The Best Barefoot Running Sandals | 2021 Buying Guide

The best running sandals are a perfect alternative to your favorite running shoes.

If you’ve never heard of barefoot running sandals, you might be thinking “what in the world?!” But trust us. This might be a great running variation to add to your training practices. Running sandals are perfect for high-impact running in versatile terrain. They are able to absorb shock, last you mile after mile, and keep your feet cool and comfortable.

Surprisingly, there are quite a bit of running sandals to choose from, so it can be pretty difficult to narrow down the best options. Peruse our running sandal reviews below to get better acquainted with all of the options.

Our top running sandals pick might surprise you.

Standout Picks

Luna Oso
Founded by the famous Barefoot Ted McDonald featured in Born to Run, Luna's Oso holds the top position on our list. Not only do they have the ultra-marathon (50 miles) example of their founder to endorse the product, but many marathon and ultramarathon runners also testify to the durability and appropriateness of these shoes.
Xero Amuri Z-trek
The Xero Amuri Z-trek are half the price of our top pick in this category and offer many of the same benefits through very different design elements and using very different basic components.
Amazon Link
Vibram VI-S
If you're familiar with this Vibram you know that they've helped to revolutionize the running shoe game with their minimalist, quality and sturdy barefoot-style shoes. This is their sandal offering and has the same high level of quality and good materials as their shoes but with a more open design. Users loved how comfortable they are but you should be aware that they do run large so you may want to order a size smaller than your normal shoe size.
Vivobarefoot Achilles Sports Sandals
You can identify Vivobarefoot by the cool red “V” logo placed at various strategic points on the shoes. These feature a 3mm sole, have a distinctive look. The Vivobarefoot Achilles Sport does not have a toe post, rather features a wide separation between the first toe and the rest of the toes with toe caps to protect those delicate digits. Read also about vivo running shoes.
Amazon Link
Skechers On The Go 400
These are a great option for running and for people who'll be on their feet all day. These Skechers running shoes offer the user a lot of support and have good cushioning. The footbed features energy return materials and they run true to size. A few users did mention that they experienced some squeaking, but it didn't seem to happen to everyone.
Amazon Link
Vivobarefoot Eclipse
The Vivobarefoot Eclipse is attractive and Vegan. They feature 5mm, puncture-resistant soles as well as a perforated, cushioned strap. The strap is particularly springy, which some runners like and others feel impedes their running by allowing too much room between the foot’s natural sole and the footbed.
Amazon Link
Keen Newport H2
These are a very secure option that can be used for running as well as water sports such as river rafting and stand up paddleboarding. They feature PFC free materials and have a very comfortable footbed and a great multi-directional lug system for traction. Users found them to be supportive and secure, but they do have a short break-in time and some buyers experienced durability issues.
Teva Katavi
This is a solid option from an iconic sandal brand. They feature an extremely grippy rubber outsole and very comfortable footbed. The strap system works well to secure the sandal to the user's foot.
OOfos Original
Beyond encouraging the minimalist, exercise aficionados, Oofos takes the next step in this foot ware trend by creating a product that actually claims to encourage recovery. The molded, cushioned footbed of OOfos Original absorbs shock so every aspect of your gait can recover.
Atika Maya Trail
Atika Maya Trail is modestly-priced and is another example of the hybrid running design. They provide some arch and heel support while remaining flexible and comfortable. Not for the true blue minimalist, these shoes, designed for trails, hug the trail to prevent slippage.
Amazon Link

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Comfort

Running sandals should be just as comfortable as your favorite running shoes, so keep that in mind before you buy a pair.

The entire idea behind running sandals is to have a more connected feeling while you’re running. A lot of extreme athletes enjoy running barefoot and swear that improves their performance under certain conditions. Naturally, you can’t do this if you’re running on rocky or difficult terrain. Running sandals get you a step closer to this without putting your feet at as much risk for injury.

