SHOES & BOOTS

Best Barefoot Running Shoes: Finding Comfort to Fit Your Style

Best Barefoot Running Shoes
Jerry Mueller
Written by Jerry Mueller

When you’re heading out to run you want to be able to feel the pavement or the trail under your feet, right? It’s about the feeling of freedom, speed, wind, and the nature around and under you. But, you don’t like the feeling of those hard soles under your feet, creating unnatural arches or pressure. Have you thought about how the best barefoot running shoes can help you really experience the best of your run?

When you’re ready to hit those trails or that pavement the next time you can simply slip on your barefoot running shoes and it will be just like you’re running in nothing at all. It’s like when you were a child, running and playing in the grass.

The difference is that a great pair of barefoot running shoes will still provide you with a little protection from sticks, stones and other debris, so you can keep running longer. But of course, there are too many different types of barefoot running shoes out there and it can get overwhelming. How could you possibly choose?

Running Shoes

We’ve actually helped you out by narrowing things down to the 8 best of the best when it comes to barefoot running shoes. We’ve got not just the information you need to decide on what you’re looking for but also some great reviews to help you choose. You’ll even be able to get everything you need to go along with your shoes. So we should definitely get started, right?

Our Top Picks

ProductWeightSizes availableBest usePrice
Under Armour Speedform Slingride4 pounds7 - 15, including half sizesTrack and road runningCheck price on Amazon
Merrell Trail Glove33 pounds7 - 15, including half sizesTrail and backroad runningCheck price on Amazon
Merrell Vapor Glove 22 pounds7 - 15, including half sizesTrack and road runningCheck price on Amazon
Merrell Bare Access44 pounds7 - 12, including half sizesCasual and track runningCheck price on Amazon
Vivobarefoot Primus Road0.36 pounds7.5 - 12.5, including half sizesTrack and casual runningCheck price on Amazon
Vibram El-x2 pounds7 - 13, including half sizesTrack and trail runningCheck price on Amazon
Vivobarefoot Primus Trail3.6 pounds8.5 - 12.5, including half sizesLong distance runningCheck price on Amazon

Things to Consider Before Buying

Before buying your pair of barefoot running shoes, it’s necessary to know what you’re actually looking for. These thin and lightweight running shoes are specifically designed and manufactured to mimic the positioning and feeling when you are running barefoot while still protecting your feet, but not all of them are made exactly alike.

Quality

Noting the thin structure of barefoot running shoes, it is imperative to go for a pair made from durable materials. See to it that you choose the right type of running shoes for the terrain. Shoes specifically made for tracks and roads will not be appropriate for trail running, and vice versa.

Shoes Materials

Since these shoes are so thin, a durable material is all that’s keeping you from hurting your feet while you run. You don’t run in actual bare feet because of rocks and sticks, so make sure your shoes are going to protect you from those things as you expect.

Sizing

Keep an eye on the sizing feature of your shoes, especially if your feet are wide or if you need a size that is larger than the normal. Ensure that your running shoes fit your feet snugly, but are not too tight. An ill-fitting pair of shoes will result in pain, blisters, and worse injuries.

Choosing Shoes

Not every shoe may fit you the way it’s intended to, so make sure you’re looking at the sizing specifically and trying the shoes on if you can. It may take a few options before you find something that actually fits you in the way you want, so don’t get discouraged.

Comfort

Comfort is of utmost importance when you are running. It definitely is difficult to achieve your goals if your feet are in pain as it also increases the risk of injury. Look for shoes offering protection on the key points or pressure points of your feet, made from soft materials.

Five Fingers Shoes

The right fit is going to play an important part in your comfort level as well. You want to make sure that you are completely at ease while you’re running so make sure you have a good material that feels good on your feet and keeps you from feeling every rock or stick you run over.

Price

The price of the running shoes is also a great factor in your shopping. This will help you make a conscious choice in buying the right shoes for your needs and satisfaction. Just have a keen comparison of the shoes on the market, as they are priced competitively.

Barefoot Trail Running Shoes

You don’t want to choose the cheapest pair of shoes on the market, but at the same time, you don’t want to choose the most expensive ones either. There’s not a reason to go with the most expensive in just about anything because you’re generally paying only for the brand name and not for anything more. Look at shoes in the middle but slightly leaned toward the higher end. These will be your best options.

