The Barefoot Shoes FAQ - Your Ultimate Guide to Everything Barefoot & Minimalist Shoes
Welcome to the Barefoot Shoes FAQ! This is a collection of all of the common questions I get regarding barefoot shoes, from whether barefoot shoes are right for you all the way to hard-to-find barefoot shoe categories. From this page you can find all the resources you need to get started on your journey to happier feet and a stronger body.
1. Barefoot Shoes Overview
Barefoot (or minimalist) shoes are so called because they allow your feet to move naturally, the way they would if actually barefoot. The defining features of a barefoot shoe are that they have a foot shaped toe box, flexible sole, and no heel elevation (zero drop). Read this article for a more detailed breakdown of what is a barefoot and minimalist shoe.
Most people wear shoes for long periods of time every day. So when those shoes squish your toes and limit your mobility, the effects are cumulative. On the other hand, barefoot shoes preserve your natural foot function and can keep you strong and mobile throughout your life – barefoot and minimalist shoes are for people who want to use their feet forever. For more info, read this article on The Benefits of Barefoot Shoes.
Natural footwear (sometimes called “functional footwear”) is an umbrella term that generally refers to all shoes that let your feet move naturally. “Natural footwear” can range from an ultra-minimal sandal to a thick cushioned sneaker – but at a minimum natural footwear is zero drop (no heel elevation) and has an anatomical foot shape. Minimalist and Barefoot are terms often used to describe shoes that meet those same minimum requirements plus have a thin flexible sole. For more detailed info, read this article on the Benefits of Barefoot Shoes.
Once given space to spread out and move freely, feet can change in surprising ways. The most common visible changes are for the toes to spread out and the entire foot to widen and even lengthen. Very flat feet might actually shorten as the arch muscles become more active, and some people find they have a visible arch where none was before. Typically these changes happen slowly over time and in relation to how often you’re barefoot, in barefoot shoes, and/or doing foot exercises.
This can sometimes make buying shoes difficult and is one reason you may want to buy shoes wider than you think you need. But let’s celebrate the adaptability of the human body and that it can revert back to it’s natural shape! These changes are more than aesthetic – your feet are becoming more functional. And don’t forget that having a natural foot shape doesn’t mean you can’t rock the styles you love – that’s what Anya’s Reviews is all about, check out my barefoot shoe styling tips to get started.
If you’d like to see reader submitted foot transformation photos, follow the @ButMakeItBarefoot account on social media!
Barefoot shoes are zero drop, which makes it possible for you to stand straight with your body aligned. By contrast, most shoes you find in the store have a heel. Even most sneakers and ballet “flats” are not totally flat from heel to toe, which pushes you forward and requires compensations somewhere up the chain. This is why a totally flat sole is a non-negotiable feature of barefoot shoes, and it can improve your spinal alignment and alleviate back and neck pain.
To learn more about the features of barefoot shoes and why they matter, read the article on The Benefits of Barefoot Shoes.
Barefoot shoes push back against the notion that all feet need to be supported. They do not have arch support because they are designed to let your feet move freely and naturally. In fact, arch support removes the opportunity for your feet to support themselves, which can actually weaken the intrinsic foot muscles. In much the same way that wearing a brace or cast on other body parts for too long weakens those areas.
While it may take time, even people who have been reliant on arch support may be able to strengthen and rehabilitate their feet so that they no longer need it. If you have preexisting foot conditions it’s best to consult a physician – some feet need to be supported at least temporarily.
Refer to the section on Who Shouldn’t Wear Barefoot Shoes? for more information.
Shoe drop refers to the difference in elevation between the toe and the heel. A zero drop shoe has no difference, the entire foot is the same distance from the ground – in other words it’s completely flat. That means that if a zero drop shoe is 10mm thick, it’s 10mm both under the ball of the foot and under the heel. Other terms used to describe the difference in thickness between the heel and the toe are “heel rise” and “heel to toe differential.”
You can find out why this matters in the How Do Barefoot Shoes Affect My Alignment FAQ.
Toe spring is when the front of the shoe, where the toes sit, curves upward. If this is rigid, then it perpetually forces the toes upward and can lead to an imbalance in the foot (overstretched plantar fascia, shortened extensors). Over time this can lead to foot pain and dysfunction. That’s why barefoot shoes have no rigid toe spring and are completely flat.
Note that the problem is when the toe spring is rigid. Many barefoot shoes get “acquired toe spring” after they’ve been worn. As long as the shoe flattens out when you stand in it, it shouldn’t be a problem.
2. Are They Right For Me?
Most otherwise healthy individuals are capable of transitioning to barefoot shoes. It might take time and supplemental training, but human bodies are highly adaptable and we were born barefoot after all. If you are able to wear barefoot shoes, it can help with many common foot and lower extremity issues, and may prevent future problems.
