The Best Insoles To Wear With Barefoot Shoes

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A line up of shoe insoles to wear with barefoot shoes to increase comfort, improve fit, or add functionality
My Favorite Insoles To Wear With Barefoot Shoes

I’ve been wearing barefoot shoes for several years now, and I love using barefoot-friendly insoles in them! They are a low cost way to increase the versatility of your shoes and help bridge the gap between conventional shoes and barefoot shoes.

You see, when it comes to barefoot shoes it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. I have a long history of foot pain and it took me a while to get used to the thin, flexible soles on barefoot shoes – insoles have saved me on more than one occasion! Today I use them on a regular basis for a variety of different purposes. Here is how.

What Kind Of Insoles Can I Wear With Barefoot Shoes?

To clarify, insoles does not equal orthotics or support. An insole is simply an additional layer of material you can add to the inside of your shoe. Because barefoot shoes have uniquely flexible outsoles, you want to find insoles that are also flexible so they move with the shoe. In this article we are covering the best insole options that work with minimalist shoes to provide additional comfort, functionality, and in some cases mild support.

A note about orthotics: Orthotics, such as these, can be a short term therapeutic tool if you are recovering from an injury (see my thoughts on arch support here).

But specifically when it comes to barefoot shoes, you want to make sure the orthotic is stable inside the shoe before wearing – the flexible outsoles of barefoot shoes might not keep a rigid insert stable and that can stress the joints in and above your foot. So if you are someone who needs a rigid orthotic I suggest pairing it with one of the thicker, more cushioned options from this list, or at least making sure that the orthotic is stable inside your shoes.

Now let’s get to the insoles I love to use in barefoot shoes!

Insoles for Comfort

A pair of Wilding Nebula barefoot shoes unworn with a hand putting a NorthSole cushioned insole in for comfort

My two favorite insoles for comfort in barefoot shoes are:

  • NorthSole – flat, flexible, long lasting
  • Bridge Soles – mild arch support and heel lift to aid your transition to zero drop shoes
  • Metatarsal Pads – while not a full insole, these provide light support and cushioning under the transverse arch.

NorthSole insoles are completely flat and flexible, they just add cushion. But let me tell you, they can really change things around for you if you are feeling like barefoot shoes are too thin.

Bridge soles on the other hand have mild support and a small heel lift that breaks down over several months as you wear them. I recommend Bridge Soles specifically for people who are transitioning away from supportive footwear, whereas NorthSole insoles can be used forever no matter how functional your feet are.

And finally, metatarsal pads are a useful tool if you have some discomfort in barefoot shoes but don’t want to go to a rigid orthotic. They have alleviate pressure on the ball of the foot and help your metatarsals align naturally. Because they aren’t a full insole, you use it by sticking it on another insole.

Some people, no matter how long they’ve been wearing barefoot shoes, will always want cushion because of their particular anatomy or the environment they walk/stand in. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. I still use my NorthSole insoles on long travel days or if I’m having a bad joint day! You feet will reap the benefits of your flexible, spacious shoes and they will continue to strengthen even if you have a little more cushion underneath.

Insoles for Warmth & Sock Replacement

a pair of feet next to a pair of Xero shoes Gracie barefoot rain boots with a hand pulling a wool insole out of them

My favorite insoles for warmth and to replace socks are:

Barefoot shoes are thin. You can talk about your fancy insulating thermal insoles all you want but if you’re feet are sitting on frozen ground, they gonna get cold. Any insole that adds height will keep your feet warmer, but my favorite for warmth are wool and sheepskin insoles. Because we live in a cold climate, we almost always use extra insoles in our barefoot winter boots!

The main thing to think about is how much space they will take up in your shoes. Because warm insoles tend to be thick I often size up in the barefoot boots that I plan to wear them with. If you are looking for a more versatile option, I would recommend Wildling’s Woolly insoles because they are thinner and much easier to fit into shoes.

