The Best Barefoot Shoes of 2023 for Hiking, Running, Water, and Workouts!

Man Wearing Barefoot Shoes

By clicking on the product links in this article, we may receive a commission fee at no cost to you, the reader. Sponsorships and affiliate commissions help support our research so we can help you find the best products. Read the full affiliate disclosure here.

A few years ago, it seemed like every big shoe company had some version of a "barefoot shoe," most of which have long gone the way of the dodo. Look down at the starting line of any given race today, and you'll see as many beefy, cushioned cruisers as ever. But a handful of stalwart companies are still making low-profile footwear that allows you to feel the earth beneath your feet and respond to it, rather than protecting you from it. And every day, someone new puts a pair on and experiences a lasting "aha" moment.

The Best Barefoot Shoes - Our Top Picks

Of course, what constitutes the best barefoot shoe can be quite personal, and quite specific to your favorite activities. If you're a diehard lifter, for instance, the best hiking shoes or hiking boots won't do much for your workouts. So for this guide, here's the arbitrary line of what "barefoot" means:

  • "Zero-drop," meaning the heel isn't elevated above the forefoot
  • Minimal cushioning underfoot and a "stack height" (measurement from ground to foot) of no more than 25 millimeters, and preferably far less
  • Foot-shaped design with a relatively wide toe-box

Sure, it's possible that none of these choices are the perfect fit for your perfect Cinderella foot. But they're the ones that are likely to check the greatest number of boxes for the greatest number of people. Slip one on and see what all the fuss is about!

Why Trust Us?'s editorial team relies on the knowledge and experience of fitness and wellness experts including competitive athletes, coaches, physical therapists, nutritionists, and certified trainers. This helps us ensure the products we feature are of the highest standard. Collectively, the team has spent countless hours researching equipment, gear, and recovery tools in order to create the most accurate, authentic content for our readers. Customer satisfaction is also a key part of our review process, which is why we only feature products that are highly rated.

Best Overall Barefoot Shoes - Xero Shoes 360

Xero Shoes 360


  • Weight: 9.2 oz. (M9)
  • Stack height: 8mm
  • Materials: Rubber sole, mesh upper with rubber grip ribs


At first glance, the 360 from Colorado-based Xero Shoes can pass for a pair of old-school cross-trainers. But this is a modern, well-designed shoe with care put into every detail. It's flat and foot-shaped, but with a fantastic grip on the soles and reinforced sides for lateral stability. Unlike early barefoot offerings that were well-designed but destined to fall apart quickly, the 360 is tough enough to stand up to all-around, full-throttle living.

This could be your favorite gym shoe right out of the box, but it's equally at home for daily wear, walking, and all manner of sports. It might be just the shoe to convince you that barefoot shoes are, in fact, real shoes—and ones that are really worth wearing day in and day out.

What We Like

  • Serious grip and athletic sole pattern
  • Enhanced lateral stability
  • Great for a wide range of activities and sports
  • Not as likely to earn you "clown shoe" comments as some

What We Don't Like

  • Tend to be squeaky
  • Beginners might find it too much, too soon

BUY: Xero Shoes 360 - Men

BUY: Xero Shoes 360 - Women

Best Barefoot Gym Shoes - Inov-8 Bare XF 210

Inov8 Bare XF 210 V3


  • Weight: 7.4 oz.
  • Stack height: 4.5mm
  • Materials: Rubber outsole, mesh upper


United Kingdom-based Inov-8 has long been a favorite of CrossFitters and other gym-based hard-training types, in addition to making tough-as-nails trail shoes. The Bare XF is their minimal training shoe that equally complements heavy lifting, sprints, and everything in between. It's light and flexible enough to feel like an extension of your lower body, but with sticky outsoles and lateral stability to enhance strength, balance, and body awareness when moving fast in three dimensions.

