The Best Barefoot Shoes 2023, According to Footwear Experts

The Best Barefoot Shoes 2023, According to Footwear Experts

The product analysts and fiber scientists at the Good Housekeeping Institute Textiles Lab test every type of footwear out there, from orthotic insoles made for your walking shoes to sandals, shoes for flat feet and more. When narrowing down the best barefoot shoes, we reviewed each pair for materials and specs as well as the construction of some of the picks below. We also asked fitness experts in the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Wellness Lab to try barefoot shoes while exercising, paying careful attention to function, fit, durability, comfort and aesthetics. With the help of testers and reviewers who have been hands-on with barefoot shoes as well as our own expertise covering footwear over the years, we’ve rounded up our top picks for the best barefoot shoes to take outdoors on your next hike or walk around the neighborhood.

After checking out our top picks, continue reading to learn more about barefoot shoes, how to start using them and what to look for when shopping.

” />Skip to ContentWe’ve been independently researching and testing products for over 120 years. If you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn more about our review process.1Best Overall Barefoot ShoesPeluva Women’s Strand1Best Overall Barefoot ShoesPeluva Women’s StrandCredit: PeluvaProsComfortableStylishLightweightConsPriceyWhether you want minimalist shoes for cycling, outdoor walks or gym workouts, we like this model from Peluva. Not only are these more stylish than other barefoot shoes we’ve reviewed, but we like the super lightweight design and carefully placed rubber treads on the sole that help provide better traction on the ground. Sassos likes that the sole is thin but not too thin and found them more comfortable than other minimalist shoes she has worn in the past. Though they’ll take some getting used to (especially since they spread out your toes), online reviewers found them comfortable yet sturdy enough for a variety of activities. Pro tip: While men’s sizing was true to size, we found that women may need to size up from their typical shoe size.2Best Value Barefoot ShoesJoomra Women’s Minimalist Trail Running Barefoot Shoes2Best Value Barefoot ShoesJoomra Women’s Minimalist Trail Running Barefoot ShoesNow 30% OffCredit: JoomraProsGreat valueAmazon best sellerAvailable in a variety of colors ConsSome online reviewers mention inaccurate sizing If you only need to use barefoot shoes occasionally or aren’t sure whether you’ll like them, why not consider an affordable pair with nearly 20,000 positive reviews on Amazon? Made for trail running, these can also be used for hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. We appreciate that the shoes come in a range of colors, patterns and designs, and online reviewers love how comfortable they feel, with several mentioning that the shoes “fit like a glove.” Some consumers do point out, however, to make sure to order the right size as the sizing chart may be misleading.3Best Everyday Barefoot ShoesMerrell Vapor Glove 53Best Everyday Barefoot ShoesMerrell Vapor Glove 5Now 33% OffCredit: MerrellProsHigh-quality designVersatile useComfortable according to online reviewersConsSomewhat stiff according to online reviewers A brand that has consistently performed well in our Lab tests (and makes our best overall hiking shoe), Merrell consistently delivers comfortable, high-quality footwear. Though we have yet to test this model in our Lab, we like that it’s versatile and can be used for a number of activities: walking, hiking, trail running and more. These shoes should fit securely, and many online reviewers rave about how comfortable they feel, though they say they a bit stiff initially. If you’re new to minimalist shoes, keep in mind that, like other models, these don’t offer any arch support but are instead designed to help keep your foot in its natural position.Advertisement – Continue Reading Below4Best Barefoot SandalsXero Shoes Genesis 4Best Barefoot SandalsXero Shoes Genesis Credit: Xero ShoesProsLightweight Customizable size and fitBreathable ConsNot as durable as other barefoot shoes according to online reviewers These minimalist sandals from Xero Shoes are the perfect choice for anyone who loves letting their feet breathe. They’re about as close to barefoot as it gets while still giving you some protection from the ground thanks to a thin rubber outsole. Not only are these lightweight, but they’re pre-laced and super easy to slip on. You can even trim them so they’re a custom fit to your foot. We recommend this pair for lighter-intensity activities such as yoga, paddleboarding and more as they’re not quite as durable as other barefoot shoes according to online reviewers. 