Cleaning

These shoes are generally going to be different from your traditional tennis shoes because of the materials that go into them. That means cleaning them is going to be a bit different as well. You’ll want to look at how they’re supposed to be cleaned so you know what to expect.

Shoes for Running

Many of these shoes are made with lighter and thinner materials that will go well into a washing machine and come out just like new. Others may require special cleaning or spot cleaning, so make sure you know what you’re willing to get yourself into and what your shoes need.

Best Products on Today’s Market

Now that you’re aware of what to look for, it’s time to head out to your local shoe store or sporting goods store. Consider the list of products below as a good starting point for finding the best shoes for your style and comfort.

Under Armour Speedform Running Shoes

Price: Approx. $100Under Armour Speedform Running Shoes

Weight: 4 pounds

Sizes: 7 – 15, including half sizes

Specific features: 6 color options, low shaft, Dyneema woven uppers, compression through the foot

Best use: Track running, road running, casual running, short and long runs

These Under Armour SpeedForm Running Shoes feature seamless asymmetric slingshots in zonal compression of the feet, from your heel to toe, as well as innovative UA SpeedForm technology with an unprecedented precision that is fit for comfort and without distraction.

The 2-piece Charged Cushioned midsole is paired up with a soft and plush foam layer atop a dense and harder foam is best for the maximum blend of comfort and support. Made with a rubber sole at the base, these shoes are made with the strongest fiber around, Dyneema, which creates a more durable and flexible surface all the way around.

The padded tongue creates a comfortable surface for you when you’re going about your day and even when you’re going about some of your more extensive exercises. These running shoes are great for just about anything, especially since they’re lightweight and super soft all the way around.

PROS:

  • Extremely durable materials
  • Soft and breathable mesh
  • Very lightweight for running
  • Feel like running in nothing
  • Great for all types of training
 CONS:

  • Run a little small
  • Can be a little tough on arches
  • Too firm footbed

Related: A good pair of socks to pair with your running shoes is important and these Under Armour HeatGear Socks are great. They’re inexpensive and you get a few pairs so you’ll be ready for running whenever you want to head out.

Check the price on Amazon

Merrell Trail Glove 3 Running Shoe

Price: Approx. $80Merrell Trail Glove 3 Running Shoe

Weight: 3 pounds

Sizes: 7 – 15, including half sizes

Specific features: Lightweight, rugged soles, Omni-fit lacing system, 0mm heel-to-toe drop

Best use: Barefoot running, trail running, hiking, athletic training

These shoes are made with the idea of minimalism, offering versatility, durability, and comfort. The Merrell Trail Glove 3 Running Shoe looks a lot like a standard tennis shoe or running shoe, but it’s actually even better once you slip it on.

These shoes fit like a glove, which is why they’re perfect for anyone who wants to do some barefoot running. Not only that, but they’re super tough, capable of withstanding just about anything you want to do. You can run through and over rocks and sticks, rough ground and soft ground and you’ll be just fine.

Super easy to wash in the washer, these shoes can be left to air dry so they’re ready to go again when you are. Vibram soles are what really makes these shoes stick right where you want them to be and help you keep a good grip on any kind of surface. No matter what you want to do these shoes are going to get you up on your feet.

PROS:

  • Antimicrobial soles
  • Lug patterns for advanced traction
  • Hold up very well
  • Work well for running or another exercise
  • Vegan-friendly shoes
 CONS:

  • Wedge in the arch
  • Laces that come with the shoe are not quality
  • Not truly minimalist

Related: No one wants to spend a lot of time tying their shoelaces again and again, which is why these Lock Laces are such a great idea. Available in any color you could want, they’re easy to ‘install’ on your shoes and super easy to use.

Check the price on Amazon

Merrell Vapor Glove 2 Running Shoe

Price: Approx. $80Merrell Vapor Glove 2 Running Shoe

Weight: 2 pounds

Sizes: 7 – 15, including half sizes

Specific features: Several color options, breathable mesh upper, lightweight, sticky Vibram outsole

Best use: Barefoot running, short and long runs, athletic training

Among the remarkable features of this model of running shoe is its sleek design with pliable upper, new-look lacing system anrugged outsole. The Merrell Vapor Glove 2 Running Shoe, with soft upper, deep-treaded outsole and midsole live up to the barefoot moniker.

