Home » 9 Best Barefoot Shoes (2022 Update) | Picks for Men, Women, Lifting, and More

9 Best Barefoot Shoes (2022 Update) | Picks for Men, Women, Lifting, 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.

vivobarefoot primus lite iii lifting

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.

xero shoes prio versatile training review

The best part about the Xero Shoes Prio is its price point which sits at $89.99 USD, almost half of what the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III costs. 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.

xero shoes prio lifting performance review

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

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

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.

Testing the Xero Shoes 360 for CrossFit

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.

Inov 8 bare xf 210 v3 for crossfit

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. 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.

inov-8 bare xf 210 v3 lifting

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 Zelen

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

Testing the Xero Shoes Zelen for Running

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.

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.

Me Training In the Xero Shoes Zelen Barefoot Shoes

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.

  • Best For: Shorter to Mid-Range Runs and Lifting
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 8 oz
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • Read My Review: Xero Shoes Zelen 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

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.

Testing the Vivobarefoot Geo Racer Knit for Running

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 thick Active Sole on this model is also a nice feature for promoting connection with the ground when running. I like that there’s a removable insole in this model as well and that the internal construction is finished so you can have variety with your “cushioning”.

The hexagon tread on the Active Sole 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 being their favorite barefoot shoes for women.

1. Feelgrounds Original Mesh

The Feelgrounds Original Mesh is taking the top spot as the best barefoot shoe for women. This model has a lot going for it and they can be great barefoot shoes for daily wear and look good in a variety of settings.

Feelgrounds Original Mesh In Depth Review

The Feelgrounds Original Mesh utilizes a simplistic design which gives it a refined appearance, and it gives this shoe a nice look in both shorts and pants. It’s also nice that the Original Mesh can be dressed up or down based on your preferences.

On top of its simplistic design, this shoe is also built with recycled materials. The upper, lining, and laces are built with recycled PET while the sole is built with recycled TPE. I like that this model is more environmentally conscious.

Feelgrounds Original Mesh Shoe Review

I think think for casual wear and walking, the Feelgrounds Original Mesh is a good option to explore. The only drawback with this model is that it doesn’t come with an insole, so you may want to invest in one if you’re newer to barefoot shoes.

  • Best For: Walking and Daily Wear
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 7.7 oz (for my size 10 model, 11.5 in women’s)
  • Removable Insole: Does not come with an insole.
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • Read My Review: Feelgrounds Original Mesh Review

Feelgrounds Original Mesh

$109

Feelgrounds Original Mesh
4.5
Stability
4.7
Versatility
4.6
Durability
4.2

Best For

  • Casual Daily Wear
  • Walking In Warmer Months
  • Casual Lifting and Working Out

Falls Short

  • For Colder Months
  • For Serious Working Out

2. 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 a 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.

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).

Testing the Inov-8 Bare XF 210 V3

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 (for my size 10 model, 11.5 in women’s)
  • 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 Men

When considering the best 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 detailed shoe review

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.

Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III for Men

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. Feelgrounds Highrise Knit

The Feelgrounds Highrise Knit is also another great barefoot shoe for men. If you’re wanting a model for daily wear and walking, and you like high-top shoes, then the Highrise Knit will resonate with your needs. You can also workout casually in this shoe.

Feelgrounds Highrise Knit Styling

I think this model has a lot going for it and my favorite two features of this model is its appearance and overall fit. The refined and simplistic knit upper on this shoe look good, and this upper delivers a nice level of thermoregulation.

You can rock this shoe barefoot on warmer days and your feet won’t sweat too terribly, and you can wear socks with them on cooler days and they’ll remain relatively warm. They’re a good multi-season daily wear option.

Feelgrounds Highrise Knit Upper Construction

I also appreciate that the Highrise Knit is built with recycled materials. The laces, lining, and upper in this model are built with recycled PET while the sole is built with a recycled TPE. This is similar to other Feelgrounds shoes as well.

  • Best For: Casual Wear and Lifting
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 9.2 oz (for my size 10 model)
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • Read My Review: Feelgrounds Highrise Knit Review

Feelgrounds Highrise Knit

$129

Feelgrounds Highrise Knit
4.6
Stability
4.7
Versatility
4.6
Durability
4.4

Best For

  • Casual and Daily Wear
  • All-Season Wear (Winter Is Insole Dependent)
  • Casual Lifting

Falls Short

  • For Long-Term Durability
  • For Wet Surfaces

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 a barefoot shoe beginner. This model’s price point of $89.99 USD is fair and it’s a good model for tackling a little bit of everything.

Xero Shoes Prio Review

You can lift in these shoes, wear them on a daily basis, 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.

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

Xero Shoes Prio Outsole

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

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

2. WHITIN Trail Runner

The WHITIN Trail Runner is a great barefoot shoe for beginners for one key reason and that is its price point. For the WHITIN Trail Runner and a majority of their [WHITIN’s] barefoot shoes and other models, you can expect to pay around $40 USD.

whitin minimalist trail runner on trails

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.

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 about 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 Walking and Daily Wear

When it comes to testing the best 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, wearing out and about, and you’ll want something that can be dynamic with its ability to match multiple outfits, which can be tough to do with barefoot shoes, at times.

1. Vivobarefoot Primus Asana

The Vivobarefoot Primus Asana is taking my top pick as the best barefoot shoe for daily wear and walking. This model has a lot going for it and it can be a great pair of casual wear barefoot shoes. You can also use these for casual training and workouts as well.

