Minimal and barefoot shoes have become extremely popular. Want to know where to buy them? Here’s our guide.
I once heard a fascinating and eye-opening comparison between shoes and beds. Bear with me; this will make sense in just one second. When it comes to shoes, we go for all of the comfort and support features, like memory foam.
We think a supportive memory foam mattress feels great when sleeping on it, so why not bring that comfort to our shoes?
Well, imagine trying to walk around a street made of memory foam effectively. Not so great for the stroll or your feet, as it turns out (not all the time, at least). There is a thing as too much cushioning!
This is just one of many schools of thought that brought the barefoot shoe to the forefront. And I’ve heard and experienced good things with them!
We’re going back in time a lot these days to find the best life practices we’ve long forgotten about. Being barefoot, or as close to it as possible, is something our ancestors often did, and minimal shoes bridge the gap.
While not for everyone, a minimal or barefoot shoe can be an excellent addition to your shoe closet once you get used to them. Here are some of the best ones.
Here are our top recommendations from the list:
Read on for more info and the complete list…
15 Minimal and Barefoot Shoes For Men
Here they are, in no particular order!
Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III
The Primus Lite III from Vivobarefoot is kind of a moderate barefoot shoe. It still has an insole, the inside is fully constructed. From the side, it looks almost like a regular gym sneaker, only with the lowest profile you’ve ever seen.
Make no mistake about it, though; it’s a barefoot shoe. The insole is ortho-lite, so you get a touch of support, but it’s literally only 4 millimeters thin. And you can also remove it if you’re a purist. Extra credit to Vivobarefoot for using mostly recycled foam in its construction.
It’s a great everyday shoe, but also effective for you lifters out there.
Just look at it from the aerial view, and you’ll notice ample room for splaying your toes to give you the grip and support you need (lift with your legs, remember?). And even with the insoles, your feet are pretty much on the ground. Don’t worry; it’s also puncture resistant and flexible.
And, of course, it’s super breathable, too, thanks to that polyester-polyurethane combo upper.
Be Lenka Shoes Be Lenka City
Another great everyday shoe, the Be Lenka City, has some cool style factor to it, in addition to checking off the boxes for a minimalist, barefoot shoe.
As its name indicates, it’s a perfect city shoe. You can probably pull this guy off with a suit during a casual Friday.
The tan variant is light and summery and even has a desert shoe vibe to it. With its slight sheen, the black version is modern with streetwear quality. The blue suede version is my favorite because of the rich but soft upper. It’s the most effective year-rounder.
And naturally, there’s plenty of toe space on top of the lightweight construction, so you have a full and nuanced range of mobility.
Xero Shoes HFS
The HFS from Xero Shoe presents as a good-looking performance shoe, with its side binds and perforations throughout the upper. And, like any such sneaker, you can definitely take the HFS from the trails to the gym.
Despite its super thin sole, the bottom is plenty grippy and flexible. Unlike most minimalist footwear, there’s a pretty high level of feedback. Still, the heel is flat and unelevated, ensuring a barefoot-like experience.
It isn’t heavy, but it’s definitely on the higher end of the weight spectrum when it comes to minimal footwear. It’s still far more agile than even the lightest standard trainer, though.
At just around seven ounces per shoe, it provides just enough substance to give you the protection you need when trail jogging or even walking.
The upper is equipped with a pull-string so you can still just slide your feet into them and head out the door in seconds. With the pull string, if you want some extra tightness there, it’s possible.
This also helps with its lifespan. Even when it starts to stretch out, you can find a bit more life in it with a few string pulls.
The single-piece upper is airy and light mesh, so you can wear these shoes as your house slippers.
I like to wear them indoors without the insole, which gets it down to that four-millimeter bottom, That’s about as close to shoelessness as a piece of footwear can get! Then, I pop the insole back in when I’m out and about.
By the way, that mesh is made of recycled coffee grounds, making Freet Barefoot another topnotch eco-conscious brand.
Lems Primal Zen
The substantial-looking and multi-sectioned upper of the Lems Primal Zen shoe might trick you into thinking it’s not bare footwear. It almost looks like a hiking shoe.
