10 Best Barefoot Running Shoes: The Naturalist’s Guide
Enjoy our full reviews below.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Barefoot running shoes need to allow you to comfortably feel the ground beneath you as well as allow your body to adjust to your natural running form.
If you're unfamiliar with barefoot running, then comfort should be your number one concern. To start that is.
It will take time to get used to the shoes, as well as the new running style that comes with naturalist running. You'll be using new muscles, building strength in others, and even compensating for the lack of strength at times.
Focus on comfort and fit to prevent injury.
The best barefoot shoes need to be extraordinarily breathable.
This means they have excellent ventilation 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, which are actually often caused by excess moisture in your shoe.
Some of the models on our list are "bulkier" than others, but even these are still designed with features such as mesh panels and ventilated uppers to help keep the breathability factor high. People living in hot climates will especially love barefoot/natural-style running shoes as they inherently keep your feet really cool and dry as you pound that hot pavement in the summer sun.
Keep in mind, however, that moisture being able to get out, generally means it will also be able to get in, so watch yourself as you run and try to avoid large puddles, etc. that you would normally just charge through if you were wearing a pair of heavier, more protective traditional running shoes.
Flexibility is one of the key features found in barefoot running shoes.
It allows for your natural stride and provides you with a full range of motion. Here we looked for shoes that had a very minor break-in period as well as for shoes that allow for all types of foot strikes.
Flexibility is important because it allows us to avoid injuries and ensures we have a full range of motion. We all strike differently, have a unique gait, and need varying arch support. Barefoot and natural style running shoes need to be flexible enough to ensure that all of our needs are met while also allowing for different types of runners to be able to use their shoes.
Remember however that for some runners starting out with barefoot-style running an extremely flexible shoe might not be the best fit, and they'd be better off choosing a shoe with a mid-range of flexibility until their feet and stride adjust to the more natural motion.
Barefoot running shoes allow you to improve your proprioception and balance
Responsiveness refers to how much response and rebound a shoe gives you in return for the kinetic energy you put out with each stride. For barefoot-style running shoes, this is a fine line to walk, er, run. Especially if you run on trails, you'll want something with more responsiveness to interact with the variable terrain and help you negotiate obstacles.
Responsiveness, however, comes from additional padding and torsional rigidity, which kind of goes against the whole point of this new type of running shoe technology.
In the end, we recommend thinking about what type of running you do most, whether on the trail or road running, and selecting a shoe that's appropriate for that.
Price is something we always look at but let's all remember that price alone doesn't determine the value of a product.
Additionally, the price range is a personal financial choice.
We take into account all barefoot running shoe prices and balance our picks with how well they perform on the road, track and trails.
13 Best Barefoot Running Shoes
1. Merrell Men's Trail Glove 6
We loved this model. Especially if you're just getting into barefoot running.Read more
The glove 5 has been updated to give more cushion and support. This shoe is a tried and tested design that provides a natural surface contact feel.
The flexible upper allows the shoe to adapt to different terrain conditions. Its thin sole provides a natural foot feel while the thick upper allows the to not feel trail pebbles.
2. Vibram FiveFingers V-Run
Perhaps the most recognizable brand of barefoot running shoes, the Vibram FiveFingers V-Run offers a very natural barefoot running experience.Read more
This shoe can be used on soft and hard surfaces. Its grip is good for smooth surfaces while its compound sole allows for maximum surface contact.
It's very light but still packs enough shock absorption and cushion. It features a 2mm EVA Drilex insole and a rubber layer. The uppers are made of Polyester and Lycra spandex.
The only downfall of these toe shoes is the need to go barefoot or use toe socks.
3. Arc'teryx Norvan SL
We loved the detailed treads on the bottom to really grip the surface.Read more
The Norvan SL is one of the lightest trail trainers on the market at just 6.5 ounces. Combined with a mesh upper to let the foot breathe, we loved how it keeps the foot dry and cool.
Don't let the lightweight and choice of material fool you though. They held up on rough terrain and over long distances.
4. New Balance Minimus 10 V1
A solid barefoot option but not going to hit the top of our list any time soon.Read more
This shoe features a lightweight upper that provides a great amount of support and comfort. It also comes in various electric color options.
The outsole has flexible flex grooves that are designed to mimic the natural movements of your foot.
This design from New Balance is a great choice. Durability: We have found that it is made from quality materials that are able to hold up while out on the trials without weighing your down. The affordable price tag really makes them worth checking out.
5. Xero Shoes Prio
Specifically for training in a variety of terrains.Read more
These barefoot 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 more interesting trails.
These are highly durable and built to last. They have excellent traction and grip, making them one of the few high-quality barefoot-style running shoes available.
This barefoot option is also good for other athletic activities and for weight lifting. Barefoot newbies can also use this shoe as a transition shoe towards more minimalist shoes. A good product at a reasonable price.
6. Vivobarefoot Stealth II
Key features that give your foot just a little bit of added supportRead more
The very first thing about this design is the lightweight and quilted upper. It is composed of materials that are incredibly lightweight that allow your foot to breathe. It has abbreviated laces and minimal seam lines that reduce the risk of chafing and hot spots,
The rubber outsole is slightly tacky, which is perfect when running on slick sidewalks wet from the rain. Users appreciate that the simple sole is lightweight, but still offers subtle energy feedback and support where you need it most. It also hosts reflective features to help you be seen when out for a nighttime run.
Effortlessly blends style and function in one sharp pair of trainers, These shoes have a simple design that is comfortable, lightweight, nice performance, and of good value.
7. Saucony Kinvara 11
A little more versatile than some of the other minimalistic designs.Read more
The midsole and outsole have excellent movement. This shoe really moves with your foot, while the cushioning helps to provide excellent energy feedback. The styling of this sole makes it great for trail running, as well as workouts at the gym as well.
We like the lightweight and easy upper of the Kinvara 11. It boasts simple and lightweight materials with simple laces that reduces the instances of hot spots. It runs true on the foot and won’t hinder your full range of motion, Incredibly breathable for running long distances.
Users like that it promotes a full range of motion with light and easy materials, which makes it ideal for more than just running. Plus, it comes in a lot of fun colors and designs.