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.
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.
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.
Durable Vibram outsole.
Pretty stable for a minimalist shoe.
Good traction with multidirectional lugs.
4mm drop so not completely zero drop.
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.
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.
More cushioning than most minimalist shoes.
Tread not ideal for trail running.
8mm drop so not a true barefoot shoe.
Not super durable.
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.
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.
Breathable upper feels like a sock.
Protection against rocks and debris.
Multi directional lugs provide optimal traction.
May need breaking in.
Foot shaped design means a bit of practice is needed for putting on.
The Vibram V-trails are truly a fail-safe option for barefoot trail running, the best barefoot trail running shoes for women.
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.
Breathable mesh upper.
More support and stability than most minimalist shoes.
Requires no break-in.
Pro-lock midfoot lacing system can be restrictive if not adjusted appropriately.
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.