The Best Barefoot & Minimalist Shoes For Beginners

Wearing barefoot shoes is a great way to improve your health, but some people need more time and support before they can handle the thinnest soles on their feet. Barefoot & minimalist shoes for beginners provide the right amount of protection and comfort for those who aren’t quite ready to go barefoot just yet.

When your feet don’t hurt, you may feel like you’re ready to dive into minimalism head first. But for the feet that have been squeezed into tight shoes for years, this is not an easy step. It may take you weeks or even months to be ready for such a huge change.

This guide will help you find the best barefoot shoes and sandals for beginners who want to start wearing barefoot shoes but aren’t quite ready to take the plunge into the thinnest soles.

If you need more help with transitioning to barefoot shoes, check our blog post here.

Disclaimer: Please note that Barefoot Universe is reader supported. We may receive commissions on products purchased through affiliate links or affiliate codes in our content. This in no way affects our reviews or comparisons, which are based on objective analysis and our honest opinion. We appreciate your support! Learn more here.

Beginner-Friendly Barefoot & Minimalist Shoes

Lems

| USA | vegan, leather | 37-48 | medium-wide feet | from approx. 130€ |

Lems shoes are one of the most popular models for the transition. We have personally tested three models (Primal 2, Boulder boots and Primal Pursuit) and our parents have been wearing the Nive2Five model for several years.

The thickness of the sole and the available width vary from model to model. The widest models are the Primal 2 and the Boulder boots. Some models may have more toe taper than others (Primal 2 and Boulder boots are among the widest).

The softest sole is the Primal 2, which can be rolled well despite its thickness. Most other soles are firmer and thicker.


BÄR Shoes

| Germany | vegan, leather | 35-48,5 | medium-wide feet | from 169€ |

Use BU15 for 15€ discount.

Bär Shoes offers a range of high-quality shoes designed to fit the natural shape of your feet. Their collection includes models with raised heels and others with flat soles. To find out if a particular shoe has a flat sole, just read its description.

Also, Bär Shoes has shoes with different levels of sole thickness. You can easily choose the level of cushioning you prefer. Bär Shoes is also a great option for people who might not feel ready to switch to barefoot shoes but still want shoes that give their toes enough room.

With many different styles available, Bär Shoes has something for everyone’s taste and needs.


Barebarics

| Slovakia | vegan | 36-47 | medium and wide feet | from approx. 129€ |

Use BU5 for 5% off

Barebarics makes fully barefoot models, but I’ve included them in this list because their soles feel a bit more cushioned compared to other barefoot shoes. The sole isn’t as thick as the Lems, Joe Nimble or Altra models, but it can give you a bit more cushion when walking on harder surfaces.

Barebarics are suitable for wide feet and are best suited to low and medium height instep, but the fit may vary slightly from model to model.


Bahé

| UK | vegan | 36-47 | medium & wide feet | from approx. 157€ |

Use BU10 for 10% discount

Bahé is a new barefoot brand that has immediately impressed us. Their first barefoot shoes, the Revive running sneakers, have a very modern, urban look and do a great job of concealing their wide toe box. Even those who aren’t accustomed to the look of wide toe box and foot-shaped shoes will find them pleasing in appearance.

These shoes are made from a mesh water resistant upper and are available in four different colors. What makes them extra special is that they are one of the first barefoot grounding or earthing shoes that have the same electrical conductivity as human skin, which we find absolutely amazing. They have achieved this by incorporating several layers of conductivity material inside the sole. The overall thickness of the sole is slightly thicker, but not excessively so. The sole still maintains good flexibility in one direction. This combination of sole thickness and design makes them perfect for beginners as well. If you prefer more ground feel, you have the option to remove the insoles, allowing you to wear them in both ways.