There is a commonly held belief in foot care that flat feet must be supported. But it’s unclear what exactly the definition of a flat foot is, and what complications it leads to. Arch support in traditional footwear does not teach you how to use your feet well and it doesn’t allow you to use your foot muscles, so it might actually hinder rather than help. Foot function is a much bigger indicator of success than the height of your arch. As long as there is no pain, dysfunction, or underlying pathologies, then both kids and adults can wear barefoot shoes even with flat feet.
Like with flat feet, there is a commonly held belief in foot care that high arches must be supported. But foot function is a much bigger indicator of success than the height of your arch. High arches might be an indicator that your foot is not mobile, and therefore might benefit from the flexibility of barefoot shoes. As long as there is no pain, dysfunction, or underlying pathologies, then both kids and adults can wear barefoot shoes even with high arches.
Plantar fasciosis (sometimes erroneously called plantar fasciitis) can be debilitating and difficult to treat, but proper footwear is a critical piece of the solution. Modern footwear with tight toe boxes and toe spring strain the plantar fascia and reduce blood flow – switching to minimalist shoes can help with that problem. But you might need additional foot training and professional help in conjunction with new footwear to fully recover.
Treatment of Plantar Fasciosis – article by Dr. Ray McClanahan
Narrow Toe Boxes And Blood Flow – research study
Conditioning your feet to be strong, mobile, and stable is a long term solution to foot pain and injury, and barefoot shoes are a factor in that. Because most modern day footwear restricts motion and offers artificial support, switching to barefoot shoes gives you an opportunity to use your feet more. That naturally results in more strength and coordination. The zero drop soles in barefoot shoes also allow you to stand with better alignment, which can alleviate back and neck pain. But for many people changing your footwear is not enough. Barefoot shoes should be a part of a bigger understanding that we can improve our foot health through lifestyle changes.
You can find a list of foot conditions and suggested treatments here.
The Foot Core System – research article
Walking in Minimalist Shoes Strengthens Feet – research study
For a long time it was believed that bunions were genetic and nothing could be done about them. But evidence increasingly shows that bunions might actually be fact caused by ill-fitting shoes and lifestyle. If identified and treated early, bunions can often be completely reversed.
The anatomically shaped toe box in barefoot shoes allows the toes to lay straight (instead of being squeezed together), preventing further deformity and giving the foot the opportunity to realign. In addition to barefoot shoes, toe spacers and foot exercises can also help to improve the condition. Many people find that their symptoms go away as their foot health improves, but it does not always completely reverse the bunion and you may need to consult a medical professional.
For a deeper look at how to relieve bunion symptoms, read this article on
How To Help Your Bunions If You Don’t Want Surgery.
In general it’s best to use your body on a variety of surfaces and terrain, so as not to overuse certain parts. But if you have strong, conditioned feet then standing for long periods of time in barefoot shoes shouldn’t be an issue. However, if you are new to barefoot shoes and concerned about being uncomfortable, consider an option with a thicker sole to begin with or adding a barefoot insole (that has no heel rise!) to your shoes. Here are several barefoot shoe options with a sole thickness of at least 10mm.
You can also improve the natural padding on the bottoms of your feet by exposing them to different textures. Here are some tips for adding foot texture to your life.
Muscle Use While Walking on Uneven Terrain – research study
Just like standing all day, hiking/running/walking long distances in barefoot shoes is fine if your feet are conditioned and prepared for it. But modern lifestyles make it difficult to achieve that, and many people doing huge mileage opt for more cushioned (but sill zero drop) shoes to begin with. If you have been moving for years in traditional athletic shoes with pointed toe boxes, arch support, and thick cushioned heels, you can injure yourself if you suddenly switch “cold turkey” to minimalist shoes. It’s a whole-body change and you may need to give yourself time to transition. The most important thing is to pay attention to your body and find what works for you.
Here are some barefoot shoe brands with thicker soles.
Seniors can wear barefoot shoes too! In modern western society an idea has taken root that advancing years means declining abilities. But we have learned from observation of non-western cultures and scientific research that this is not necessarily so – seniors can maintain and increase strength by exercising and/or not decreasing activity. This applies to feet in the same way – a young age is not a requirement to adapt to barefoot shoes. In fact, the flat and flexible soles of barefoot shoes might be especially helpful for older people who are at a higher risk of falling because they allow for more sensory feedback to the proprioceptive system. As with other medical considerations, you should consult with a medical professional for your unique needs.
