Splay Freestyle Review – Affordable Barefoot Sneakers for the Whole Family

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Splay Shoes is a US barefoot shoe brand that makes affordable sneakers for the whole family. The Freestyle is their newest model that goes from toddler sizes all the way up to a US men’s 13! Read this review for all the details on Splay’s newest barefoot sneaker, the Freestyle.

Code ANYASREVIEWS will save you 10% off!

Splay Shoes Freestyle Review

Splay Freestyle | Vegan | $50-$60 | Sizes Toddler to US men’s 13 | 4-6.5mm thick*

* Kids sizes are 4mm, Big Kid/Women’s sizes are 5mm, and Men’s sizes are 6.5mm. See the sizing section for details

My oldest boy has been wearing Splay Shoes for years now. We backed their original crowdfunding campaign in 2018 and they’ve just worked really well for his feet (and our budget). I’ve been hoping and encouraging them to make an adult version for a long time now so I am so stoked to be able to share these with you!

The Freestyle is Splay Shoe’s newest barefoot sneaker that fits even Justin, who wears a US men’s 13. He and I were both Vans wearers before switching to that healthy feet life and the Freestyle is the perfect replacement, both in looks and in price!

Freestyle sneakers cost $55 in kid sizes and $70 in adults, but you can always get 10% off your Splay purchase with code ANYASREVIEWS, making them only $63 for adults – almost the exact same price as most Vans sneakers.

Why Splay is Better Than Vans

I will always pick Splay over Vans and other mainstream sneaker brands for three important reasons. Splay Shoes have:

  • A foot shaped toe box
  • A thin, flexible sole
  • No heel rise

If you’re not used to thinking about your feet, it might come as a surprise that those shoe features can have a profound effect on your body. Foot shaped toe boxes allow the big toe to lay straight, making it possible to use your arch muscles while you walk. It also allows blood to flow through the foot, helping prevent issues like plantar fasciitis. Yep, you’re reading that right – tapered shoes like Vans might be causing your flat feet and foot pain.

And flexible soles are no less important: foot motion is intricately connected with the pelvic floor, so a shoe that lets your foot bend and flex (like it’s designed to do) keeps you healthy further up the chain. Finally, Splay shoes are completely flat from toe to heel so you can stand erect with good alignment. You may think that Vans are also completely flat, but the insole of the shoe has a built in heel lift. Even a small heel like that pushes your center of gravity forward, stressing your joints.

A collage of the same woman from the side, standing 4 different times. In the first stance she is wearing Groundies Liverpool and is straight up and down. In the 2nd-4th stances she is wearing the Timberlands and the heel is forcing her to make various compensations with her joints.
A visual demonstration of what happens when you stand in heeled shoes. The far left boots are completely flat, the others are not.

I could go on and on! If you’d like to learn more about the impact shoes have on your body, read this post on the benefits of barefoot shoes. Especially for my children, who don’t have foot issues (yet), I am adamant about putting them in these types of shoes.

Suffice it to say, choosing Splay shoes over Vans is a gift to your body that will keep on giving. Now let’s move on to picking a size in your Splay Freestyle sneakers.

Splay Freestyle Sizing

When it comes to picking a size, I always recommend learning how to measure your feet first. Remember that how you got your foot measurement determines how much extra space you need in front of your toes. My feet measure 22.8 cm long using the wall method (read the article linked above for an explanation), so I need a shoe 1-1.5cm longer than that. I wear my shoes without socks, and chose the women’s 7 which is 1.1 cm longer than my feet. If I were to wear socks, I would probably go with an 8.

When picking Freestyles for Justin, I broke my own rule and ordered his usual size without measuring (shhhh, don’t tell!). They ended up being just right for him, and it’s a good thing since he got the biggest size available. But for my children, I both measured and used the printable sizing guide to pick. It’s hard to keep track of a kids’ shoe size, so I always measure before ordering for them. With Splay I know to go with the larger size if we are in-between, because the kids sizes run smaller than other barefoot kids’ brands.

Note that the sole thickness depends on the size you’re ordering. Sizes 8C – 12C (or EU 24-29) are 4mm thick , Sizes 13C – 7M/9W (or EU 31-39) are 5mm thick, and sizes 8M/10W and above are 6.5mm thick.

Will They Fit My Foot Type?

The Splay Freestyle shoes are meant to fit most foot types, but there are a couple things to know. See them on different foot types below!

