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Best Minimalist Barefoot Shoes for Hiking, Backpacking, and Running

Best Barefoot shoes

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This is a review of the best barefoot shoes for hiking, backpacking, and running in 2023.

Barefoot shoes are often referred to as minimalist shoes, due to their striped back appearance and zero drop. Compared to other types of lightweight hiking shoes and trail running shoes they do take a bit of practice to get used to.

You need to develop the proper foot strength to be able to gain the full impact of these shoes, and that will only come with using them on a regular basis. With that being said, barefoot shoes promote a more natural movement. In addition to providing you with more stability as you walk or run across various surfaces. I’ve used several types of zero-drop minimalist shoes in recent years and can confirm they take a while to get used to.

With so many to choose from, it can be overwhelming knowing which barefoot shoes you ought to try yourself.  I have researched many barefoot shoes, and brands, and narrowed them down to my favorites.

If you love to go running, hiking, or backpacking in barefoot shoes or simply want to try them for the first time, then below are the best barefoot shoes for 2023.

Best Minimalist Shoes for hiking and Backpacking

The best minimalist shoes for hiking and backpacking 2023:

Best Minimalist Shoe – Overall

Xero Shoes Speed Force Minimalist Running Shoe

Xero Shoes Men's Speed Force Minimalist Running Shoe

> Sock-Like feel
> Comfortable
> Versatile
> Made from vegan products.
> Like most barefoot shoes it may take a while for your feet to get used to wearing them without feeling fatigued.

Barefoot running shoes like the Xero Shoes Speed Force is made for both casual and serious runners. They are known to be inspired by the superhero ‘The Flash’. Many runners adore this product since it offers sock-like comfort to fit your active lifestyle.

The Xero Shoes Men’s Speed Force Minimalist Running Shoe is really light, so you might experience lightweight performance all day. The non-elevated heel and low-to-the-ground design of the Xero Drop sole promote good posture, agility, and balance.

The large toe box, gripping sole, and mesh upper with smooth lining will make you adore the comfort these shoes provide. The patented 4.5 mm Feel True Sole provides protection with ground contact.

A 2 mm insole is optional and allows you to customize how “barefoot” you want to feel.

There are Xero Men’s and Xero Women’s versions of these minimalist shoes.

Overall, the Xero Shoes Speed Force Minimalist Running Shoe is one of the best ultralight minimalist shoes.

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Best Barefoot Shoe – Runner Up

Merrell Vapor Glove 5 Shoes

Merrell Vapor Glove 5 Fitness Shoes

> Breathable mesh lining
> No Midsole
> Wide toe box and a secure heel
> Ultra Lightweight
> Grip could better
> Soles do not last long

The Merrell Vapor Glove 5 Fitness Shoes is the latest upgrade to the popular Vapor Glove range from Merrell. They place your foot directly against the ground thanks to its lack of midsole cushioning and low stack height.

The Merrell Vapor Glove 5 Fitness Shoes feature a recognizable, straightforward design that securely encloses and resembles bare feet.

A thin mesh lining that curls around the rear of the foot behind your heel, and a tongue made of neoprene make up the upper portion of this shoe.

These elements combine to produce a shoe that is incredibly breathable, sheds water from the outside, and wicks away any moisture that may accumulate within. This shoe is particularly flexible because there is no midsole foam to provide support.

Yet, this shoe is extremely stable, especially on uneven ground, thanks to a broad toe box and a tightly fitting heel.

There are Merrell Men’s Vapor Glove and Merrell Women’s Vapor Glove versions.

Overall, the Merrell Vapor Glove 5 Fitness Shoes is the best barefoot running shoe 2023. Especially, if you are looking for a highly responsive and breathable barefoot shoe.

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Best Weatherproof Barefoot shoe

Vivobarefoot Magna Trail II FG

Vivobarefoot Magna Trail II FG

> Waterproof
> Uses Environmentally Friendly Materials
> Snug Fit
> Reflective Foil keeps feet warm in cool weather
> Not as breathability as some other models

Why not try the environmentally friendly and ultra-lightweight Vivobarefoot Magna Trail II FG shoes. These all-terrain shoes are great for day hiking on forgiving routes. The upper fabric has a simple design and is made of nylon, which is created from recycled PET.