Exercised – by Daniel Lieberman
Falls Are Leading Cause of Death in Seniors – CDC article
Specific whole-body shifts induced by frequency-modulated vibrations of human plantar soles – research article
Keeping your kids’ feet healthy from the beginning is much easier than trying to correct a problem later, and most kids have no problem at all in barefoot shoes. In fact, many move more confidently and fall less in barefoot shoes than “regular” thick, heeled shoes! It’s also normal for young children to have flat feet, and shouldn’t be a cause for concern unless they are having pain or dysfunction. If you’re concerned about your child’s development, see a physician.
The Best Barefoot Shoes for Kids
Switching to unsupportive shoes with thin flexible soles can be a big change, and for some people it’s not advised to try it without professional assistance. While most otherwise-healthy individuals can adapt over time to barefoot and minimalist shoes, if you have the following you might consider working with a professional:
- Ehlers Danlos/severe hypermobility
- Rigid musculoskeletal deformities
- Any pre-existing chronic foot condition
- Peripheral neuropathy.
Despite the fact that the transition can be long and involved for some people, in most cases it’s a not a question of whether it’s possible, but whether you are willing to stick with the process. And don’t forget that it’s not an all or nothing deal – almost anyone regardless of their starting point can improve their foot health. A few ways to do this even if you meet the above criteria are:
- Choose shoes with a wider toe box. You can keep your support and even a heel rise and still benefit from the toe space.
- Do basic foot exercises. These are very beneficial and available to most individuals.
- Provide safe sensory stimulation for your feet through Naboso products or with barefoot time (adapting this to your personal condition).
Yes you can run in barefoot shoes, but if you are used to running in supportive maximalist shoes it may require a change in form and an adjustment period. If you would like to adopt a natural barefoot running style, start with lots of barefoot walking first! Pay close attention to your body and give yourself time to adapt. While it may take time and dedication to relearn this natural movement, running in barefoot shoes can be injury free and enjoyable.
Additional Barefoot Style Running Resources:
Irene Davis on Running Injuries & Minimalist Shoes
Running Rewired, by Jay Dicharry
Run For Your Life, by Mark Cucuzella
Older Yet Faster, by Keith Bateman and Heidi Jones
3. How Do I Get Started?
So you’re ready to take the leap! For your first pair of barefoot shoes, consider starting with a style you wear often and that will fit naturally into your life (if you never wear sneakers, don’t buy them!). Check out these extensive barefoot shoe lists for tons of options in different categories.
And you can familiarize yourself with the many minimalist shoe brands out there in the Barefoot Shoe Finder.
A few things to consider as you peruse brands:
- Cost: If you want your first pair to be low risk, use the Price filter in the Shoe Finder or try something from this list of Affordable Barefoot Shoes.
- Sole Thickness: You may want to start with a thicker soled minimalist shoe first – it’s not necessary but can make the transition easier. Specify the type of sole you want in the Shoe Finder Quiz, or check out this list of Beginner Barefoot Shoe Brands
- Location/Shipping & Returns: You can choose something close to home and/or with accessible policies to make the whole process easy. Read the brand policies outlined in the Shoe Finder.
- Shoe Size: You are likely to make some sizing mistakes at first – you may have been buying the wrong shoe size your whole life! Read my tips on getting an accurate foot measurement and consider options with no-hassle return policies.
Transitioning to barefoot shoes is a process and will look different for every individual. Zero drop shoes with a natural toe box make it possible to move naturally, but many people have weak intrinsic foot muscles and learned unnatural gait patterns (heavy heel striking for example) that carry over even in barefoot shoes. So you’ll have the best results if you consider other ways to improve your overall gait and foot health in addition to wearing better shoes.
Here are my tips for transitioning to barefoot shoes:
- Add foot exercises such as these to your daily routine.
- Go completely barefoot often to naturally relearn functional movement
- Add texture to your indoor environments to stimulate the nerves in your feet
- Don’t be afraid to swap back and forth between your new barefoot shoes and what you are used to.
- Consider a beginner barefoot shoe brand if you are uncomfortable in thin, minimalist soles.
- Remember it takes time for your body to adapt!
It might take several weeks, months or years for your muscles, ligament, nerves, and skin to adapt to the new stresses of being in barefoot shoes. This is why going slowly and carefully is often the best path. Give your brain and your body time to relearn how to be comfortable barefoot, and remember to walk before you run!
If you’re unable to adapt your walking and running to a barefoot style, barefoot shoes may not always be comfortable. This is ok – you can alternate between barefoot shoes and your old shoes as your body adapts. If you are already used to being barefoot often and are physically fit, you may be able to switch over immediately. Biggest take away: Everyone is different. Don’t push yourself past pain and listen to your body if it’s telling you to slow down!
Check out the FAQ on How To Pick Your First Pair of Barefoot Shoes to get started.