Not sure what your foot type is? Read this post

Same Shoe, Different Foot

Splay Freestyle on a high volume foot (left) and low volume foot (right)

On the left you can see my youngest son who has a thick, high volume foot and a high arch. He has trouble getting those “puffy bricks,” as I adoringly call them, into shallow or tight shoes. The Splay Freestyle works, but the tongue only just barely covers the space between the sides of the shoes.

On the right is my older boy’s skinny ankle and low volume foot in the Splay Freestyle. He cinches the laces tighter and they work well for his foot type. In general, these seem to be geared toward medium to low volume feet, but can work for high volume as well.

Splay Freestyle on a high volume foot (top) and low volume foot (bottom)

Splay VS Other Barefoot Shoe Brands

There are over 200 barefoot shoe brands all over the world, each catering to a different foot type. You can get to know the different brands (and find ones in your price range and near you) by checking out BarefootShoeFinder.com. But since we don’t have time to go over each one, let’s look at some of the major brands in comparison to Splay. Below I’ve organized 8 barefoot shoe brands from widest toe box (top left) to narrowest (bottom right).

From top left to bottom right: Be Lenka, Freet, Feelgrounds, Splay, Lems, Magical Shoes, Mukishoes, Vivobarefoot. One notable brand I left off (accidentally) is Xero shoes. They would be after Vivobarefoot.

Splay shoes have a toe box that is comparable in width to brands like Freet, Feelgrounds, and Lems. That means they are good for a wide toe spread, but not crazy wide like Be Lenka and Softstar Primals. If you’re feeling overwhelmed right now, suffice it to say that Splay Shoes should fit most toe widths.

One quirk about Splay shoes is that they taper in at the arch (not to be confused with a toe box taper). Justin has brick shaped feet that are almost as wide at the midfoot as they are at the toes, and in his Splay Freestyles his midfoot is sitting right on the edge of the sole. It’s a common fit issue for him (if you have feet like his, brands like Freet, PaperKrane, and Xero shoes tend to be wide through the middle), but he is still wearing them without trouble.

My husband’s lineup of close toed barefoot shoes – Vivobarefoot, Feelgrounds, Lems, Splay, and Freet

For kids, Splay has been a wonderful addition to the available options because they are affordable and still look like regular shoes. My boys have always refused to wear the moccasin style shoes that are readily available, but for a while that was all I could find in our price range that also met my standards for healthy footwear. When Splay came on the scene, we were instant customers for life. You can read this article for more on how Splay compares to other barefoot shoes for kids.

Are They Durable?

My kids are tough on their shoes, like they should be. So it was an open question whether they’d tear through Splay Shoes in a matter of months. Since we’ve had a few years in the Explore shoes, we’ve learned time and again that they are quite durable! The biggest flaw Splay shoes have is that the color fades and gets discolored over time. But I personally don’t worry about that with my children – as long as they don’t fall apart we are good. In my own pair of Freestyle shoes, I don’t expect to be dragging them on concrete or wearing them in mud so anticipate they’ll wear better. But I will need to wash them occasionally as the grey collects dirt.

Brand new Explore shoe (left) vs Explore shoe that’s been worn daily for 7 months (right)

If there are just a few stains, then I spot clean at the sink. If they’re really dirty, I put them in a garment bag and run them through the washing machine on gentle cycle with scent/dye free detergent, then set them over the air vent to dry quickly.

Do You Wear Socks with Splay Shoes?

Rainbow socks from Anya’s Shop!

“Barefoot is best” are words I live by. As long as it is safe for me to do so, I am completely unshod. And when I do put on shoes, I almost always wear them barefoot, including my Splay Freestyles. The same goes for my children, because socks can restrict your toes just like shoes can! But if you want or need socks (because it’s cold or to prevent blisters perhaps) then consider toe socks or anatomical socks with space for your big toes. Here are a few options:

The nice thing about Splay shoes is you can wash them in the machine if they get real funky.

How To Order Splay Shoes

Splay Shoes is a US brand, but they ship worldwide for $5 – $20 depending on location. Returns are accepted on orders within 30 days, and international customers need to pay the return shipping (it’s free for US returns!). Don’t forget ANYASREVIEWS will give you 10% off any Splay shoes.

Hardcore barefoot shoe family

Splay Freestyle Review Conclusion

Brands like Splay Shoes are shaking up the shoe market by offering styles that respect the anatomy of the foot. In a world of foot pain and dysfunction, we need more of this. Thank you Splay for making barefoot living more affordable for the whole family!


