The 10 Best Barefoot Running Shoes For Healthy Feet

*Disclosure – Anya’s Reviews is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.

A collage of 10 barefoot running shoes - the Xero Zelen, Whitin Trail Runner, Freet Feldom, Altra Lone Peak, Saguaro barefoot shoes, Vivobarefoot Primus Lite, WIldling Nebula, Lems Primal 2, Tadeevo Bliss, VIbra, Five Fingers KSO with the text "The 10 Best Barefoot Running Shoes, Anya's Reviews" written over the op

The Best Barefoot Running Shoes written in collaboration with performance coach Graham Tuttle.

Foot pain is a quick way to end your running career. So if you run you probably care about your shoes! But the debate is endless – do we need arch support, pronation control, and cushion to protect our feet? Maybe not. We believe that our bodies can carry us without all that shoe technology, and that barefoot running shoes are better in the long run.

In this review we cover our 10 favorite barefoot running shoes, why we think they’re better, and practical tips for transitioning to them.

Skip straight to the shoe reviews with the menu above!

Why We Run in Barefoot Shoes

A woman sitting on concrete steps holding a pair of shoes each hand, in one the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite barefoot sneaker with the text "Wear This" over head, and in the other a Hoka maximalist running shoe with the text "not that" over it

Compared to hefty modern running shoes, these thin foot gloves might look strange. Especially after endless marketing from shoe brands and foot specialists telling us our feet need to be supported every which way.

But we can train other parts of our bodies to become stronger and more resilient, why can’t we train our feet as well?

Because here’s the rub – most feet aren’t flawed, they’re weak. Rather than constantly bracing and supporting with high tech shoes, we believe that conditioning our feet so they function on their own is the best long term solution to foot pain. And that’s why we run (and walk) in minimalist footwear – they don’t interfere with our natural foot function!

Note: We use “minimalist” and “barefoot” interchangeably in this article!

Saguaro Barefoot Sneakers flexibility roll

What Is A Barefoot Running Shoe?

In contrast with your typical running sneaker that’s full of shock absorbers, pronation control, and arch support, barefoot shoes say you are the technology! They let your feet move naturally – as if barefoot – by following these tenets:

  1. Zero drop (totally flat from heel to toe)
  2. Thin, flexible sole
  3. No arch support
  4. Anatomical (foot-shaped) toe box

You see, the feet and hands are not that different. They’ve got similar bone structures, functionality, and dexterity capabilities. One reason we suffer from so many foot issues is that we shove our feet into restrictive shoes every day and don’t use our range of motion. If you put your hand into a stiff cast for decades, it would get painful and weak too! 

Want to learn more about the benefits of barefoot shoes? Read this article.

But because so many of us already have deconditioned feet (and because feet play such a big role in how the rest of our body functions), it’s really important that we consider transitioning to barefoot running shoes as a whole body endeavor.

A side view of Graham Tuttle running barefoot outside in Vivobarefoot barefoot running shoes demonstrating good form

How To Transition to Barefoot Running Shoes

A close up of a woman spreading her toes using her fingers as spacers.

Changing your shoes without strengthening key areas and adjusting your running volume and pattern can result in pain or injury.

Below are a few tips for successfully transitioning to barefoot running shoes:

  1. Reclaim your feet with foot strengthening and mobility exercises – toes that move individually are better able to stabilize you.
  2. Walk before you run – walking in barefoot shoes is an excellent way to strengthen your feet without the high impact of running.
  3. Mind your form – cushioned shoes enable poor technique. Start to change this by taking your shoes off and running for a few steps on a hard surface. You will naturally shorten your stride and land closer to your body!
  4. Increase running time in barefoot shoes slowly – you want to only train good form, so it’s better to take it slow rather than push through and run poorly.
  5. Add movement diversity – bounce around, swim, bike, squat. Running is repetitive, and we need to be well rounded in our strength to not get injured
  6. Be patient – it takes time*

*Fascia – the connective tissue that provides strength at the foot and lower leg – can take anywhere from 3-6 months to fully remodel. It is different from muscle in that you must load it enough to provide a stimulus for change but not too much that you overdo it and get injured. So pay attention to your body while increasing your volume and strengthening your lower legs.