Sizing & fit: Bahé shoes are perfect for medium and wide feet, but not for extra wide feet. Their lacing system allows for a good adjustment for narrow feet as well. They are best suited for those with low and average instep. When choosing your size, make sure to check their size chart, which provides recommended foot lengths. If your foot length is 2-3 mm above the recommended size, you can consider sizing down, unless your feet are on the wider side. For example, I’m wearing size 42 with a foot length of 26.3 cm. Size 42 is recommended for feet that are 26 cm long.

Where to buy Bahé: You can purchase Bahé shoes on their official website. As this is a new brand, they are currently running pre-orders until August 13th, 2023, during which you can buy them with a 10% discount. Additionally, our code BU10 gives you an additional 10% off.


Saguaro

| China | vegan, leather | 24-48 | medium-wide feet | from approx. 35€ |

Use BU15 for 15% discount

If you’re looking for affordable barefoot shoes, Saguaro has got you covered! They offer a wide range of barefoot shoes, beach shoes, and water shoes for men, women, and kids. With plenty of colours and styles to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect pair for your needs.

Most of their styles are sneakers made from synthetic materials, but they’ve recently released new models made from leather with cork insoles. All of their shoes have flexible soles that bend in all directions. However, some of their models (for both kids and adults) have insoles with a raised heel. If you’re new to barefoot shoes, keep them in during the transition period. But we recommend replacing them with thin, zero drop insoles once you’ve transitioned well to barefoot shoes. The same goes for your kids!

Sizing & fit: Saguaro shoes have a foot-shaped toe box that’s best suited for medium to wide feet. They can be adjusted well to different foot volumes, but keep in mind that their beach and water shoes have a small tapering at the tip of the toes. Some of their kids’ shoes can also have tapering at the big toe.

Saguaro shoes are available in sizes 24-48, and there’s no difference between men and women’s widths. However, some colours are only available in smaller “women” sizes. Each model has its own size chart, so make sure you check it out before ordering. In the size charts, you’ll find the applicable foot length, but it’s best to consider this value as the internal length of the shoes. Choose shoes that are 10-12 mm longer than your feet.

For instance, my feet measure 26.3/10 cm, and I wear size 43 or 44 in Saguaro shoes (my “usual” size in barefoot shoes is 42).

A quick shopping tip: Saguaro has separate websites for different countries. You can switch between them by clicking on the country flag on their website. US customers should stick to the English version, while those shopping from the EU should choose either the German or Spanish flag.


Whitin

| Available on Amazon | vegan | 36-47 | medium & wide feet | from approx. 46€ |

We recently came across Whitin, a barefoot brand available on Amazon, offering various styles made from canvas or synthetic materials. When selecting your preferred style, ensure that you pick models labeled “barefoot” and “wide.” We must say, we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of their shoes, especially considering the price point.

Whitin shoes come with a zero-drop flexible outsole, but the insole has a heel rise. This extra cushion makes them great for beginners! However, we’d definitely recommend swapping the insoles for zero-drop ones as you transition to barefoot shoes. While you can remove the insole, it may make the shoes less comfortable to wear and too voluminous for your feet.

Sizing & fit: Whitin provides a size chart with internal lengths and widths listed, and we find it to be true to size. Just remember to leave about 12 mm of wiggle room for your feet. These shoes are best suited for medium and wide feet and fit well to different foot volumes. If your feet are on the wider side, you can always size up to gain even more width.

A quick shopping tip: Whitin shoes can be purchased on Amazon, but note that different Amazon websites may offer different models.


Altra

| USA | vegan, | 36-46 | from approx. 150€ |

I haven’t tried the Altra models personally, but they are often sought after by runners who want a good toebox shape. They are also suitable for those who need a casual sneaker.


Xero Shoes

| ZDA | vegan, leather | 36-48 | medium and medium-wide feet | from approx. 100€ |

  • Read our review here

Xero Shoes also has a few models in their range where the sole can give you a bit more cushioning than other barefoot shoes, although all their models are barefoot too. One of these models is the Kelso model, for example.