They offer you a measure of protection while allowing you to get closer to a more natural state. New technological innovations surrounding footwear have made the creation of running sandals possible. The soles are thin enough to give you that barefoot feeling while still protecting your feet from repetitive impact.

This is a really interesting way to enjoy your run, and we’ve looked at a huge number of products to choose the best ones for your needs. On top of being trendy and functional, many of these running sandals are also incredibly stylish. Many runners report that barefoot running or running in sandals actually results in fewer injuries than running with more cushioned footwear.

This is because a person places less pressure on the soul of their foot when they’re able to feel what they’re running on. This has to do with an instinct to protect your feet from injury and the fact that you aren’t pushing against a highly cushioned surface. Running sandals are also notoriously comfortable.

This is because of the freedom that they allow your foot and the breathability. The foot isn’t being restricted in any way, and this actually changes the way that you absorb the shock. We looked at products that will offer you enough of a cushion to protect your feet while still keeping you firmly connected to the ground.

There are a wide variety of different running sandals, and we tried to populate this list with products that can appeal to runners at every level. The selections on our list are definitely the best running sandals currently available on the market--but when it comes to comfort, only you can decide what will work best for you.

Style

You should feel and look great in the running sandals you decide to get.

We’ve been transitioning to a more natural version of the style. In fact, Earthier products are incredibly trendy. This means that your running sandals aren’t relegated to just the trail. You can also wear them when you’re out and about for supreme comfort and mobility. The products that we looked at are highly fashionable and can appeal to your aesthetic senses as well.

This means that you can enjoy your favorite footwear just about anywhere. While style is not the absolute most important thing to look out for, we know our readers want to look great, so we considered the factors below when evaluating the overall style. Remember to prioritize your own personal style preferences before making your final decision.

Are they available in different colors or patterns?

Many of the running sandals on our list are actually available in a variety of colors and patterns to choose from. While many of them are neutral and minimalistic in design, you can still add your own personal flair with these sandals.

How are they constructed

As you can see, many of these sandals feature a functional design--meaning that when they were made what they would be used for was the primary priority of the company. These running sandals are first and foremost made to be good for running, the style came second.

Materials

The materials your running sandals are made of can make them or break them, so make sure they are constructed from high-quality materials.

Runners prefer that their footwear be lightweight. This helps with their performance, eases the stress on their knees, and improves comfort while running. Running sandals are the ultimate lightweight running footwear. They give you the option of using a product that has a thin enough sole to reduce the overall weight that’s on your feet while running.

Every time that you take a step you’re pulling up that weight. This requires additional energy and can place a good amount of strain on your shins and knees. The running sandals that we looked at are incredibly lightweight and can offer you a unique experience.

Thin soles

Here the question is how barefoot do you want to go or feel? If you want a minimalistic feel while running you want to achieve the thinner the soles, ensure that the soles are thin as this is exactly why you are looking for the barefoot sandals, but if you are a first-timer it is good if you go slow on the thin sole.

Try one that is about 8mm before going to the 5mm directly as this will give you the experience of what you are looking for. Thin soles, however, are the best for running sandals as there will not be the shoe feel in the sandals.

Flexibility

A great barefoot sandal should be very flexible as to allow your foot to move more naturally, the less weight of the sandal should be able to allow you this as you can move your feet as you want them to. Consider going for a thin sole too as this will increase the effectiveness of the sandals as well, flexibility is easy to achieve once you get the right pick of sandals.

Durability

We all want to make sure our running gear lasts us for the long haul, so we made sure our top picks were all durable.

This related to vast products and it’s not a surprise the sandals also have this. Well when talking of durability of sandals, we mean the straps and the sole, the material of the straps need to be ones that can easily be worn and ones that last long and cannot break in the middle of your run as this can pose as a life-threatening problem.

As a runner ensure that you get sandals that have the right sole grip for the terrain you will be exposing them to, ensure that they are ones that can be used in every terrain and can conquer in most cases rubber soles are considered best as they have an amicable grip with them. They are able to be used to the best as they are durable. For the straps consider going for leather as they're comfortable and durable.

