Swap These Popular Brands for Barefoot Shoes – Your Feet Will Thank You!

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A collage of stylish and functional barefoot shoes with the tect "barefoot shoe swaps for happier feet, Anya's Reviews"

I know this one is going to make some people angry, but hear me out. A shoe brand can be iconic, well-made, and functional for a specific purpose WHILE STILL BEING BAD FOR YOUR LONG TERM FOOT HEALTH. In this post we’re looking at some of the most popular brands in the biz, and replacing them with what I like to wear instead – both for immediate comfort today and to protect my foot function for the long haul.

You can read why I consider minimalist shoes to be better for my body here.

For more barefoot shoe swaps, head to my Wear This, Not That section of the website! I’ve been recording our family’s swaps for years – you can find barefoot shoe alternatives to so many popular shoe styles. May you have happy feet the rest of your days. ✌️

Swap Nikes for Barebarics Zing

Side by Side collage of a pair of all white Nike Air force 1 iconic sneakers with a Swap This arrow and a pair of Barebarics all white leather Zing sneakers and an arrow saying For That. Wide toe box zero drop sneakers alternatives

If shopping from the EU website, use code ANYASREVIEWS to get a 5% discount.

Don’t come after me 🙈 But there is one primary reason I would rather wear the Barebarics sneakers shown on the right than Air Force 1’s, and that is TOE SPACE.

The Barebarics Zing is also highly durable, functional, and zero drop. Most people will be looking at your shoes from the side anyways, so don’t worry about the wide look!

If you are a barefoot shoe fan, note that Barebarics shoes have the feel of a transitional shoe because the sole is a bit thicker and less flexible than other barefoot shoes. They work well for people who spend a lot of time on concrete. Learn the details on the fit and sizing in my detailed Barebarics Review.

I also have listed here several more stylish barefoot sneaker options that I love!

Vegan Air Force 1 Swap: the Feelgrounds Courtside

Annotated image of a pair of Nike Air Force 1 sneakers and an arrowing saying Swap This next to a pair of Feelgrounds barefoot Courtside vegan sneakers with an arrow saying For That

This non-leather shoe is very soft, wide, and flat. We have several Feelgrounds shoes in our house made of this vegan leather – it has held up great but I find that it is not as breathable as textile or genuine leather. So I prefer my Feelgrounds in mesh and knit over the vegan leather (I wear those all the time!)

But the Courtside is a very cool looking shoe and if you love this style but want vegan they are a great choice! Read my full Feelgrounds review for the details on sizing & fit.

Oh, and there are other colorways of the Barebarics Zing shown above that are also vegan!

*If you’re looking for something to actually play basketball in, I recommend any Xero Shoes sneakers as one of the best options. You can also find a new basketball sneaker from Ben Patrick, founder of Knees Over Toes (but I do not have any firsthand knowledge of these shoes yet).*

Swap Keens for Freet Zennor

Two photo collage showing Freet Zennor closed toe barefoot sandals swapped for heavy uncomfortable thick heeled Keen sandals

Use code AnyaFreet10 for a discount with Freet.

Keen’s are another phenomenal shoe brand – they are durable, functional, and even have a wider than usual toe box. But look at the sole on those sandals!

Justin and I wore Keen sandals traveling for several years and they are very heavy. Sure, they’ll last forever but I’d rather have my feet last forever. I am much more stable in a light sole that flexes with my foot, like the Freet Zennor.

This sandal is new this year, and Justin has just begun wearing them. He loves those dad sandals! Sizing is true, but they do fit high volume so he cinches the elastic top to fit. So far so good!

Swap Converse for Bohempia Herlik

Side by Side collage showing popular Converse narrow toed sneakers with swap this next to Wide toe boxed comfortable Bohempia Herlik classic rubber capped sneakers on zero drop sole

Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 10% off from Bohempia EU

Converse are already somewhat minimalist, but damn they have a narrow toe box. The Herlik sneaker on the other hand fits all my toes without squishing and otherwise looks the same. Skateboarding, lifting, and looking cool is a lot easier when you can spread your toes out to stabilize you.