Additionally, the Vivobarefoot Magna Trail II FG is quite water-resistant. The outsole’s puncture-resistant layer is thin, yet it is five times more resilient than normal soles of similar thicknesses.

Compared to conventional hiking boots, the multi-directional lugs are shallow, yet they are deep enough to offer excellent traction on rough slopes. Removable insoles are included to increase the shoe soles’ insulation by 3.5 mm.

To keep your toes warmer in the cooler months, the Outlast Thermal Regulator Insole uses reflective foil. Finally, the snug fit of the neoprene ankle sock on your foot keeps dirt and other debris from getting inside the boots. The ankles benefit greatly from the freedom and flexibility provided by this fit.

Overall, Vivobarefoot Magna Trail II FG is one of the best barefoot trail shoes.

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Best Minimalist Training Shoe

Vibram FiveFingers Men’s V-Train 2.0 Training Shoe

Vibram FiveFingers V-Train 2.0 Training Shoe.jpg

> Each toe has their own separate toe pouch
> Good in Wet And Dry Conditions
> Durable
> Restrictive Thick Outsole

The distinctive Vibram FiveFingers Men’s V-Train 2.0 Fitness and Cross Training Shoe are one of those shoes that you’ll either love or hate. Despite the fact that you could say that it is one of the most traditional barefoot designs available.

It’s up to you whether you find it comfy that each toe has its own tiny pouch. You will value the independent toe flexibility and strong push-off the Vibram FiveFingers Men’s V-Train 2.0 Fitness and Cross Training Shoes offer.

The long-lasting rubber outsole is constructed with a 3D Cocoon mesh, which offers sufficient traction in both dry and wet conditions.

While, on rough trails, the outsole will shield you from sharp items, and it spreads the point of impact evenly across the shoe’s sole for better balance when striking the ground. Unlike other barefoot shoes we have mentioned so far, this product has a non-removable rubber insole.

This is to provide you with slightly more comfort, which is good for beginners.

Overall, the Vibram FiveFingers Men’s V-Train 2.0 Fitness and Cross Training Shoe is one of the best barefoot fitness shoes with a more traditional design.

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Best Barefoot Running Shoe

Xero Shoes HFS Running Shoes

Xero Shoes HFS Running Shoes

> Flexible material
> Breathable
> Comes with a 5,000-mile sole warranty.
> Contours To Your Feet
> These barefoot shoes are slightly heavier than other products on the market.

The Xero Shoes Men’s HFS Running Shoes, fulfills every essential requirement of a barefoot running shoe and provides an exceptionally natural experience. A direct channel of feedback between both the ground and your feet is provided by the unique Feel True Rubber Outsole.

Additionally, the Xero Shoes Men’s HFS Running Shoes come with an optional 3 mm high-density EVA insole for the ideal amount of cushioning. Despite having a more substantial appearance, these shoes are incredibly flexible, giving your foot total freedom of motion.

A thin lining replaces the padding around the ankles to efficiently and effectively wick sweat from your feet through the dual-layer mesh. You can run for miles in comfort thanks to the superior breathability created by the roomy interior and moisture-wicking liner.

The extra-sturdy design of the Xero HFS is supported by the 5,000-mile sole promise.

Overall, the Xero Shoes Men’s HFS Running Shoes is one of the best barefoot running shoes on the market right now.

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Best Barefoot Shoes (Minimalist Shoes) Buyers Guide

Minimalist shoes are made to interfere as little as possible with your foot’s natural motion. The first barefoot shoes were first introduced in 2005. Since then, their popularity has skyrocketed.

Recently, you will notice that a lot more barefoot shoes are created using either vegan or recycled materials. Hence, these shoes are great for vegans as well.

With that being said, there are a few things you should keep in mind when you are browsing and selecting your barefoot shoes.

best minimalist shoes

The Truth About Barefoot and Minimalist Shoes

Before I go any further about the information you need to know about barefoot and minimalist shoes, there is a video you should watch from the founder of Xero Shoes. It is part of a 10-part series on things you should know about barefoot shoes. Watch the video below. If it has informed you, then watch the whole 10-part series on their website.