Testing the Vivobarefoot Primus Asana for Walking and Standing

For starters, the appearance of the Primus Asana is a big perk of this model. This shoe features a blend of Woolmark merino wool and Wildhide leather, which help to give this shoe a classier and refined look.

To be honest, I think the Vivobarefoot Primus Asana is one of the better, if not the best, looking barefoot shoes from Vivobarefoot. The blend of wool and leather gives this shoe a nice level of thermoregulation, especially for spring, summer, and fall.

Vivobarefoot Primus Asana Barefoot Shoe Review

I also like that Vivobarefoot used their Active Sole in this model. This sole is 4mm thick and it gives you a nice level of ground feedback. I think it does a decent job with traction on different surfaces, which adds to this shoe’s versatility for daily wear.

  • Best For: Walking, Casual Training, and Daily Wear
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 9.8 oz (for my size 10 model)
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size (half sizes, see my full review for a sizing breakdown)
  • Read My Review: Vivobarefoot Primus Asana Review

Vivobarefoot Primus Asana

$170

Vivobarefoot Primus Asana Product Shot
4.6
Versatility
4.6
Durability
4.5
Quality
4.6

Best For

  • Casual Wear
  • Walking
  • Multi-Seasonal Wear (Spring, Summer, and Fall)
  • Casual Workouts

Falls Short

  • For Cost-Efficiency
  • For Upper Security

2. Feelgrounds Original Luxe

The Feelgrounds Original Luxe is another great barefoot shoe to explore for daily wear and walking, especially in cooler months. I think three features help the Original Luxe excel in these contexts.

testing the Feelgrounds Original Luxe for daily wear

First, the appearance of this shoe is great for various settings. The vegan PU leather looks clean and this model has minimalist branding, so you can easily wear these with shorts or pants and they look casual, yet formal.

Second, the sole is super mobile in this model, so if you want maximal ground feedback, I think this option is a good pick to explore. These have a good width and the lug patterning grips the floor well, especially in casual settings.

Feelgrounds Original Luxe Review

Third and lastly, this model is built with multiple recycled materials. The sole is constructed with a recycled TPE and the lining and laces are recycled PET. For a low-top model that can excel in cooler months, the Feelgrounds Original Luxe is a good option to explore.

  • Best For: Walking, Cooler Month Wear, and Daily Wear
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 8.6 oz (for my size 10 model)
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size 
  • Read My Review: Feelgrounds Original Luxe Review

Feelgrounds Original Luxe

$129

Feelgrounds Original Luxe Product Shot
4.5
Versatility
4.4
Durability
4.5
Quality
4.6

Best For

  • Cooler Month Wear
  • Casual and Formal Settings
  • Short Walks

Falls Short

  • For Breathability
  • For Warm Month Wear

Best Barefoot Shoes for Trail Running and Hiking

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. 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.

xero shoes mesa trail performance

I found that these lugs provide enough grip for light and moderate terrains and they even work well when doing rock scrambles and tackling different obstacles you might run into when hiking and trail running.

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 a 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 it’s 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.

vivobarefoot primus trail ii fg for trail runs

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. The Primus Trail II FG 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.

vivobarefoot primus trail ii fg hiking performance

The final two perks of this shoe are 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

Best Budget Barefoot Shoes

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

Below, I’m going to provide two of my favorite picks for the best budget barefoot shoes. One option is for those on a super tight budget that want to spend less than $50 USD and the other is for those that want to spend less than $100 USD.

1. WHITIN Trail Runner

The WHITIN Trail Runner is taking my top pick as some of the best budget-friendly barefoot shoes. I included this model because it comes in at $40 USD and WHITIN has other variants that are priced similarly.

whitin minimalist trail runner for casual trails

If you’re trying to save as much as possible or want a pair of barefoot shoes that you can beat up without financial guilt, then I think the WHITIN Trail Runner is a great option to explore.

I also like that you can look into other WHITIN models and expect to pay around $40 USD, so you can find options that look best to you and match your needs best. The Trail Runner is a great option for outdoor-focused individuals.

whitin minimalist trail runner trail performance

Plus, this shoe does a pretty good job for training and walking, and it’s decently comfortable. It may not have the prettiest appearance, but for its price, it’s tough to fault how budget-friendly this model is.

  • Best For: Budget Shoppers, 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

2. Xero Shoes Prio

If you want a budget barefoot shoe that costs less than $100 USD and has a strong construction, then the Xero Shoes Prio can be a great shoe to look into.

Xero Shoes Prio Budget Friendly

This model has a lot going for it and it’s made my list multiple times for multiple reasons. For starters, these shoes have a price point of $89.99 USD and if you can find them on sale, then you’re getting a solid value with these for the price.

I also like that the Xero Shoes Prio can hold its own in so many different contexts. You can work out hard in the Prio, wear them for long walks and even runs, wear them daily, and they should perform well for you.

Xero Shoes Prio Insole

I also like the long-term durability of the Xero Shoes Prio and that they tend to last a while for their price. My only complaint about the Xero Shoes Prio is that I do wish they’d update this shoe’s upper to be a little more aesthetic.

  • Best For: Casual Wear, Budget Shoppers, 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

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

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 “9 Best Barefoot Shoes (2022 Update) | Picks for Men, Women, Lifting, 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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