Best Barefoot Running Shoes: Finding Comfort to Fit Your Style

Best Barefoot Running Shoes
Jerry Mueller
Written by Jerry Mueller

When it comes to footwear, those who choose to run barefoot are definitely at the extreme end of the scale. If you’ve ever been interested in enjoying such freedom, you won’t have to worry about training yourself to undergo such conditions.

Shoe manufacturers have now developed running shoes that feel exactly like you’re running barefoot. But don’t get just any running shoe labelled as barefoot; you have to look for the best barefoot running shoes you can find that conform to your running style, as well as the unique shape of your feet.

So how can you accomplish this? Here are some of the things to look for if you’re interested in shopping for barefoot running shoes.

Defining The Barefoot Running Shoes

Before buying your pair of barefoot running shoes, it’s necessary to know what activities you’ll be doing. 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.

They will help you use a forefoot strike, leading to lesser injuries than those runners who strike with their heels first in every step. So what exactly are barefoot running shoes?

Barefoot Running Shoes

You may have heard the term “minimalist” running shoes and confused them for barefoot running shoes, but they’re not the same at all. A barefoot running shoe can be considered a minimalist running shoe, but not the other way around.

A barefoot running shoe is actually much thinner and has more sensitivity throughout the sole, allowing you to feel everything on the ground beneath your feet.

Different Types of Barefoot Running Shoes

With the explosion of interest in barefoot running, more and more manufacturers now offer barefoot running shoes in two different types.

The type of shoes you choose is based on the terrain you are planning to run on. What type of running shoes do you really need?

  • Trail Running Shoes: Use these shoes when your intended running trail has many roots, rocks and other obstacles that may cause you injury. They actually have thicker soles than the other road running shoes.
  • Road Running Shoes: Unlike trail running shoes, these shoes are designed with thinner soles. They are ideal for running on roads, tracks or any other areas with smooth terrain.

Things to Consider in Choosing Your Barefoot Running Shoes

There are certain features that you need to consider in order to find the barefoot running shoe that is right for you. Knowing what they are will help to make your shopping experience much easier and eliminate the need to return the wrong shoes later on.

Barefoot Running Shoes features

Some of these considerations are:

  • 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.
  • 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 not too tight. An ill-fitting pair of shoes will result in pain, blisters, and worse injuries.
  • 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 for your injury. Look for shoes offering protection on the key points or pressure points of your feet, made from soft materials and in perfect fit for your feet.
  • 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 in the market as they are priced competitively.

Transitioning Into Barefoot Running

You may think it’s as easy as putting on a new pair of shoes, but there’s a lot of preparation that needs to be done before you can just slip into your new purchase and taking it out on the road.

Feet are actually much more complicated than we give them credit for, and have a lot of bones, joints, ligaments and muscles throughout them, all dedicated to helping you take a simple step.

Barefoot Running shoes and minimalist running shoes

Traditional running shoes tries to hold these all in place, by offering stiff, cushioning materials that are a little bit heavier than your feet should be comfortable with. Barefoot running shoes, on the other hand, are much lighter, and allow your body’s natural shock absorbers to do the job for you.

But if you’ve been wearing traditional sneakers all your life, then the transition is going to take a bit of time. It’s recommended that you take a few short walks with your barefoot shoes first while still taking longer runs in your other shoes, and gradually make the shift over time.

Reviewing The Best Shoes for Barefoot Running

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 Slingride

Under Armour Speedform Slingride

Weight: 4 pounds

Dimensions: 12 x 9 x 5 inches

Specific Features:

  • Color – Glacier Gray/Black
  • Seamless asymmetric slingshots in zonal compression of the feet from your heel to toe
  • Innovative UA SpeedForm technology with an unprecedented precision that is fit for comfort and without distraction
  • A 2-piece Charged Cushioned midsole that is paired to soft and plush foam layer atop a dense and harder foam best for the maximum blend comfort and support.
  • Rubber sole
  • Synthetic
  • World’s strongest fiber Dyneema, which is woven into the upper portion for ultimate durable flexibility
  • Padded tongue made from soft sandwich mesh materials for increased fit and comfort.

Best Use: Barefoot running, Track running, Road running, Casual running, Short and long runs, Physical training, Athletic training

Description: If you are looking for a daily trainer at a competitive price, these running shoes are the best for you. Under Armour Speedform Slingride fit perfectly to your lifestyle compared to the standard running shoes.