Before we rated each of the running sandals on our list, we took the time to research what real-life users had to say about each of the running sandals we considered for our list. This meant going through countless reviews and taking a look at how each of the sandals really held up to the test of time--after all, you won't really know until you put them to the test.

Value

Whether you are on a strict budget or not, you should feel like your running sandals bring true value to your life.

The value of the sandal is so much more than what their initial cost is. In fact, it is important to remember that just because a pair of running sandals are really expensive doesn't mean that they are the best. To determine the value make sure to consider the following:

What is your budget?

Although the price isn't the most important thing to consider, you will need to keep this in mind if you are on a strict budget. Some of the sandals on our list are a little pricey while others are more cost-effective--we made sure to include options that would work for everyone.

Do they offer all of the features you need?

To get the most of your running sandals, you need to make sure you get a pair that offers what you need. If you have pronation issues or require additional support, then make sure to prioritize those needs as you narrow down your top picks. Even the best running sandals won't work for you if they don't address your specific needs.

Our Favorite Barefoot Running Sandals

1. Luna Oso

Where to buy
Luna Oso
Amazon Link

Founded by the famous Barefoot Ted McDonald featured in Born to Run, Luna's Oso holds the top position on our list. Not only do they have the ultra-marathon (50 miles) example of their founder to endorse the product, but many marathon and ultramarathon runners also testify to the durability and appropriateness of these shoes.

Read more

Comfort

The super comfy nylon strapping system with the heel cushioning and the easy-grip soles make these very comfortable. The comfort improves with time as they conform to the natural shape of your foot.

Style

Available exclusively in black, the Oso has 13mm Vibram® Megagrip outsoles and Vibram® midsoles. The soles have 4.5 mm lugs to give you a secure grip on any surface and the shoes weigh only about 9 oz. They have a unique sure-grip footbed to hold the sandals to your soles.

Materials

Made of high-quality materials, these are definitely a great pair of sandals for those of you who love to run.

Durability

Made for long-distance runners, these running sandals are durable and built to last you for the long haul.

Value

These are quite pricey, but as it seems close to impossible to wear them out, the objective price must be compared to the subjective investment.

2. Xero Amuri Z-trek

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Xero Amuri Z-trek
Amazon Link

The Xero Amuri Z-trek are half the price of our top pick in this category and offer many of the same benefits through very different design elements and using very different basic components.

Read more

Comfort

The anchor points are somewhat elevated to keep the straps off the ground and the entire sole has a subtle contour to enable the sandals to hug the sole of your foot.

Style

Available in three color combinations for both men and women, the Amuri Z-trek is a remarkably flexible, durable sport unshoe with 5.5mm rubber soles that enable excellent, natural running style and road read.

Materials

Xero uses rubber for the soles of the Amuri S-treks, rather than heavier, tire-like soles, for greater flexibility. These soles include technical elements including a slight toe curl-up for spring, modest arch support and a comfortable heel cup.

Durability

These are so light and comfortable you may forget you are wearing them. The sole holds to your natural sole as if it were just another layer of skin and the Z strapping system is soft and nearly weightless. These average about 6.9 oz. and feature zero-drop for natural posture support.

Value

At half the price of many running sandals, these are a good value investment.

Amazon Link

3. Vibram VI-S

Where to buy
Vibram VI-S
Amazon Link

If you're familiar with this Vibram you know that they've helped to revolutionize the running shoe game with their minimalist, quality and sturdy barefoot-style shoes. This is their sandal offering and has the same high level of quality and good materials as their shoes but with a more open design. Users loved how comfortable they are but you should be aware that they do run large so you may want to order a size smaller than your normal shoe size.

Read more

Comfort

Users mentioned again and again how good these felt on their feet and how they could wear them all day. The design is great for helping your feet to remember their natural form and function.

Style

Most people either love or hate how these look. Most users like wearing them and even feel that they're suitable for more formal occasions than one would think based on their initial impression looking at them.

