Best Barefoot Running Shoes Compared 2021

Last updated: November 19, 2021

Running Shoes / Best Barefoot Running Shoes Compared 2021

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Runners start to get more and more creative as they enjoy the sport we all love, running. After some experience and, we begin to experiment with different types of running shoes. A movement thats gained popularity is barefoot running.

Barefoot running is not something that you can just get into without preparation. After all, it’s a very specific type of running that’s definitely not for everyone. This is why many people who are just starting out may feel uncomfortable spending money on barefoot running shoes in the first place.

However, part of the experience is finding the best shoes that work for you. Whether you’re a newbie or a veteran, you need to assess four factors in picking your next barefoot running shoes: budget, experience, terrain, and comfort.

Best Barefoot Running Shoes Compared And Reviewed

Best Value
WHITIN Barefoot Running Shoes
WHITIN Barefoot Running Shoes
Most Durable
Merrell Trail Glove 4
Merrell Trail Glove 4
Most Lightweight
Vibram KSO EVO
Vibram KSO EVO
Budget Option
TSLA Zero-Drop Barefoot Running Shoes
TSLA Zero-Drop Barefoot Running Shoes
Best Style
WHITIN Cross-Trainer 
WHITIN Cross-Trainer 

1. WHITIN Barefoot Running Shoes

Key Features

  • Mesh and rubber upper
  • 100% rubber outsole
  • Removable sockliner
  • Weight: 348.7 g (12.3 oz)

Reasons to buy

  • Great value for the price
  • Convenient lacing system
  • Durable hybrid upper
  • Accommodating toe box
  • Sturdy rubber outsole

Reasons to avoid

  • 3mm soles are too thin
  • Lacing systems vary per variant

The Whitin Barefoot Running Shoes are one of the most well-balanced pairs of running shoes in the market right now.

For its price point, you basically get the complete barefoot running experience. The shoes feature a sturdy, 100% rubber outsole that offers excellent traction on both dry and wet surfaces, which means you can use it on virtually any surface without slipping.

In fact, it’s so sturdy that there’s a high chance the upper would fail before the outsole is even close to wearing out.

Speaking of upper, it’s made of a breathable mesh and rubber hybrid, which ensures durability while remaining lightweight.

The toe box is made wider to accommodate wider feet, and the sockliner is removable in case you want a more barefoot feeling. Some variations also have a mixed lacing system that includes single-pull laces and straps for added convenience.

However, we found the fact that not all variations offer this feature to be a minor downside. If you want a single-pull lacing system, make sure that you look at your chosen variant closely.

Aside from that, the only other downside to these shoes is the relatively thin rubber soles, even compared to other barefoot running shoes. Obviously, you won’t be able to run on uneven–let alone technical–trails with these, as the 3mm soles are too thin to protect you from rocks and other debris.

Nevertheless, these are rather minor inconveniences considering the shoes’ overall value. Whether you’re new to the barefoot running movement or not, the Whitin Barefoot Running Shoes are definitely a must-try.

2. Merrell Trail Glove 4

Key Features

  • Vibram outsole
  • M-Select Fresh
  • Hyperlock Heel Counter
  • 100% Vegan-Friendly
  • Weight: 226 g (8 oz)

Reasons to buy

  • Light and durable mesh upper
  • Grippy and protective outsole
  • Made with sustainable materials
  • Keeps your feet fresh

Reasons to avoid

  • Tends to run narrow

Offering a fun and versatile running experience, the Merrell Trail Glove 4 is not a surprising addition to this list of the best barefoot running shoes.

The Trail Glove 4 offers a thicker and sturdier Vibram outsole than the Whitin Barefoot shoes. The upper is made of a durable synthetic mesh, allowing these lightweight shoes to tackle a diverse range of trails without wearing out or breaking down.

As a result, these are shoes that you can wear anywhere, from asphalt roads to technical trails – as long as they’re not too muddy.

In addition to this, the Trail Glove 4 also features a variety of innovative Merrell technologies. One of these is the M-Select Fresh technology, which uses antimicrobial agents to keep your feet fresh at all times. You also get the Hyperlock Heel Counter that helps secure your feet as you run.

On top of that, these shoes are made with recycled synthetic materials, making them vegan-friendly.

Keep in mind that these shoes run a bit small. People with wider feet may need to order half a size bigger, or the shoes may become too uncomfortable in the forefoot area.

Aside from that, though, the Merrell Trail Glove 4 is one of the most protective and most comfortable barefoot running shoes that you can buy today.

3. Vibram KSO EVO

Key Features

  • Vibram outsole
  • One-pull lacing system
  • Reinforced synthetic polyester upper
  • Weight: 139 g (4.9 oz)

Reasons to buy

  • Light and breathable
  • Durable outsole
  • Provides great traction
  • Convenient lace system

Reasons to avoid

  • Expensive
  • Not for beginners

If you’re into barefoot running, then you should try the five-fingers experience brought to you by the Vibram KSO EVO – one of the best five-fingers barefoot running shoes on the market.

