lite III.

  • Best For: Heavy Lifting and Barbell Training
  • 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)
  • Read My Review: Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III Review

Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III

$145.00

vivobarefoot primus lite 3
4.8
Stability
4.9
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

 

2. Xero Shoes Prio

The Xero Shoes Prio model is a solid budget-friendly runner-up for lifting. This model also has a toe box that should be plenty wide for accommodating full toe splay and its upper construction is thicker in nature for long-term durability. The best part about the Xero Shoes Prio is its price point that sits at $89.99 USD, almost half of what the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III costs.

xero shoes prio lifting performance review

In the Xero Shoes Prio, you can also remove its insole and the internal construction of the shoe is finished so you won’t run into issues with an exposed sole construction. The sole of the Xero Shoes Prio comes in at a 5.5mm thickness which is pretty solid for getting you close to the ground for movements like deadlifts.

I think if you’re looking for a no-frills barefoot shoe for lifting and you’re not trying to break the bank, then the Xero Shoes Prio are a good option to look into. The only drawback to the Prio is that they’re not the most attractive shoe for daily wear outside of training and the gym.

  • Best For: Heavy Lifting and Barbell Training
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 8.85 oz
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • Read My Review: Xero Shoes Prio Review

Xero Shoes Prio

$89.99

4.7
Stability
4.8
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

 

Best Barefoot Shoes for CrossFit

Until recently, there hasn’t really been a ton of barefoot shoes designed for CrossFit. A great barefoot CrossFit shoe will need a couple of characteristics that separate it from other barefoot shoes on the market.

These two characteristics include a more durable upper construction and outsoles that provide grip for multi-directional activity. For this style of training, durability is the name of the game, and below are my two favorite options.

1. Xero Shoes 360

The Xero Shoes 360 is designed specifically for functional fitness and CrossFit-focused athletes. Compared to the Xero Shoes Prio and HFS, this model has a few standout features that make it unique. The first aspect is its upper construction and how durable it is. This model has a suede toe box overlay and rubber ribs covering the forefoot for abrasion resistance.

 

On top of this, this model’s removable insole provides a nice level of responsiveness that you can keep in or take out based on your preferences. In workouts where I’m jumping a lot, I’ll leave it in, then take it out for some of my heavier training and it’s nice having that option. The sole also wraps up the lateral and medial side of the forefoot for additional traction.

For the context of CrossFit, I really enjoy how well the Xero Shoes 360 grips the floor and different surfaces in things like box jumps, cleans, and double-unders. They may not be the prettiest barefoot shoe on the market, but for tackling CrossFit workouts and versatile training they get the job done.

  • Best For: CrossFit and Lifting
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 10.2 oz
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • Read My Review: Xero Shoes 360 Review

Xero Shoes 360

$119.99

Xero Shoes 360
4.5
Stability
4.8
Versatility
4.6
Durability
4.3

Best For

  • Heavy Lifting
  • Functional Fitness Workouts
  • Short Runs and Sprints
  • Daily Wear

Falls Short

  • For Long-Term Durability

 

2. Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3

The Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3 is a really good runner-up for our CrossFit section. This model has a few key features for supporting CrossFit workouts and it’s one of the better-looking barefoot shoes on the market, in my opinion. The Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3 features a lightweight breathable upper construction with ROPE-TEC throughout the mid-foot for resisting abrasion from rope climbs.

Inov 8 bare xf 210 v3 for crossfit

The 3mm POWER FOOTBED in this model also gives you a nice close-to-the-ground feeling, which helps promote how responsive this model feels in regard to the foot being able to articulate and feel the ground. The forefoot is flexible and gives you a lot of connection with the ground when jumping and tackling shorter runs.

I think for casual CrossFit workouts this model is overall really solid and they’ll hold up well to the demands of CrossFit workouts. Remember to acclimate to this style of footwear if you plan to use these exclusively for CrossFit. The Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3’s lightweight nature and athletic fit also reminds me of some of my favorite pairs of Inov-8 cross-training shoes.

  • Best For: CrossFit, Lifting, and Daily Wear
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 6.95 oz
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • Read My Review: Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3 Review

Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3

$120

inov 8 bare xf 210 v3
4.8
Stability
4.9
Versatility
4.7
Durability
4.8

Best For

  • Functional Fitness
  • Heavy Resistance Training
  • Daily Wear
  • Shorter and Mid-Range Runs

Falls Short

  • For Delivering Maximal Toe Box Width
  • For Lateral Training

 

Best Barefoot Shoes for Running

Barefoot running shoes need to account for outsole durability. Since barefoot shoes have thin soles, to begin with, the soles utilized for barefoot running need to have enough tread for traction and long-term scuff support.