Materials

These are made from imported textiles and have a grippy rubber sole with a serrated knife style lug pattern.

Durability

Like most minimalist shoes these won't last as long as other options simply because of the design and thinness of the materials.

Value

Available at a pretty great price, these are a good first-time pair of running sandals.

4. Vivobarefoot Achilles

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Vivobarefoot Achilles Sports Sandals
Amazon Link

You can identify Vivobarefoot by the cool red “V” logo placed at various strategic points on the shoes. These feature a 3mm sole, have a distinctive look. The Vivobarefoot Achilles Sport does not have a toe post, rather features a wide separation between the first toe and the rest of the toes with toe caps to protect those delicate digits.

Read also about vivo running shoes.

Read more

Comfort

Intended to anchor the foot into the footbed, the toe separation is irritating unless the division matches your foot ideally. The entire sole is curved up at the edge like a saucer and prevents small stones and sticks from intruding between your foot and the footbed.

Style

Offered in bright and brilliant colors or, of course, in black, Vivobarefoot Achilles feature the unusual toe separation with cap described above as well as a removable, nylon strap.

Materials

The over-the-foot strap anchor includes padding for comfort. The sole pattern is of hexagons enables foot movement in any direction.

Durability

The edge of these sole curve ever so slightly upwards preventing irritating intrusion of small objects under the toenails. These also leave a cool-looking imprint in moist or sandy soil like an ungulate.

Value

When these shoes agree with you, this is a great value. The toe division is not comfortable for many runners who must pass on this sandal, but for those whom it suits, this is a great shoe at a great price.

Amazon Link

5. Skechers On The Go 400

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Skechers On The Go 400
Amazon Link

These are a great option for running and for people who'll be on their feet all day. These Skechers running shoes offer the user a lot of support and have good cushioning. The footbed features energy return materials and they run true to size. A few users did mention that they experienced some squeaking, but it didn't seem to happen to everyone.

Read more

Comfort

This is one of the highest rated shoes on our list in this category. The energy return footbed and soft fabric lining of the straps help to ensure they'll feel good on your feet all day long.

Style

These are middle of the road when it comes to looks. They don't stand out and they won't make you look like a dork either.

Materials

These feature a rubber sole and textile straps. The straps have a fabric lining for comfort that feels very soft against the user's skin.

Durability

We did find a few mentions of people who experience the sole coming apart from the footbed after a couple of months of use. This didn't happen to everyone, but it wasn't an isolated incidence either.

Value

If you are on a budget, these are a great pair of sandals given the cost.

Amazon Link

6. Vivobarefoot Eclipse

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Vivobarefoot Eclipse
Amazon Link

The Vivobarefoot Eclipse is attractive and Vegan. They feature 5mm, puncture-resistant soles as well as a perforated, cushioned strap. The strap is particularly springy, which some runners like and others feel impedes their running by allowing too much room between the foot’s natural sole and the footbed.

Read more

Comfort

The dimpled, anatomical footbed keeps the foot from shifting in the bed in both moist and dry conditions. Vivobarefoot anatomical footbed contains dimpling for stability and comfort and the slight arch is a welcome addition.

Style

Intended as an all-purpose sports option, these have a fashionable edge to them while retaining their sporty construction. Available in attractive colors, these have a fun vibe but the anti-puncture sole and dimpled, anatomical footbed ensure their performance on the road and trail do not suffer because of their good looks.

Materials

Made of durable and high-quality materials, these are a great pair of sandals to invest in.

Durability

Really durable and built to last--great for runners looking for a long-term pair of running sandals.

Value

These are mid-priced action sandals and are durable and washable, a good price for these sandals.

Amazon Link

7. Keen Newport H2

Where to buy
Keen Newport H2
Amazon Link

These are a very secure option that can be used for running as well as water sports such as river rafting and stand up paddleboarding. They feature PFC free materials and have a very comfortable footbed and a great multi-directional lug system for traction. Users found them to be supportive and secure, but they do have a short break-in time and some buyers experienced durability issues.

