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9 Must-Have Barefoot Hiking Shoes for an Epic Trek

Whether you’re a beginner seeking flexible and lightweight minimalist hiking shoes or an experienced hiker in search of a comfortable long-distance backpacking option, there’s a best barefoot hiking shoe out there that’s perfect for you. These shoes not only mimic the natural shape of our feet and the sensation of being barefoot but also incorporate features essential for a successful hiking experience. From minimalist waterproof hiking boots for wet adventures to the thinnest-soled, lightweight, and highly breathable barefoot hiking shoes that allow your feet to move freely, we’ve got you covered.

At Barefoot Universe, we’ve spent years testing various barefoot and minimalist hiking boots and shoes. In this carefully selected list, we present you with the best of the best. Whether you’re looking for the most minimalistic and lightweight barefoot shoes made from leather or vegan materials, waterproof options for the rainier days, or highly breathable summer trekking shoes, you’ll find them all here. We’ve also included shoes with slightly thicker, yet still zero drop soles, providing more cushioning and making them ideal for beginners.

Throughout our testing process, we focused on the barefoot characteristics such as a wide, foot-shaped toe box, a zero drop sole, flexible soles, and ankle freedom. Additionally, we looked for features that make a great hiking shoe, including comfort, tread and grip, waterproofness, and weight.

It’s important to remember that since every foot is unique, not all barefoot hiking shoes will work for everyone. That’s why we recommend carefully measuring and examining the shape and dimensions of your feet before choosing a hiking shoe. Achieving the right fit is essential for a comfortable and enjoyable trek.

Can I Reap Benefits by Hiking in Barefoot Shoes? Is It Safe?

If you’re new to barefoot hiking, you may be wondering whether it’s safe and how you can benefit from it. While barefoot shoes offer several benefits, it’s essential to take safety considerations seriously to avoid injuries.

Our comprehensive guide, Charting New Paths: The Unmatched Guide To Barefoot Hiking Shoes, has all the answers you need:

  • What are the benefits of hiking in barefoot shoes?
  • When is it safe to hike in barefoot shoes?
  • Barefoot hiking boots or hiking shoes – what’s better?
  • What sole thickness should I choose?
  • How do I select the right size?
  • Should I wear socks with barefoot hiking boots?

By answering these questions, we aim to guide you towards making informed decisions that will help you reap the rewards of barefoot hiking while staying safe on the trail.

Top Picks for Adults: The Best Barefoot & Minimalist Hiking Shoes for Men and Women

VIVOBAREFOOT

BEST OVERALL BAREFOOT HIKING SHOES

| Men’s, Women’s | Leather, Vegan | Waterproof options | EU 35 – EU 48 | From approx. 165€ |

Vivobarefoot barefoot hiking shoes and boots

Use BU15 for 15% discount

VIVOBAREFOOT is a brand that offers a wide selection of barefoot hiking shoes and boots that you can use all year round. They have many models available, including super lightweight low cut sneakers, swimrun trainers, and insulated waterproof high-cut hiking boots made from leather or vegan materials. Their collection caters to both men and women, with most models available in various colours too.

VIVOBAREFOOT hiking boots and shoes have amazing traction, thanks to their deeper lugs on the soles. Despite this, some styles still provide excellent flexibility, allowing for unrestricted foot movement. It’s worth noting that you can choose between different types of outsoles to suit your specific hiking needs, such as ‘soft ground’ soles and ‘firm ground’ soles.

Some models like Tracker Decon also have innovative ankle designs that ensure absolutely no ankle restrictions. You can even wear some models sockless for maximum comfort!

The shoes have minimal cushioning, allowing you to have a closer connection to the ground. Additionally, you can remove the insole for an even greater ground feel. Certain models are even waterproof, which offers protection from moisture.

Sizing & fit: VIVOBAREFOOT shoes come in both men’s and women’s sizes, with men’s being wider. Women’s models are best suited for narrow and medium-width feet, while men’s are typically for medium-wide feet. However, some models can accommodate slightly wider feet too.

