Looking for barefoot running shoes? Or athletic barefoot sneakers for exercise? Check out this list of zero drop sneakers that meet my requirements for natural footwear. These are running shoes that give space for your toes to spread out, are completely flat for good alignment, and flexible so your feet can move naturally. Read on for the full list of barefoot running shoes organized by sole thickness!
Barefoot Running Form
Barefoot running shoes are all about letting your body move the way it would if actually barefoot. If you are used to running in traditional heeled athletic shoes, it’s likely you’re accustomed to landing on your heel. Heel striking in barefoot shoes can cause pain and even injury throughout your body, just like it would if you ran that way barefoot.
In general the barefoot running style is accepted to be a short stride, high cadence (frequency of steps), and a forefoot strike, where you land gently on the outside forefoot (4th and 5th toes) before pushing off through your big toe. By contrast, lots of adults are running with long loping strides at a lower frequency and landing jarringly on their heels.
True barefoot experts change their foot patterns with the terrain and might land elsewhere on their foot when on uneven surfaces. The biggest takeaway is to not reach your foot out in front of you, but keep your legs moving underneath with your ankles relaxed.
@runrx is an excellent social media account with tons of free content as well as a paid membership for serious guidance and training.
I am a student of natural movement and still learning. My strategy has been to start with extra thin soles from the beginning and focus on form in short distances, lengthening that distance slowly over time. Other people choose thicker soles so that they don’t have to shorten their distance and instead slowly ease off the cushion over time. Regardless of your path, pay attention to your body and don’t overdo it. Slow are fabulous for training. Always best to walk before you run, and don’t forget the foot exercises!
Now let’s talk barefoot running shoes.
Barefoot Running Sneakers
Because barefoot running can be a huge change for our feet, this list is organized by sole thickness. It also includes each brand’s location, price, and size range, so you can easily find an option that works for your life. One trick I use all the time with my barefoot shoes is insoles. Barefoot insoles (not orthotics or arch support) can be a great way to add a bit of cushion to help you ease into the barefoot lifestyle. You can remove them later on without having to buy more shoes!
Minimal Cushion 2-5 mm
These are the most minimal barefoot sneakers on the market, with only a few millimeters (mm) between you and the ground. You’ll feel every rock underfoot, which can be help with proprioception. You’ll also feel the impact with every step, something that can motivate you to change your running pattern to be lighter and kinder to your joints. But it also might be too much too soon. Don’t forget you can always add an insole at first and remove it later!
Chala Unico – Europe | $214 | | Size EU 36-47 | 2-5mm | Vegan
Feelmax – Europe | $75-$100 | Sizes EU37-48 | 2.5-4mm | Vegan
Freet Tanga & Flex – UK | $94 | Sizes EU37-48 | 6mm w/ insole, 4mm w/o | Vegan
Leguano – Canada | $160-$200 | Sizes EU34-49 | 5mm | Vegan
Magical Shoes – Europe | $90 | Sizes EU36-54 | 5mm | Vegan
Saguaro – USA | $34 | US Women’s 4.5 – Men’s 15 | 4mm | Vegan
Softstar RunAmoc – USA | $150 | Size US 5-15U | 5mm | Leather (vegan option here) & TONS of color options
*First purchase only, you must be logged into an account to use the coupon code*
Sole Runner – Europe | $162 | Size EU 36-48 | 3.5mm w/o insole | Vegan
Tadeevo Essential – Europe | $104 | Size EU 37-47 | 5mm | Vegan & Leather Options
*For sizes up to EU 53, click here*
Vibram KSO ECO – USA | $100 | Size EU 35-50 | 5mm | Vegan
Vivobarefoot – US & Worldwide | $150 | Size EU 35-49 | 4mm w/insole, 2mm w/o | Vegan
Xero Shoes Speed Force – US & Worldwide | $100 | Size US Women’s 5 – Men’s 15 | 4.5mm | Vegan
Also available from Xero Shoes EU
Wildling Nebula – Europe | $120 | Size EU 23-48 | 3mm | Vegan
Medium Cushion 6-10 mm
The following barefoot sneakers have a medium amount of cushion, but still are fairly thin. Some people will be happy in this category forever, with no desire to go thinner. It’s a good middle ground for beginners too, if you want to experience a barefoot feeling without going all in. I wore medium cushioned barefoot shoes for years, and only just recently started preferring the super thin soles. Absolutely no shame in a little cushion!
