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10 Best Barefoot Running Shoes: The Naturalist’s Guide

last updated Oct 01, 2018

Within the past few years, barefoot running shoes have become popular among many runners. They allow for a more barefoot “feel” during your runs and encourage your running stride.

Nowadays there are tons of barefoot running shoes to choose from—so it doesn’t matter if you prefer trail, road, or treadmills running. The perfect barefoot shoe is lightweight, flexible, and not heavily padded—all while still providing you with enough protection to allow for an unrestrained run.

Take a look below to find the top 10 best barefoot running shoes currently available this season!

Researched Sources
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Researched Sources
Reviews Considered
1860
Reviews Considered
Hours Researching
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Hours Researching
Products Evaluated
17
Products Evaluated
Last Updated: September 16, 2018
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By Giselle Killebrew:

The newest additions to our list are the Vibram V-Run and the Xero Shoes Prio barefoot running shoes. All three of these range in prices, but they are all excellent options if you are looking for a minimalistic running shoe that encourages your natural stride.

Sorting Options
Comfort Breathability Flexibility Responsiveness Price By Default
Rank
PictureProduct
Name
Rating
Shops
1
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
93.8
Comfort
98%
Breathability
93%
Flexibility
96%
Responsiveness
94%
Price
88%
Price Comparison Last Updated (23.10.18)
$104.09
2
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
92.6
Comfort
96%
Breathability
91%
Flexibility
89%
Responsiveness
93%
Price
94%
Price Comparison Last Updated (23.10.18)
$147.99
3
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
92.6
Comfort
98%
Breathability
92%
Flexibility
95%
Responsiveness
91%
Price
87%
Price Comparison Last Updated (23.10.18)
$59.98
4
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
92
Comfort
96%
Breathability
89%
Flexibility
94%
Responsiveness
93%
Price
88%
Price Comparison Last Updated (23.10.18)
$109.95
5
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
91.8
Comfort
93%
Breathability
91%
Flexibility
94%
Responsiveness
93%
Price
88%
Price Comparison Last Updated (23.10.18)
$94.99
6
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
91.2
Comfort
93%
Breathability
89%
Flexibility
94%
Responsiveness
96%
Price
84%
Price Comparison Last Updated (23.10.18)
$110.00
7
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
91.2
Comfort
96%
Breathability
91%
Flexibility
93%
Responsiveness
87%
Price
89%
Price Comparison Last Updated (23.10.18)
$89.95
8
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
91
Comfort
89%
Breathability
92%
Flexibility
87%
Responsiveness
94%
Price
93%
Price Comparison Last Updated (23.10.18)
$59.90
9
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90.6
Comfort
93%
Breathability
91%
Flexibility
96%
Responsiveness
84%
Price
89%
Price Comparison Last Updated (23.10.18)
$79.95
10
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89.4
Comfort
92%
Breathability
91%
Flexibility
88%
Responsiveness
86%
Price
90%
Price Comparison Last Updated (23.10.18)
$139.99
In Depth Review Top 10
  • Vibram FiveFingers V-Run
  • Merrell Bare Access 4
  • Vibram FiveFingers KSO
  • Saucony Kinvara 9
  • Xero Shoes Prio
  • Merrell Pace Glove 3
  • Topo Athletic ST-2
  • Mizuno Wave Universe 5
  • Merrell Vapor Glove 3
  • On Cloud X
Table of contents
  • Criteria Used for Evaluation
  • Other Factors to Consider
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Sources

Best Barefoot Running Shoes

1. Vibram FiveFingers V-Run

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
93.8
Vibram FiveFingers V-Run
Comfort
98
Breathability
93
Flexibility
96
Responsiveness
94
Price
88
best offer for today
$104.09
Pros:

Lightweight design

Breathable mesh upper

Easy on and off

Clever lacing system

Terrific grip

Cons:

Maybe too breathable for cold weather runs

Inconsistent sizing with a looser fit

The V-run shoes are actually one of the best shoes Vibram has to offer--so it's no surprise they have made this list as well. They are breathable, lightweight, and comfortable--and a perfect option for those of you who love that barefoot feel.

Read more

Comfort/Stability

These shoes are really breathable, comfortable, and flexible. They are some of the most comfortable options but are definitely not meant for trails or offroad running because debris will get in.

Quality/Durability

These are pretty durable and built to last--but not meant for trails.

