barefoot walking shoes

Barefoot Walking Shoes: Your Comprehensive Guide to Natural Footwear

Last Updated on December 6, 2023

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As we stride into 2023, it’s clear that barefoot walking shoes are no longer just a trend – they’re a lifestyle choice for many.

These shoes, crafted with minimalist principles in mind, strive to replicate the natural sensation of walking barefoot while offering the necessary protection from the ground beneath us.

If you’re new to this concept, our Beginner’s Guide to Barefoot Shoes is a great place to start.

Barefoot Walking Shoes: Key Takeaways
Top Picks for 2023: Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III, Xero Prio, and Wildling Shoes Chestnut are leading the pack this year.
Choosing the Right Pair: Know your feet, measure accurately, and consider the shoe’s purpose.
Why Go Barefoot?: Improved balance, stronger feet, enhanced sensory feedback, and fewer injuries.
Care & Maintenance: Clean gently, air dry, and avoid harsh chemicals to extend your shoes’ lifespan.
Transitioning Tips: Start slow, consider barefoot-friendly insoles, and embrace the journey to healthier feet.

The Growing Popularity of Barefoot Walking Shoes

Have you noticed a surge in people around you going barefoot – or at least, seeming to? This doesn’t mean they’ve wholly forsaken footwear.

Instead, they’ve made the switch to barefoot shoes. These foot-friendly alternatives are more than just a fleeting fashion trend; they’re gaining acclaim for their numerous health benefits.

Quality barefoot shoes allow your foot and ankle to operate naturally, enhancing posture and body alignment. But how exactly do they do this? Our article How Barefoot Shoes Improve Your Balance and Posture delves into the details.

Health Benefits of Wearing Barefoot Shoes

The minimalist design of a proper barefoot shoe fosters a more genuine connection with the earth, enabling you to feel the ground beneath you with every step.

This heightened sensory feedback can stimulate better communication between your brain and feet, potentially enhancing balance and reducing the risk of injuries.

Moreover, the wider toe box, a common feature in most barefoot shoes, gives your toes the freedom they need, aiding in strengthening your feet and leg muscles and promoting improved foot mobility.

barefoot shoes wide

Curious about why this design feature is so important? Check out our post on Why Barefoot Shoes Have Wide Toe Boxes to learn more.

Top Barefoot Walking Shoes of 2023

Ready to dip your toes into the world of barefoot shoes? Here’s a list of some of the top barefoot shoes that have been making waves in 2023:

Xero Prio

The Xero Prio barefoot shoes, a flagship product of Xero Shoes, are minimalist shoes designed for everyday wear, casual outings, and exercise. They’re lightweight and durable and feature an exclusive FeelTrue® sole for exceptional grip and flexibility. For more on this brand, our Xero Shoes Guide offers a comprehensive look.

Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III

This barefoot shoe, crafted by Vivobarefoot, is celebrated for its breathable design and flexible sole. It’s a perfect match for those with wide feet, offering excellent traction and a snug fit. If you’re curious about the brand, check out our Vivobarefoot Alternatives post for more options.

Wildling Shoes Chestnut

These shoes are a dream come true for barefoot runners, being breathable, durable, and light. The Chestnut model is a minimalist shoe that offers all the freedom of being barefoot, with just enough protection for your feet.

How to Choose the Right Barefoot Walking Shoes

Before you rush off to buy your first pair of barefoot shoes, it’s important to know your feet. Here are some factors to consider:

Know Your Feet

Understanding your foot shape and width is crucial. Barefoot shoes come in various shapes and sizes, and knowing what fits your feet best is a must. Our post on Choosing the Right Pair can help you make an informed decision.

Measure Your Foot

Getting the right measurements is essential to choosing the perfect fit. Remember, a poorly fitting pair of shoes, even minimalist ones, can cause foot pain and other problems. If you’re unsure about how to measure your foot properly, our Barefoot Shoes Guide has some handy tips.

Consider the Sole Thickness

While minimalist shoes like the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite III aim for thinner soles, beginners new to barefoot walking might want to start with slightly thicker soles for more cushion. As you get accustomed to the feel, you can transition to thinner soles, much like those found in the Merrell Vapor Glove 5.

Choose the Right Size

Whether you’re looking at the Whitin Barefoot or the Wildling Shoes, the fit is crucial. Too tight, and your foot can’t move naturally; too loose, and you lose essential support. A well-fitting barefoot shoe feels like a glove, comfortably snug but not restrictive. Our Choosing the Right Pair guide can help you find shoes that fit just right.

Consider the Shoe’s Purpose

If you’re interested in going barefoot for activities like walking, running, or everyday tasks, there are specialized barefoot shoes available to meet your needs.

It’s essential to differentiate between barefoot running shoes like the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail and other types of footwear such as sandals or casual shoes.

Furthermore, when selecting walking shoes, it’s crucial to consider your environment. The type of shoe required will vary depending on whether you reside in a city or countryside setting.

Benefits of Barefoot Walking Shoes

While barefoot shoes might seem like a recent trend, they’ve actually been around for quite some time. The benefits they bring, however, are timeless:

Improved Posture and Balance

The minimalist design of a barefoot shoe allows you to feel the ground beneath your feet, aiding balance and promoting a healthier posture. Our How Barefoot Shoes Improve Your Balance and Posture post delves into this in more detail.