If you’re in the “crossover sizes” range (EU 40- EU 43), you can choose between both men’s and women’s widths for a better fit.

This is a brand that prides itself on delivering quality products. We have a separate VIVOBAREFOOT review available on our blog if you want to learn more about a specific model.


BÄR SHOES

TOP-PERFORMING TRAIL BAREFOOT HIKING BOOTS

| Men’s, Women’s | Leather | Waterproof | EU 37 – EU 47 | From approx. 259€ |

Use BU15 for 15€ discount

Bär Shoes’ minimalist hiking shoes are truly exceptional in terms of quality. These shoes are waterproof, featuring a gusseted tongue, a foot-shaped design, and a roomy toe box. My initial hiking boots were their Wandertoes, and for a few years, there wasn’t a barefoot edition available. This year, Bär introduced a completely new model called Mountain Barefoot, which I was extremely excited about. As always, they meet the brand’s high standards, and I’m confident they will last for many years, just like all my other pairs from this brand.

Mountain Barefoot has a unique design with a sole that wraps around the midfoot. I was concerned it might feel like arch support, but it doesn’t; instead, it enhances lateral support and stability. The sole is thin with minimal cushioning, and it doesn’t restrict ankle movement. The lacing system is easy to use.

If you prefer a thicker sole, their Wandertoes 2.0 and other hiking boots from their assortment provide more cushioning and protection when necessary. These are undoubtedly top-quality barefoot hiking boots built to endure.

Sizing & Fit: All Bär Shoes are available in half sizes, making it easy to find the perfect fit for various foot lengths. They are best suited for medium-wide feet, with men’s models having slightly more volume above the toes and in the midfoot. I typically wear size 8, but for this model, I chose to size up by half to have extra room for thicker socks, for walking downhill, or for when my feet swell during longer hikes.


Freet

BEST BUDGET BAREFOOT HIKING SHOES

| Men’s, Women’s | Leather, Vegan | Water-resistant options | EU 37 – EU 48 | From approx. 100€ |

Freet barefoot hiking shoes and boots

Use code BSN10 for 10% discount.

Freet stands out as a brand with a vast array of barefoot hiking boots and shoes, tailored for both chilly and warmer hiking days, available in vegan and leather variations. Remarkably, they even incorporate coffee grounds into their materials.

Their microfiber vegan materials are not only environmentally friendly but also easy to clean, even after traversing wet and muddy terrains. While waterproof, it’s worth noting that their vegan options might offer slightly less breathability compared to their leather counterparts.

Definitely check out their Feldom, Ibex, Tundra, and Kidepo models, which are specifically designed for hiking. Additionally, several of their other models are well-suited for lighter trail hikes. While some are low-cut, others offer a higher profile without fully covering the ankle, ensuring ample freedom of movement.

Their barefoot hiking shoes also feature a special HillGrip sole, which has deeper lugs for good grip on wet and muddy surfaces. The sole is flexible in all directions.

In a practical touch, most of their shoes come with removable insoles, providing customization for cushioning and volume adjustment to align with your preferences.

Sizing & fit: each Freet model varies, but generally, they are well-suited for medium and wide feet. In certain models, opting for a larger size could accommodate thicker socks more comfortably. For comprehensive insights into each model’s fit, we recommend exploring our comprehensive Freet review, where you’ll discover in-depth information about the brand and individual models.


Ahinsa Shoes

BEST LIGHTWEIGHT BAREFOOT HIKING SHOES

| Men’s, Women’s | Vegan | Extra wide options | EU 36 – EU 46 | From approx. 199€ |

Ahinsa Chitra Track & Trail barefoot hiking shoes

Use code BU10 for 10% discount.

Ahinsa Chitra Trek&Trail stands out as one of the softest, most flexible, and lightweight barefoot hiking shoes available. This model offers two choices: the barefoot and comfort versions. The comfort line features an insole with a slight heel rise, while the barefoot version, designed for more experienced hikers accustomed to barefoot footwear, boasts an ultra-thin, removable insole.

