Best Barefoot Running Shoes: Quick Runner’s Guide & TOP 14 Shoes Reviews 2019

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Barefoot running, or natural running, has becoming increasingly popular over the last decade as runners have experimented with the different technique involved and experienced benefits such as increased foot strength and a reduction in injuries.

However, literally running barefoot isn’t always practical in modern times.

Most of us don’t have feet with skin tough enough to weather the surfaces we choose to run on.

So, a little help and protection can go a long way in providing a safe and enjoyable running experience that is as close to barefoot as possible.

runner man training on sunset beach running barefoot

So, What Are Barefoot Running Shoes?

The main feature of barefoot running shoes, also known as minimalist shoes, is their extremely light weight.

They will also usually be zero drop (heel and toe the same distance from the ground), minimalist in terms of support, have a low stack height, and be softer and more flexible than standard running shoes.

Barefoot running shoes also have little to no cushioning, meaning that unless you have adapted, or are adapting to mid-foot or toe running, your joints will get a shock.

Similarly, if you usually wear supportive shoes and haven’t yet strengthened your feet, it is imperative to introduce yourself gradually to barefoot shoes.

Most barefoot running shoes are designed to be worn without socks, which may or may not take a bit of getting used to.

They will be sock like and seamless in their design so rubbing shouldn’t be an issue. But if this is something that you do experience, chances are with a little breaking in and toughening of your feet over time, the issue will pass.

If you’re new to the concept, check out Born to Run (link to Amazon.com) by Christopher McDougall, the man behind the movement!

Then, set up a transition schedule such as this.

How Should You Choose the Best Barefoot Running Shoes?

Which shoes you choose depends on how experienced you are with barefoot running and consequently the amount of cushioning, support and drop you are looking for.

Typically, all three of these decrease with experience as you get closer to true barefoot running.

For those transitioning, a little more drop and cushioning help reduce the chances of injury while you adapt.

Other factors such as tread and durability depend on the type of running surface you frequent (trail vs. road).

But, let’s face it, 2mm soles are going to wear out faster than conventional running shoe soles, it’s just a fact.

Finally, most barefoot running shoes are going to breathable, lightweight, and as flexible as possible, allowing for a running style as close as possible to barefoot running.

They will also have a very spacious toe box and allow for maximum toe splay.

The list below should provide you with a great starting point for choosing your barefoot running shoes.

TOP 7 Best Barefoot Running Shoes for Men 2019

Merrell Men’s Trail Glove 4

Review: An extremely popular and fail safe minimalist running shoe, the Glove 4 is not a 100% barefoot shoe due to the instep support, but lands pretty close.

It provides ample protection from the perils of trail running while not separating you too much from the surface you’re running on and so maintaining a good ground-feel.

Rugged tread keeps you sticking to the ground where you need to, while its flexibility and light weight allow for the best barefoot running technique.

This shoe does have a piece of rubber which serves as instep support, you’ll either hate it, get used to it, or love it. So, as always, try before you buy.

Pros

  • Rugged tread.
  • Secure tongue and laces.
  • Light weight.
  • Comfortable.
  • Flexible.
  • Breathable.
  • Durable construction.
  • Vibram sole.
  • Instep support could make it a good transition shoe if you’re new to barefoot running.

Cons

  • Interior instep support so not completely barefoot.
  • Narrower toe box than previous models (but still not necessarily narrow).
  • Sole is a little stiff as far as minimalist shoes go (but this can be a good thing on the trail).

Takeaway

A reliable trail running shoe for the minimalist runner, the Trail Glove 4 is especially ideal for those transitioning to barefoot running due to the slightly stiffer sole and instep support.

These are the best barefoot trail running shoes of 2019.

New Balance Men’s Minimus MT10V1

Review: New Balance’s Minimus 10v1 is a minimalist trail running shoe that stands its ground alongside the unbeatable Merrell’s and Vibram’s in the barefoot world.