List of Resources/Professionals Who Can Help the Transition Process:
Walking 101 – Tips for walking well in barefoot shoes
Whole Body Barefoot, by Katy Bowman
Gait Happens My Foot Function Membership & Virtual Consultation
Andy Bryant Virtual Consultation
Ray McClanahan Virtual Consultation
Gait Happens Certified Practitioners
Healthy Feet Alliance Health Directory
Some people transition to barefoot shoes overnight and never look back. Others take years to get used to it. The most important thing to understand is that ligaments and muscles take several weeks or even months to adapt to new stresses. If you’ve spent most of your life in restrictive footwear you may find that many new tissues are suddenly being used after lying dormant for years. It’s ok to switch back and forth between barefoot shoes and your old shoes, or to use arch support in barefoot shoes periodically to give yourself time to evolve. It will also take quite some time for the skin on the soles of your feet and the tissues between your bones to toughen and become less sensitive to pressure. See the section on How Do You Transition To Barefoot Shoes? for more info.
If you’ve begun to wear barefoot shoes only to start having pain, you might need to back off a little. Here are a few options:
- You can find a barefoot shoe with more cushion
- Add an insole to your existing barefoot shoes
- Switch back and forth between your usual footwear and your new barefoot shoes
- Do foot exercises to stimulate the nerves and strengthen your tissues
Pain signals are messages from our body, we should pay attention! Fortunately a few adjustments can often make a huge difference as your body adapts.
Don’t forget that it’s your feet that do the work (not your shoes), so adding in foot exercises and barefoot time on stimulating textures will strengthen and condition your body more quickly than with new shoes alone.
But if problems persist consider consulting a professional. See How Do You Transition To Barefoot Shoes? for a few recommendations.
Barefoot Shoes for Beginners
Foot Exercises for Transitioning to Barefoot Shoes
It’s not necessary to switch all your shoes, but the more you are barefoot or in barefoot shoes, the more opportunity you have to strengthen, align, and stabilize your feet. And with the myriad of barefoot shoe options available today, you can be in natural footwear 100% of the time. But it takes time to transition your body AND your wardrobe. One easy way to make the switch is to buy barefoot shoes whenever you need to replace an old pair – you will naturally build up your options over time without straining your budget. If you keep a few “hurty” shoes in your closet for certain occasions, you’ll still be doing yourself a great service by wearing healthy shoes the rest of the time.
If you’re ready to get started, here is my guide to picking your first pair of barefoot shoes!
Because barefoot shoes are not often sold in physical stores, be prepared to order online. The first step is to measure your feet! Here are my best practices for accurately measuring your feet in order to pick a barefoot shoe size:
- I always measure my feet in centimeters to ensure an accurate number, and I measure before each purchase (in case my feet have changed).
- If you plan to wear socks in the shoes you’re purchasing you should have them on.
- Measure at the end of the day when your feet are biggest.
- If you are new to barefoot shoes, keep in mind that they may feel too big the first time you put them on. If they stay securely on your foot when you walk and don’t slosh around, that space around your toes is good and you probably picked the correct size!
- The general recommendation is to wear shoes that are 1 – 1.2cm longer than your foot, but it can vary significantly depending on your preference and the style of shoe. In slip on shoes I sometimes have only .5cm extra length so that they fit close and securely on my foot. In lace up boots that are highly adjustable, I am comfortable with as much as 2cm extra length. If the shoe matches your foot shape perfectly, less extra length is required (they’re foot gloves!). And all of this can be impacted by the design of the upper, the materials used, and your particular foot type and preferences.
Despite the inevitable variations, getting an accurate measurement and understanding a size chart can reduce the chance of sizing mistakes. There are two main ways to measure: A foot tracing and the wall method. For expensive/risky shoe purchases I always measure both ways TWICE in the evening. It’s ok if your measurements are slightly different every time, just use the average.
A foot tracing is the most common way to measure. You simply trace an outline of your foot and measure. But it’s important to know that it adds about .5 cm to your actual foot size.
So if you use a foot tracing to figure out what size shoe you need, take your measurement and add only .5 – 1cm (so the total shoe length you are looking for would then be 1 – 1.2cm longer than your actual foot size), and find the nearest corresponding size on the size chart. My feet measure 23.2 from a foot tracing, so I look for shoes with an internal length of 23.7-24.2.
Some people get confused about their foot width when they use a tracing, because they aren’t taking into account the extra mm the tracing added. My foot measures 9.2cm wide from a tracing but I can comfortably wear shoes that have an internal measurement of 8.8cm (without socks). This is because my actual foot width is .5cm less than the 9.2 I get from a tracing.
The wall method yields the most accurate length and width of your foot. You measure foot length by placing your heel lightly against the wall (don’t push it in) and putting a heavy book where your longest toe ends. Then mark where the book is and measure that distance. You get your foot width by lining up the outside edge of your foot against the wall and placing the book on the other side. Then mark with a pencil and measure.