5Best Barefoot Running ShoesVibram KSO EVO 5Best Barefoot Running ShoesVibram KSO EVO Now 30% OffCredit: VibramProsGreat gripAdjustable lacesConsSizing may be inaccurate according to online reviewers These barefoot shoes have the grip you need to take them on an outdoor adventure or straight to the treadmill. While we haven’t tested this model in the Lab, we like the five-finger design that keeps toes from bunching together as well as the adjustable laces to help you secure the tightest fit. The majority of online reviewers were satisfied with their purchase, though some do warn of sizing inaccuracies. This model also comes in men’s sizing and would make a creative gift for dad.6Best Men’s Barefoot ShoesWHITIN Men’s Cross-Trainer6Best Men’s Barefoot ShoesWHITIN Men’s Cross-TrainerNow 33% OffCredit: WHITINProsGreat valueRoomy toe box Comfortable according to reviewersConsSole may not be durable enoughThis Amazon best-seller impressed more than 16,000 online customers with its comfortable zero-drop construction and minimalist nature. A wide toe box helps prevents toes from feeling squeezed, and a thin sole lets you feel the ground beneath your feet (this does, however, include rocks, pebbles and any cracks). Reviewers love the shoes’ snug fit and great value, and they appreciate being able to pair the shoes with socks since the toes aren’t separated. Just keep in mind that while flexible, the thin sole may not be as durable as other barefoot shoes. Advertisement – Continue Reading Below7Best Barefoot Boots Xero Shoes Tari7Best Barefoot Boots Xero Shoes TariCredit: Xero ShoesProsGreat for colder weatherLightweight Leather ConsHeel strap isn’t secure according to online reviewersWho said barefoot shoes can’t be stylish or worn in colder months? If you’re looking for barefoot boots, this pick from Xero Shoes features a zero-drop heel that allows your foot to bend and flex as you walk around. Though we haven’t tested this pair yet, we like that it’s made of genuine leather and that it’s available in two colors. Plus, these boots are super lightweight so you’ll never feel weighed down. They come with a strap on the side so you can secure the heel for a better fit, though several online reviewers mention that this can come loose.How we chose the best barefoot shoes The Good Housekeeping Institute Textiles Lab tests all types of footwear, from the most effective recovery shoes to running shoes, hiking boots and comfy dress shoes. When selecting the best barefoot shoes, we relied on our decades of expertise in testing in this category and reviewed the specs, materials and construction of each pair. For this story, our analysts and Good Housekeeping Wellness Lab fitness experts tried out barefoot shoes while exercising, noting their function, fit, durability, comfort and aesthetics. While we haven’t tested each pair featured above in the Lab, our top picks are based on testing notes of models or brands we’ve been hands-on with, feedback from consumer testers and our many years of expertise evaluating footwear.What are barefoot shoes? Though you may find various definitions of barefoot or minimalist shoes online, a study by the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research found that 95% of participants agreed with the following definition: “Footwear providing minimal interference with the natural movement of the foot due to its high flexibility, low heel to toe drop, weight and stack height, and the absence of motion control and stability devices.” In other words, barefoot shoes are the closest you can get to being barefoot without putting your feet at risk of getting dirty or hurt thanks to their thin layer of protection. According to Emma Seymour, Senior Textiles Product Analyst at the Good Housekeeping Institute, “Barefoot shoes encompass footwear that’s designed to feel like you are walking barefoot with minimalist features and usually zero heel drop.”Advertisement – Continue Reading BelowHow to transition to barefoot shoesIf you’re just getting started with barefoot shoes, we recommend taking things slow. “It can take some time to adjust to wearing minimalist shoes, especially if you have worn traditional sneakers with support in the past,” Sassos warns. Before purchasing a pair, you should try them on first to ensure the right fit, if possible. “As with any sneaker, the shoes should feel comfortable right away if they are the right shoes for you,” Seymour says. “If they are pinching or hurting on first try-on, then they likely aren’t the right shoes.”Once you’ve picked the right pair of barefoot shoes for your feet, Sassos recommends starting slowly with no more than 30 minutes a day at first of gentle activity such as walking. “As you get more comfortable and acclimated to this style of shoe, you can extend the duration that you wear them and the intensity of the activities that you wear them during,” she says. If you experience any new pain or discomfort, check in with a podiatrist. It’s also extremely important to consult your podiatrist “if you have any specific foot or joint conditions before trying barefoot shoes,” Seymour says, as they may cause more harm than good if they’re not right for you.Are barefoot shoes actually good for you?Whether barefoot shoes are right for you is ultimately based on personal preference and guidance from your podiatrist. “There isn’t enough robust scientific research at this time to support the purported benefits, though long-term trials are currently underway,” Sassos says. While one study found “no definitive conclusions can be drawn on the risk or benefits to running barefoot, shod or in minimalist shoes,” other research concludes that “toe flexion strength increases by