Strengthened Feet and Legs

Regular use of barefoot shoes can help strengthen your foot muscles. The thin sole encourages your foot and leg muscles to work harder, strengthening them over time.

Enhanced Sensory Feedback

The thin sole of a minimalist shoe enhances sensory feedback from the feet to the brain, which can lead to improved balance and coordination.

Reduced Risk of Injuries

By promoting a natural walking and running style, barefoot shoes can reduce the risk of injuries commonly associated with regular, cushioned shoes. Our Barefoot Shoes vs Traditional Running Shoes Guide provides a comprehensive comparison.

How to Clean and Maintain Your Barefoot Walking Shoes

Taking care of your barefoot shoes is key to making them last. Here are some tips to help:

Remove Shoelaces and Use a Brush

For the best cleaning results, remove shoelaces and inserts. Use a dry brush to remove loose dirt from the shoe’s upper and sole. This is particularly important for shoes with a minimalist sole, like the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite or the Merrell Vapor Glove 5.

Use Leather Cleaner or Mild Soap

For leather shoes like some models of Vivobarefoot and Merrell, it’s best to use a leather cleaner. For others, mild soap will do the trick. Our Barefoot Shoe Care Guide provides more detailed information on how to clean different types of barefoot shoes.

Air Dry Your Shoes

After washing, let your shoe air dry. Heat can damage the materials of your shoes, so avoid using heaters or direct sunlight.

Avoid Washing Machines and Harsh Chemicals

Though it might be tempting, avoid washing machines and harsh chemicals. These can damage your shoes and shorten their lifespan.

Transitioning to Barefoot Walking Shoes

If you’re new to barefoot walking, remember that transitioning to barefoot shoes is a process. It’s important to start slowly and listen to your body.

Gradual Transition for Beginners

Begin with short walks around the block or at home. Gradually increase the distance and intensity of your barefoot activities.

Consider Using Barefoot-friendly Insoles

To ease the transition, consider using barefoot-friendly insoles for extra cushion. These can provide some extra comfort as your feet get used to the new shoes.

Embrace the Learning Curve

Remember, switching to barefoot shoes is more than just a change of footwear. It’s about adopting a new way of walking and running. Be patient and enjoy the journey.


Embracing barefoot walking shoes can be a game-changer for your foot health and overall well-being. Brands like Xero and Vivobarefoot offer fantastic options for everyone, from the minimalist shoe newbie to the seasoned barefoot runner. With a little care and maintenance, your barefoot shoes will be a worthy investment for your feet.

There’s a whole world out there ready to be felt beneath your feet. Why not experience it in barefoot shoes?

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I consider when looking for the best barefoot shoes for walking?

When looking for the best barefoot shoes for walking, consider the fit and the benefits they provide. A well-fitting barefoot shoe should feel snug but not restrictive, allowing your foot to move naturally. Walking around barefoot in these shoes can help improve foot strength, enhance balance, and promote a natural walking style. Remember, transitioning to barefoot shoes is more than just a change of footwear – it’s about adopting a new way of walking.

What are the benefits of wearing barefoot shoes?

The best barefoot shoes can enhance foot and ankle strength, improve posture, and promote a natural, efficient gait while walking or running. They allow you to grip the ground with each step, providing a sensory experience that traditional shoes can’t match.

Do barefoot shoes offer any cushioning?

Barefoot shoes typically have minimal to no cushioning. Instead, they’re designed to let your feet feel the ground, much like walking around barefoot. This provides a more natural and sensory experience that can be beneficial for your foot’s arch and heel.

How is the traction in barefoot shoes?

Traction varies among the barefoot shoes on the market. Some offer excellent grip, but it’s important to choose a shoe that’s suitable for your intended activity or terrain.

Are barefoot shoes suitable for people with wide feet?

Absolutely! Many barefoot shoes, including some of the first barefoot shoe designs, feature a roomy toe box. This makes them a great choice for people with wide feet or those who prefer to wear shoes without socks for a true barefoot shoe experience.

Can barefoot shoes help prevent injury?

While barefoot shoes can’t guarantee injury prevention, they can help improve foot and ankle strength, which may decrease the risk of certain types of injuries. If you want to try barefoot shoes, remember to listen to your body and transition gradually. Start with short distances, like a few miles a day, and gradually increase as your feet adapt.

Are there barefoot shoes for women?

Yes, there are numerous barefoot shoes for women available on the market. Whether you’re looking for running shoes, casual wear, or something in between, you’ll find plenty of options to suit your needs.

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What makes the best barefoot shoes of 2023 stand out from conventional shoes?

The best barefoot shoes of 2023 are designed with a minimalist sole, allowing for a more natural connection with the ground beneath your feet. They provide a unique balance of comfort and sensory feedback, making them a great option if you’re new to barefoot shoes or want to try barefoot shoes for the first time.

How do barefoot shoes compare to regular shoes when used for running or as training shoes?

Barefoot shoes, often referred to as barefoot sneakers or training shoes, offer a different experience compared to regular running shoes. They aim to mimic the sensation of going barefoot as much as possible, which can help strengthen the arch of your foot and improve balance. If you’re looking for a shoe that allows for a more natural running or training experience, barefoot shoes are among the best options.

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