The Acteva foam midsole provides some stability and shock absorbance while also being responsive. The mesh upper allows for maximum flexibility and breathability while fitting like a comfortable sock, the way it should.

Finally, the Vibram soles with multidirectional lugs stand up against all kind of trail terrain and provide a little more protection than Merrell’s Glove, making this an ideal choice for minimalist trail running.

Pros

  • Lightweight.
  • Durable Vibram outsole.
  • Antibacterial interior.
  • Pretty stable for a minimalist shoe.
  • Good traction with multidirectional lugs.
  • Responsive.
  • Breathable.

Cons

  • 4mm drop so not completely zero drop.

Takeaway

A fantastic option for minimalist trail running (pick up the road version if you’re mostly a pavement junky) and another of the best barefoot trail running shoes.

Vibram Men’s V-Run

Review: The V-run is Vibram’s latest FiveFinger barefoot road running shoes designed for the road.

They have a softer, more breathable upper than previous designs, and truly excel on the road, being especially great for long distances and high volume running.

They are also designed to be a comfortable shoe in more extreme temperatures, giving you a versatile option for barefoot running throughout the year.

The EVA foam midsole provides cushioning and responsiveness while being durable and lightweight.

Overall, you can’t really go wrong with these shoes.

Pros

  • Lightweight.
  • Breathable.
  • Snug fitting.
  • Cushioned compared to the KSO and KSO EVO.
  • More durable than previous models.
  • Extremely soft, comfortable upper material.
  • Easy to get on and off.
  • Good traction.

Cons

  • On the pricey side.

Takeaway

These are the best barefoot running shoes for road running, being the next best thing after bare feet, and the top rated barefoot running shoes.

Topo Athletic Men’s ST-2

Review: The Topo ST-2 ticks all the boxes for a minimalist running shoe with its extremely lightweight, flexible design, zero drop and breathable upper.

It gets very close to providing a true barefoot running experience while still being a shoe and providing a little protection and security.

The Topo ST-2 provides a comfortable minimalist ride and while these shoes are intended for shorter, speed-focused workouts, if you’re an experienced barefoot runner, they will go the distance.

Pros

  • Cushioned.
  • Lightweight.
  • Wide toe box.
  • Durable.
  • Breathable.
  • Flexible.
  • Affordable.

Cons

  • Could do with more cushioning in the forefoot compared to the heel.

Takeaway

A great option for a minimalist running shoe, especially if you’re looking for an affordable pair to add to your mix of runners while transitioning to purely barefoot running.

Good cheap barefoot running shoes.

Vivobarefoot Men’s Stealth 2

Review: The Vivobarefoot Stealth 2 is another popular barefoot road running shoe. It is designed to be a minimal layer between you and the earth, with only a 3mm, puncture resistant sole.

So, if you haven’t toughened your skin, watch where you run and avoid sharp surfaces. The sole may not puncture, but you’ll still feel everything.

The hexagonal webbed upper allows for breathability and flexibility. The overall design is extremely lightweight and minimalist while providing decent durability and traction on road surfaces.

It offers minimal stability, but this is kind of the point of barefoot running!

Pros

  • Comfortable.
  • Flexible.
  • Lightweight.
  • Does not require long break-in period.
  • Roomy toe box.
  • Vegan friendly shoes.
  • Removable foot bed can be customized.
  • Zero drop.

Cons

  • Not really suitable off-road.
  • Minimal protection against sharp ground objects.
  • Colors may bleed.

Takeaway

Another great choice for barefoot road running, get ready to let those 200,000 nerve endings in your feet fire away!

Nike Men's Free RN 2018

Review: The latest model in Nike’s Minimalist Free line, the Free RN 2018s are lightweight, comfortable and flexible, designed to feel as though you are running barefoot through grass.

They are a versatile option, designed for shorter distances but perfectly capable of coping with long millage provided you’ve adequately trained your feet.