It does not have a break-in period, no matter where you want to get out to or how you want to explore various terrains (uneven and complex rock trails, bridle paths or roads and more). You will still feel just as protected and comfortable from any elements when you try this out on a rainy and damp spring day or a perfectly sunny day.

The shoe can be considered a great case study when it comes to the best that works pretty well if a popular shoe is redesigned. It’s definitely a great option for you if you like something lightweight and breathable when you run or walk.

PROS:

  • Long lasting and durable
  • Roomy toe box
  • Great for rough terrain
  • Breathable mesh upper
  • Sticky Vibram outsoles
 CONS:

  • Can be slightly narrow
  • Upper and sole don’t attach as firmly
  • Elastic laces not ideal

Related: A good pair of socks is going to be important to pair with these shoes and make sure that you’re comfortable when you’re running. These M & Z Ankle Socks are great because they provide just the right amount of protection.

Check the price on Amazon

Merrell Bare Access 4 Running Shoe

Price: Approx. $80Merrell Bare Access 4 Running Shoe

Weight: 4 pounds

Sizes: 7 – 12, including half sizes

Specific features: Mesh uppers which come along with gradient synthetic side overlays, M BOUND energy returning midsole

Best use: Barefoot running, road running, casual running, short and long runs

If you are the type of runner who wants to go on barefoot runs and is in need of impact protection underfoot, these Merrell Bare Access 4 Running Shoes are your best option. They’re comfortable for just about any type of run with their breathable mesh upper and excellent midsoles.

These shoes have a Vibram outsole that is limited to the high-abrasion areas of both the forefoot and heel to save your weight, allowing the shoes to remain very flexible. The snug fit and a spacious toe box help to increase the overall comfort and style of the shoes.

These can be perfect for an efficient runner in search for a pair of long-distance minimal shoes or for those undergoing speed training. Their hyper-responsive insoles allow you to have full control while you are running. They provide you with a feeling of light and speed when you are in a running race.

PROS:

  • Multiple color and size options
  • 0mm heel-to-toe differential
  • Sticky Vibram outsoles
  • Antibacterial insoles
  • Highly responsive soles
 CONS:

  • Soles can be less than ideal
  • Not ideal for long-distance running
  • Heel can be too spacious

Related: These HiDreammy No Tie Shoelaces are great for those who want a comfortable and easy to slip on shoe that will be ready when they are. All you have to do is thread them through and you’ll be ready every time you want to run, at a low cost and with a style you’ll love.

Check the price on Amazon

Vivobarefoot Primus Road Running Shoe

Price: Approx. $100Vivobarefoot Primus Road Running Shoe

Weight: 0.36 pounds

Sizes: 7.5 – 12.5, including half sizes

Specific features: V-web design style, vegan materials, 2 color options, wide toe box, breathable mesh

Best use: Track runs, casual running

Some runners consider the Vivobarefoot Primus Road Running Shoe as a true road running shoe because of its super-breathable feel with its V-web mesh-like material and light weight. These shoes, however, are actually great for a number of different features and activities.

The shoe’s hexagonal outsole offers flexibility and great grip. It helps prevent you from being injured while pursuing your passion in running. This is the shoe if you are more interested in one that provides you with optimum fitness and health.

The shoe is actually made for road running and is tailored for a speedy, smooth run. It is very firm and nice to wear for an extended period and actually the sole makes you feel the ground so you have a better grip while you run.

You’ll have plenty of space within the shoe and you’ll get plenty of air as you move around so you can easily run for an extended period of time without having to worry about anything.

PROS:

  • Zero heel-to-toe drop
  • Great for those with flat feet
  • Extremely minimalist
  • Perfect level of tread for the wet or rough terrain
  • Mesh and breathable surface
 CONS:

  • Toe box can be a bit narrow
  • Look isn’t as stylish
  • Upper is stiff

Related: These No Tie Shoelaces can be a lot of fun and they can give you a pretty unique look to your shoes while you’re at it. They’re inexpensive and they’re super easy to put on so you can slip your shoes on and off with ease when you’re heading out for a run.