If you’d like a step by step program that walks you through the transition and adds accountability, check out Graham’s Functional Feet Program – it’s designed to restore foot, ankle, and lower leg mobility so you can run comfortablt! And you can use code ANYA10 to get 10% off the program any time.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of running in barefoot shoes, it’s time to talk about the shoes themselves.

The Best Barefoot Running Shoes

This isn’t your standard collection of links. I (Anya) have personally used all of the shoes on this list plus hundreds of others in an effort to bring you the most useful barefoot running shoe guide available.

Even though I think these are the ten best, not every shoe works for every person. So I have also included fit & sizing recommendations, prices, materials, and ships-from location to help you narrow it down. Want to learn more about your own foot type and how to pick a size? Check out this guide.

And if you still don’t find what you’re looking for, don’t worry. I have a complete list of minimalist running shoes linked below, plus tons of other useful resources and reviews on my website whether you run, walk, hike, or whatever.

Are we ready to dig into the 10 best barefoot running shoes on the market? Let’s go.


Vibram Five Fingers

A front view of a pair of feet standing on concrete wearing Vibram Five Fingers KSO barefoot running shoes in black with one foot pointed

Mesh | EU Sizes 34-50 | Ships from USA & other locations worldwide*

The link above will give you a 15% discount!

Well of course we had to lead with Vibram Five Fingers! They kicked off the barefoot running craze after all. But because they are so minimal (like being barefoot) they require a thoughtful adjustment. Make sure you’ve read through the previous “How To Transition” section before running in these.

What We Love:

  • The glove like fit keeps your foot from sliding around during dynamic movement
  • The toe pockets splay your toes lightly, which increases your stability.
  • The rounded heel cup lets the back half of your foot move freely as well
  • Despite being thin & flexible, these shoes are durable and can last for years

Graham has gotten hundreds of miles out of his Vibram KSO’s over multiple years and they’re not done yet.

Sizing & Fit Type: Vibram Five Fingers come in many different styles, and each fit slightly differently. But in general, this brand is true to size. Here is the rundown:

  • Vibram Five Fingers are meant to fit closely.
  • They fit almost all foot widths
  • You might want to go 1/2 size down because they will stretch.
  • If you have high volume feet and/or long toes don’t size down!
  • If you have extra short toes this brand might not be for you.

Pro tip: Graham likes to buy them one half size smaller than his usual size so that they feel a little stiff and tight at first. But then once they break in they are perfect and his toes don’t slide out of the pockets.

*Click here to find your nearest Vibram retailer*


Vivobarefoot Primus Lite

a top down view of a pair of feet standing on concrete with the left foot bare and the right foot wearing a light blue Vivobarefoot Primus Lite barefoot sneaker

Recycled Material | US Sizes W5.5-11.5 & M7-15 | Ships from multiple locations*

Use code ANYA20 for 20% off from Vivobarefoot

What We Love:

  • Can be worn for all kinds of athletics
  • Very light & thin (also come with removable insole)
  • Not floppy
  • Very durable

Be Aware: Slight break in time

Once broken in, this is my personal favorite Vivobarefoot sneaker. People also love the Primus Lite Knit for a softer, more breathable fit.

Sizing & Fit Type:

  • Low volume (read this for an explanation!)
  • Good for narrow heels
  • Lots of big toe space
  • Medium Width
  • Men’s are wider than Women’s (otherwise no different)

Vivobarefoot is a great brand for people with low arches and narrow heels. If you have high volume and/or extra wide feet I would go with something else on this list.

*Click here to find a Vivobarefoot retailer near you*


Xero Shoes

Mesh | US Sizes W5-12 & M6.5-13 | Ships from USA or EU

What We Love:

Be Aware: Slight break in time

The Xero 360 sneaker is the most versatile barefoot trainer available and my top pick if you want one pair of shoes that works for running, court sports, lifting in the gym, and basically any type of athletics.