nearly 60% after using minimal shoes for daily activities for six months,” which can have benefits for athletic performance, foot health and more. Another study found that “walking with minimalist shoes was overall associated with better gait performance than walking barefoot.”When transitioning to barefoot shoes, it’s best to listen to your body and look out for any signs of discomfort or pain. While these shoes may feel great to some users, they’re not the right choice for everyone. “After regular use, I have personally found barefoot shoes to minimize my lower back pain on walks and light jogs,” Sassos says. “I’ve also felt enhanced strength in my feet and calves.” But again, our pros stress that every experience is unique to the individual and their feet. Tips when shopping for barefoot shoes✔️ Consult a doctor. Whether you have any known foot or joint conditions, have suffered an injury or are unsure what’s best for your feet, we recommend discussing any questions or concerns with a podiatrist or orthopedist before making a purchase. Discussing options with a professional can help you find which shoes are best suited for your feet specifically and whether barefoot shoes are the right choice. ✔️ Try them on. There’s no one-size-fits-all. Try on a few pairs and various styles first to find the barefoot shoes that feel most comfortable when walking around. Each brand and style will vary in size and fit, which can impact your foot. Once you’ve found a pair that feels right, wiggle your toes around to make sure the shoes aren’t too tight, and avoid shoes that cause any pinching or squeezing when moving. ✔️ Comfort is key. Always listen to your gut when shopping for shoes, and don’t purchase a pair just because you think they will be good for you. While barefoot shoes might take some getting used to, they should never feel uncomfortable. Avoid any shoes that cause painful rubbing or make your toes feel cramped as this will only get worse with use.✔️ Go with the design you like most. When it comes to barefoot shoes, you’ll typically have the choice between a traditional design vs. a five-toe or five-finger design that separates your toes. We suggest trying on five-toe models first to see if you like them as these may take some getting used to. If you prefer a more classic look and feel, look for brands like Xero that offer the benefits of a traditional design combined with a minimalist shoe.Advertisement – Continue Reading BelowWhy trust Good Housekeeping?For decades, the Good Housekeeping Institute Textiles Lab has been a leading expert on footwear. Senior Textiles Product Analyst, Emma Seymour, oversees Lab and consumer tests for a variety of footwear and fitness products, including orthotic insoles, walking shoes, running shoes, hiking shoes and more. With a degree in fiber science and apparel design from Cornell University, she has extensive research experience, particularly focused on athletic wear.Stefani Sassos is Good Housekeeping’s on-staff NASM-Certified Personal Trainer who also contributed her expertise to this story. She holds a certification as a Women’s Fitness Specialist and is a registered dietitian and director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab as well. Not only has Sassos tested a variety of barefoot shoes, but she uses her exercise science knowledge to create informed fitness content for the Good Housekeeping Institute.GH Institute analyst Olivia Lipski closely collaborated with Seymour and Sassos to write this guide based on the Textiles Lab’s most recent testing data. As someone who suffered from bunions on both feet for years, she’s a huge advocate for finding the best footwear to reduce pain and increase comfort.Media & Tech Reviews AnalystOlivia (she/her) is a media and tech product reviews analyst at the Good Housekeeping Institute, covering tech, home, auto, health and more. She has more than five years of experience writing about tech trends and innovation and, prior to joining GH in 2021, was a writer for Android Central, Lifewire and other media outlets. Olivia is a graduate of George Washington University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, political science and French, and she holds a master’s degree in communications from Sciences Po Paris.Nutrition Lab DirectorStefani (she/her) is a registered dietitian, a NASM-certified personal trainer and the director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab, where she handles all nutrition-related content, testing and evaluation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in nutritional sciences from Pennsylvania State University and a master’s degree in clinical nutrition from NYU. She is also Good Housekeeping’s on-staff fitness and exercise expert. Stefani is dedicated to providing readers with evidence-based content to encourage informed food choices and healthy living. She is an avid CrossFitter and a passionate home cook who loves spending time with her big fit Greek family.Watch Next play iconThe triangle icon that indicates to playAdvertisement – Continue Reading BelowAdvertisement – Continue Reading Below

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health-products/g44591256/best-barefoot-shoes/

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