Freet – UK | $94 | Sizes EU37-48 | 6-10mm with insole| Vegan
Joe Nimble Addict – Europe | $180–$200 | Size EU 35-48 | 10mm (remove insole to be zero drop) | Vegan
Nummulit – Europe Only | $106-$113 | Size EU 38-47 | 6.5mm | Vegan
Softstar Megagrip RunAmoc – USA | $170 | Size US Men’s 5-13 | 6.5mm | Leather
Vibram 5 Fingers (everything but KSO ECO) – USA | $170 | Size EU 35-50 | 6-8mm | Vegan
Vivobarefoot Primus Trail – US & Worldwide | $150 | Size EU 35-49 | 4mm w/insole, 2mm w/o | Vegan
Whitin– Amazon | $38 | Size US Women’s 5.5 – Men’s 15 | 6mm (remove insole to be zero drop) | Vegan
Xero HFS & Prio – USA | $90-110 | Size US Men’s 5-13 | 7.5mm w/insole, 5.5 w/o | Leather
Also available from Xero Shoes EU
Max Cushion >10mm
The following options have more than 10mm or 1cm of cushion. These are good options for long distance runners or people experiencing foot pain who are very accustomed to thick soles. The downside to soles this thick is that they really put a lot of distance between you and the ground so you can’t use the nerves in your feet as well to sense location. This means less responsiveness and sometimes less use of your intrinsic foot muscles.
Altra – USA | $120-170 | Size US Women’s 5 – Men’s 15 | 20-30mm | Vegan
Oesh Warrior – USA | $118 | Size US Women’s 6 – 13 | 16mm | Vegan
Best Barefoot Running Shoes for Extra Wide Feet
Here are the barefoot sneakers from this post that are best for extra wide feet. For more barefoot shoe brands good for extra wide feet, make sure you check out this post on the Best Barefoot Shoes for Your Foot Type.
- Feelmax – Europe | $75-$100 | Sizes EU37-48 | 2.5-4mm | Vegan
- Freet – UK | Sizes EU37-48 | 4-10mm | Vegan | Use
AR-10for 10% off
- Lems Primal 2 – $105 | USA | Sizes US Women’s 4.5 – Men’s 15 | 12.5mm w/ insole , 9mm w/o | Vegan
- Magical Shoes – $90 | Europe | Sizes EU36-54 | 5mm | Vegan | Use
ANYAfor 10% off
- Softstar RunAmoc – $150 | USA | Size US 5-15U | 5mm | Leather (vegan option here) & TONS of color options | Use
ANYAfor 15% off first purchase *Must be logged into an account to use
- Sole Runner -$162 | Europe | Size EU 36-48 | 3.5mm w/o insole | Vegan
- Tadeevo Essential – $104 | Europe | Size EU 37-53 | 5mm | Vegan & Leather Options | Use
ANYASREVIEWSfor 5% off
Other Barefoot Shoes I Run In
These aren’t marketed as being for specifically for running or exercise, but I still have no trouble at all running in them. Nice thing about them is they do double duty as every day shoes.
- Be Lenka Ace (Europe). Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 5% off (returns are only accepted from within the EU and USA).
- Feelgrounds (Europe)
- Mukishoes (Europe) – Use code
ANYAMUKIfor 10% off
- Splay Athletics (USA) – Use code
ANYASREVIEWSfor 10% off. This brand only goes up to an EU 39
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24 thoughts on “Barefoot Running Shoes – A Complete list of Zero Drop Athletic Sneakers”
This comprehensive review is so helpful! The irony is that the running world has been promoting mid and forefoot running for awhile now to avoid injury, but this is impossible in their regular cushioned shoes because I’ve tried it! The result is, or as my astute husband remarked, why is he/she running on their tippy toes? I’ve tried the Altras but they were so squishy that it exacerbated my knee pain! I read your Tadeevo review from 2/2019, and was wondering if they still fit the same now? I really appreciate all the hard work that you put into these detailed reviews so that we know exactly what we are buying so thank you!
Hi Suzie! Thanks so much for the kind words. Yes, I know what you mean! As far as the Tadeevos, since then my feet have gotten a little wider and fuller so actually fit me better. Still feel like they’re great sneakers!
Great to know, thank you!
Hi Anya! Thank you for this helpful roundup! I am not a runner, but am looking for a barefoot exercise shoe for fast walking (so more athletic than an everyday casual shoe). Is there anything specific to consider between choosing a shoe for running vs. walking?
Hi Sophie! No, I don’t think there’s any reason all of these can’t work for walking or other athletic activities. But you also could wear a lot of other shoes for walking that aren’t listed here, like basically all the ones in my Casual Barefoot Sneakers post. Walking is more inclusive because generally you don’t need them quite as secure and your feet aren’t as hot/sweaty when you walk.
Hi! I was wondering if you know of any 5mm and under athletic shoes that come in neutrals?? Like tans and creams, even a mauve? Vivobarefoot is the closest to what I’m looking for, leaning towards trendy style and colors but also equally functional. I’ve got a smaller foot, I’m a 35 in EU sizing, so even if it’s a kids brand I could check it out!!