Close up of Xero Shoes 360 barefoot sneaker being worn in a home gym for cross fit and olympic style lifting
The Xero 360

Sizing & Fit Type:

  • Medium toe box width
  • Great if you have a wide arch and/or heel
  • High Volume
  • Men’s are wider than Women’s (no other difference)

Shoes from Xero have a unique shape to them that is medium width at the toes but wide through the midfoot and heel. They work great for what I like to call “brick feet,” in the most loving way of course! 😀 I like the Zelen for myself because they fit a little wider in the toes.

Read my in-depth Xero reviews here!


Freet Barefoot

Knit | EU Sizes 37-48 | Ships from the UK or US

Use code AnyaFreet10 for 10% off

What We Love:

  • Freet makes athletic shoes for all terrains
  • Super functional and comfortable
  • Great brand if you’ve had trouble with barefoot shoes in the past
  • Come with insoles if you need some cushion

My partner Justin has been wearing the same pair of Pace sneakers for virtually everything (and I mean everything) for 2 years. 10/10 will buy again when they’re kaput. My personal favorite from Freet is the Feldom.

Front close up angled view of a pair of feet walking in Freet Pace vegan barefoot sneakers with an extra wide toe box
Pace Sneakers, available at Anya’s Shop

Sizing & Fit Type:

  • Square toe box (works for almost everyone)
  • Fits both high and low volume because of removable insole
  • Extra wide in toe box and midfoot

Be sure to read each product description fully for sizing advice because it is not always consistent between products. Some models run longer/shorter than others.

Read my in-depth Freet review here.


Tadeevo Bliss

A top down view of a pair of feet wearing Tadeevo bliss barefoot running sneakers in grey

Leather & Mesh | EU Sizes 37-53 | Ships from Poland

Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 5% off

What We Love:

  • Extremely flexible
  • Light & breathable upper (don’t make you sweat!)
  • No break in time
  • Look “normal” for everyday wear
  • Durable – my tester has run over 100 miles in them

These sneakers really feel like nothing on your feet! They’re one of the most comfortable barefoot sneakers out there – but be sure to read the next section on fit! The rubber sole is long-lasting and the leather toe guard helps protect against snagging.

A collage showing the flexibility of the Tadeevo bliss - 3 different shots of a hand twisting and rolling it tightly

Sizing & Fit Type:

  • True to size
  • Fit all foot shapes
  • Extra wide & high volume
  • Might be floppy on narrow or low volume feet

The Tadeevo Bliss can accommodate even the beefiest paws. If you have low volume feet you might want to use a barefoot insole with them, or try a different brand.


Merrell Vapor Glove

Top down close up view of Merrell Glove barefoot running shoes with anatomical toe box and zero drop flexible outsole

Mesh | US Womens 5 – Men’s 15 | Ships from US

What We Love:

  • Really Flexible
  • Breathable upper
  • Good Quality

The Vapor Glove from Merrell is a consistently reliable barefoot running shoe that can be used on trails and road. They are quite thin with a 6mm stack height, so you might consider the Trail Glove if you want a more robust sole. But we love how flexible and breathable they are.

Front view of a person's legs wearing Merrell Vapor Glove road running barefoot shoes. One foot is flexed up to show the very flexible outsole

Sizing & Fit Type:

Merrell’s Vapor and Trail Glove shoes don’t have an extra wide forefoot, so for people with a wide toe splay may not have enough space. They fit me well around the ankle and arch, but I wish I had more space for my toes to spread out.

On the Merrell website they say to order 1/2 size down to get the same fit as other Merrell shoes. But I found them to be true to size, so if you want to get the benefits of the extra toe space I would not size down.

Here are a few places you can find Merrell barefoot shoes around the world:


Best Transition Shoes

While you don’t necessarily need transition shoes, they can be helpful if you’re coming from an injury or don’t want to decrease your running time as you train your feet. Check out this guide for more Beginner Barefoot Shoe options!