Below, I’ve provided two of my favorite barefoot shoes for running. Please note, I am by no means someone who is running marathons in their barefoot shoes, but I’ll use them for shorter and mid-range runs (4-5 miles tops), so if that sounds like you, then the models below should be a good fit for you.

1. Xero Shoes HFS

My first barefoot shoe pick for running is the Xero Shoes HFS. I like this model for running because its sole has a tire-like tread for supporting road running. Personally, this is huge for me because I’m using these mostly for concrete and track runs, so having tread to support forward propulsion on those surfaces is key.

xero shoes hfs for running review

I also like how lightweight and breathable this model is. This shoe is easy to wear for longer periods and comes with a removable insole so you can select what type of feel you’d prefer when using these. This shoe feels almost like a sock on the foot.

In addition to its running ability, the HFS is also a good option for supporting lifting performance. If you’re a hybrid athlete like myself and you just want to purchase one barefoot shoe for your training and you do plan to have a decent bias towards running, then the Xero Shoes HFS is a good model to look into.

  • Best For: Shorter to Mid-Range Runs and Lifting
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 6.95 oz
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • Read My Review: Xero Shoes HFS Review

Xero Shoes HFS

$109.99

Xero Shoes HFS
4.6
Stability
4.8
Versatility
4.6
Durability
4.4

Best For

  • Heavy Training
  • Lower Body Sessions
  • Shorter/Mid-Range Runs
  • Agility Workouts

Falls Short

  • For Heel Strike Driven Running
  • For Maximal Cost-Efficiency

 

2. Vivobarefoot Geo Racer Knit

The Vivobarefoot Geo Racer Knit is a great option for the runner that loves having a lighter-weight upper construction. The claim to fame in this model is its knit upper. Personally, I enjoy how much the knit upper breathes and like how maneuverable and lightweight it is. It’s a good option for both running inside and outsole in regard to breathability.

The 4mm Active Sole on this model is also a nice feature for promoting connection with the ground when running. The hexagon tread is also nice for promoting traction on concrete, tracks, and treadmills. As long as you’re not running on wet surfaces, this model should grip the ground well.

  • Best For: Shorter to Mid-Range Runs, Daily Wear, and Lifting
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 9 oz
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • Read My Review: Vivobarefoot Geo Racer Knit Review

Vivobarefoot Geo Racer Knit

$170

Vivobarefoot Geo Racer Knit Detailed Review
4.7
Stability
4.8
Versatility
4.3
Durability
4.6

Best For

  • Heavy Strength Training
  • Recreational Workouts
  • Casual Running and Versatile Sessions
  • Daily Wear

Falls Short

  • For Cost-Efficiency
  • For Longer Runs and HIIT

 

Best Barefoot Shoes for Women

When it comes to the best 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. Basically, I look for trends per the feedback I receive and blend that with my reviews to see what others have suggested to be their favorite barefoot shoes for women.

1. Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3

The Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3 is a great option for women due to its overall last construction. This model’s toe box is slightly narrower than some of the shoes on this list. For this reason, it can be good model for women who may not have the widest feet and this is a big deal to prevent sliding around a ton in your barefoot shoes while training.

inov-8 bare xf 210 v3 lifting

Another pro to this model for women is how great it looks on a daily wear basis. Some of the barefoot shoes out there are not the most aesthetically pleasing (cough cough, here’s looking to you, Xero Shoes). I love the look of the Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3 and I think this is one of the better models for both casual and training-focused wear.

If you’re looking for a casual barefoot shoe for a little bit of running, lifting, CrossFit, and daily wear, then the Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3 is a good shoe to look into.

  • Best For: CrossFit, Lifting, and Daily Wear
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 6.95 oz
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • Read My Review: Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3 Review

Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3

$120

inov 8 bare xf 210 v3
4.8
Stability
4.9
Versatility
4.7
Durability
4.8

Best For

  • Functional Fitness
  • Heavy Resistance Training
  • Daily Wear
  • Shorter and Mid-Range Runs

Falls Short

  • For Delivering Maximal Toe Box Width
  • For Lateral Training

 

2. Vivobarefoot Geo Racer Knit

Another great barefoot shoe for women is the Vivobarefoot Geo Racer Knit. This model is a nice contrast to the Inov-8 model above. It has a wider midfoot and forefoot and it’s designed for tackling more running-focused training. The knit upper on this shoe breathes well and they’re easy to wear for longer periods.

 

The Active Sole, which is a signature construction feature in most Inov-8 barefoot shoes, is also a pro of this model. This shoe provides a ton of ground feedback and comes with a removable insole so you can select the level of cushion you want when wearing this.

