What is a Barefoot Shoe? Easy Explained!

There are understandably a few problems with the term barefoot shoes. I mean, what is it now? Two words that apparently cannot be connected: barefoot and shoe.

So it’s really only one of the two, isn’t it? Or maybe barefoot without wearing socks in conventional shoes? Today we want to clear up this confusion, so we rightly ask: what is a barefoot shoe?

For all those who are in a hurry, here is an overview of what awaits you and where:

Well then, let’s go.

4 pairs of leguano shoes lying on a meadow

What are barefoot shoes?

First and foremost, a barefoot shoe or minimal shoe is a shoe that imitates barefoot walking. There are several ways to achieve this.

For example, some manufacturers use toe shoes where each toe has its own little pocket that it is put into. This, of course, has the advantage of allowing each toe to move freely and independently.

However, I like to wear socks in my barefoot minimalist shoes, so I would have to wear toe socks in toe shoes. Anyone who has tried on socks like that knows how uncomfortable that can be, so toe shoes are not for me personally. Plus, usually, I’m not too fond of the look of the shoes.

  • Some manufacturers have imitated barefootness not with a thin sole but with nubs on the soles.
  • Sounds crazy, but the small hemispherical nubs can adapt to the ground just as smoothly as barefoot walking itself.

In addition, they also dot the sole very pleasantly on slippery surfaces so that your feet don’t get cold in colder weather.

So, to imitate the barefoot movement well, most barefoot minimalist shoes also have features that traditional shoes cannot fulfill.

What are barefoot shoes good for?

Minimalist shoes have many benefits and are therefore good for almost everything.

  • Firstly, they prevent injuries. With traditional sports shoes that come with thick soles and high heels, we lose flexibility in our feet when running or walking but also cause damage to the joints.

It is exactly this that makes barefoot minimalist shoes so valuable. They preserve flexibility and prevent injuries from occurring in the first place, especially when running.

  • Secondly, they provide good arch support for your feet. In everyday life, we often wear thick socks to keep our feet warm or super comfortable when walking on hard surfaces like asphalt or concrete.

Unfortunately, this leaves us with almost no feeling of the ground underfoot and actually does not allow our feet to adjust to the surface as nicely without additional help.

In addition, it is also nice to be able to feel the small stones or bumps on a rough surface through your feet so that you can notice them despite being barefoot-style shoes and thus slip less easily on slopes or slippery surfaces like wet polished floors.

What is considered a barefoot shoe?

  • A shoe that imitates barefoot walking
  • Best for preventing injuries and minimizing damage to joints
  • Allows each toe to move freely and independently
  • Can come with nubs on the soles or have a thin sole with zero drop
  • Specially suited for walking, running, jogging and similar activities
  • Usually thin soles with room for toes or with an individual toe box
  • Good for sweaty feet, especially in summer. The sweat evaporates faster from the bottom of your foot than from the top
  • Good for people with flat feet
  • That’s what barefoot shoes are…at least according to me 🙂

Every minimalist shoe must-have thin, flat soles with zero drop, no arch support, no toe spring, a wide toe box, and a flexible, lightweight design.

In the following section, we will clarify the main differences and thus peculiarities of minimalist footwear.

Most important properties of barefoot shoes

Thin Sole

A foot contains many bones, joints, muscles, and, most importantly, nerve endings. These nerves give you the sensory feedback you need from the ground. Imagine taking away all that input by wearing thick and cushioned soles.

Wearing shoes with thinner soles allows you to feel the ground and adjust accordingly. This sensory feedback plays an essential role in postural stability and dynamic gait patterns.

  • For example, it reduces the risk of twisting your ankle. In addition, many people find wearing shoes super relaxing, as it’s basically like a foot massage.
a woman massages a man's right foot

The sole of a barefoot shoe is usually only a few millimeters thin. So, of course, you might wonder why you wear minimalist shoes at all. But a clear advantage is, of course, still the protection from sharp objects, dirt, and moisture.

Nevertheless, we want to keep the protective layer between the foot and ground as small as possible. This is because we want to feel the earth, the stones, and the unevenness to expose and activate our footbed as much as possible.

  • This promotes circulation while massaging the many reflex zones in the foot, which are very important for a healthy body. In addition, a rough surface has the advantage that you always have warm feet when walking.