Check the price on Amazon

Vibram El-x Running Shoe

Price: Approx. $50Vibram El-x Running Shoe

Weight: 2 pounds

Sizes: 7 – 13, including half sizes

Specific features: XS Trek outsole, serrated blade tread pattern, zero heel-to-toe drop

Best use: Track running, trail running, recreational use

The Vibram El-x Running Shoe is ideal for runners who are minimalist and committed all the way. This running shoe is also a great option for outdoor yoga, general floor or cross fit workout activity, or all-purpose outdoor recreational use.

The EL-X running shoe model is actually a stylistic throwback to the initial Classic and Sprint models of Vibram. It has very thin mesh uppers with a soft feel against your bare skin that makes it nearly like a second skin.

The unique style of this shoe, fitting right around the foot and even in between toes, makes for a very barefoot feeling while still providing enough traction and support to protect against other problems like sticks and stones while running.

Its ground feel, traction, durability, and versatility speak to the great functionality these shoes have to offer. Lightweight, durable, thin outsole, multi-activity use and ease of use are among its other exceptional features.

PROS:

  • Super thin soles
  • Works well with or without socks
  • Light and still durable
  • Provide plenty of breathability
  • Easy to clean
 CONS:

  • Run somewhat large
  • Not ideal for rock or stick covered terrain
  • Long-term durability is questionable

Related: If you want some fun and cute socks that are going to work with these shoes you definitely want these Fasot No Show Socks. Available in different colors and a 6 pack, you’re definitely going to love these socks yourself.

Check the price on Amazon

Vivobarefoot Primus Trail Running Shoe

Price: Approx. $100Vivobarefoot Primus Trail Running Shoe

Weight: 3.6 pounds

Sizes: 8.5 – 12.5, including half sizes

Specific features: V-web mesh uppers, no-sew PU uppers, elastic bungee closure, several color options

Best use: Running over long distances, barefoot-style running

The Vivobarefoot Primus Trail Running Shoe is specifically designed for use in off-trail running along with its ultra-flexibility, highly breathable mesh on its upper and a lugged and grippy sole. The multi-directional lugs of its sole give you firm footing on a wet and slippery surface.

It makes you feel like it really conforms to your own foot. This shoe’s balance feature permits you to have close contact with the ground with its great sole that keeps you from sliding around. It does not require wearing socks, as there are no issues of blisters.

If you are into style and an athletic look, you may pair the shoe with pants, skirts or even shorts. What makes it cool is the fact that it can be worn for everyday use and the availability of its sizes for both men and women.

Made in the USA, these shoes are easy to slip on and off whenever you want to wear them and wherever you want to go.

PROS:

  • Fits snug around the foot
  • Small amount of cushion in the sole
  • Decently water resistant
  • Good breathability
  • Excellent for most conditions
 CONS:

  • Elastic bands can snap
  • Can be a bit narrow
  • Doesn’t fit well with socks

Related: These are the socks you need with your barefoot running shoes because they really provide you with durability and comfort. The Injinji Run Toe Socks are great for just about everyone with different sizes and colors to enhance your preference.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

We have reached the end of our article. Now that you are armed with knowledge and know what to look for when shopping for barefoot running shoes, making a perfect choice will come naturally.

Running Shoes

Also, you have a list of the finest models available on the market, and the pros and cons presented will serve as your guide as you visit a department store, or if you decide to head online. You never know what you’ll find because there are so many out there. With these shoes, to help you in your choice, or to serve as a jumping off point, you’re definitely going to have something great.

So what do you think about the features we look for in barefoot running shoes? Do you have other features that you think are important? Do you have other shoes that you think are better or do you think that one of these is the best? We want to know all about it, and you can let us know by leaving a comment in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jerry Mueller

Jerry Mueller

Jerry ‘Boy Scout’ Mueller spends 99% of his time camping or teaching others how to live in the wild. He became an Eagle Scout which is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouting division when he was 17 and after that he still lives the scout life. Jerry always plans neatly every trip, takes leadership very seriously and if you listen to his tips and stories, you can learn tons of useful things.