Feelgrounds

| Germany | vegan | 35-49 | medium-wide feet | from cca. 100€ |

  • Read our reviews here

Some autumn and winter Feelgrounds models also have a thicker sole, so they are also suitable for beginners.


Ballop Shoes

| Germany | vegan | 36-48 | narrow and medium width feet | from approx. 65€ |

Use BOSENOGICE20 for 20% discount

The Ballop brand also doesn’t have as thick a sole as the first three brands, but I’ve included it in the list because their barefoot models always come with two different insoles. The thicker insole has a slightly elevated heel, so they can offer more cushioning when you need it.


Icarus

| USA | leather | 36-47 | from cca. $144 |

Use BU10 for 10% discount

Icarus is a new US brand whose shoes include three different insoles that vary in thickness. This allows you to swap them based on your desired level of support and activity.


Freet

| Great Britain | vegan, leather | 37-48 | medium and wide feet | from approx. 68€ |

Use code BOS10 for 10% discount.

Read our reviews here

I have also included Freet on this list, even though their models are completely barefoot. Some of the models have slightly more cushioned soles (thicker insoles), so for example they suited my parents very well when they transitioned. One of their softest models is the Pace.


Ahinsa Shoes

| Czech Republic | vegan | 37-46 | medium and wide feet | from approx. 109€ |

Use code BU10 for 10% discount.

  • Read our reviews here

Ahinsa is a vegan barefoot shoe brand that offers both fully barefoot models and models from the ‘Comfort’ line. The only difference between the ‘barefoot’ and ‘Comfort’ models is the insole used in the shoe, which is slightly thicker and cushioned in the ‘Comfort’ models and has a slightly raised heel.

Their ‘Comfort’ range is therefore suitable for the transition and for those who are looking for a little more cushioning (but don’t want to completely give up the ground feel).

Beginner-Friendly Barefoot & Minimalist Sandals

In case you choose to transition to barefoot shoes in summer, here are some options for sandals with thicker soles. Some brands have both thinner and thicker soles, some only thick soles. So choose from the models that have a bigger sole thickness.

Sandals that have a soft and squishy soles with thickness of approx. 6-8 mm can often provide you with enough cushion and softness which you usually look for when transitioning to barefoot footwear and when walking on harder surfaces. This sole thickness, combined with its softness, is usually sufficient for many people. This type of sole you can find for example in Tikki or Zeazoo sandals.

For sandals, I always recommend using a printable template to determine the correct size. Read more about fitting sandals properly here.

Earth Runners

| USA | vegan | 36-48 | printable templates | from 71€ |

Use code BU10 for 10% discount.

Read our review here


Toetem Sandals

| USA | leather | printable templates | from 100€ |

Use code BU for 7% discount.


Nörd Republic

| Spain | vegan | 40-45 | printable templates | from 69,90€ |


Bedrock Sandals

| USA | vegan | 35-47.5 | printable templates


Shamma

| USA | vegan, leather | 21,9-31,3 cm | printable templates | from 100€ |


Luna Sandals

| USA | vegan, leather | 36-45 | printable templates | from 85€ |

Read our review here


Saltic

| Czech Republic | vegan | 34-47 | from 52€ |


Curious Red

| China | vegan, leather | 35-46 | printable templates | from 90€ |

  • Discount: $5 discount with code BU5 (affiliate code)

Use code BU5 for $5 discount.


Joe Nimble

| Germany | vegan | 35-46 | wide feet | from 45€ |

Conclusion

No matter where you are in the barefoot journey, there is a variety of minimalist shoes to help your feet along the way. It’s important to remember that it can take months for your feet and ankles to strengthen. Be patient and go easy on yourself. We hope this list has helped you in your search, and at least given you some good places to start your journey. We wish you the best of luck in finding your perfect barefoot shoe.


2 Comments

  1. Hi,
    How about Topo Athletic shoes for beginners?

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