What We Like

  • Very light and breathable
  • Great for deadlifts
  • Toe and side reinforcement for rope climbs
  • Very thin sole: 4.5mm

What We Don't Like

  • Too narrow for some feet
  • Insole can be a slippery bugger

BUY: Inov8 Bare XF 210 V3 - Men

BUY: Inov8 Bare XF 210 V3 - Women

Best Barefoot Hiking Shoes - Xero Shoes Scrambler Mid

Scrambler Mid 


  • Weight: 11.3 oz. (M9)
  • Stack height: 7 mm
  • Materials: Michelin Fiber Lite® sole, TrailFoam™, mesh upper, two-layer toe cap, welded sidewalls


For this new ultra-light hiking boot, Xero Shoes collaborated with Michelin on the soles, and the tire manufacturer's influence is immediately noticeable.  We tested the Scrambler Mid for days in the back country and can tell you that theyvare grippier and toothier than any "barefoot shoes" I've worn on both wet and dry dirt and rock, with a nearly perfect balance of just enough protection and flexibility.  At just 11.3 oz. for men's size 9, the Scrambler Mid comes in at about half the weight of most hiking boots, and lighter than some company's running shoes.  This is a shoe that has the chance to change your idea of what mountain travel feels like forever.

After 4 days on rock, root, water, and mud covered trails, my feet remained dry and blister-free.  With a 50 lb. pack on my back, I anticipated foot fatigue as I'm more accustomed to non-barefoot hiking boots with much thicker stacks.  But I found that the thin but tough soles actually massaged my feet as I walked over rough terrain.  The uppers were so breathable which kept sweat in check.  But this also wasn't great the few times my feet dipped into water above the waterproof side walls and toe cap as the liner is only "moisture wicking."  Water quickly soaked into my hiking socks.  So if you're looking for a waterproof barefoot hiking shoe, this may not be the pick for you.  

What We Like

  • Great for ultralight backpacking and camping
  • Super comfortable
  • Easy to pull on and off even with thick hiking socks

What We Don't Like

  • No waterproof option
  • Insoles can shift

BUY: Xero Shoes Scrambler Mid - Men

BUY: Xero Shoes Scrambler Mid - Women

Best Barefoot Trail Shoes - Vivobarefoot Primus Trail

Vivobarefoot Primus Trail Weather


  • Weight: 8.2 oz. (M9)
  • Stack height: 8mm
  • Materials: Recycled rubber outsole, mesh textile upper


United Kingdom-based Vivobarefoot was one of the first companies to lean fully into barefoot shoes, and they continue to make innovative models for outdoor sports and hiking. The latest iteration of the Primus Trail line combines a tough-lugged outsole (which is also great for golf, FYI) with a lightweight, form-fitting upper and a focus on sustainable and vegan materials.

My children, who have worn several Vivobarefoot models, call them "ninja shoes." That captures their appeal perfectly. Even if you're not a badass on the trails, you feel ready to be one.

What We Like

  • Well-constructed, with a tough and toothy sole
  • Comes in mesh and all-weather varieties, as well as a kids version
  • Also comes in fitness and casual wear Primus Lite

What We Don't Like

  • Very pricy
  • Stitching and uppers aren't always as durable as the soles
  • Many different models can be confusing

BUY: Vivobarefoot Primus Trail Weather - Men

BUY: Vivobarefoot Primus Trail Weather - Women

Best Slip-On Barefoot Shoes - Vivobarefoot Opanka

Vivobarefoot Opanka Leather Shoes


  • Weight: Unlisted
  • Stack height: 7mm
  • Materials: Rubber outsole, Portuguese leather upper


Every barefoot aficionado has their own little black book of shoes they've loved and lost. I pine for a certain pair of brown leather Vivobarefoot slip-ons from the aughts, but the company's newer casual offerings, like the handmade leather Opanka, hit the same sweet spot of comfort while being formal enough for meetings/weddings/cocktail bars with dress codes.

Yeah, there's a time and a place for laces. But once you know the simple pleasure of a pair of slip-ons like these, they have a way of simply ending up on your feet.