Read more

Comfort

The EVA footbed keeps the user's foot feeling good even during all-day use. The secure lacing system also works well without being too tight.

Style

Personally, we like how these look, and users felt comfortable wearing them in a variety of settings. They're also available in 12 different color combinations.

Materials

We love that these are made from PFC free sources. PFC is an inorganic compound that doesn't break down and releases harmful chemicals into the environment. KEEN shows their commitment to our natural world by going the extra mile to make products without PFC.

Durability

This seems to be a mixed bag with these. Most users enjoyed a long-lasting experience with these, while several others had the strap system fail rather quickly.

Value

Although these are a little pricey, you will find these are one of the best running sandals out there.

8. Teva Katavi

Where to buy
Teva Katavi
Amazon Link

This is a solid option from an iconic sandal brand. They feature an extremely grippy rubber outsole and very comfortable footbed. The strap system works well to secure the sandal to the user's foot.

Read more

Comfort

This is one of the best parts of this product. The footbed is soft and comfortable but still supportive, and the strap system is very secure but won't bit into your foot so they're good for all-day wear.

Style

These are fairly average looking for this type of product. They only come in one color.

Materials

These feature imported textile straps. The rubber outsole is made from what the company calls Durabrasion rubber, which is their own proprietary rubber that has a lot of traction and grip but is also very durable.

Durability

Most users enjoyed long-lasting use from these but there were a few instances of early failure, mostly with the strap system.

Value

They are a little bit expensive, however.

9. OOfos Original

OOfos Original
Amazon Link

Beyond encouraging the minimalist, exercise aficionados, Oofos takes the next step in this foot ware trend by creating a product that actually claims to encourage recovery. The molded, cushioned footbed of OOfos Original absorbs shock so every aspect of your gait can recover.

Read more

Comfort

OOfos cradles the foot for maximum comfort. Though a hybrid of comfort/recovery product and workout one, the OOfos anatomical footbed is a sweet, comfortable ride, cushioning the entire running mechanism for recovery and performance.

Style

Stylish to the point of loud, these are not low-profile. Oofos creates the footbed from OOfoam which is comfortable and maintains its cushioning over time.

Materials

Though more technical than many shoes on this list, Oofos 1” heel provides Achilles tendon support and the anatomical footbed is dimpled to prevent sliding in any direction.

Durability

Although these are not the most durable running sandals on our list, they will definitely hold up for you over time if you need a durable pair of sandals.

Value

These hit the mid-point for this type of footwear. If this is your style, these are a good price for an established, well-known product.

10. Atika Maya Trail

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Atika Maya Trail
Amazon Link

Atika Maya Trail is modestly-priced and is another example of the hybrid running design. They provide some arch and heel support while remaining flexible and comfortable. Not for the true blue minimalist, these shoes, designed for trails, hug the trail to prevent slippage.

Read more

Comfort

The molded footbed of the Maya is supportive and light enough, though far from a featherweight. The nylon straps are adjustable in two places and are blister-resistant.

Style

Offered in quite a few color combinations, none of the hues disguise the heavy-duty nature of these trail shoes.

Materials

When we enter the category of multipurpose hiking designs, we must exempt them from most issues of fashion and judge them on their practicality.

Durability

The lugs on the soles hold the trail effectively without passing any discomfort on to the soles of your feet.

Value

This is another adapted rather than designed product. The price is so affordable that they are worth trying in case they are a good match for you.

Amazon Link

Sources

  1. Bill Hendrick, Barefoot Running Laced With Health Benefits, Fitness & Exercise
  2. Bretta Riches, Best Barefoot Running Sandals, Running Guides.
  3. Adventurous Habits, THE Guide to Minimalist Sandals, Running guide
  4. Patrick Sweeney, Running in Sandals?, Running Magazine

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Inside RunnerClick Pro, runners of all strengths come together to meet and support one another, get answers to burning questions, learn from experts, participate in personal challenges, and more.