And if you’re now ready to learn how to interpret a size chart, head on over to that FAQ here.
To understand a size chart you need to read the instructions listed on the brands’ web page, because different brands create their size charts differently.
- If the size chart shows the length/width of the insole then you take your foot length and add roughly 1.2cm to it (or whatever your preferred extra length is).
- If the size chart shows the dimensions of the “last” used to mold the shoe then you follow the above instructions.
- If the size chart shows the length of the foot that fits in each size then all you need to do is locate the size that is closest to your measurement (but not smaller than).
If there are no instructions for how to use the size chart, contact the brand for clarification. But in my experience, when it’s not stated, the size chart shows the internal dimensions of the shoe and not the foot that fits inside.
In general, you want the internal length to be approximately 1 cm longer than your longest toe, but depending on the shoe anywhere from .7cm to 2cm extra length could work (for example, in dress shoes I prefer less space in front of my toes, but in boots or shoes I wear socks with I like more length).
An accurate measurement is important for selecting a size. Learn how to measure your feet here.
4. Finding The Right Barefoot Shoes For Me
Once you start paying attention to your feet, you may find that not all barefoot shoes fit you well. Because shoes fit so closely to such a complicated structure (the foot) it can be difficult to find ones that match your particular shape and size. This guide helps you determine your foot type and the shoes that most closely match it, and you can also spend time perusing the many reviews and resources here to find feedback on each barefoot shoe brand. Ultimately, you will have to experience barefoot shoes to learn what you like/need in a shoe.
Barefoot shoes come in a variety of widths, so not all will fit you. Here are 3 resources to help you find options.
- You can find a list and visual comparison of the widest barefoot shoe options in this article.
- You can take the quiz at BarefootShoeFinder.com to get matched up with brands most likely to fit your feet. For your convenience, here is a list of brands in the Barefoot Shoe Finder tagged as “Extra Wide”.
- There are also many custom barefoot shoe options if you still don’t find what you need.
Having trouble with barefoot shoes being too wide for you? You can use the filtering options on the Barefoot Shoe Finder to browse options that fit a narrow foot. For your convenience, here are several brands from the Shoe Finder tagged as having narrow options.
Yes! Here are two resources two help you find brands and retailers near you.
- The Barefoot Shoe Finder – Enter your location in the quiz, and then you can filter by brands that “ship from” your location.
- The Barefoot Shoe Brands & Retailers By Region List – See it in list format in this article!
While thin flexible soles have benefits, you don’t need to start out with them if you don’t want to. In fact, a little cushion at first can make the transition easier as you relearn a more natural way of moving. In the Barefoot Shoe Finder quiz you can select the sole thickness you prefer and browse your options that way.
For your convenience, here is a list of barefoot shoe brands that carry options in 10mm thickness or more. Keep in mind that 10mm is still thinner than most athletic sneakers on the market today.
Absolutely! Though they aren’t usually called barefoot shoes, you can find natural footwear options that meet all the healthy shoe requirements but have some cushion.
This can be useful (but aren’t a requirement) if you are
- Transitioning to barefoot shoes
- Have pain standing all day
- Run/walk/hike long distances
- Have lost the fatty tissue on the soles of your feet
Here are a few of my favorites:
To learn more about these brands, plus find more cushioned options, read my Barefoot Shoes for Beginners Article.
Cushioned shoes are not a requirement as you transition to barefoot shoes, but they are here for you if they meet your particular needs best. Read this FAQ to learn more about How To Transition To Barefoot Shoes.
There are many ways to define your foot type. Here at Anya’s Reviews we use Shape (shown above), Width, and Volume to determine what to look for in a shoe. You can find a guide to understanding your foot type and the brands most likely to work for them here.
Foot volume is the amount of vertical space your foot takes up. This can be at any point along the foot, including at the arch or instep, the ball of the foot, or the toes. If your foot is “tall” in any or all of those areas it is high volume. If your foot is low to the ground or shallow, then it is low volume. This impacts shoe fit significantly, since some brands cater to low volume feet, others to high, and most to a middle ground. If you have high volume feet you may find that many shoes feel tight over the top of your foot. If you have low volume feet than you may find that shoes often slip around and you can’t get them tight enough over the top of your foot. Read this article for more information on foot volume + shoe options.
And refer to the Fit Hacks For High and Low Volume Feet in this FAQ for a few tricks.
Shoes with tiny toe boxes have muddied the waters when it comes to foot width. Many people go through life thinking they have the widest feet in the world only to realize they’re actually average! When trying to determine your foot width, keep in mind that width is in proportion to length and that shoes get wider as you go up in size. It may take trying a few different barefoot shoe brands to determine where your foot width falls, but here you can find a general guide to foot width and barefoot shoe options in this article. And you can search for options by width in the Barefoot Shoe Finder.