The sensation of wearing them is akin to having nothing on your feet, rendering them ideal for both travel and everyday use, given their sneaker-like appearance. Constructed from vegan materials with mesh inserts, these shoes are well-suited for warm weather hikes. However, due to the vegan materials, wearing them without socks is not recommended, as the insole may adhere uncomfortably to the foot.

The Vibram rubber outsole, characterized by deeper lugs, provides substantial grip across diverse terrains. The sole’s responsiveness to the ground can be intense, particularly on rocky surfaces, making it an exhilarating experience for those well-acquainted with barefoot shoe wear.

Sizing & fit: Ahinsa Chitra Trek&Trail suits medium and wide feet with low to average instep perfectly. An xWide version is also available, catering to extra-wide feet. As a point of reference, I wear size 43 with foot dimensions of 26.3/10 cm.


Realfoot

THE WIDEST BAREFOOT HIKING SHOES

| Men’s, Women’s | Leather | Water-resistant (TEX membrane & gusseted tongue) | 36-47 | 169€ |

Use 10BU for 10% discount

The Trekker Low are amazing, high-quality trekking shoes suitable for year-round use that your feet will thank you for. Perfect for everyday wear, walks in nature, trekking, and hiking, the upper is made of nubuck leather with an integrated waterproof membrane. The gusseted tongue adds extra waterproofing, and after testing in wet and muddy environments, they kept our feet dry. The non-slip rubber outsole is highly flexible in all directions, providing excellent ground feel. While the insole adds shock absorption, it’s optional. The easily adjustable laces, along with the top speed hooks, make them easy to put on.

Sizing & Fit: Realfoot Trekker Low is one of the widest hiking boots we’ve tested, ideal for wide and extra-wide feet (but adjustable for narrower feet). The roomy toe box has ample space above the toes. The midfoot and heel are best suited for narrower and average heels but can accommodate different instep heights well. If you have a lot of volume in the mid and back part of your foot, they may fit snugly there.


Lems Shoes

BEST CUSHIONED MINIMALIST HIKING SHOES

| Men’s, Women’s | Leather, Vegan | Waterproof options | US 6 – US14 | From approx. 120€ |

Lems barefoot hiking shoes and boots

Lems hiking shoes present an excellent choice for those seeking hiking shoes with a spacious toe box, zero drop, substantial tread, and slightly thicker soles. While the thicker soles may compromise ground feel and flexibility, they cater wonderfully to beginners and individuals who prefer enhanced cushioning during walks without compromising toe freedom.

Currently, Lems Shoes offer three distinct models equipped with deep lugs suitable for hiking: Outlander, Primal Pursuit Mid, and Primal Pursuit.

The Outlander by Lems is a versatile all-season minimalist hiking boot with a waterproof upper. Its gusseted tongue ensures effective water resistance, making it ideal for mountain hikes, muddy tracks, and rainy urban escapades.

Primal Pursuit is tailored for dry weather hiking and doubles as stylish everyday sneakers. Crafted from breathable mesh upper, these shoes provide optimal ventilation during warmer days. The thick and firm sole with a rubber outsole guarantees reliable traction across various terrains.

Primal Pursuit Mid, an elevated waterproof rendition of Primal Pursuit, features a suede upper for added protection.

Sizing & fit: Lems’ diverse models have varied fits, size charts, and widths. Their hiking range is not among their widest or most foot-shaped Lems offerings. These models showcase minimal tapering in the toe box, rendering them suitable for medium width feet. Opting for a larger size can yield a few additional millimeters in width.


Xero Shoes

BEST BAREFOOT HIKING SHOES FOR BACKPACKING

| Men’s, Women’s | Leather, Vegan | Water-resistant options | EU 35.5 – EU 48 | From approx. $130 |

Xero Shoes is a renowned brand that offers an extensive array of sport styles in their barefoot collection, and their hiking shoes are no exception. Their hiking boots and shoes (Ridgeway, Scrambler Mid, Mesa Trail, Terraflex, etc.) are available in various editions and colors, ranging from low-cut mesh sneakers to ankle-high waterproof barefoot boots.