We just restocked these at Anya’s Shop in the US! They come in two widths – Regular width is shown here and and Wide you can see below. Wide works for even extra wide feet!

Check out my full Bohempia review for more details.

Swap Hikers for Primus Trail Knit

Side by Side collage showing a pair of Merrell hiking shoes and an arrow with Swap this text next to Vivobarefoot Primus Trail and an arrow and For That text. Vivobarefoot hiking shoes for foot health

Use code ANYA20 for 20% off for a 10% discount at Vivobarefoot.

Hiking shoes are notoriously heavy. And again, they are durable and protect you from sharp rocks on the trail. But I have found that a minimalist alternative like the Primus Trail Knit still provides enough protection and grip but also allows me to have more stability because I can sense the ground better.

And the Primus Trail is IMO one of the most functional barefoot shoes out there. Our family loves them for everything from sports, to hiking, to everyday. They are so much lighter than a typical hiking shoe AND can function for a variety of purposes besides hiking!

The Trail Knit (pictured here) is new this spring and we love it just as much as the regular Trail! The knitted collar makes for a soft feel, but it can make them a little harder to pull on if you have thick feet because it is a tube opening with no shoe tongue.

I also love Vivobarefoot’s Tracker hiking boots. In general Vivobarefoot shoes fit true to size and medium width. They are not ideal for people with thick, high volume feet.

Check out my full article on hiking boots and shoes for more options!

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19 thoughts on “Swap These Popular Brands for Barefoot Shoes – Your Feet Will Thank You!”

  1. Why does the link you provide to the Bohempia EU site take me to a tracking/badware site? The other links on that page take you straight to the vendor’s websit.

    1. I am not sure…when I click it takes me to Bohempia EU. It is an affiliate link, so it looks different, but I’ve not heard of people having trouble getting to the site before.

  2. Hi there! Do you have a side by side comparision for “converse” type styles for the Bohempia Herlik vs Groundies style options somewhere by chance?

  3. Freet: I love their shoes, but their sizing is absolutely maddening and all over the place. The Zennor are my regular 39’s, but just purchased Vibe’s at their recommended one size larger (40 for me), and the 40 fits like a 38?!

  4. I’d like to replace my white leather (street/fashion) tennis shoes with a barefoot version, but I often find the “leather” is plasticky. Any recommendation for the most authentic white leather barefoot shoe in your experience? Thank you!

    1. Hi Colleen, Mukishoes white leather sneakers are buttery soft and not plasticky feeling at all. Be Lenka and Peerko also have very nice white leather options. You can read more about these brands and some of our other favorites here.

  5. Are there any ankle-height Jordan Air-like basketball barefoot shoes? Also ok if they don‘t look exactly like Jordan’s, but they should be ankle high.

    1. Feelgrounds has a cool hightop that I like and wear quite a bit. And if you can wait 6 months Barebarics is going to have one that will look pretty similar to a Jordan next year.

      1. Thanks for your response! The Barebarics ones sound perfect. I want these as a present for someone who plays basketball and likes the Air Jordan look, so I might wait for them. Do you know when the exact release date will be? Wondering if it’ll be in time for the birthday.

        1. I don’t know for sure, but it should be this spring – usually between the months of February and April according to their usual timelines.

          1. Thank you! That might work. I actually messaged Belenka and asked them about ankle-height sneakers and they responded they haven’t finalized anything and can’t share anything yet.

            From Feelgrounds, did you mean their new Courtside ankle-height sneakers? They look exactly like what I want, but Feelgrounds said they don’t recommend them for actual sports – so they won’t work for playing basketball.

    1. Extra wide barefoot boots are not cheap. The cheaper options are usually significantly narrower. But you might want to check out Whitin! They have some new high tops and chelsea boots that are wide.

  6. Hylian Shieldmaiden

    Do you know of any other closed-toe barefoot sandals similar to the Freets? I have to wear closed-toe shoes for work (I work at a library, there’s a risk of running over your toes with book carts or dropping books on your feet, so we’re not allowed sandals), but those can get really hot in the summer. Would like to see what my options are before the summer hits 🙂

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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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