There are some pretty dang cheap shoes out there in the world and barefoot shoe brands can’t always compete. Why is that? There are a lot of costs that go into manufacturing and marketing a barefoot shoe that most customers are not aware of – from custom lasts and molds, to labor costs for handmade products, and the fact that thin, flexible materials actually cost more to manufacture. Here is a thorough discussion of what it takes to make barefoot shoes and why they are sometimes more expensive than their non-barefoot counterparts.
But not all barefoot shoes are expensive, in fact many are comparable to other shoes on the market. Here you can find my Top 10 Affordable Barefoot Shoes for Adults.
And you can use the filters on the Barefoot Shoe Finder to browse by price range.
Wearing better shoes doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg. Here are three resource to help you find cheaper barefoot shoe options.
A bunion is when the metatarsal head (where the toe connects to the foot) moves away from the foot causing a painful protrusion. This can happen on both the big toe and the pinkie toe, and it makes shopping for shoes difficult. Here are some tips for finding barefoot shoes that work well with bunions:
- Look for wide, foot-shaped toe boxes even though it’ll give you more space than you need. Your toes may splay out over time, and it relieves pressure on the bunion.
- Choose shoes with a soft upper that spreads easily and doesn’t pinch while you walk.
- Look for shoes with soles that sit underneath the foot. If you want to try shoes that have a high walled sole, make sure they are wide enough that they don’t touch your bunions.
- Make sure the shoes are secure on your foot and don’t slide – running into the sides of your shoe can exacerbate the pain.
- If you are feeling discomfort from the thin soles, adding a NorthSole insole can provide cushion while still keeping your shoe soft and flexible.
It can also be really helpful to wear toe spacers inside your shoes – one more reason to choose extra wide shoes.
Here are a few of my favorite options for people with bunions:
- Unshoes Terra Vida – Use
ANYAfor 10% off
- Wildling Shoes
- Posh Panda
- Gea Soles
- Tadeevo Bliss – Use code
ANYASREVIEWSfor 5% off
- Zeazoo Sahara
- Tikki Vibe
- Any thong strap sandal
See some of these options in this video on shoes for bunions!
If for whatever reason you need/want a more structured shoe, go for extra wide options. Again, it’ll be more space than your toes need but will provide your bunion the clearance it needs. As long as the shoe fits securely around your midfoot, the extra toe space shouldn’t be a problem.
5. Changing More Than Your Shoes
Socks do affect the function of your feet: they can restrict your toes just like shoes can and they cover your nerves inhibiting your sensory input. So finding time to be both shoe and sock-less is an important part of improving your overall foot health. Many people, myself included, often go completely barefoot in their shoes.
But if you want to wear socks, you certainly can! I wear socks in the cold months and sometimes to make my shoes fit better. It’s just a good idea to find socks that let your toes spread out so you get the full benefit of your foot shaped shoes. Find a list of many different foot-friendly sock options below.
Because socks can restrict your toes just like shoes can, it’s a good idea to look for socks with toe space. Toe socks let each toe move freely and are a great option for full foot mobility. There are also anatomical socks with a foot shape (unlike most socks, which are symmetrical). Find a list of foot-friendly sock options here.
Toe spacers have myriad benefits for your feet and can help you transition to barefoot shoes faster, but they aren’t a requirement. Here are some reasons to consider toe spacers:
- They help align the toes. When the big toe is aligned you can access your arch muscles while moving. It can also bring pain relief from bunions and prevent further deformity.
- They break up dense tissue in the foot by spreading out the metatarsals. This can ease chronic plantar fascia pain and hammer toes.
- They bring blood to the foot, which speeds up healing and improves function.
While there are many options out there, I personally use and recommend Correct Toes. You can learn more about Correct Toes here.
Walking barefoot or in barefoot shoes is exercise for the feet! But you can get even more benefit and transition faster with additional foot strengthening exercises. They can be very helpful to retrain the brain to use your feet better. You can find 5 Simple Foot Exercises that can easily be added to your routine to improve your foot function faster.
6. Shoe Care and Fit Hacks
Barefoot shoes can last a long time if you care for them. Cleaning and conditioning leather shoes will keep them durable and nice for years, and if you live in a wet/snowy climate a little waterproofing can go a long way. It also helps to cover your shoes when not being worn to protect them from light and dust. You can read more about ways to preserve and protect your shoes in this article.
Shoes that are worn get dirty – here are some tips for cleaning them. If the shoes are extra delicate, colorful, or made of wool then I dry brush, spot clean, or hand wash in the sink as needed without product. This is often enough, but I sometimes use a dab of dish soap or leather cleaner.