2. Merrell Bare Access 4

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
92.6
Merrell Bare Access 4
Comfort
96
Breathability
91
Flexibility
89
Responsiveness
93
Price
94
best offer for today
$147.99
Pros:

Affordable

Bare Access Outsole with Vibram pods for increased traction

Highly responsive

M Select FRESH keeps away odorous bacteria for a clean and healthy shoe

MBound cushioning tech for strong ground-to-foot feedback, as if the runner is barefoot

Mesh lining and upper are breathable and non-irritating

Cons:

A couple of reviews suggest some durability issues with he outsole, but the majority are positive.

Here we are: the best of the best barefoot running shoes. Merrell Bare Access running shoes come in a couple color combinations that are attractive but not too flashy or overbearing. They’re lightweight with zero heel-to-toe drop, weighing in at 4.5 oz. (W) and 6.4 oz. (M). What really sets these shoes above all others, though, is the technology behind them. Check it out:

Read more

Comfort/Stability
These shoes are really comfortable and stable. They are also breathable, flexible, and lightweight.

Quality/Durability
These shoes are made of high quality and durable material!

3. Vibram FiveFingers KSO

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
92.6
Vibram FiveFingers KSO
Comfort
98
Breathability
92
Flexibility
95
Responsiveness
91
Price
87
best offer for today
$59.98
Pros:

Breathable upper

Great ground feel

Highly flexible for natural running feel

Easy-on quick lacing system

XS TREK tech for combined stability, traction, and comfort that remains lightweight

Cons:

Toe feel is strange for some new to the brand

This list would not be complete without some FiveFingers, a brand frequently associated with the best barefoot running shoes. These babies are ultra-minimalist at zero-drop and 3.5 oz. (W) and 4.1 (M). They’ve got a unique look and they slide on like an extra layer to the foot rather than a shoe.

Read more

Comfort/Stability
As far as comfort, these are it! They are lightweight, breathable, and minimalistic. Their updated laceup system allows for a secure and comfortable fit as well.

Quality/Durability
These are pretty durable but not one of the most durable on our list. Their toe box and upper portion are flimsier than other models on our list and they are definitely not to be taken out on rocky terrain or trails.

4. Saucony Kinvara 9

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
92
Saucony Kinvara 9
Comfort
96
Breathability
89
Flexibility
94
Responsiveness
93
Price
88
best offer for today
$109.95
Pros:

Lightweight construction

Very comfortable

Excellent mix of cushioning and flexibility

Supportive

Cons:

Narrow fit

One of the more standardized in designs on this list, the Saucony Kinvara 9 is still an exceptional option for a natural running. While maintaining and exceptionally lightweight build the Kinvara 9 still emphasizes a well cushioned and supportive design. Saucony also knows that the Kinvara 9 needs to be as flexible as possible to properly bend with a naturally inclined runner. These shoes are a moderately priced option available from longstanding reliable brand.

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Comfort/Stability
These are perfect for barefoot runners because they encourage your natural stride and allow for full range of motion. They are lightweight and supportive as well as stabilizing. They are highly flexible and breathable as well.

Quality/Durability
These shoes are made of high quality material and are built to last.

5. Xero Shoes Prio

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
91.8
Xero Shoes Prio
Comfort
93
Breathability
91
Flexibility
94
Responsiveness
93
Price
88
best offer for today
$94.99
Pros:

Lightweight

Durable

Comfortable

Flexibility

Cons:

Break in period

These barefoot running shoes are comfortable, adjustable, and offer a secure fit. They allow for full range of motion and help you push through even the longest runs.

Read more

Comfort/Stability
These shoes are supportive without sacrificing flexibility and offer high levels of comfort during all of your runs. They provide excellent traction and are highly protective--so you can take them on some of the easier trail runs you love.

Quality/Durabilty
These are highly durable and built to last! They have excellent traction and grip.

6. Merrell Pace Glove 3

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
91.2
Merrell Pace Glove 3
Comfort
93
Breathability
89
Flexibility
94
Responsiveness
96
Price
84
best offer for today
$110.00
Pros:

Vegan-friendly construction

Combined footbed and outsole for lightweight construction

Mesh and TPU uppers for secure yet breathable coverage

Very durable outsole

Vibram layer

Zero-drop

Cons:

Sizing runs a bit large

Merrell shoes regularly score high for the best barefoot running shoes, and these take the number four spot for a handful of reasons. They’re attractive yet minimal in design and they have so much technology packed into them, but somehow they remain lightweight.

Read more

Comfort/Stability

These are incredibly breathable, lightweight, and comfortable. They are an excellent option for all of those who love barefoot running and minimalistic shoes.