Xero Shoes Information Videos

Minimal Midsole And No Drop

The height difference between the heel and toe is known as the heel-to-toe drop. You’ll need zero drop and very little midsole for a fully barefoot experience. Zero drop is thought to provide a less high-impact stride and more natural running technique.

However, running on uneven ground can be difficult without a midsole. Due to this, barefoot shoes will usually feature a little very thin midsole to offer some cushioning for challenging terrain.


The goal is that your barefoot shoes should feel “barely there” while delivering maximum ground contact. A lightweight design is important to the barefoot experience.

Typically barefoot shoes will weigh around 5 to 7 ounces. Yet, the lighter, the better, as the less material your feet have to move with each step.


To obstruct any of the movements, a barefoot shoe ought to be flexible. A shoe must have good longitudinal (folding) and rotational (twisting) flexibility.

When jogging on uneven ground, this will enable your toes to bite through soft dirt to push-off and your foot to quickly make adjustments.

Toe Box

The barefoot shoe’s capacity to extend out and establish a sturdy platform may be its most crucial quality. Our toes are intended to be spaced far apart in their natural state.

To allow the wide toe splay that occurs when we stand barefoot on a flat surface naturally, minimalist shoes are made with a wide toe box. This improves stability while running, as well as the way our toes grip the ground.


When we run, our feet perspire, and that perspiration swiftly evaporates to cool our feet. Therefore, barefoot footwear tries to imitate this.

Mesh, neoprene, air vents, and other materials may be used in these shoe designs, to enhance ventilation and circulation around your foot and the shoe.

When a shoe is more breathable, this then makes for a much more enjoyable and comfortable running experience.


Depending on the type of terrain you are running or walking in, you may wish for your barefoot shoes to be waterproof. Due to the limited insulation and padding on these types of shoes, you will notice any moisture or water a lot more.

Hence, you may want to ensure that your barefoot shoes are created with waterproof or water-resistant materials to help keep your feet as dry as possible. For most people, it is best not to opt for waterproof barefoot shoes. Breathable is almost always better in this case.


The best barefoot shoes (minimalist shoes) for 2023:

Another one of the Best Hiking Gear Reviews from BikeHikeSafari.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do You Wear Socks With Barefoot Shoes?

The choice is yours when it comes to wearing socks with barefoot shoes. Experienced barefoot runners, don’t feel the need for socks, as they are used to this style of running. Also, most barefoot shoes feel like socks due to their design.

However, if you aren’t used to barefoot running, then socks will help avoid blisters and offer you the extra cushioning you still require.

What Happens To Your Feet When You Wear Barefoot Shoes?

The toes spreading out and the foot widening and even lengthening are the most noticeable changes. Extremely flat feet may sometimes shorten as the arch muscles get stronger.

How Long Does It Take For Barefoot Shoes To Increase Foot Strength?

The time frame for the increase in foot strength due to wearing barefoot shoes can vary from person to person. People start to see benefits and changes in their foot strength after 6 months. Yet, this can depend on how often you wear and use these shoes.

In addition to that, barefoot shoes won’t just increase your foot strength. They will also support your whole body, as they help to make sure your body moves in the right way. This will include your posture and calf muscles.

Best minimalist barefoot shoes

BikeHikeSafari Gear Review Process

The author, Brad McCartney from BikeHikeSafari is a small independent adventurer and outdoor gear tester who owns and runs BikeHikeSafari.com.

BikeHikeSafari is not part of a large blog network and is proudly independent. All reviews on this site are independent and honest gear reviews of outdoor products by the author.

The author, Brad McCartney is a very experienced triple crown thru-hiker, adventurer, and bike tourer having spent 1000s of nights sleeping in a tent and sleeping bag (Read more). He was a manager of an outdoor retail store and is very experienced in what is important when using and testing gear for reviews like this.

BikeHikeSafari will never receive any money for reviews and they do not accept sponsored reviews on this website. All the comments about the gear reviews are from the author based on his years of experience. Hope this independent review was helpful for you.

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About the Author:
Brad is an Australian who has completed the hiking Triple Crown after he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail. He has hiked on every continent (except Antarctica) and has cycled from Alaska to Ecuador. He is an expert on outdoor gear currently living in Chile.

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