They’re versatile enough for athletic training, or just going for a light stroll, if that’s what you’re interested in. You can even sneak them into work and wear them while you sit at your desk.

They do not have real insole; instead, they have an almost-continuous piece of fabric seamlessly connecting to the inner sidewalls and covering the top part of their midsole.

Meanwhile, some runners have noticed that they have large seams on the medial side and that they have a loose fit around the heel. The outsoles of these shoes perform well on track and roads.

Their tongue base slightly restricts your stride when toeing off, which is why most runners who have tried them suggest to try them on a short run first before buying.

They’re perfect for casual running as they give your feet tight fit with breathable and woven upper in a sleek package.

Merrell Men’s Trail Glove 3 Minimal Trail Running Shoe

Merrell Men's Trail Glove 3 Minimal Trail Running Shoe

Weight: 3 pounds

Dimensions: 14 x 10 x 5 inches

Specific Features:

  • Color – Black/Light Grey
  • Lightweight trail running shoes with rugged lugged sole and Omni-Fit lacing system
  • 0 mm heel-to-toe drop that comes with stack height of 10.5 mm
  • Fabric & synthetic
  • Rubber sole

Best Use: Barefoot running, Trail Running, Road running, Casual running, Short and medium runs, Hiking, Wilderness, Athletic training

Description: These shoes are made with the idea of minimalism, offering versatility, durability, and comfort. Merrell Men’s Trail Glove 3 Minimal Trail Running Shoe lack of excessive highlights is great for the experienced barefoot hikers.

Although they act more likely a glove than the traditional shoes, they remain exceptionally tough so you can take them through all kinds of terrain. They are very easy to wash, as they can be placed in a washing machine and set on gentle cycle, then set out to air dry before their next use.

Their Vibram soles make the shoes exceptionally stable, whether on loose or slippery terrain. This product is most suitable for men, but the manufacturer does make the same shoe available in women’s sizes as well.

Merrell Men’s Vapor Glove 2 Trail Running Shoe

Merrell Men's Vapor Glove 2 Trail Running Shoe

Weight: 2 pounds

Dimensions: 14 x 9 x 6 inches

Specific Features:

  • Color – Black/Castle Rock
  • Low-profile trail running shoes with pull tab at counter and lace-up vamp
  • Synthetic
  • Sticky Vibram outsole designed for traction
  • Thermoplastic polyurethane upper and breathable mesh
  • Rubber Sole

Best Use: Barefoot running, Track Running, Road running, Casual running, Short and longruns, Hiking, Athletic training

Description: Among the remarkable features of this model of running shoe is its sleek design with pliable upper, new-look lacing system and rugged outsole. Merrell Men’s Vapor Glove 2 Trail Running Shoe midsole, soft upper, deep-treaded outsole and midsole living up barefoot moniker are impressive.

It does not have a break-in period that is held up against various terrains (uneven and complex rock trails, bridle paths or roads). You will still feel well protected and comfortable from any elements when you try this out on a rainy and damp spring day.

The shoe can be considered as a great case study when it comes to the best that works pretty well if a popular shoe is redesigned. If you are a narrow-footed runner, Merrell Men’s Vapor Glove 2 Trail Running Shoe may not be highly recommended, as its fit might be loose.

Merrell Men’s Bare Access 4 Trail Running Shoe

Merrell Men's Bare Access 4 Trail Running Shoe

Weight: 4 pounds

Dimensions: 12 x 8 x 4 inches

Specific Features:

  • Color – Black/Dark Grey, Molten Lava, Tahoe Blue/Sunny Yellow, Dragonfly/Bright Yellow, Blue/Red, Orange, Bright Green, Dark Slate
  • Mesh uppers which comes along with their gradient synthetic side overlays
  • M BOUND energy returning midsole
  • Sticky Vibram outsole designed for low light visibility
  • Heel-to-toe differential at 0 mm
  • Rubber Sole
  • Breathable mesh lining

Best Use: Barefoot running, Track Running, Road running, Casual running, Short and long runs, Hiking, Athletic training

Description: If you are that runner who would want to go on barefoot running and in need of an impact protection underfoot, Merrell Men’s Bare Access 4 Trail Running Shoes are your best option.

Merrell Men’s Bare Access 4 Trail Running Shoe have a Vibram outsole that is limited to the high-abrasion areas of both their forefoot and heel to save your weight, allowing the shoes to remain very flexible. Most runners who have used them loved their snug fit and spacious toe box in the heel, despite the complaints in regards to friction in the heel area.

