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 ANYASREVIEWS10 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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62 thoughts on “The Best Insoles To Wear With Barefoot Shoes”

  1. The Amazon link is for fake sheepskin, it’s polyester. Your feet will really smell. Sadly I ordered them thinking they were real and had to return them.

    1. We didn’t have any issue with them, our pair was real wool and the listing linked here says they are real Australian wool. Maybe they sent you the wrong product, or somehow you got routed to something different?

  2. Thank you for all these suggestions! Do you think it’s ok to put rigid orthotics on top of sheepskin/wool insoles? I find these are the only ones thick enough to fill the space needed in my LEM boots to accommodate orthotics but not sure if it’d be unstable. Thanks!

  3. I’ve been trying to find a gel insole that is made for wide toe box shoes. Looking for gel because I’ve read that it mimics the body’s naturals shock absorption which I think would be beneficial for concrete/asphalt. Have any insight or recommendations about this?

  4. Kelly J. Wieber

    Do you have any recommendations for extra wide feet? None of these suggestions above say anything about width…

    I recently bought a pair of SoftStar Mary Janes, but I need an insole to help break me into the barefoot lifestyle. So, I appreciate any suggestions you may have!

    1. NorthSole insoles come quite large and wide with the expectation that you’ll cut them down to fit. And you can get the larger size for even more width, again cutting whatever excess you need to. Otherwise you might want to look at insoles directly from extra wide shoe brands – like Softstar or Realfoot. Many brands sell their own, and that can be a good way to get something you know will fit.

  5. Hello! Is there an updated link for Bridge Soles? The one in the article is broken, and I’m looking for an insole to help a family member transition to barefoot shoes. Thank you!

  6. Anya, thank you for your tremendous collection of information on barefoot products. Recently I had a total knee replacement and now that leg is longer than the other. I need about 1/4″ elevation in my non-surgical leg. Can you point me toward an insole that adds that kind of elevation? I have found a vibram outer sole from Xero can be taped to the outside of the shoe but……
    What do you think?
    Thank you

    1. In your case you probably are looking for a non-compressible material to correct the length discrepancy. There are heel lifts that you can put under the insole in your shoes, which will be the easiest to work you. You could also try to find something that is closer to full length like this option, but this is too tall for you. Fortunately there are a variety of products out there that can be used with many different shoes. One other idea – some shops will customize two different shoes. You can find a list of brands here. Shamma and Aintap come to mind as likely to be able to help you!

  7. Hi there! I was wondering if you had a brand list of shoes (sneakers, closed toe/ballet flats maybe?) that come with at least a little cushion insert with them? I’m trying to rebuild my shoe collection that will work specifically with city walking/standing. I apologize if I’ve missed it even with looking through everything here.

    1. Hi Carmen! We don’t have a list specifically like that because it can vary depending on the model even within brands, but do try to note on our reviews and lists if they have a removable insole.

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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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