Although it’s one of the most lightweight shoes around, the KSO EVO is made to be a durable workhorse shoe.

With its PU-film reinforced synthetic polyester fabric upper and thick Vibram outsole, you can wear the KSO EVO from the gym to the tracks. Despite its toughness, the outsole is only 5mm thick – the closest you will ever get to truly barefoot running without sacrificing safety.

Aside from those, the KSO EVO has a padded tongue to protect you from abrasions and a single-pull speed lacing system for your convenience. The outsole is also designed to provide traction on a wide variety of surfaces, allowing you to keep it on regardless of the kind of running you enjoy.

It does sit on the pricier end of the scale, though, so if you’re new to barefoot running, we recommend going for a more padded barefoot shoe first to get used to the feeling.

All in all, the Vibram KSO EVO is perhaps the closest you can get to a safe yet genuinely barefoot experience.

4. TSLA Zero-Drop Barefoot Running Shoes

Key Features

  • Dura Nylon Band
  • Rhombus-grid lug design
  • Nylon mesh upper
  • PU rubber heel shank

Reasons to buy

  • Dirt-resistant upper
  • Provides heel support
  • Great traction on surfaces
  • Thick outsole padding
  • Convenient lacing system

Reasons to avoid

  • Not true-to-size

Tired of clumsy, thickly-padded shoes that never seem to do the trick? Try the TSLA Zero-Drop Barefoot Running Shoes, a pair of protective barefoot running shoes that’s perfect for light trails.

These shoes deliver an excellent zero-drop, barefoot running experience without the hazards of overly thin soles. It has ample padding for those who want to get started on this type of running. The outsole is made of 100% rubber with a non-slip rhombus grid that provides great traction when running.

The upper is made with dirt-proof nylon mesh. Not only is it durable and breathable, but it’s also easier to clean than other textile-based shoes on the list. It also has a PU rubber shank to cup your heel and provide a stable ride no matter the terrain.

Lastly, the Dura Nylon band on the single-pull lace system allows the shoes to maintain a convenient yet secure grip on your feet.

For its price, it offers excellent value, making it a great entry-level barefoot shoe. However, do be careful about the sizing, as it doesn’t seem true-to-size.

If you can get the perfect fit, you get everything that you could ever want on a barefoot trail running shoe with the TSLA Zero-Drop Barefoot Running Shoes.

5. WHITIN Cross-Trainer 

Key Features

  • Full-coverage rubber outsole
  • Lightweight and durable upper
  • Weight: 350.12 g (12.35 oz)

Reasons to buy

  • Wide toe box
  • Great value for the price
  • Durable rubber outsole
  • Grippy geometric lug design
  • Attractive modern aesthetics

Reasons to avoid

  • Fragile rubber eyelets
  • Can be difficult to get the sizing right

Interested in running anywhere your heart takes you? If this is the case, then the Whitin Cross-Trainer is a fantastic pair of barefoot running shoes.

Designed with versatility in mind, the Cross Trainer can handle long-distance runs, speed work, and even trail runs. Although the first Whitin pair on this list is also pretty versatile, the Cross Trainer’s appearance makes it easier to bring with you to the gym or the streets, not just in the rugged outdoors.

With its modern, minimalist aesthetic, the Cross Trainer allows beginner barefoot runners the chance to practice using barefoot shoes without drawing second looks. And since it has a variety of designs to choose from, we’re sure you’ll find something that will suit your personal style.

In terms of performance, the Cross Trainer is very functional. Its toe box is wide enough to accommodate more foot sizes comfortably, and the lightweight mesh-and-rubber upper is incredibly durable. The rubber outsole offers full coverage and features an aggressive geometric lug design for better traction on a wide variety of surfaces.

However, be careful when choosing your size. If you’re between sizes, Whitin suggests getting the smaller size. Also, take care of the rubber eyelets as they’re the first part that typically breaks in this shoe.

For the price they’re being offered, though, the Whitin Cross-Trainer is an attractive, versatile, and functional pair of barefoot running shoes.

6. Merrell Vapor Glove 4

Key Features

  • Vibram outsole
  • Padded interior
  • 100% Vegan-Friendly
  • Cordura mesh upper
  • Weight: 260g

Reasons to buy

  • Heel support
  • Lightweight and durable
  • Protective full-coverage outsole
  • Breathable upper
  • Vegan-friendly

Reasons to avoid

  • Relatively more expensive
  • Difficult sizing
  • Not for technical trails

A leading shoemaker, Merrell comes with another pair of well-loved barefoot running shoes, the Vapor Glove 4. This pair functions exactly as it sounds – it weighs like a vapor and fits like a glove.

Designed to be worn as everyday trainers, the Vapor Glove 4’s primary offerings are comfort and protection. With its overlapping Vibram outsole, your feet stay protected despite the rolling, transitioning motion of your feet as you walk or run.