The soles of their hiking shoes may feel firmer and less flexible compared to some of their other models. However, this characteristic can be ideal for those seeking a hiking shoe with a mid-range sole thickness, striking a balance between ultra-thin and overly thick soles. Notably, Xero Shoes offers a 5,000 MILE SOLE WARRANTY. Should you manage to wear out the outsole of your Xero Shoes prematurely, they will replace them for a nominal fee.

Sizing & fit: Xero Shoes are available in two widths (Men’s and Women’s sizes). Women’s sizes are slightly narrower than men’s and best suited for medium-width feet. If your feet are slightly wider, opting for a larger size can provide extra millimeters in width. Many of their models also offer ample space above the toes. Men’s shoes are slightly wider, featuring more volume at the ball of the foot and midfoot than women’s, making them an excellent fit for medium-wide feet. If your size falls within the range where both models are available, you can choose between men’s and women’s shoes based on your foot width.

For a comprehensive insight into Xero Shoes hiking shoes & boots, refer to our detailed review.


Softstar Shoes

ADVENTURE-READY BAREFOOT HIKING SHOES

| Men’s, Women’s | Leather | Water-resistant | US 5 – US 15 | 315€ |

Softstar Switchback barefoot hiking boots

Softstar Shoes Switchback are hiking boots renowned for their exceptionally wide toe box shape. The upper is crafted from highly durable waterproof materials. However, it’s important to note that while the shoe is water-resistant up to the height of the tongue, the tongue itself is not gusseted. The lower section of the shoe, without additional treatment, can retain water for a limited period (approximately 2 minutes when fully immersed).

Their robust Vibram™ Megagrip sole provides outstanding traction, even on challenging, wet, and slippery surfaces. Due to its thickness, the sole may be less flexible and slightly challenging to roll. While I can bend the shoe longitudinally, achieving the same in the transverse direction is not as feasible.

Sizing & fit: For this model, we strongly recommend opting for a size larger than what the size chart suggests, especially if you intend to wear thicker socks and your foot length doesn’t precisely align with the lower limit for your size. Additionally, it’s worth noting that the space above the toes towards the shoe’s front is not excessively roomy, impacting the overall sense of spaciousness. Please note that only wide width is foot-shaped!

Check our separate Softstar Switchback review for more details!


Proalp

BEST MOUNTAINEERING STYLE BAREFOOT BOOTS

| Men’s, Women’s | Leather, Vegan | Water-resistant | EU 36 – EU 47 | From approx. 162€ |

Proalp barefoot hiking boots

Proalp hiking boots are fashioned from suede leather, available in various colors. Suede leather is chosen for its resilience against scratches. These boots are suitable for both men and women, offering diverse width options. Custom colors can be selected for an additional fee. While they lack waterproofing and a membrane to maintain flexibility, remember that leather naturally repels water. If desired, you can apply waterproofing treatment for added protection.

Proalp Contact S2 hiking boots are designed to provide ankle coverage. They can be acquired with or without the top Velcro strap. These higher ankle boots are frequently favored by seasoned hikers, particularly for trekking in elevated mountain ranges.

The outsole features quality Vibram rubber with deep lugs, offering flexibility in both directions. They come with a removable wool insole, which we suggest removing during summer unless you prefer additional cushioning underfoot.

Sizing & fit: Proalp boots are offered in men’s and women’s sizes and in three different widths. Opting for their ‘PLUS’ size is recommended as it offers a straight line for the big toe. The other two widths taper too quickly and aren’t fully foot-shaped. Women’s ‘Plus’ width is best suited for medium-width feet, possibly medium-wide if your feet have low volume. Men’s sizes are slightly wider at the toes and ankles. Both models are ideal for low and average instep heights. The Contact S2 boots are available in half sizes and are also partially customizable. As a point of reference, I wear size 41 1/2 (foot dimensions 26.3/10 cm). For those intending to wear insoles or thicker socks, sizing up by half or a full size is recommended.