In addition to the Geo Racer Knit being a strong performer for training, this barefoot shoe has a clean aesthetic to it as well so you can wear it in a variety of settings and on a daily basis with both workout and casual apparel. Whether you’re training, running, or just looking for an easy barefoot shoe to slip on and off for daily wear, then the Vivobarefoot Geo Racer Knit is a good model to look into.

  • Best For: Shorter to Mid-Range Runs, Daily Wear, and Lifting
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 9 oz
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • Read My Review: Vivobarefoot Geo Racer Knit Review

Vivobarefoot Geo Racer Knit

$170

Vivobarefoot Geo Racer Knit Detailed Review
4.7
Stability
4.8
Versatility
4.3
Durability
4.6

Best For

  • Heavy Strength Training
  • Recreational Workouts
  • Casual Running and Versatile Sessions
  • Daily Wear

Falls Short

  • For Cost-Efficiency
  • For Longer Runs and HIIT

 

Best Barefoot Shoes for Men

When considering the 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 is plenty wide for their needs.

In addition, I’m also considering a shoe’s overall durability since this is important to ensure your investment goes the distance.

1. Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III

For guys, my top pick is the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III. This model has 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.

vivobarefoot primus lite iii lifting

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

  • Best For: Heavy Lifting, Daily Wear, and Shorter Runs
  • 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)
  • Read My Review: Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III Review

Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III

$145.00

vivobarefoot primus lite 3
4.8
Stability
4.9
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

 

2. Xero Shoes 360

Another great barefoot shoe for men who are looking for a model primarily for training is the Xero Shoes 360. This model is solid because of its durability and how resilient it can be in different cross-training settings. If you’re a guy wanting a model for daily wear and functional fitness, then it’s hard to fault the Xero Shoes 360.

xero shoes for lifting

I also like the wide toe box and removable insole in the Xero Shoes 360 and how it can be a great shoe for a variety of foot anatomies. With the removable insole in this model, it’s a good option for anyone that wants a little variance in the amount of responsiveness they’re getting from their shoes.

If you’re new to barefoot shoes and plan to primarily wear these for cross-training and  lifting, then the Xero Shoes 360 are a good model to look into. The versatility and durability are the two key reasons why I like the Xero Shoes 360 for men.

  • Best For: CrossFit and Lifting
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 10.2 oz
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • Read My Review: Xero Shoes 360 Review

Xero Shoes 360

$119.99

Xero Shoes 360
4.5
Stability
4.8
Versatility
4.6
Durability
4.3

Best For

  • Heavy Lifting
  • Functional Fitness Workouts
  • Short Runs and Sprints
  • Daily Wear

Falls Short

  • For Long-Term Durability

 

Best Barefoot Shoes for Beginners

When discussing the best barefoot shoes for beginners, I’m constantly wondering, “What is the best barefoot shoe for someone’s first pair?”

Below are two of my favorite beginner-friendly barefoot shoes. These models are awesome due to their budget and overall functionality.

1. Xero Shoes Prio

It’s tough to fault the Xero Shoes Prio as a first barefoot shoe for someone. This model’s price point of $89.99 USD is fair and it’s a good model for tackling a little bit of everything. You can lift in this shoe, wear it on a daily basis, run in them, and even tackle HIIT workouts with them.

Xero Shoes Prio Review

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: Casual Wear, Lifting, Shorter Runs
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 8.85 oz
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • Read My Review: Xero Shoes Prio Review

Xero Shoes Prio

$89.99

4.7
Stability
4.8
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

 

2. WHITIN Trail Runner

The WHITIN Trail Runner is a great barefoot shoe for beginner for one key reason and that its price. For the WHITIN Trail Runner and a majority of this barefoot shoes other models, you can expect to pay around $40 USD. This price point makes this shoe a super low-committal model in regard to price feeling like a sunk cost if you find out you dislike barefoot shoes.

whitin minimalist trail runner on trails

In regard to construction, this model is a relatively no-frills barefoot shoe and features a synthetic upper on top of a thicker rubber sole. The sole itself does a pretty good job at providing ground feedback and it’s a good shoe for using to acclimate to barefoot shoes so they can work well on concrete, grass, and different trail surfaces.

Will this shoe be the best looking and highest performing barefoot shoe? No, but it’s hard to fault its $40 USD price point especially for any beginners who are on the fence of investing in a more pricey pair of barefoot shoes.