However, the Primal Zen is slipper-level weightless with the brand’s proprietary injection-blown rubber sole. The slight tread on the bottom, cork footbed, and the platform protectively wraps around your foot, giving you extra grip and stability.
As always, it also has a roomy toe box and a no-drop heel.
I think the Primal Zen is the perfect town and country shoe. It goes with any casual outfit. You can wear it on concrete sidewalks, but it can even handle uneven terrain, whether on dirt, leaves, or even rocks.
I want to note that there’s a more traditional, slightly padded tongue on this shoe. In my experience, though, it tends to stay in place.
Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3
Is it a walking shoe or a lifting shoe? Try an overall gym shoe. The strength of the Inov-8 Bare-XF 210 V3 is its performance and versatility. Honestly, minimalist shoes like this really convince me of the importance of the barefoot shoe movement.
It shows that, often, all we need is just our natural gait and stance and a little help to level those elements up when working out.
The upper, which has enough room for toe splay, also happens to be padded. This combines roominess and grip with protection and stability. It’s almost like a spotter for your feet.
I wouldn’t use this shoe during super long runs since the bottoms, while not gripless, are a bit too smooth. With a midsole that provides tension as the pressure moves from your heel to your forefoot.
Basically, this design moves with your organic propulsion, making long walks a breeze.
Vivobarefoot Primus Asana
Thanks to a mix of a slimmed-down dad shoe look and an on-template minimalist shoe build, the Primus Asana is an easy everyday sneaker and a high-performance walking shoe. Naturally, this competently practical piece of footwear comes from none other than Vivobarefoot.
Leather sectioning complements complement theupper’s merino wool base. This also helps with the entire shoe’s flexibility.
These shoes are pretty classic and refined, partnering well with either a nice pair of jeans, athleisure, or any old pair of gym shorts.
Like the Primus Lite III, the Primus Asana has a recycled cork insole covered with antibacterial cork, as well as a puncture resistant overall build.
If you’re looking for the best range of toe splay, then the five-finger shoe is an excellent bet. The V-Trail from Vibram is one of the most capable models on the market. That’s because it’s a bit more robust than most five-finger shoes without compromising the natural, light wear.
It’s water resistant and highly durable, making it one of the best outdoor barefoot shoes. It can withstand elements while keeping you secure, using your own natural arches and foot strength.
All that to say, the V-Trail is a perfect training shoe if you’re looking to up your balance, dexterity, and foot energy in a range of environments while remaining protected.
Luna Sandals Mono Winged
I, and several other shoe experts, often recommend the Mono Winged Sandals from Luna as a great entry point to barefoot or no-drop shoes. First, it’s a sandal, making its bareness seem more natural than it would on a barefoot shoe modeled after an athletic trainer or a hiking shoe.
Second, it’s easy to run in and even easier to walk in. Once you get used to running in open-toed sandals, any other closed-toe barefoot shoe would feel even less foreign. With the thick but no imposing cushion and steady upper strap, Luna Sandals literally designed this for outdoor running.
Impressively, the minimal design is a successful balance of freedom and security.
Xero Shoes Z-Trail Sandals
The Z-Trail Sandals from Xero are another good newbie shoe, all for the same reasons the Luna Sandals are. In addition to being a familiar context for minimalist footwear, the Z-Trail also has a relatively thick sole.
It’s still way more simple and bare than any standard sandal. However, the slight cushion and padding will give you the agility you need if you aren’t used to barefoot shoes.
Even outside the minimalist shoe category, the Z-Trail is a comfortable and practical sandal in general. If you’re out on a mountain trail, for example, you wouldn’t get stabbed if you stepped on a sharp rock, but your foot would know it’s there. It’s like barefoot shoe training wheels.
My favorite thing about these sandals is how soft it feels to wear them on hard pavement.
Merrell Vapor Glove 5
All of the things that make the Merrell Vapor Glove 5 such a capable running shoe for all levels, beginner up to marathoners, also make it perfect for regular walking.
I live in New York City and must wear a suit and dress shoes to work, I also walk to my office. If you’re like me, these are good shoes to change into during your commute.