Check out our in-depth Proalp Contact S2 review!

Want More? Here Are a Few Additional Options to Explore!

Groundies barefoot hiking shoes and boots

Groundies

Groundies presents various models for outdoor activities, catering well to narrow and medium-width feet. Be aware that certain models like Utah and Ontario feature thicker and less flexible soles, resulting in comparatively less traction and ground feel than other shoes on this list.

Use BUXGND15 for 15% discount (valid until November 12, 2023)


Saguaro Forest barefoot hiking shoes

Saguaro

Saguaro Forest boasts the distinction of being the most budget-friendly barefoot hiking shoe out there!

SAGUARO EU: Switch to German or Spanish language

Use BU15 for 15% discount


ZAQQ barefoot hiking shoes and boots

ZAQQ

ZAQQ offers an extensive range of waterproof barefoot hiking boots, providing ample options for your preferences.


Koel barefoot hiking shoes and boots

Koel Shoes

We hold a special fondness for Koel Shoes when it comes to our kids. It’s exciting to witness their expansion into adult footwear for various occasions.

Exploring with Kids: The Best Barefoot & Minimalist Hiking Shoes for Children

Our family adores hiking with our children. When selecting hiking shoes for kids, ensure their ankle movement isn’t constrained. Opt for low-cut shoes that offer maximal ankle mobility.

Here are the options you can consider for hiking adventures with your little ones:

VIVOBAREFOOT barefoot hiking shoes and boots for kids

VIVOBAREFOOT

  • Models: Primus Bootie, Primus Trail II
  • Ideal for: narrow and medium-width feet, with a stronger slope towards the pinky toe
  • Use BU15 for 15% discount


Ballop barefoot hiking shoes and boots for kids

Ballop

  • Models: BALLOP Barefoot Kids
  • Ideal for: medium and medium-wide feet
  • Use BOSENOGICE20 for 20% discount

Conclusion

We hope you have enjoyed our roundup of the best barefoot and minimalist hiking shoes. We believe that this list will assist you in selecting a pair of barefoot hiking shoes that align with your needs and preferences. And if your feet aren’t fully prepared for the transition, perhaps consider slipping into some barefoot shoes around your house! You might be pleasantly surprised by their comfort.

4 Comments

  1. Hello,

    how does the Realfoot Toebox compare to Softstar? Especially the Primal Sawyer or similiar models? I own the Realfoot City Jungle but had to size up because the taper is too aggressive for my pinky. It doesn’t have enough space in front of the toe, even though I left 12 mm space in front of my longest toe.

    The Softstar Primal Sawyer seems to have less taper, but maybe the pictures deceive.

    Cheers

    • Hi Chris, we cannot directly compare it to the Softstar Primal Sawyer as we don’t have it, but we can compare it to the Softstar Switchback boots. There is more vertical space in the Realfoot Trekker than in the Softstar Switchback, and therefore, the Realfoot feels wider than the Softstar, even though the outsole shape is almost the same in the toe area. I have more space for my pinky toe in the Realfoot. Hope this helps!

      • Hi Katja,

        thanks for your fast response. That was helpful and saves me from trying out Softstar then, since I already had to size up the Realfoot because of missing pinky space.

        Since you already tested the barefoot+ Models from Groundies: how do they compare space wise to Realfoot shoes, especially for the pinky toes?

        Going purely by the numbers the Groundies look less wide (even if I add the 5mm you mention in your review), and the taper on the pinky seems more aggressive (so easier to touch the front with the pinky toe). Is that correct?

        • Hi Chris, Groundies Barefoot+ are not as wide as Realfoot. I have much more space for my pinky toe in Realfoot than in Groundies. However, Groundies are slightly wider in the midfoot and heel parts.

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