Some runners consider the shoes 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 fast when you are in a running race.

Vivobarefoot Men’s Primus Road Running Shoe

Vivobarefoot Men's Primus Road Running Shoe

Specific Features:

  • Color – Black/Charcoal, PBT Navy
  • Textile and Synthetic
  • V-web Breathable Vegan Flat
  • Mesh/Nylon
  • Rubber Sole

Best Use: Barefoot running, Track Running, Road running, Casual running, Short and long runs, Athletic training

Description: Some runners consider the Vivobarefoot Men’s 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.

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. Despite the observed strange arch support of its sole pressing against your foot’s bottom, it is still firm and nice. In fact, the sole makes you feel the ground so you have a better grip while you run.

So, look no other than Vivobarefoot Men’s Primus Road Running Shoe if you are in need of a shoe that is as close as the barefoot running shoes.

Vibram Men’s El-x Cross Training Shoe

Vibram Men's El-x Cross Training Shoe

Weight: 2 pounds

Dimensions: 14 x 7 x 5 inches

Specific Features:

  • Color – Grey/Black, Black
  • Breathable mesh upper
  • Fabric
  • XS Trek outsole featuring a serrated blade tread pattern
  • Zero Drop
  • Synthetic Sole

Best Use: Barefoot running, Track Running, Road running, Casual running, Short and long runs, Cross fit training

Description: The Men’s El-x Cross Training Shoe from Vibram is ideal for runners who are minimalist running 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.

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

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.

However, its mesh upper does not have adjustments when the fit is off and is only available in the sizes of men.

Vivobarefoot Men’s Primus Trail Shoe

Vivobarefoot Men's Primus Trail Shoe

Weight: 3.6 pounds

Dimensions: 13 x 8 x 7 inches

Specific Features:

  • Color – PBT Red, Black/Charcoal
  • lightweight V-web mesh material
  • no-sew PU upper with elastic bungee closure
  • Fabric and synthetic
  • Lightly padded tongue as well as its collar
  • V-Trek outsole resistant to puncture
  • Thin foam insole
  • Rubber Sole

Best Use: Barefoot running, Track Running, Road running, Casual running, Short and long runs, Trail hiking, Athletic training

Description: The shoe is specifically designed for use in off-trial 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 gives you firm footing in a wet and slippery surface.

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

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.

Also, take note of the proper care of the shoe in order to make the most of its durability, as there have been some complaints in regards to its less than the expected quality.

Final Words

The barefoot running shoes featured above only manifest how technology greatly influenced the footwear industry as these shoes are specially designed to protect the foot, give enough support to prevent injury and keep it healthy.

Choose your Barefoot Running Shoes

The pros and cons presented will serve as your guide as you visit a department store to purchase your next barefoot running shoes. Leave us your opinions, insights, inquiries and/or suggestion so that we can compile an improved list of products in the future.

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.

  • Luke Carver

    I’ve had a pair of the Vibram EL-X for a couple of months now. I did initially experience some rubbing around the heel area, but I’ve gotten used to it now and I don’t feel it at all. I’m glad I stuck it out because they feel incredibly close to actual barefoot running! Can be a problem at night though, seeing as the sole is so thin. I’ve squirmed a few times after stepping on small rocks! The Bikila is a good alternative to the models you have mentioned too.

  • Jerry Mueller

    It takes some time for our feet to get accustomed to the feel of the Vibram EL-X, but I believe that it’s a wise and great choice. If there are a lot of rocks opt for trail running shoes to protect your feet.

  • Lee Williamson

    You’re not wrong about that, Jerry! The first time I put on my Vibram Bikila’s, I really struggled. It’s kind of strange because these shoes are designed to help you achieve a ‘natural’ run, for want of a better word, and yet, to begin with, there is nothing natural about putting them on! It genuinely took me a good 10 minutes to get them on – my toes seem to have a mind of their own! I’d agree with the rock observation too. Just the price you have to pay for barefoot running unfortunately!

  • Jerry Mueller

    It gets better, I can assure you – although it really takes a lot of getting used to, that’s a given. Just make sure you don’t go into those rocky spots and you’ll be fine.

  • Jerry Mueller

    The Vivobarefoot Men’s Primus FG M Mesh Trail Runner is an amazing choice for off-road trailing. The sizing chart is also enormous, allowing you to obtain an ideal fit.