Barefoot Buying Guide

If you are reading this, I will take it you are sold on the virtues of wearing barefoot shoes. We have created a barefoot buying guide because it is not as simple as it may sound. After reading this, you should understand what to look out for when purchasing a pair of barefoot shoes. This is a practice that works for buying any shoes. You minimize the risk of preventable injuries. 


Like the rest of our bodies, we adapt to the conditions to which we are exposed. You probably know that you suddenly realize how cold it is when you walk onto a non-heated kitchen floor. It was always that cold, but your shoes shielded you. The same applies to running on bare feet. We often forget just how hard the ground is. Our padded shoes allow us to run around without giving this a thought.

The downside of this is that we become somewhat weaker. You know what they say about allowing a butterfly to break out of its own cocoon. Your feet need the same treatment. They adapt to the conditions that they are presented with. As a child, I loved to run barefooted. I imagine that to be the case with all children. 

Over time we are trained to wear shoes. You end up wearing shoes all day in school. Then wearing shoes all day in sports, and at work. Your feet adapt to this luxury. 

Suddenly removing all the padding and going barefoot is ill-advised. This is something that has often been shown to lead to injury. The key is to ensure that you transition progressive. You can start by doing this a few hours everyday. Then you can move on to doing it one day a week and so on. Once your feet adjust to this, you can look at moving outdoors. 

There are small intricacies that are involved in walking that we never stop to think about. Your feet land on the ground at a certain angle. Changing shoes or going barefooted will mean that your body will naturally adjust to lessen the pain. 

This is what causes injury. Take your time to transition. Do not do that head first approach to going barefooted. Don’t be a hero.

What to look for when buying barefoot shoes

We have group our responses into subtopics. Each of these is important in its own right. Be sure to read through all of them and take note. 


Tread will depend on what sort of surface you will be using the shoes on. This will determine whether you need to put an emphasis on getting shoes with good grip. New technology in shoes has meant that tread is not the only way by which shoes get their grip. Vivobarefoot shoes tend to focus more on grip that comes from the rubber soles. 

Thickness of sole

Before you say the lack of sole is what makes barefoot shoes “barefoot”, I know. However, you ought to allow yourself some room to grow into the shoes. This is more important in the transition period. A good pair of insoles could make the journey easier. At times it is lessening the impact of the ground, and other times it is down to keeping you warm.


One of the most common criticism for barefoot shoes is the lack of durability. This is perhaps made worse by the pricing. You do not expect shoes at some of those price points to fall apart so quickly. I am glad to report that this is something that has generally improved in the category over the last few years.

Some healthy competition has pushed manufacturers to do better. The best way to figure this one out is by reading some reviews. These can be based on a particular shoe you may be considering, or for the activity you want to use the shoes for. This ties into our next point.

Buying by activity or conditions

Buying by activity should be a no-brainer. We do this all the time for regular shoes. If you want to use the shoes for climbing, look for manufacturers that make shoes for climbing. The same will go for other sports as well as work.

You will find it surprising that there are very few barefoot shoes for school and work. I digress. Just to reiterate. Do not buy a general barefoot shoe to fit into all activities. That is a recipe for disappointment. 

As far as conditions are concerned, buy shoes for what you will put them through. If you are headed to a cold region, perhaps some barefoot shoes for the winter are the right pick. The same goes for all other conditions. 

Buy for you

Buy for you! Have you in mind when you buy the shoes, unless of course you are buying for someone else. Buying for you would mean considering any pre-existing conditions that may affect your shoe choice. If you have flat feet, or wide feet, bear these things in mind and find shoes to suit these issues. 

Removable insoles

Insoles are incredibly important for barefoot shoes. They play a greater role than they would in a regular pair of shoes. They keep you warm. They give a bit more comfort and protection. 

I would recommend buying shoes that have removable insoles. This is a great feature to have at your disposal. You want to be able to change insole when they get worn out. You may also want to get insole in anticipation of weather conditions.

Thermal insoles would come handy when it gets colder. Instead of having to change your shoes in the winter, changing insoles may be enough. Saves you some money, and keeps you in the shoes you already like.

Measuring Feet For Barefoot Shoes Guide

This is not an easy one to write about. Vivobarefoot have a great shoe size guide/tool. It allows you to pick the right size based on what sizes you wear of a particular brand of shoes. For instance, if you wear an Merrell in size 6.5, the tool would recommend the right shoe size to buy.

In other instances, you would generally be advised to buy at least half a size larger than you would usually go. Toe boxes are more significant when walking on barefoot. You want room.

If you have any questions regarding buying barefoot shoes of any kind, leave a comment below.

Hi there. This is Clare. Dave and I manage this site. We are outdoor enthusiasts. Most of the content is about products that we love using or have researched.
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