Altra Running

Close up front side view of Altra Lone Peek zero drop minimalist trail running shoes

Textile | US Sizes W5.5-13 & M8-16 | Ships from USA or UK

What We Love:

  • Cushion for long distances or newbies
  • Innovative shoe technology without interfering with your foot function
  • Different options depending on terrain – pavement/trail/all weather

This is the brand I wore every single day for a year while I built up strength in my feet. Today I prefer thinner soles (and I believe they are better for us in the long run), but they were a lifesaver at the time. I recommend the Lone Peak, Solstice and Escalante Racer as they are an appropriate thickness for transitioning and still have decent toe space. Altra is also very well regarded in the running community for being a high quality brand.

Sizing & Fit Type:

  • Wide forefoot width and narrow heel – for toe freedom + secure fit
  • Work for both low and high volume feet
  • Mostly true to size, but I would recommend sizing up for athletic use

Just be aware that some of the newer models come in a “Standard” or “Slim” fit. For the best foot shape, go for the “Original” shape models. Men’s are also higher volume than women’s, so you can choose that if you need more space. For more details on the Lone Peak, read my review of them.


Lems Primal 2

Lems Primal 2 Top down and Sole Shape

Mesh | US Sizes W4.5-11.5 & M3-14 | Ships from USA

What We Love:

  • Versatile – can be used for lots of sports + everyday
  • Extra wide forefoot
  • Removable insole

Be Aware: Some Lems shoes are not zero drop and/or have a tapered toe box. Primal 2s are the best!

Many barefoot enthusiasts use these for high impact activities, such as long distance running, basketball, or long days on their feet.

Sizing & Fit Type:

  • Run small – consult their size guide
  • Extra wide toe box, but close around the heel
  • High volume toe box -people with upward pointing toenails love them!
  • Square shape – works for more foot shapes
  • Fits both high and low volume arches

Read my Lems Reviews here!


Bahe Revive

A side view of a person standing on pavement wearing Bahe barefoot running shoes in Sand color with grounding technology

Mesh | Grounding | EU Sizes 36-47 | Ships from UK

Use code ANYA for 10% off

What We Love:

The Bahe Revive is a zero drop foot shaped running sneakers that’s a little bit thicker (14mm with insole, 11mm without) than most barefoot shoes. This makes them in my opinion best for urban surfaces, but I would also wear them trail running on a mostly level path. Overall Bahe has a light, natural feel and flexes easily (they just don’t twist easily). If you are looking for an in-between minimalist shoe (not super thin, not super thick) Bahe is a great option.

Sizing & Fit Type:

  • Run a little long, but I won’t size down.
  • Are Medium Width – they work on my wide feet because the mesh upper is flexible.
  • Are Medium to High Volume – a removable insole makes them work for a variety of feet.

Read my full Bahe Revive review here


Best Budget Shoes

Want to experience barefoot freedom without investing in an expensive pair of shoes? Here are some great starter options that give you a taste without breaking the bank. After trying these budget-friendly options, many people move on to other more established brands for their quality and longevity, but these are perfectly good shoes that meet my healthy shoe requirements.

Whitin Trail Hikers

a top down view of a pair of feet standing on concrete. the left foot is bare and the right is wearing an orange Whitin trail barefoot running shoe

Mesh | US Sizes W5.5-11 & M7-15 | Ships from USA

What We Love:

  • Super flexible
  • Easy on/off with velcro

Be Aware: These are not zero drop unless you remove the insole (which I recommend doing as soon as you can).

These barefoot running shoes are probably my least favorite looking, but they’re quite comfortable.

Sizing & Fit Type:

  • Runs slightly small
  • Fits low volume
  • Extra wide toe box (especially if you size up)

Read my in-depth Whitin review here!


Saguaro

Saguaro Barefoot neoprene adult shoes

Neoprene or Mesh | US Sizes W6.5 – M14 | Ships from USA

Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 15% off

What We Love:

  • Cheap options for the whole family!
  • Lightweight

Be Aware: Like Whitin, you must remove the insole for them to be zero drop.

From Saguaro I recommend only the Chaser series, because they have the widest toe box. It can be a little confusing to order because they have so many similar looking shoes. some have a neoprene like material and are more like a water shoe, others have mesh which I prefer for breathability.