Magical shoes has a tan sneaker (the Explorer Kids) that is 5mm thick. Feelmax has the Salla Purple (adults) and Rosa (kids) which is a mauve sneaker and is 5mm thick. And there’s the Softstar Primals that you can customize to any color you want!
Thank you so much!!!!
Longtime reader here (thank you for your absolute plethora of great info!). My 13 yr old has ‘high volume’ feet and it’s a huge challenge to find teen-friendly colors and styles of sneakers. Would you have any idea (does not need to be perfectly minimalist; at this point I’m open to anything that fits his unique feet and is flexible)? I feel like I’ve looked into all the links, and can’t seem to find anything a teen would want to wear :/
Hi! Thank you! What about Altra? They have a shoe called the Kokiri that looks like a New Balance sneaker. You also might have better luck checking out this post on casual sneakers. Maybe Bohempia, or Groundies Universe? Both are available in the US fairly easily.
Would you be able to give any insight into how the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail shoes do for running in wintery conditions, particularly frosty/snowy/icy? I contacted their customer support and was told that they haven’t tested any of their shoes in those conditions so couldn’t give me any advice. I’ve worn Vivos now for over a decade, so am really sceptical about switching to something like Altras which do have a special grippy sole that is up to the conditions I am now running in (I’ve moved from northern California to Northumberland UK). Thank you! This website has been so helpful in both exploring options and discovering heaps of shoes that I now wish to own. Dangerous, but helpful.
Hi Katy! I haven’t worn the Primus Trail in wintery conditions either, so it’s hard for me to say. Rain has been fine though. Wish I could be more help!
Hi, Anya –
I’ve been a barefoot shoe wearer for years, first with the Vibram 5-fingers and recently with the Merrell Vapor Glove 2 and 3. It seems they’ve stopped making the 3 and even the link on your review leads to a product on Amazon called a “Fitness Shoe.” (!) Do you know if this shoe is equivalent to the Vapor Gloves? Some review on Amazon suggest not. Anything else you recommend that’s like the VG?
It is very odd that they took Vapor Glove off the title, I am pretty confident that it is the 4. But you are right, they don’t make 3 anymore. I’ve been keeping on eye on the Gloves and they haven’t been restocked on Merrell’s website in a long time with no indication that they’re bringing out a new version. I’m not sure what to think! On Merrell you can only find Vapor Glove 5 and Trail Glove 6. For a similar shoe I’d look at the Lems Primal 2.
I note Topo Athletics shoes were not included in your review. What are your thoughts on these?
I know, I need to get a pair and probably can add them to the thick transition options. The zero drop models from Topo are about as thick as Altra shoes. They seem like they also meet my foot shape standards as well. But it looks like most Topo models are not zero drop, so you’d need to check the product description.
Love this comprehensive list! Couple I haven’t even tried or heard of on here. Re: above comment – the zero drop shoes from Topo have similar thickness to Altra but less squishy and much better ground feel. Also, Skoras are back on the market – would love to see those on your list – they’re still my very very favorite running shoe ever – perfect balance of just enough cushion and ground feel, good toe box shape – that barely there feeling – and they LAST. I’ve put I don’t even KNOW how many miles on my old ones. Really hope to see them succeed and stay in business 🙂
Thanks for the heads up! I noticed they stopped doing zero drop shoes, and then were going to go back to zero drop but hadn’t heard they were now available! I will have to give them a try.
Thank you so much for your info. I tried on some Altra Lone Peaks recently and, like you, the shape around the toes suited my foot perfectly. Finally, a shoe that fits comfortably. I’d like that fit without (or with less of) the thick, squishy sole. Could you suggest other brands with the closest shape to the Altra, please?
(I’ve been wearing Vivobarefoot shoes for several years now, but each model still pushes on my big toe).
Any help is much appreciated!
Lems has a similar toe box shape and fit. If you want something with less cushion I would recommend the Lems Primal 2, you can also remove the insole for an even thinner sole. In addition to that, Freet would be another great option that fits similarly and they have even thinner soles than Lems.
Thanks very much, Anya. I really appreciate being able to find comfortable shoes. I’ve just placed an order with Freet, complete with your code 🙂
Hi, any reason I shouldn’t run in Lems Primal Zens (the upgrade of the Primal 2 with slightly more cushion) as someone transitioning to barefoot shoes? (I wouldn’t run right away, but hoping I could use the same shoes a few months down the line for running after getting used to walking in them). Thanks!
or the Lems Primal Pursuit- ok for both running in a gym and hiking?
The Primal Zens are a good in between shoe if you are looking for a little more cushion. I prefer the Primal 2s because of the extra wide toe box, but the Zens are a good shoe as well. I don’t recommend the Pursuit because they have a small heel rise and are too stiff IMO to be considered a minimalist shoe.