What We Like

  • No lacing, no tying
  • Perfect to slip into, Mr. Rogers-esque, at end of day
  • As light and flexible as it gets

What We Don't Like

  • Big price for a tiny speck of a shoe
  • Men's color options have "old man in socks and shorts" vibe

BUY: Vivobarefoot Opanka Leather Shoes - Men

BUY: Vivobarefoot Opanka Leather Shoes - Women

Best Budget Barefoot Shoes - Merrell Vapor Glove 5

Merrell Vapor Glove 5


  • Weight: 10 oz.
  • Stack height: 6.5mm
  • Materials: Vibram ecostep rubber, mesh and polyurethane upper


While well-known for burly hiking boots, Merrell was also an early barefoot adopter and has continued to iterate on its popular Vapor Glove and Trail Glove lines. The Vapor Glove 5 is the best so far, with more durable upper materials, improved sole texture, and less of a floppy feel than previous models.

Sizing can be a struggle with Merrells, and some never found a goldilocks pair for their feet. But just as many slip into a pair of Gloves and never look back.

What We Like

  • Glove-like fit with excellent grip
  • Unobtrusive design and color scheme
  • Half the price of many barefoot shoes

What We Don't Like

  • Sizing between generations inconsistent
  • On the narrow and snug side

BUY: Merrell Vapor Glove 5 - Men

BUY: Merrell Vapor Glove 5 - Women

Best Barefoot Running Shoes - Altra Superior 5

Altra Superior 5


  • Weight: 8.8 oz. (M9)
  • Stack height: 21 mm
  • Materials: Rubber sole, mesh upper, removable polyurethane rock plate


Altra makes a wide variety of foot-shaped, flat-soled footwear, including a few models with serious padding. The Superior is among their most minimal offerings, a lightweight trail running shoe that works just as well as a road running shoe, comfy everyday kicks, and a first barefoot shoe.

Altra maintains one of the most devoted followings in the minimalist market, but for years, their durability was questionable. Their newer models are up to the challenge of putting in serious miles.

What We Like

  • Hits a "barefoot-esque but still shoe-like" sweet spot
  • Posh and silky upper, always in cool colors
  • More durable than previous models
  • As light as more minimal shoes

What We Don't Like

  • Too cushioned for some, not enough for others
  • Sizing with Altras is rarely easy

BUY: Altra Superior 5 - Men

BUY: Altra Superior 5 - Women

Best Casual Barefoot Shoes - Astral Loyak

Astral Loyak


  • Weight: 7.5 oz. (M9)
  • Stack height: 11 mm
  • Materials: Siped G.15 rubber outsole, hydrophobic canvas upper, stretch mesh tongue


North Carolina-based Astral Designs was initially more of a specialist in kayaking and watersports, but has expanded in recent years into hiking and lifestyle gear. The canvas Loyak owes some of its style and functionality (drainage holes, moisture-resistance grip) to the water, but it's also tough to beat as a stylish do-everything shoe.

Maybe because these have their roots on river trips, they are also surprisingly tough and long-lasting, especially considering how light and flexible they are. In a pinch, you could also go for a run and/or lift in them (within reason).

What We Like

  • Grip is strong in dry and wet conditions
  • Seriously light and flexible
  • Can be a water or boat shoe if needed

What We Don't Like

  • Not as wide as some barefoot options
  • Sizing can be tricky

BUY: Astral Loyak - Men

BUY: Astral Loyak - Women

Best Barefoot Water Shoes - Astral Brewer

Astral Brewess Boat


  • Weight: 9.3 oz.
  • Stack height: 17 mm
  • Materials: Siped G.15 rubber outsole, hydrophobic canvas upper, stretch mesh tongue


The Brewer and Brewess are Astral's river-rat-revered, award-winning water shoes for men and women. Sure, you can wear them in your landlubber life, but where they really shine is on wet rock, walking across riverbeds, or in mixed terrain where you need quick drainage.

They're tough enough to last multiple seasons, but more importantly, are also soft enough to make blisters and hotspots things of the past. This is a well-designed tool for specific conditions, and also for enjoying a beer after you pull into port.