If the shoes are very dirty or smelly, then I resort to fully immersing them in water or using the washing machine. Most shoe brands are wary of suggesting you wash your shoes in the machine, because they can get damaged. But I personally have washed many a shoe – even leather ones!
Here’s my formula:
– A drop of tea tree oil in each shoe
– Put shoes in mesh garment bag
– Dye & Scent Free Detergent (I use Trader Joe’s brand or soap nuts)
– Use Gentle Cycle or Delicate on the machine
– Air dry the shoes over an air vent
For more shoe care and fit tips, check out this resource!
Barefoot shoes are meant to be functional, and for many people that means they need to withstand wet conditions. While you can buy waterproof and water resistant barefoot shoes, I find it very useful to have some waterproofing agents on hand. Here’s how to waterproof your barefoot shoes.
- Make sure that you clean your shoes and let them fully dry before treating them. A damp rag is usually sufficient.
- Choose your waterproofing products based on the material of the shoe. If I don’t want the look and feel of the shoe changed at all, then I choose a spray. If I want a more effective treatment and/or my shoe is unlikely to be affected by the treatment, then I go for a wax/oil based product.
- Test the product on a small, inconspicuous part of the shoe and let it dry for 24 hours to make sure you are happy with how it.
- Follow the product instructions to finish waterproofing!
- Reapply periodically. Sprays need to reapplied more frequently, waxes can go an entire season on one treatment.
Here are my preferred products.
If working with suede, nubuck, fabric, or any light colored delicate material I use waterproofing sprays because it’s less likely to change the look and texture of the material. They do need to be reapplied every so often, especially after you clean your shoes or they get soaked .
- Carbon Pro – The most effective without changing the material in any way! Works on everything, including vegan and fabrics
- Nano Tech Waterproof Leather Spray – Have not used myself, but it comes highly rated
- Nikwax Footwear Care – This is an ecofriendly spray, but it does slightly alter the look of suede/nubuck
These products have to be rubbed into the shoe and are more likely to affect the look, but they are often more effective as waterproofers. Best used on smooth leather/vegan leather products.
- Renapur Leather Balsam – This conditioner is a gentle waterproofer, not as effective as the below options. But really great for restoring the look of your shoes and increasing their longevity!
- Otter Wax – Works great.
- Sno Seal – Very effective, but DEFINITELY changes the leather (unless you are dealing with a glossy black to begin with).
Additional Waterproofing Hacks:
- Aquaseal – This is used to repair holes or seal up seams on your shoes!
- Neos Overshoe – This overshoe can be worn directly over your shoes to make them waterproof and slip-resistant.
- Waterproof Socks from Freet – Use code ANYASREVIEWS-10 for 10% off your order from Freet. Interesting idea to keep your feet, but not your shoes, dry!
Many shoes made of natural materials can stretch and conform to your foot over time. My rule of thumb is that if the shoe generally matches my foot shape and is only a little snug then it’s likely to become a good fit with a bit of work. If it’s shaped like an almond (with a pointed toe), if my toes are curling up at the edges, or if it feels really tight then I don’t waste my time trying to stretch. Here are my two favorite ways to stretch my shoes:
- Stuff the toe box with socks or newspaper and wave a hairdryer over it
- Push a golf ball into the spot that I want stretched
- Use a wooden shoe stretcher
Shoes also naturally stretch as you wear them, so a slightly snug shoe made of leather or natural fabrics will likely become a perfect fit after a few wears.
If you have high volume feet and your shoes are too tight over the top of your foot but fit everywhere else you can try a few things:
- Size up – Depending on the shoe you may be able to size up for more vertical space and still get a good fit. This is most likely to work if your foot volume is predominantly in the instep.
- Stretch the shoe by strategically stuffing it and waving a hairdryer to warm up the material.
- Stretch the shoe with a wooden stretcher.
If you have low volume feet and the shoe is floppy but fits your length and width, here are a few things to try:
- Barefoot Insoles – These work well if you have enough vertical space for them.
- Tongue Pads – My favorite low volume foot hack.
- Heel Grip – Helps with heel slippage.
- Moleskin – This allows you to fill in a little space wherever it’s needed, even on sandals.
- Leg Warmers / Stirrup Socks – Works wonderfully in boots to fill up space but keep your toes free.
Heels slipping out of your barefoot shoes? This can affect your gait and should be addressed for maximum comfort. Fortunately a few fit hacks can usually solve the problem!
- Leg Warmers / Stirrup Socks – Works wonderfully in the cooler months to fill up space but keep your toes free.
- Heel Grip – My favorite trick for dress shoes.