Sizing & Fit Type:

  • Extra wide fit
  • Square toe box shape
  • High volume when insole is removed
  • They run a little bit small and I recommend erring on the larger side.

If you have low volume feet I’d go for an option with a velcro strap, since the laces only tighten so much.

Read my Saguaro review here!


Which Shoes Are The Widest?

So which barefoot running shoes are the widest? Here is a rough guide to toe box width in the brands reviewed here.

A grid of 10 barefoot running shoes organized from widet toe box to narrowest - Vibram, Freet, ALtra, Saguaro, Tadeevo, Whitin, Lems, Wildling, Vivobarefoot, & Xero

I did my best to generalize the differences between men’s and women’s sizes, and between models. Note that this chart does not take into account the width in other parts of the shoe – for all other fit considerations besides toe box please read the Sizing & Fit sections above.

Lems, Whitin, Tadeevo, Saguaro, and Altra are all very similar in toe box width!

Sole Thickness Comparison

Here are the same 10 brands organized from thinnest to thickest. Keep in mind that some brands (like Xero and Freet) have different thicknesses available in different models and depending on whether you use the insole.

  • Wildling
  • Vivobarefoot
  • Vibram
  • Saguaro (without insole)
  • Whitin (without insole)
  • Tadeevo
  • Freet
  • Xero
  • Lems
  • Altra

Barefoot Running Sandals

A photo collage of ten barefoot sandal brands - Earth Runners, Laboo Leather, Luna Sandals, Shamma Sandals, Paisley Running Sandals, Xero Shoes, Chala Sandals, Bedrock Sandals, Unshoes Footwear, and Deliberate Life Designs with the text "The 10 Best Barefoot Sandals - Anya's Reviews" superimposed

Lots of barefoot enthusiast love running in minimalist sandals! You can find my top picks for athletic sandals in this article.


Conclusion

Barefoot running shoes provide your feet an opportunity to MOVE! Feet support the entire body every time we stand, walk or run, so it makes sense to keep them in prime condition. Foot shaped toe boxes, flat soles, and shoe flexibility keep your feet in their natural state. But because most of us have been stuffing our feet in non-functional shoes for decades, we need to transition thoughtfully back to minimalist shoes. This guide on barefoot running shoes is your jumping off point for healthier feet, more enjoyable runs, and a stronger body!

Interested in minimalist shoes for more than running? There are tons of options for different lifestyles and events – spend some time in my Barefoot Shoe Lists to get started.

Further Reading:


A close up headshot of Graham Tuttle white male smiling at the camera

Graham is a health and performance coach that specializes in helping you get out of pain and back to your life. Follow him on Instagram for daily tips!


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Comments

54 thoughts on “The 10 Best Barefoot Running Shoes For Healthy Feet”

  1. Great list! Altra running shoes were my first pair of barefoot(ish) shoes and today I only wear barefoot shoes for everything. However, I now find that my Altra Escalante started squishing my little toe a bit. My toe shape is somewhat between mountain and sloped shaped – the second and big toe are the same length, then the length of toes decreases. Base one that shape, the Altra should fit, so I’m a bit lost why it doesn’t.
    Any alternatives you would recommend that still have a bit of cushion (I’m not ready to run on super thin soles on the concrete yet)? Or should I try a larger size (I already went up from EU 43 to EU 44 while wearing barefoot shoes)?

    1. I would consider the Lems Primal 2 or Primal Zen. I tend to size up in Lems, they run small-ish for a lot of people. You also might just need to size up in Altra, since sometimes your feet grow after switching to barefoot shoes!

  2. Hello there Anya!

    Great to see that you have a nice review of barefoot shoes from different categories as expected. I’ve since quite a while now been looking for a nice pair of barefoot running shoes. I’ve tried the Xero HFS but it was to wide for me since I have low volume feet and also I had a feeling that the construction was a bit cheap. I tried Vivo Primus Lite III and the overall feeling was great although I really didn’t like the uncomfortable feeling from the plastic material they are made of when I wore them barefoot. I tried Altra Escalante 3 and they felt quite good. I like the textile material and the snug fit, just didn’t like the overly plush midsole. So am considering to try the Altra racer model which is thinner then the standard Escalante but I just have one concern.