Staying true to their commitment to sustainability, Merrell made these shoes with recyclable synthetic materials. The upper is made of lightweight and breathable Cordura mesh. One of its distinct characteristics is that it has a more padded upper for better support and comfort compared to other shoes on the list.

As a true all-rounder shoe, the Vapor Glove 4’s outsole also has geometric lugs that provide optimal grip on most surfaces. The Vibram material also cups your heel for added stability. That said, it won’t hold up as well to technical trails.

In addition to this, you have to get the sizing right, or else it might be uncomfortable. This can be difficult if it’s your first shoe from Merrell since the sizing doesn’t seem to be consistent with other brands.

If you can get that part right though, the Merrell Vapor Glove 4 is a lightweight, comfortable, and premium pair of barefoot running shoes.

7. New Balance Minimus 10 V1

Key Features

  • Vibram outsole
  • Acteva midsole
  • Breathable mesh upper
  • Weight: 190 g (6.7 oz)

Reasons to buy

  • Thick outsole
  • Light and breathable upper
  • Aggressive lugs for traction
  • Extra protective midsole

Reasons to avoid

  • Relatively more expensive
  • Runs narrow
  • May be slippery on concrete

For those who want the best of both worlds, the New Balance Minimus 10 V1 is a great way to stay comfortable and still have that unique ground feel you can only have when wearing barefoot running shoes.

Although it’s made to be zero-drop and ultralight, the Minimus 10 V1 offers the thickest outsole padding on our list. It’s ideal for those who want maximum protection on hard trails while maintaining an all-natural feel.

The upper is made of breathable mesh and is not as padded as the Vapor Glove series, but it’s still very comfortable. Meanwhile, the outsole is thick Vibram rubber with aggressively shaped lugs, allowing it to stay durable while providing the maximum amount of traction necessary for trail running. It also includes a thin layer of Acteva midsole to keep things squared up.

The Minimus 10 V1 is a decent choice when running off-road trails, but the stiff rubber outsole can become slippery on concrete roads and sidewalks – something to keep in mind if you intend to use this as everyday wear. Also, the regular size tends to run narrow, so make sure you pick the wide version if you have wide feet.

As pricy as it may be compared to your other options, the New Balance Minimus 10 V1 is, without a doubt, a worthy addition to this list of the best barefoot running shoes.

How to Pick the Best Barefoot Running Shoes

Below is a simple guide on what to look out for when searching for the best barefoot running shoes for yourself. Remember, barefoot running is not for everyone however if you’re interested in finding out more and seeing the frequently asked question then read on further.

Budget

As mentioned above, barefoot running is not for everyone. It might be best to pick a cheaper pair of shoes first if you’re just starting out, in case you end up not liking it.

Two of the best budget barefoot running shoes you can get today are the Whitin Barefoot Running Shoes and the TSLA Zero-Drop Barefoot Running Shoes. They offer great value for the price and can be a great introductory shoe for any runner thinking of getting into barefoot running.

Experience

Perhaps the most critical factor in choosing the best barefoot running shoes, aside from your budget, is your experience level.

If this is your first time trying it out, we recommend easing your way into it and picking shoes with more padding than normal.

If you rush into it and pick shoes like the Vibram on your first go, it might be uncomfortable. We recommend choosing thickly padded barefoot shoes such as the New Balance Minimus 10 V1 or the Merrell Vapor Glove 4.

Terrain

Just like regular shoes, the kind of barefoot shoes that you will need also depends on your preferred terrain.

You can get away with something as thin as the Vibram KSO EVO on concrete roads, but it can be risky if you want to run on hard trails.

For off-road trails that require more protection, something thicker such as the New Balance Minimus 10 V1 and the Merrell Trail Glove 4, as mentioned above, might be better picks – especially if you’re new to barefoot running.

Comfort

Even though barefoot shoes are designed to bring your feet closer to the ground, they still have varying degrees of comfort. The main difference lies in the interior padding, specifically in the collar or the tongue of the shoe.

Make sure to evaluate your preferred level of comfort, especially if you’re a beginner. Barefoot running is a great sport, but it’s not the easiest to get used to, so it’s best to choose more comfortable shoes such as the Merrell Vapor Glove 4 to help ease your way into it.

On the other hand, if you want to feel what truly makes the barefoot running experience, choose minimally padded shoes such as the Vibram KSO EVO.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are barefoot running shoes good for you?

Experienced runners can get some benefits from barefoot running, such as strengthening the feet muscles. However, it can be risky if you’re a casual runner who doesn’t have any experience in barefoot running. Make sure to take it easy and allow your body to get used to it first.

Which barefoot running shoes should I buy?

The best barefoot running shoes for you depend on various factors like your budget, experience level, preferred terrain, and preferred comfort. To make it easier for you, we listed down seven of the best barefoot running shoes on the market in this article.

How should barefoot running shoes fit?

Barefoot running shoes should be snug but still have enough room for your toes to expand when they hit the ground. Barefoot shoes that aren’t snug and secure can cause you to develop blisters, so be careful.

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