  • Best For: Casual Training, Light Hikes, and Daily Wear
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 11.6 oz
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • Read My Review: WHITIN Trail Runner Review

WHITIN Trail Runner

$40

whitin trail runner shoe
4.2
Versatility
4.4
Durability
4.2
Quality
4.1

Best For

  • Casual Trail Running
  • Recreational Lifting
  • Daily Wear
  • Budget Shoppers

Falls Short

  • For Serious Training and Trails
  • For Long-Term Durability

 

Best Barefoot Shoes for Trail Running and Hiking

To assess barefoot shoes for trail running and hiking, I’m most concerned with three features on every barefoot trail shoe. First, I assess the outsole tread. Does it provide enough grip for tackling different types of trails?

Second, I assess upper durability. Trails can vary a lot when you’re running and hiking, so I want to make sure the shoes can withstand different elements and obstacles without ripping. Third, I assess comfort and foot protection. How much protection does the shoe give for accidentally hitting sharp objects on the trail?

1. Xero Shoes Mesa Trail

The Xero Shoes Mesa Trail is my top barefoot shoe for hiking and trail runs for three key reasons. First, I like the 3.5mm lugs that are used on this shoe’s outsole. I found that these lugs provide enough grip for light and moderate terrains and they even work well doing rock scrambles and tackling different obstacles you might run into when hiking and trail running.

xero shoes mesa trail performance

Second, I like the 3mm hidden layer of “TrailFoam” in this model. Personally, I like having a tiny bit of protection when using barefoot shoes on trails that can be bit more varied with their terrain and I think this construction feature helps make this shoe more dynamic. Basically, even if you’re newer to barefoot shoes for trails, this model is a good bet for not beating your feet up too much.

Third, I like the upper construction in the Xero Shoes Mesa Trail and that you can remove its insole. The upper construction on this shoe is fairly durable and its layered in areas where abrasion typically happens most like the toe box. In regard to the insole, I like that you can have variance with how this shoe feels so you can select how much “feel” you want when rocking these.

  • Best For: Trail Running, Hiking, and Daily Wear
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 8 oz (for my size 10 model)
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • Read My Review: Xero Shoes Mesa Trail Review

Xero Shoes Mesa Trail

$119.99

xero shoes mesa trail
4.6
Stability
4.7
Versatility
4.6
Durability
4.6

Best For

  • Trail Running
  • Light and Semi-Technical Terrain
  • Casual Outdoor Wear
  • Light to Moderate Hikes

Falls Short

  • For Highly Technical Terrain
  • For Super Muddy Hikes and Trails

 

2. Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG

The Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG is another good barefoot shoe to look into for trail running and hiking. This model has a much more casual look to it so it’s an easy barefoot shoe to rock on a daily basis and on trails. This shoe features Vivobarefoot’s FG tech, or “Firm Ground”, which is a feature designed to help protect the foot in the context of outdoor use.

vivobarefoot primus trail ii fg for trail runs

This shoe has 4mm lugs that span the entire outsole. I thought these lugs performed pretty well for both light and moderate trails, but they did fall short on icier surfaces, so definitely keep that in mind if you plan to grab these. I think with the blend of the FG tech and these lugs, the Primus Trail II FG is a good pick for anyone wanting to use these more casually.

The final two perks of this shoe is that they’re easy to clean and they’re super breathable. If you run into muddy terrain on the trail, then the ability to easily clean this is a really nice perk. Their breathability is also nice for warming months, but be warned, these will not be your best bet for colder weather hikes.

  • Best For: Trail Running, Hiking, and Daily Wear
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 8.2 oz (for my size 10 model)
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size (if you’re in-between sizes, then go up)
  • Read My Review: Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG Review

Vivobarefoot Primus Trail II FG

$175

vivobarefoot primus trail ii
4.3
Versatility
4.5
Durability
4.3
Quality
4.3

Best For

  • Dry Climate Hikes
  • Easy to Moderate Terrain Hikes
  • Weight Training
  • Daily Wear Shoe
  • Short to Mid-Range Runs

Falls Short

  • For Technical Terrain
  • For Foot Warmth In Colder Climates
  • For Cost-Efficiency

 

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 in nature. 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 in return can then 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 lose 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.

That Fit Friend is a site that is supported by myself (Jake Boly) and its readers. If you purchase products through affiliates links on this site, then I may receive a small commission on the sale. These commissions help keep the lights on here at That Fit Friend so I can continue to create content and they help me purchase new models to review!

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Jake Boly

I've been in the fitness and strength training industry for nearly a decade. In that time, I've trained hundreds of clients, written thousands of articles, reviewed over 100+ pairs of training shoes, and have produced a large list of training videos. I live and breathe fitness and training gear, and I think it's important that reviewers walk the walk with the gear they're testing. As for my educational background, I have my Masters in Sports Science, Bachelors in Exercise Science, and have my CSCS.

2 thoughts on “7 Best Barefoot Shoes (2022 Update) | Picks for Lifting, CrossFit, Women, Running, and More”

  1. 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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