But the amazing thing about wool and sheepskin is they are not just warm – they are temperature regulating AND absorbent. So if you are someone who really doesn’t like socks, you can use these insoles instead and your shoes won’t get funky. You can also explore socks that don’t squish your toes!

I have also listed Vivobarefoot’s thermal insoles as a vegan option, but I have to be honest. I really don’t find them very warm (and they don’t absorb sweat). They will be better than nothing, but if you are facing serious winter conditions I would recommend something warmer.

Insoles for Performance

A top down view of a pair of white barefoot shoes with Naboso proprioceptive insoles visible inside the shoes

Performance insoles, like from Naboso Technology, use nerve stimulation to improve your gait and posture. Movement originates in the nervous system, so getting the nerves firing through your feet and legs makes it easier to move optimally.

I have been wearing Naboso insoles for several years now, and when I wear them my legs feel more stable and alive. Naboso insoles come with different amounts of stimulation depending on how comfortable you are with texture on your feet.

I am wearing the Activation insoles. They can feel a little rough/overstimulating at first if you aren’t used a lot of feedback on your feet, but over time I have really grown to love it. You can even get a Xero sandal with a Naboso insole on it which is very intriguing to me!

You can use code ANYAREVIEWS10 for 10% off the Naboso e-shop.

Insoles for Shoe Fit

Top down view of a person's feet in a pair of Mukishoes high tops. The left shoe is labeled With Insole and shows a much nicer fit on low volume feet. The right shoe is labeled Without Insole and the shoe is visibly loose around the foot
The insole makes the shoe fit better, so I don’t have to tighten the laces excessively.

Insoles can also be really helpful in barefoot shoes that are too high volume for your foot. I have low volume feet, so I frequently add a thin insole to keep my foot from sliding around inside the shoe. I can’t tell you how many shoes have been saved using this trick!

Another shoe fit hack: Sometimes insoles don’t fit well in my shoes, so in this case I ditch them and put a felt sticky or moleskin in the shoe upper. Sometimes I use both.

Insoles for Sandals & Flats

A close up of a pretty barefoot dress shoe sitting on the carpet and a hand is inserting a nude colored cushioned insole into the shoe

Since most of the insoles above don’t work well in open cut shoes, I’ve found some special options that can add some cushion to your sandals and flats! Like other insoles, these can also be used to improve the fit if your shoes are too floppy.

  • Foot Petals Cushion – 3mm thick and my favorite for this purpose.
  • Adhesive Shoe Liner – intended to absorb sweat and make the inside of your shoes non-slip. They are 1mm thick but come in a 3 pack so you can stack them for more cushion.
  • Flat socks – 5mm thick, which be difficult to find into shoes without sizing up. I also recommend buying the largest Flat Sock size and then cutting it down to the right shape.

How Many Pairs of Insoles do I Need?

The convenient thing about insoles is that their purpose can double up. You can make shoes fit better, get more comfort, and extra warmth! I’ve found that a few insoles on hand makes it possible to get by with fewer pairs of shoes, and they can easily be moved around to whatever you are wearing that day! So don’t feel like you need an extra insole for every shoe you own.

Another fun fact is that many barefoot shoes come with removable insoles that you can mix and match with other shoes.

You can see here how I used multiple insoles in one pair of shoes to make them super functional on a long trip!

Like barefoot shoes? Make sure check out all the reviews and shoe lists I have here!

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Comments

54 thoughts on “The Best Insoles To Wear With Barefoot Shoes”

    1. Wildling sells kids insoles and those are good (find them here). You can also make your own by cutting down an adult size, or cutting a piece of felt and lining the back with duct tape (it keeps it from sliding around).

      1. Any recommendations for someone with low volume feet that needs to add an additional 4mm to 5mm in shoes like Topo or Altra so that my feet do not slide forward? Ideally in EU 🙂

  1. Hi Anya,

    I’m looking for warmer undersoles for my Vivobarefoot Gobi Hi IV boots, which are not warm enough. I’m interested in the Softstar Sheepskin you recommended, but they have a number of different cuts (Standard N/R/W, and Primal R/W). Which cut do you think fits the Vivobarefoot cut best?

