Best Barefoot Running Shoes For The Track And The Trail

When regular running shoes aren’t treating your feet well, you may want to try barefoot running shoes. Serious runners have trusted them for years, but even non-runners have taken notice of them. The best barefoot running shoes offer you a great amount of traction and can be used wherever you want. Keep reading for more information on barefoot shoes and where you can use them.

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What You Need To Know About Barefoot Shoes

If you are used to regular running or athletic shoes, there are a few things you’ll need to know about barefoot shoes before you give them a try. Here are some key facts to keep in mind.

  • They have zero drop: The main feature of this type of shoe is that it has a zero drop. This means that every part of your foot is at the same place in regards to the ground once you put the shoes on. In other words, your heel isn’t higher off the ground than your toes, as is the case in other types of shoes. This also allows you to walk the proper way, which your other shoes may not have permitted you to do.
  • Have mesh designs: Many models have large mesh sides or areas. This is for maximum ventilation to keep your feet cool, even on long runs. As a bonus, this also allows them to dry quickly if they get wet. Some people wear socks with barefoot shoes, but you don’t have to. There are special socks you can buy if you want to wear them, so you aren’t sacrificing fit with heavy socks.
  • Can be used anywhere: These shoes are designed to be used virtually anywhere. Whether you’re running a marathon or hiking on a trail, you should be covered. They are lightweight as well, so you can keep them in your backpack at all times.

Two Main Types

Although they are generally referred to as barefoot shoes, there are essentially two different types to be aware of:

  • Barefoot Running Shoes

If you have seen people wearing shoes that look like bare feet, this is the type of shoes you have seen. They are called barefoot because of how they look and due to their unique features. They usually have no arch support and thin soles. They also offer you a superior grip when it comes to contact with the ground, even in wet conditions. There are other styles of this type as well, so you don’t have to choose the ones that look like you’re not wearing shoes at all.

This is what most runners wear when they are practicing barefoot running. This is probably because it is as close to running in bare feet as you can possibly get. On the other hand, if you are not a serious runner, you might want to start with minimalist shoes.

  • Minimalist Running Shoes

This type of shoe has a minimum amount of features, but they are considered an intermediate step when you want to start barefoot running. They can also be used for other purposes or for regular use.

These shoes look like regular running shoes, so they offer some normalcy. They are also trouble-free to care for and are easy to keep clean. Some brands offer a bit of arch support and have roomy toe boxes and soles that won’t allow rocks to get stuck in them.

Advantages of Barefoot Runners

There are a number of reasons that people wear these shoes, and it isn’t just because they want to run in them. Here are some examples.

One reason is that people want to run the way they are supposed to. Some traditional running shoes won’t allow the foot to hit the ground the way nature intended. This means that you may have to expel more energy each time you take a step. This would be a great disadvantage if you were trying to run a marathon or something similar.

Another benefit is that you are able to correct or alleviate certain foot problems by wearing these shoes. They are good for people that have wide feet or any type of arches, as well as bunions and pronation problems.

Some people use them for working out or when they need to stand on their feet for many hours. Since each part of the foot is on the ground at the same height, it keeps joints from aching and feet feel more natural when walking.

Furthermore, the shoes are often very roomy in the toe area, which offers enough room when it comes to standing. Your foot won’t be strangled or laced into shoes that are too tight, which could cause swelling or other problems in the long run.

You may have to wear them a few times before they fit properly, but that is one of the only downsides associated with this type of footwear.

Merrell Women’s Vapor Glove 2 Barefoot Trail Running Shoe

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  • Easy to clean: They are easy to keep clean. You can rinse them off and let them air dry, or simply spot clean any stains.
  • Vegan-Friendly: The manufacturer uses no animal products when they make these shoes. This means there’s no animal cruelty to worry about.
  • Mesh lining: The lining inside makes them breathable and can keep your feet from getting too hot.
  • Footbed reduces moisture and germs: The footbed repels sweat and germs because they are antimicrobial. This also helps control odor.
  • Can use them in water: Since they have a mesh lining, you can use them in water if you have to. It will not ruin them. They should dry fast if you end up getting them wet too.


  • Can wear out easily with constant use: You do have to take care of these shoes because they may get holes if you are using them too rigorously. To keep this from happening, don’t wear them every day or on the rockiest trails.
  • No arch support: If you need arch support in your shoes, you may want to purchase a different shoe. Alternatively, you can get special inserts that provide arch support.