    I have started my journey to a more sustainable lifestyle and with all of these shoes I mentioned none of them atleast in my mind have a great sustainable approach to their production, material and more. Vivo says its shoe is made from recycled plastic partly from garbage waste. Recycled might be good but actually I don’t want my shoes to be made out of plastic or garbage waste at all. Altra Escalante is “Made in Vietnam”. Xero shoes is “Made in China”. So in that respect there’s obviously no difference from conventional shoes. So to sum up. I’m looking for something that’s not only good for my feet but also can be considered sustainable. What does that mean? Well I like you have great respect for a company like Mukishoes. I’m planning to buy their leather Chelsea boots for the winter. There we have a prime example of sustainability. Vegetable tanned leather. Natural rubber. Felted wool. Made in Portugal i.e. Made in EU. That’s what I call a high quality sustainable shoe. Can I find a running shoe or something I can use as a running shoes matching these requirements?

    Very much appreciate your response.

    Best regards

    Mikael

    1. Hmm, this is a tough one because most athletic style shoes are made with synthetic materials. One that comes to mind is Bahe, which I reviewed here. They do have a thicker/stiffer shoe than many barefoot options. So another option is Softstar Shoes. They are all handmade in Oregon and do a good job of sourcing sustainable materials (but their outsoles are synthetic blend). Hope that helps get you started!

  3. Hi Anya! Thanks sou much for all of this great information. I’m wondering if you can write something about toes and toenails. I guess I have big big toes, and when I walk they tend to flex up. I usually leave my toenails a bit long (but not crazy long!) to avoid ingrown nails. So shoes that otherwise fit my feet well really hurt my toe. You mentioned one of the shoes in this review has a tall toe box – can you give us information on more? Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Tiffany! Good idea, I’ll put it on the list of FAQ’s I’m preparing to add to our big FAQ section of the website. I do mention in my reviews which options have a tall toe box, but I don’t have a specific list of options. Lems is one of my favorite brands for people who need a lot of space over the toes.

  4. Hello! I have recently started my barefoot journey and so far have been walking a ton, but not yet running.. I just bought a pair of Vivo Primus Trail III all weathers and as much as I wanted to love them for a good versatile option for running in/around Stockholm in the wet fall, the dip in plastic material on the inside crease point is causing a lot of pressure on my foot. I don’t think any amount of break-in time will really solve this (I removed insoles and completely loosened the laces to see if that helped – not enough!). Any other suggestions for a wide forefoot (I love that my heel feels locked in in the Vivos) that will allow for running/hiking in wet and potentially slippery conditions? Thank you for all your detailed reviews and thoughtful advice!

    1. The Freet Connect 3 is a water resistant trail shoe that will have a lot more space above the foot so you don’t get that pressure. They aren’t as slim in the ankle/heel area, but can be cinched and laced securely. The Altra Lone Peak is also a good option but they are much thicker in the sole.

  5. Hello. I needed some help finding the correct size. One of your options are the Vivobarefoot primus lite lll which I am interested in purchasing. I normally wear a US 11.5. I measured my feet at 27.8 on my left foot and 27.5 on the right. When I spoke to Vivobarefoot I spoke to two different people one advised a 45 which is 28.5 and the other person recommended size 44 which is 27.9. Also their on screen tool recommended size 44. I have a slender low volume foot. What would you advise in your expert opinion in size to obtain.

  6. I see the word barefoot all thru this site and not finding the shoe bottom content. Is it rubber or what?
    If rubber, then how can these shoes benefit the desire to grounding/earthing of which is great for the whole body from head to foot?
    Something for us “grounding” enthusiasts to encourage company’s like yours to develope.

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Picture of Hi. I'm Anya.

Hi. I'm Anya.

I first discovered barefoot shoes after a long history of foot issues. By changing my footwear and strengthening my body I was able to completely transform my life. Anya’s Reviews is my way of sharing with the world that healthy feet are happy feet!

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