- Moleskin – This is thinner than a heel grip and allows you to fill in a little space wherever it’s needed, even on sandals.
- Wear shoes with laces or straps that go over the arch to keep the shoe secure.
Barefoot shoes have thin soles, so it stands to reason that they would wear out more quickly than other shoes. I have found this to be sometimes true (if you’re comparing a Doc Marten or Timberlands sole to a 5mm thick layer of rubber, there’s no question which will last longer), but in general barefoot shoes last as long as other shoes. Many barefoot shoe brands are using high quality outsoles that have been developed specifically to be thin AND durable (e.g., Vibram soles do an excellent job at that). And besides, many “regular” shoes are cheaply made and fall apart quickly. How you use your shoes will have the greatest impact on how quickly they wear out, so if you’re concerned about this, choose an option with a thicker more durable sole.
Currently there are just a handful of tall barefoot boots available, and most cater to an average calf width. The Groundies Tampere has the widest calf of them all, and is working well for many people who don’t fit into the other options. But here are three other options for making any of them work for your calf size.
Currently there are just a handful of tall barefoot boots available, and most cater to an average calf width. Two options that have a narrower calf width are the Peerko Regina, and the Angles Fashion Kairos. But here are two ways to get a perfect calf fit on your barefoot boots.
- Take them to a local cobbler – many can alter them to fit narrower
- Order custom barefoot boots (see this list of custom barefoot shoemakers for options).
7. Categories of Barefoot Shoes + Hard To Find Options
Have an uncommon shoe size? The Barefoot Shoe Finder is the best way to find options that come in your size. Simply enter your shoe size while taking the quiz. For your convenience, here are the brands that carry EU size 47 and above.
And if you are someone with small feet, here are the brands that carry EU 35 and smaller.
Praise the healthy feet gods, yes. You don’t have to suffer cold OR hurt feet during the winter months. Here are several barefoot boot resources to get you started.
This is an area that we hope to see grow, but there are some good options! I have researched this extensively, for info on the current best options read this article on the Best Barefoot and Minimalist Safety Shoes on the Market.
Here are the best non-slip options for people working in restaurants, nursing, or boating.
- Xero Prio All-Day SR – Read my review of them here.
- Birkenstock QO 500 – Non-slip work shoe that is zero drop with insole removed.
- Barebarics Zoom
- Astral Loyak – These are boating shoes with a grippy, non-slip sole. Remove the insole to be zero drop and note that they are a narrower option.
The following weren’t designed for industry workers, but still might work.
- Be Lenka Glide – Be Lenka Barefoot released a new slip-resistant outsole in 2021.
- Groundies Original Sole – Groundies Barefootwear has 3 different outsoles. Anything made with the original TrueSense sole is slip-resistant (but not non-slip).
- Bohempia – These are popular among skateboarders, and the slip-resistant outsole can also work for nursing/ food service.
- Xero Shoes 360 – These are meant to be grippy for quick lateral movement, but can also work in other situations!
Here you can find a list of many barefoot shoe brands that have either full leather soles or conductive materials for grounding.
There are some foot-friendly cleats and court sport shoes in the works! Natur Athletics has launched a Kickstarter (ending November 12, 2022) for kids and adults sports shoes!
The only zero drop golfing shoe that I am aware of is the True OG Feel.
Babies should be kept barefoot as much as possible. But when it comes time to find your baby shoes, keep an eye out for options that are very soft, flexible, and thin so baby can sense the world through their feet.
Babies should be kept barefoot as much as possible. But when it comes time to find your baby shoes, keep an eye out for options that are very soft, flexible, and thin so baby can sense the world through their feet. They have no need for shoes with any structure!
Fortunately, many baby shoes are already barefoot approved so you don’t need to be limited to my list. Once you know what to look for you can pass on any options that are not totally soft and flexible!
But here are a few baby barefoot shoe brands that I know and love:
- Duchess & Fox (US) – ANYA 10% off
- Softstar Shoes (US) – ANYA 15% off first purchase
- Zutano Booties (US)
- Jack & Lily (US)
- Posh Panda (CA)
- Robeez (US)
- Robeez (EU)
- Robeez (CA)
- PaperKrane (AU) – ANYASREVIEWS for 10% off
- Magical Shoes (EU) – Sizes EU 18 and up. Use code ANYA for 10% off
- Tikki Shoes (EU) – Sizes EU 18 and up
- Zeazoo Kids (EU) – Sizes EU 16 and up. Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 5% off
- Wildling Shoes (EU) – Sizes EU 18 and up
For more options, here you can find all the baby shoe brands that I have already personally tested.
Here are a few options that are approved by certain branches of the military that are better for your feet than the tradition heeled tactical boot. Most (if not all) have a very slight heel rise, but are as close to zero drop as you can get.
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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!