This shoe sports a unique tread design which is best suited to road runs and soft surfaces but not so much gnarly trails, as stones and debris are likely to get caught in the grooves.

Its unique flywire lacing system stabilizes your foot for a snug fit while allowing for adequate flexibility and expansion.

Pros

  • Lightweight.
  • Breathable.
  • Flexible.
  • Comfortable.
  • Snug fitting.
  • More cushioning than most minimalist shoes.

Cons

  • Tread not ideal for trail running.
  • 8mm drop so not a true barefoot shoe.
  • Not super durable.

Takeaway

While the 8mm drop means this is not a true barefoot shoe, the additional cushioning in the heel makes the Free RN 2018 good barefoot running shoes for newbies to barefoot running who are still transitioning.

Altra Men’s Vanish R

Review: The Altra Vanish R is a lightweight, flexible competition shoe. Its 14mm total stack height keeps you as grounded as you would be barefoot while providing a smooth ride.

Designed to be a racing flat, these shoes are not designed to cope with lots of miles so they will wear faster than others may, but will allow you a speedy workout or race if that’s your criteria.

Pros

  • Lightweight.
  • Flexible.
  • Snug fit.
  • Comes with 2 different removable insoles to choose from.
  • Great ground-feel.
  • Seamless mesh upper feels like a sock.

Cons

  • Designed for racing so won’t cope with everyday mileage.
  • Runs small.

Takeaway

If you want a speedy shoe for racing, speed workouts, or to provide a bit of variety to your running shoe repertoire, these are a great option.

TOP 7 Best Barefoot Running Shoes for Women 2019

Merrell Women’s Vapor Glove 3

Review: The Vapor Glove 3 is a minimalist trail running shoe that is extremely lightweight, flexible and comfortable.

With its skin friendly fabric, it is designed to be worn without socks, taking you one layer closer to the completely barefoot experience.

These shoes are true minimalists with no midsole cushioning.

Consequently, it is a shoe for the experienced barefoot runner.

Pros

  • Vibram sole with good traction.
  • Roomy toe box.
  • Flexible.
  • Comfortable.
  • Lightweight.
  • Vegan friendly shoes.

Cons

  • Fits small so go a size up.
  • Absolute minimum protection underfoot so be prepared to feel everything.

Takeaway

These are the best barefoot running shoes for women provided you are experienced.

Vibram Women’s V-Trail

Review: Vibram’s latest FiveFinger barefoot trail running shoes are a slightly more rugged version of the V-Run.

The 5mm rubber sole provides protection from debris while the aggressive tread copes with rough trail terrain. The V-Trails are ideal for experienced barefoot runners, being comfortable and ticking all of the boxes for the ideal barefoot shoe.

This is also one of the most stable and protective of Vibram’s shoes so a great option for beginners transitioning to barefoot running.

However, it has no midsole so minimal cushioning – introduce yourself slowly.

Pros

  • Comfortable.
  • Breathable upper feels like a sock.
  • Snug fitting.
  • Durable.
  • Protection against rocks and debris.
  • Zero drop.
  • Multi directional lugs provide optimal traction.

Cons

  • May need breaking in.
  • Foot shaped design means a bit of practice is needed for putting on.

Takeaway

The Vibram V-trails are truly a fail-safe option for barefoot trail running, the best barefoot trail running shoes for women.

Saucony Women’s Kinvara 9

Review: The Kinvara 9 is a staple shoe of the Saucony range, lightweight, neutral and minimal in its upper design.

However, though it is not a barefoot shoe when compared the Merrells and Vibrams on the market, the 4mm drop and 23mm stack height at the heel makes this a great transition shoe for someone moving towards barefoot running.

A 4mm drop is still minimal when compared to conventional running shoes and prevents the feeling of forward compulsion, resulting in a natural running style.

Similarly, though it has substantially less cushioning than conventional running shoes, it has substantially more than the Vibrams.