    Thanks!

  2. Hi!
    I’m living in a super hot climate right now (like 110F + daily) and find that the balls of my feet feel like they’re burning due to the hot ground during normal walks or runs. Any recommendations for an insole that would keep my feet a bit cooler, or at least more protected from the heat, without sacrificing the barefoot feel?
    Thanks!

  3. Just ordered some north soles! My Lems boulders have been causing my sensitive Achilles tendon to flare up. I’d considered replacing them as they’re a year old and I wear them everyday for work (I run a small property maintenance company). But instead I thought I’d try these and some better non slip laces. Just a shame they don’t have a uk supplier so I have to wait a couple of weeks for them to arrive 😭😭
    I’m hopeful they will give the Lems a new lease of life.

    1. I hope they help! If it’s the zero drop of the Boulders that is irritating your achilles you could place a small lift under the heel to relieve some tension there. Of course I don’t recommend heel lifts unless necessary, but sometimes you need to let tissue calm down.

  4. Thank you for all of this, Anya!

    I spent >25 years wearing orthotics, and was frustrated with seeking frequent visits to a chiropractor and rmt, plus endless uncomfortable shoe purchasing journeys. So I bought a pair of Whitin’s off Amazon in February on a whim and outside of cleats, I have not gone back.

    With that, I’m wondering if you have a recommendation on replacement insoles for the Whitin shoes: low profile, minimal fuss. I don’t see any direct replacements on Amazon.

    1. Hi Mike! Sounds like you’ve been on quite a journey. I hope it continues in a good direction for you. For Whitin insole replacements, I don’t know of any exactly like what comes in them, I personally would probably replace them with either 3 or 6mm NorthSole insoles (If you have a lot of vertical space in your Whitin’s you could go with the 6mm, otherwise I would say go 3mm). Whitin insoles are between those two, but have a little bit more cushion under the heel and mild support, so NorthSole isn’t exactly the same.

  5. Hi Anya! Thank you for all your lists and reviews. I’ve found them very helpful.
    I’ve been transitioning to barefoot shoes over a few years after suffering from capsulitis of the second toe. I started with Altra Solstice and Lems Boulder boots for winter and then added Earth Runners with the thicker sole. So far, so good. I just received my first pair of Wildlings. I got a pair of Kami. I ordered my usual size – 7.5 and they are good for length, but I have a narrow foot and they seem too wide. I added in a pair of thin insoles from my Altras and they felt better and a pair of thin socks and they felt good although they still appear a little wide. Do you advise trying some NorthSole insoles or simply returning the shoe? Your photo above titled “insoles for shoe fit” shows quite a difference in the appearance after an insole. That’s what I’m hoping for if I were to get NorthSoles. The Kamis really feel comfortable and they don’t slip with the Altra insole and sock. Any input would be appreciated. Thanks!!

    1. Hi Darlene! If you found that using the Altra insole gets you the fit you need, then I would say go for adding the NorthSoles. In general slip ons are harder to modify just because there is no adjustability and less shoe holding on to your foot. But it sounds like your experiment is showing you that adding an insole helps the fit. I use an extra insole in almost all of my wildlings so they fit better!

  6. Hi Anya. Any recommendations for an insole that doesn’t absorb water? I recently wore my Xero Mesa Trail shoes on a 2 week thru-hike here in the UK and my feet were continually wet due to the weather. I use an extra insole in the shoes as I have ‘low volume feet’. However the shoes and the xero insole quickly dried out but the extra insole I added held onto the water so I’m after a quick drying flat insole. Any recommendations? Many thanks, David

  7. Hi, thanks for your suggestion, however I’ve just got some lovely Silverlight socks (non-waterproof) that fit well, are comfortable and importantly don’t smell even when wet and I’ve been hiking for many days so I’m a bit reluctant to try new ones. Also won’t waterproof socks keep the sweat in and thus make your feet wet anyway? The Freet website looks interesting though and thanks for suggesting it to me. Thanks again.

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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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