What We Like

  • Crazy grip on wet rocks
  • Drain like a champ
  • Tough and durable overall, but gentle on skin

What We Don't Like

  • Can get seriously stinky
  • For some of us, the only water shoes are sandals

BUY: Astral Brewer Boat Shoe - Men

BUY: Astral Brewess Boat Shoe - Women

Best Barefoot Shoes for Walking - Altra Solstice XT2

Altra Solstice


  • Weight: 8.4 oz.
  • Stack height: 23mm
  • Materials: Rubber outsole, mesh upper


Any barefoot shoe can be a great walking shoe, but the Altra Solstice is a particularly solid fit for someone who prioritizes walking as their primary form of fitness or commuting. It's also a likely fit for nurses, food service staff, and anyone who puts in long hours on their feet. The traction is as good as any shoe out there, the upper is luxurious and form-fitting, and the feeling of the "cushioning" underfoot is firm, but still substantial enough that it will bear the brunt rather than your tootsies having to.

What We Like

  • Great for high-impact or racquet sports
  • Upper fits foot well for lateral stability
  • Up to the challenge of long days on feet

What We Don't Like

  • Not the most stylish appearance
  • Burlier and thicker than other "barefoot" options

BUY: Altra Solstice - Men

BUY: Altra Solstice - Women

What to Look for in Barefoot Shoes

The most important priority to keep in mind is that a barefoot shoe feels like it fits your foot. Nobody else's! Online barefoot pundits tend to talk in hyperbole, but ultimately, this is about feeling good, helping you do the things you love, and building up your body's weak links.

Ask questions, try on multiple models and sizes, and keep an exploratory state of mind. Five years from now, you might be wearing a very different barefoot shoe than your first one. That's OK!


Sizing between brands in barefoot shoes can be inconsistent. Luckily, online comments usually give insight into how a particular model "runs." Try on models in person if you can, and don't be afraid to utilize a company's return policy!


Time spent obsessing over shoe weight is usually wasted time. All of the models in our guide are lightweight enough that they'll feel like nothing at all compared to a traditional hiking boot or shoe. That said, descriptors like "barefoot" and "minimalist" might make you think that lighter is always better, but that's not the case. When you're starting out, don't be afraid to go with something a little tougher, like a hiking model.


If you plan on wearing your barefoot shoes without socks or in hot weather, it’s worth prioritizing a breathable upper made of mesh or a similar material. Looking for winter warmth? Something lined and waterproof, like the Xero Shoes Alpine boot, is a better choice.

Barefoot shoes come in a wide range of sole styles, from thin, flat rubber for casual wear to deep-lugged hiking treads. Pick a sole that matches up with the activity you'll be using the shoes for most, and read all the buyer comments and reviews you can to see which shoes last!

FAQs About Barefoot Shoes

Are barefoot shoes good for everyday use?

Everyday casual use is probably the best way to wear barefoot shoes! This will help you to build up neglected muscles and proprioception (body awareness) in your feet and lower legs. When you wear a sport-specific shoe like basketball sneakers, climbing shoes, or heel-elevated shoes for squatting, you'll still experience benefits from all the hours you spent in your minimalists!

How often should I wear barefoot shoes?

When you're just starting out wearing barefoot shoes, wearing them all the time might make for sore calves and feet as you build up the neglected muscles in your lower legs. For this reason, many experts recommend wearing them for no more than a few hours a day at first. But the benefits of barefoot are incremental and will compound over time, so aim to increase your exposure. With time, you can build up to wearing them all day long.

How tight should barefoot shoes be?

You don't want to feel like you're swimming in a pair of barefoot shoes—especially if you're going to do a lot of walking or exercising in them. But if you feel crammed into them, they're no better than a traditional so-called "foot coffin." Start with a shoe that's snug and stable across the top of the foot, and wide but not wiiiiide in the toe box. Take the time to find your fit, and don't be afraid to make mistakes.

Should socks be worn with barefoot shoes?

Whether or not you wear socks with barefoot shoes is a personal choice. Some people prefer to have as little as possible between them and the ground. Others find going sockless to be sweaty, uncomfortable, and likely to make shoes prematurely stinky. Try it both ways and see what works for you.

Discuss This Article