They’re comfortable and have that wide toe box we turn to barefoot shoes for, as well as a compact and steady heel cup. This balance easily accommodates a wide range of foot shapes, ensuring that your feet sit exactly as they naturally position themselves.
And if you’re a summer runner, the breathable mesh and TPU construction make them a great hot-weather shoe.
Xero Shoes Aqua Cloud
Alright, this is for you water sports fanatics out there. The Aqua Cloud, another Xero Shoes sandal, comes with some surprisingly effective traction considering how thin the entire sole is.
This allows you to step into streams and shallow bodies of water while gripping whatever may be beneath you, whether loose rocks or dirt.
Meanwhile, the heel cup is a bit elevated, which not only keeps out pebbles and sand but gives support and cushioning for you paddleboarders.
So, if you’re into water activities, say whitewater rafting, but don’t want to head into said activity fully barefoot, then forget flip-flops. Go for the Aqua Cloud instead.
The last Vivobarefoot entry is pretty much a quintessential minimalist shoe. The Addis has everything you need from a barefoot shoe including the lack of insole, the wide toe box, and the four-millimeter sole base with a slight foot-shaped tread at the bottom.
Beyond that, it’s a classy-looking casual shoe made of Ethiopian cattle leather. It’s soft but strong and one of the most comfortable, chafe-free leather shoes you’ll ever wear — no exaggeration. Also, Vivobarefoot sources the hides from fully independent farmers in Ethiopia.
The neutral design means you can wear them with socks or without socks, and they can definitely be styled no different than, say, a low-profile white leather sneaker.
Depending on the dress code, there’s nothing you can’t wear this shoe with, except for a tuxedo, of course.
Be Lenka Royale
The Be Lenka Royale is definitely one of my favorite barefoot shoes. This is partly because it looks so much like a regular white sneaker from every angle, the kind I wear with a polo and shorts in the summer.
It’s a bit lower than a Keds shoe, but that minimalism gives it a slightly preppy vibe that goes well with the overall look. It’s sporty but elegant. You can wear it with a summer suit, cable knit, or a universal T-shirt and jeans.
Despite all that, this shoe is light, flexible, thin-soled, wide-toed, and features a zero-drop heel, making it a true barefoot shoe despite its sneaker-like looks.
Xero Shoes Genesis
The Xero Shoes Genesis, with its flip-flop-meets-sandal design, is definitely a pragmatic barefoot sandal. Of course, there’s no arch support anywhere, but the contour of the footbed holds your foot perfectly.
Meanwhile, the adjustment system provides an easy, flawless fit, which is my favorite feature of this shoe. You can literally just stick your foot in, pull once or twice, and the lace system just adapts to your ankle and foot.
Moreover, the toe loop is unspeakably soft. This shoe is as quick as a flip-flop but far more sophisticated.
Since the sole is definitely a true barefoot construction, this shoe will take a bit of getting used to. But once you’ve done that, you can do anything with it, including hiking, paddling, working out, and running.
Are you still wondering about minimal and barefoot shoes? Here are some answers to often-asked questions!
Are barefoot shoes actually good for you?
Having a pair of barefoot shoes in your closet can be beneficial. Barefoot shoes allow you to have a more natural gait and allow your feet to work the muscles we naturally use when not wearing overly-cushioned shoes.
What is the point of barefoot shoes?
The point of barefoot shoes is to be able to get as close to being barefoot as possible while still having the protection of a shoe. A huge benefit of this is that your foot stays in its normal formation and works the muscles it’s supposed to.
Barefoot Shoes: Walk Like Nature Intended
Hopefully, this round-up showed you that barefoot shoes, minimalist shoes, and no-drop heels come in all shapes and sizes; and that there’s basically one for every kind of personal style.
I don’t necessarily buy that the comfort-focused, arch-support types of footwear are “bad” for you per se. However, there are benefits to giving your feet a rest and tailoring the type of shoes you wear to the activity of the day.
As mentioned, having at least one pair of barefoot shoes in your closet may add the variation that’s missing there.
Do you like barefoot shoes? Let me know in the comments!