Pros

  • Lightweight.
  • Flexible.
  • Some cushioning.
  • Breathable mesh upper.
  • More support and stability than most minimalist shoes.
  • Versatile.
  • Requires no break-in.

Cons

  • 4mm drop.
  • Pro-lock midfoot lacing system can be restrictive if not adjusted appropriately.

Takeaway

For all intents and purposes, the Kinvara 9 is a solid minimalist running shoe.

Not a true barefoot shoe when compared to the Vibram FiveFinger but still supporting a very natural running style.

Merrell Women’s Bear Access Arc 4 Trail Running

Review: Considered to be cushioned for a minimalist shoe, the Bear Access Arc 4 is another great option for those wanting to transition to barefoot running.

It is a neutral road running shoe with a zero drop and a minimalist outsole but reasonably cushioned midsole.

After a mile or two of breaking in, it fits like a glove the way minimalist shoes are supposed to and carries you the distance while encouraging a natural running style.

Pros

  • Extremely spacious toe box.
  • Zero drop.
  • Light weight.
  • Breathable.
  • Cushioned.
  • Flexibility.
  • Reasonably stable for a minimalist shoe.

Cons

  • Benefit from being broken in.
  • Outsole wears out a little fast.
  • Not as durable as they could be.

Takeaway

These are likely to be the best barefoot running shoes for flat feet due to the little extra cushioning and spacious fit and for the same reasons the best barefoot running shoes for beginners.

Mizuno Women’s Wave Universe

Review: The Wave Universe aims to be the lightest shoe in the universe, and it comes pretty close.

It is a neutral racing shoe with a sock-like upper, 2mm drop and 18mm stack height at the heel.

The flexible midsole provides some shock absorption resulting in more cushioning than would be expected from its ultra-lightweight design.

While its upper provides minimal protection from the elements, its sole is surprisingly protective against stones and debris.

Pros

  • Extremely lightweight.
  • Great ground-feel.
  • Good traction.
  • Breathable.
  • Flexible midsole.
  • Some shock absorption.
  • Roomy toe box.
  • Wide fit overall.

Cons

  • Runs small.
  • Not particularly durable.

Takeaway

A seriously lightweight racing flat perfect for speedy road running and mixing up your shoe repertoire but not suited to trail running.

Also a great option when looking for the best barefoot running shoes for wide feet.

Xero Women’s Prio

Review: The Xero Prio is a neutral, minimal, lightweight, performance running shoe. It scores highly in comfort, not needing a break in period and having the option of a removable insole.

Limited cushioning means that this is a minimalist shoe for experienced barefoot runners.

However, the effective lacing system provides structure and support which in combination with the heel cup provides a snug, secure fit.

Pros

  • Wide toe box.
  • Flexible mesh upper.
  • Great traction.
  • Protective outsole.
  • 5mm stack height is seriously minimal.
  • Reflective stripes for night safety.
  • Durable.
  • Wide fit.
  • Versatile.

Cons

  • Sizing runs small.

Takeaway

Another great option when looking for the best barefoot running shoes for wide feet.

On Cloud Women’s Running Shoes

Review: A lesser known brand but deserving of some attention for its unique design.

On Cloud’s minimalist design promotes a natural running style with a 6mm drop that sits higher than barefoot shoes but half the height of the most conventional running shoes.

However, its draw card is its substantial cushioning which will provide beginners to barefoot running with a forgiving ride.

Pros

  • Lightweight.
  • Cushioned.
  • Roomy toe box.
  • Balance of stability and flexibility.

Cons

  • Not as durable as it could be.

Takeaway

This is another of best minimalist running shoes for beginners looking to transition to barefoot running for its minimal design but substantial cushioning and highly comfortable ride.

So there you have it, the best barefoot running shoes of 2019.

I hope you enjoyed this article and found it helpful.

Good luck with your barefoot journey and be sure to comment and subscribe below.