Quality/Durability

These are really durable and made of high quality material. They are built to last and meant to be used on any terrain to an extent.

7. Topo Athletic ST-2

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
91.2
Topo Athletic ST-2
Comfort
96
Breathability
91
Flexibility
93
Responsiveness
87
Price
89
best offer for today
$89.95
Pros:

Extremely light weight

Wide toe box

Durable construction

Perfect amount of cushioning

Breaths well

Cons:

Some may have issues with heel pocket grip

When it comes to the environment and season best barefoot running shoes, most people think of a mild climate in the middle of the year. Summers are too hot for running barefoot, and winter? Don’t even get us started. This is where the Vivobarefoot Stealths come in and knock all competitors out of the park. If you want to run hard and barefoot all year long, these are your guys.

Read more

Comfort/Stability

The Topo Athletic ST-2 is the good choice for athletes looking for a barefoot running shoe that is both durable and reliable. The wide toe box allows for the wearer to naturally grip their path by giving them room to spread their toes as they run. The ST-2 is lightweight without sacrificing the necessary padding to properly cushion a runner's feet. All of these features combined with the ST-2’s tight sock-like fit and mesh ventilation makes it an excellent choice for runners looking for a barefoot experience.

Quality/Durability

These are pretty durable, but not as durable as many other options on our list.

8. Mizuno Wave Universe 5

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
91
Mizuno Wave Universe 5
Comfort
89
Breathability
92
Flexibility
87
Responsiveness
94
Price
93
best offer for today
$59.90
Pros:

As lightweight as they come at 2.3 oz. (W) and 2.9 oz. (M)

G3 SOLE tech for ground feel and strong traction

U4ic tech for midsole support

Very flexible for natural running motion

Cons:

Expensive

Barefoot running shoes are really cool because they allow us to run like our ancestors, but they put together the best of modern technology and style to protect the foot along the way. The Mizuno brand has this lightweight yet high-tech and ultra-modern style down to a tee. Even the laces, with brindle patterning, are stylish and unique. Not to mention the colorful, dancing numbers pattern or shoes-on-fire flame details to choose from.

Read more

Comfort/Stability
These shoes utilize an AirMesh upper that allows for optimal breathability and ventilation. As far as comfort, these have minimal padding and cushioning but high levels of flexibility and comfort.

Quality/Durability
These are pretty durable and are built to last.

9. Merrell Vapor Glove 3

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90.6
 Merrell Vapor Glove 3
Comfort
93
Breathability
91
Flexibility
96
Responsiveness
84
Price
89
best offer for today
$79.95
Pros:

Vegan-friendly construction

Combined footbed and outsole for lightweight construction

Mesh and TPU uppers for secure yet breathable coverage

Very durable outsole

Vibram layer

Zero-drop

Cons:

Sizing runs a bit large

Merrell shoes regularly score high for the best barefoot running shoes, and these take the number four spot for a handful of reasons. They’re attractive yet minimal in design and they have so much technology packed into them, but somehow they remain lightweight and affordable.

Read more

Comfort/Stability

These shoes are extremely lightweight and highly comfortable. They utilize M-Select Fresh technology for optimal breathability and antimicrobial coating to prevent odor and bacteria from forming. They provide adequate cushioning and offer a secure fit.

Quality/Durability

These are really durable and made of high-quality materials. They are made to last up to 200 miles.

10. On Cloud X

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89.4
On Cloud X
Comfort
92
Breathability
91
Flexibility
88
Responsiveness
86
Price
90
best offer for today
$139.99
Pros:

Extremely lightweight

Comfortable

Supportive without being confining

Well ventilated

Wide midfoot for stability and comfort

Wide toe box

Pre set laces

Easy on and off

Cons:

Rocks may become lodged in the tracks

Narrow fit

The On Cloud is from a lesser known brand, but it’s quality speaks for itself. Between the Cloud’s lightweight build and it's notable ventilation these shoes have really lived up to their name.

Read more

Comfort/Stability

They are easy to wear and adjust with their slip on design and elastic shoelaces. Some runners may be concerned that this sort of easy wear construction will affect the fit. The Cloud’s grip on the wearers foot is snug and supportive While the On Cloud has a tendency to acquire smaller bits of gravel in its tracks but the advantages of their comfortable lightweight design outweigh any drawbacks. If you are looking for a natural feeling run then the On Cloud is a solid choice.