Vibram Men’s Spyridon MP Trail Running Shoe

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  • Has bungee lacing: This one doesn’t have any laces. It actually has bungees that you can tighten to get a good fit. This is a great feature if shoelaces get in your way sometimes.
  • Offers a great amount of grip: The bottom of the shoe offers a certain amount of grip. If you plan on running trails or off road, this is likely to come in handy. It also helps you run on all different types of terrain without slipping.
  • Very thick sole: The sole is very thick, so even if you step on pebbles, you won’t feel much. The treads are small enough that you shouldn’t get much stuck in your shoes either.
  • Midsole rock protection: There is a special section on the midsole that offers rock protections. In other words, it helps protect the most delicate part of your foot from getting harmed or damaged.


  • Have to break them in: When you purchase these shoes, they may not fit properly. You have to wear them a few times to get the shoes to mold to your feet properly. If you want to break them in faster, you may need to order special socks.

New Balance Women’s WT 10v2 Minimus Trail Running Shoe

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  • Wide toe box: There is a large toe box, so toes have a lot of room to move around. The shoe is also available in different widths, so they can fit feet of many shapes and sizes.
  • Very flexible: The entire shoe is flexible, so you should be able to run, walk, or climb on different surfaces. This might also help you get more traction and grip.
  • Arch support: Unlike other minimalist shoes, these have arch support. There’s a good chance you won’t have to add any inserts, even if you have problem arches.
  • Can be used for many different purposes: You don’t have to use these for hiking or running, although you can use them exclusively for these things. They are also suited for walking, standing around, or doing low impact exercises.


  • Wide band across shoe makes it tight: Even though there is a wide toe box, there is also a wide leather strap around the midsole. This can make the shoe tighter than you want them to be.
  • There is a slight drop: Many barefoot running shoes have zero drop, but this pair has a 4mm heel drop, which may be significant for some.

Nike Men’s Free Flyknit 4.0

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  • Comes in many styles: If you are particular about the color or style of your shoes, there are so many to choose from. You can take your pick of colors, since there are over 30 to choose from.
  • Has great air flow: There are mesh panels near the toe area, which can keep your feet from sweating. This will help ensure that you can run longer without having to worry about overheating.
  • Flywire cable supports: There are supports sewed into the structure of the shoes. This allows for more stability and a solid frame. The cables are also lightweight, so the shoes aren’t too heavy.
  • Good at absorbing shock: The soles are designed to absorb shock. It also helps you stay flexible in all directions.
  • Laces are offset: Lacing is a little different than normal shoes and is set a bit to the side, instead of the middle of the foot. This is to lessen any strain and to make sure that the shoes fit properly.


  • Need to take care when using: You might have to be careful with the mesh areas of the shoes. They are easy to tear, even with normal use.

Altra Women’s Intuition 1.5 Running Shoe

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  • Good for all seasons: These should be able to keep your feet warm, no matter what season you’re using them in. This is a big change from some models with large mesh sections that leave toes exposed. This one also has mesh, but still offers you protection in the winter.
  • Reinforced foam sole: The sole is reinforced with EVA foam for better support. This makes it feel more like a regular athletic shoe, while still offering zero drop technology.
  • Toe protection: There is a special tip at the end of the shoe to protect your toes from kicking something and harming yourself. This helps you have more structure to the toe box and keeps you safe from things like pebbles and rocks.
  • Seamless lining: The lining throughout the entire shoe is seamless, so there won’t be any threads to rub your foot the wrong way or irritate you.


  • Shoes run small: If you buy these shoes, you’ll need to go at least a half size up for a better fit. This may be due to the fact that they are specifically made for women’s feet, so the sizing is a bit different.

Our Recommendation

In this list, the Nike Men’s Free Flyknit 4.0 seems to come out ahead. Not only does it have the cable flywires, which provide structural support for the shoe, the soles offer shock absorption. The offset laces allow for a better fit. It’s a huge bonus to have over 30 colors to choose from, so you can pick the one that looks great to you. The Nike Men’s Free Flyknit shoes are also easy to keep clean and have great airflow, which allows them to be used every day with minimal care. All of these things make this a great shoe for runners, as well as people that want a barefoot shoe option that doesn’t look out of place.