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32 thoughts on “Splay Freestyle Review – Affordable Barefoot Sneakers for the Whole Family”

  1. Great review, as usual. Would you say the Splay sizing in length is similar to Vivobarefoot or Feelgrounds? If I wear a 38 in Vivobarefoot and Feelgrounds, would I wear the same in Splay?

    Thanks.

    1. I have all those in a size 37 and they fit but the Splay shoes are slightly shorter. Not enough for me to size up though (if I sized up to wear socks it would be for width, not length).

  2. How do these compare to wildings? Wildings are the first completely comfortable shoes I’ve worn, but they are pricey and it would be nice to have a second shoe.

    1. If Wildlings are your first it’ll be hard to find something as comfortable! Splay shoes are definitely comfortable, but not as soft or flexible as Wildlings. For the price though, Splay can’t be beat.

  3. Is there cushion in these? I have merrel vapor gloves and still wear converse when I need more cushion. This is my frame of reference.

    1. The women’s sizes are 5mm thick and the men’s size are 6.5mm thick (you can use the size chart to see where the cutoff between the two is). I believe Merrell Vapor Gloves are about 6mm or so.

  4. johnjonesmatt@gmail.com

    I have the Jaya boot that I purchased through your site, I don’t wear them because I ordered them too small by mistake 45 European-My Bad, How do the Splay Men’s 45 match against: Jaya-Ahinsa combat boots, The width of this boot is outstanding(really anatomical~oblique~Ergonomically correct: to a healthy human foot. Are the splays roomier or about the Same?(both are foot Shaped both are zero-dropped)= Design for a human being. from the looks of the photograph it is something I definitely would purchase.

    1. Hi! I don’t have both shoes in a 45 to compare directly, but in my size they are pretty comparable in length, shape, and width. So if the 45 in Jaya was too small I would consider the larger size. Always best to use the size chart to be sure though!

      1. Thanks for the response(I ordered size European 46 gray and white) I’m really looking forward to these, And hope they actually come out with a “light weight speed hiker” with the same spacious 4foot and oblique-toebox~anatomically~ Ergonomically=biomechanically correct foot bed= No toespring ! no Elevated heels ! Spacious forefoot,Relatively narrow in the the heels (“For human beings“) As you know most of the footwear 99% On the market today are nothing more than :(feet caskets:)

  5. How do these compare volume wise to Feelgrounds (new sole)? Would you say Splays are better for low volume feet? I have a pair of feelgrounds and they are ok, although they could be a bit tigther around my foot.

    1. Splay are absolutely better for low volume feet than Feelgrounds. I have all the Feelgrounds styles and wear an insole in them because of my low volume feet. I don’t need an insole in the Splay shoes.

  6. This was so helpful, thank you Anya! Do you know if Splay is releasing these in an all-black color (like the kids’ Jet)? Asking because school dress code only allows all black throughout, and I’d rather use these for my high-instep, wider foot kids.
    Thank you!

  7. I just received a pair of Splay Explore for my grandson and I find the smell from the rubber outsole to be very offputting. Is this par for the course or did I get unlucky? I’m on the fence about exchanging or refunding. I live in Canada so shipping charges both ways add up.

    1. Hi Gail,
      I don’t remember any smells on mine, and they definitely don’t smell now. But sometimes new shoes still have a factory/glue smell. It usually goes away after they have a chance to air out. Hopefully that’s all they need.

    2. Gail, our two new pairs of Splay shoes also have a very, very strong chemical smell to the sole. I’ve had them sitting outside for 2 days and it hasn’t dissipated at all. Not sure what to do now because we both love the fit and feel of the shoes but they can’t be worn for long without the smell becoming too strong to bear. Has anyone else experienced this?

      1. Yes, I just purchased (February 2022) a pair for my child and the chemical/petroleum smell is horrid!!!! We’ve had them a few weeks and still hasn’t gotten better? It is Very strong indeed!! I don’t know if they changed a formulation or what.

        1. Just got a pair of Freestyle Shale … maybe it is the tan rubber? It is pretty strong. Have to keep them in the garage as the others were not pleased by the odor .. same for me. Hopefully smell goes away.

          1. Maybe that’s it… I talked to Splay about it and they say it happens only sometimes and they’re not sure why. It’s very odd, we’ve never had any smell issues with out. And I’ve also never had any with the gum sole.