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Comfort

Barefoot running shoes encourage your natural stride and allow for full range of motion. This means they are flexible and minimally cushioned. While these shoes are not for everyone, they are highly comfortable to runners looking for the features barefoot running shoes have to offer. As far as comfort, it is always important we have a pair of shoes that fits our specific comfort needs--which is why we made sure to provide you with a plethora of options to choose from.

Breathability

Most barefoot running shoes are extraordinary breathable thanks to their minimalistic designs. This means they have excellent ventilaion capabilities and ensure your feet remain cool and dry during your runs. It is important to consider breathability because the last thing we want is for blisters and chafing to occur.

Flexibility

Flexibility is one of the key features found in barefoot running shoes. It allows for your natural stride and provides you with full range of motion. Here we looked for shoes that had a minimal break in period as well as for shoes that allow for all types of strikes.

Responsiveness

Barefoot running shoes allow you to improve proprioception and balance. Without shoes, you can activate the smaller muscles in your feet, legs, ankles, and hips that are responsible for better balance and coordination.

And by having much better ground contact, the vestibular system begins to awaken, remapping and stimulating previously unused neural connections for improved balance. This is particularly important for some older runners, as a single fall or fracture can set in motion a full-on decline in health overall.

Responsiveness plays a key role in this, which is why we factor all of the above when choosing the most responsive options.

Value

Price is something we always look at. All of you have different budgets and ideas of what you should or want to spend. Here we take into account the best available option for each budget as well as make sure to incorporate options for everyone. While budget is an important factor to consider, make sure to pick something that has the features you need--the last thing you want to do is overpay for something you don't need or under pay and end up in a situation where you have to waste more money in the long run.

Expert Interviews & Opinions

Most Important Criterias (According to our experts opinion)
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Are your feet ready for barefoot shoes?

If you have any issues like plantar fasciitis, arches in need of serious support, or anything else that would require a more supportive shoe, maybe think about whether or not these are a good idea.

What's the point?

The ground feel and responsiveness is as good as it gets in barefoot running shoes. They also make some trails a lot more enjoyable as well.

Other Factors to Consider

Drop

The popularity and revival of this movement have encouraged shoe companies to introduce thin-soled and flexible shoes which are claimed to be the next best thing to barefoot running. They have reduced or even zero cushioning, and are lighter weight than other running shoes. They also tend to have much thinner soles that provide more sensory contact with the ground. This type of running shoe provides protection from bruises, cuts, minor impacts, and weather.

According to some experts, wearing shoes causes the small muscles in our feet to be weakened and the ligaments, tendons, allowing the natural arches to stop doing their job. They also believe that the result of supportive shoe inserts, extra cushioning and orthotics is poor foot biomechanics and increased risk of foot, leg and knee injuries. Runners wearing shoes with a higher drop often make their landings right onto their heels, basically relying solely on the shoe’s larger amount of padding.

Frequently Asked Questions

q: Q: Will it be painful to switch from traditional trainers to a barefoot model?
a:

A: It really depends on your particular feet. The difference will definitely be noticed immediately, as you’ll be able to feel more contact with the ground and all of its imperfections. As far as it being painful, It probably won’t, unless you happen to have issues with your feet which require more support and cushioning.

q: Q: I have very flat feet, will this type of footwear work for me?
a:

A: Any runner with flat feet can certainly tell you about the importance of support. There are some barefoot shoe designs that have that type of support available. Admittedly they are generally bulkier than others but tend to still emphasize a lightweight build. It may be tempting to use an insole to compliment a lighter shoe, but that is inadvisable since the effect it would have on the weight and flexibility would undermine the reason for purchasing barefoot running shoe.

q: Q: I currently wear trail runners, and tend to stick to the semi-rough terrain. Are these a no-go for my style of running and preferred terrain?
a:

A: It doesn’t necessarily have to be a no-go. However, it may be a good idea to pay close attention to how rough the terrain really is. These shoes little mass and minimal soles by their very design. If you are used to running with a protective pair of trail shoes, these will most likely take some time to get used to.

q: Q: Would a lower priced pair of water shoes give me about the same type of performance as the more expensive models?
a:

A: Some water shoes may appear similar in quality and design to barefoot style running shoes, but the support that barefoot shoes provide in their fit and cushioning doesn’t compare to a shoe built for wet use.

Sources

  1. Alex Hutchinson, Runner's World, Running enthusiast website, Aug 07, 2015
  2. Chris McDougall, ChrisMcDougall.com, Website of Runner & Author Christopher McDougall,