        2. Can I ask if anyone’s shoes ever aired out? I just purchased Explore Pine that arrived on 4.15.22 and they smell so badly. I’ve reached out to customer service to ask for advice, but haven’t heard back yet. I’d just like to know if there’s hope that they’ll eventually air out, or if this is permanent? It’s a shame because I love them otherwise and was all set to order shoes for my two young sons, but I don’t want them exposed to the chemical stink.

    3. Hi Gail and Anya, I just got a pair this week and the smell is making me sick! It’s a very strong chemical smell. I had them airing for 3 days on a bench then I wore them in the car and everyone felt nauseous and got a headache! It’s insane! I’m hoping they’ll pay the return fees because while they fit great, they are clearly a health hazard! I’d recommend putting a warning on your review about them. I read your review and was excited to get them but now I wish I would have just spent the extra money on another pair of Wilding shoes.

  8. Talk to me about break-in expectations… the tongue on these adult Freestyles I ordered feels just slightly longer than I prefer (i.e., in its brand-new state, it pokes into the front of my ankle and eventually slides outward a bit as I walk). Did you find that the tongues become any more pliable with continued wear, so they might bend upward/conform more to the angle of my low-volume feet? Also tried lacing to the penultimate grommets to see if giving a bit more room there would help… so stoked for this pine/gum sole colorway and have also been very happy with my Explores (less puffy and shorter tongue, possibly due to being a kid-sz/Velcro fit?) so hoping the Freestyles might still be a good pair to have in rotation—appreciate any shoe-tongue pro tips you might have, and thanks also for all the other great footwear resources on your site!

    1. The canvas material does break in, but I have heard from multiple people that pokes (even though I didn’t have that issue). Not sure if there’s a hack to keep it from sliding, except to wear in the material so it softens. Or maybe try massaging it and shaping it with your hands.

  9. Hi! I bought a pair of these for my 7 yo and they haven’t held up very well. Did I just get unlucky? He’s had them for 3 months. He has worn through the stitching and fabric over the big toe and the fabric is unglued at the big toe corner, so the bottom is starting to peel off. He even switches to indoor shoes at school, and no shoes at home, so it not all day use. Now he needs new shoes and I’m worried about getting another pair of these. Thoughts?

    1. Well that’s a bummer! My kids have put the majority of their rough-ness on to the older Explore that was just phased out and had a microfiber toe guard. I’m wondering if the updated version that has a canvas toe guard isn’t as durable as the old. It would definitely be worth sending them some photos for feedback, maybe it’ll urge them to consider bringing back the microfiber material.

  10. I just bought a pair of Splays as my first barefoot shoe and really love the barefoot feeling. I think I am hooked. But…I discovered that the strip of fabric that holds the shoelace holes runs down and ends on the inside of the shoe by the little toe area. When I took off my socks, I discovered the skin on both feet in that area were bright red..not good. If the fabric wasn’t so thick and stiff it would not be a problem. As it is, either thed design and/or fabric needs to change. I was about to order another style in this brand but sadly, I guess I will find something else. I do hope they make a change because I really love the shoe overall but longterm, this issue is a deal breaker.

    1. Hey Bonnie,
      I actually spoke with Splay about this because it’s a complaint I’ve heard several times. They told me that they fixed this design flaw already! I have not yet tried any new Splay’s since this review, so I am taking their word for it. But apparently it was a common issue.

  11. Thanks Anya ! Glad to hear the issue was addressed. But, I just bought mine within the past 2-3 weeks and have the issue. Perhaps mine came from older stock ?

  12. Thanks Anya ! Well I am still wearing and loving my Splay shoes and I guess I have adjusted to the issue discussed above. I do have an observation and general sizing question now. I got a size 8 and they seem like a perfect fit. Whats interesting is that since I have been wearing them daily for a few weeks now, it seems like I don’t have as much extra toe room as I did when I first got them. Could it be that my feet have relaxed, spread out some since theres more freedom in the shoe ?! My toes are at the end of the toe bed but not jammed or uncomfortable..I just noticed it. Anyway, I am actually thinking about buying another pair of Splays..maybe a different style for variety but wondering if I should go up a half size. What are your thoughts ? Thanks so much !!!

  13. Thank you ! I can’t thank you enough for all the wonderful information you provide. I would be completely lost without your experience and knowledge. I am loving the barefoot feel and will be getting rid of alot of shoes ! Next up will be sandals (and Splays). I am trying to decide between EarthRunners and Shammas.

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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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