On the other hand, it also means that your feet can get cold quickly if you stand on the spot for a long time and the ground itself is still quite cold. Walking on slippery surfaces can also lead to cold feet because the foot is not activated.

Of course, the thinner the sole, the more you should pay attention to your gait. The heel gait you are used to in traditional running shoes can hurt even more here. Therefore, you should also step with the ball of your foot or forefoot when wearing barefoot shoes or if you walk barefoot in general.

i hold a rolled up leguano barefoot sock between my fingers


With normal shoes with a stiff and rigid sole, your foot is restricted in its natural range of motion. However, it is fascinating to notice how our feet can bend and twist with a flexible sole.

As a result, balancing is also much more manageable. Furthermore, many barefoot shoes are also made of synthetic materials and can follow almost any foot movement.

  • This flexibility is again a great advantage when climbing. Moreover, the sole can adapt perfectly to the ground, thus offering more support.

In addition, this flexibility is also an advantage when the minimalist shoes need to be quickly stowed in the backpack or cleaned in the washing machine.

Wide Toe Box

Another plus that I noticed immediately when I first started wearing barefoot shoes was the freedom of the toes. They simply had plenty of room to breathe and develop properly.

In addition, some manufacturers even offer toe shoes. There, of course, the freedom of the individual toe in each toe box is even greater.

  • Each toe can move independently of the others, and you have a lot more grip, especially if you like climbing like me.
i balance a leguano barefoot shoe in my garden on my index finger

Zero-Heel to Toe Drop

Modern shoes have a difference in height between the heel and the forefoot, also called a drop. This does not exist in a barefoot shoe because the standard foot has zero drops. That’s why a minimalist shoe is often called zero drop shoe.

  • The advantage of zero drop shoes is that you stand up straight, and your spine does not have to compensate for the artificial height difference of supportive shoes.


These synthetic materials have the added advantage of being very lightweight. This makes a lightweight shoe very easy to carry in a bag or backpack.

  • They also naturally save energy when walking, hiking, or running if the minimalist shoe is lighter.

Are barefoot shoes good for hiking?

Barefoot shoes can provide advantages for some hikers, especially those who do not plan to wear them the entire time and when hiking on easy terrain. To learn more check out this article.

Advantages of barefoot hiking shoes

  • Barefoot shoes can protect one’s feet from sharp objects on the ground or during climbing.
  • They also often have smaller soles, so they are easier to store.
  • In addition, the toe box is wider, which means that a hiker will usually be warmer in these than in conventional footwear because less of their foot is covered overall.

Disadvantages of barefoot hiking shoes

  • Some folks find it bothersome to hike with a barefoot shoe because they are still new to exposed stones, pebbles, dirt, mud, and other natural inconsistencies of the earth’s surface.

What types of barefoot shoes are out there?

There are several different types of barefoot shoes out there, each with its own benefits.

Flip Flops

Flip flops (or slippers) are open-toed and don’t have a backing strap. They’re popular for a casual wear at home or on the beach, or around pools but can be worn outside in summer in some regions.

  • And there is no narrow toe box.

Climbing Shoes

  • These use sticky rubber to hold onto surfaces so that you can climb rock faces and other vertical surfaces without your feet slipping.

Hiking Shoes

  • Hiking shoes’ soles provide extra protection, support, and grip for trails that are often uneven or otherwise difficult to walk on, giving hikers an edge over the squeaky-soled running shoe.

Barefoot Sandals

  • These open-toed sandals, also known as gladiators or Mexican sandals, look like regular flip flops but have no straps over the arch of your foot and a thin sole that offers extra grip for outdoor activities where traction is necessary.
one black Cloud-Mens-Barefoot-Sandal

Where can I buy a pair of barefoot shoes?

If you want to purchase a pair of Barefoot shoes, the best place to do so is online, for they are more readily available. You can buy a pair of Barefoot Shoes online at Zappos.com, one of the world’s largest online shoe retailers.

How do I know which size is best for me?

It’s generally advised to size up to ensure maximum comfort. Take off shoes and socks and place a sheet of paper over an area of flat floor.

Use one foot as a reference point, keeping the heel on the piece of paper. Slide foot forward, placing it as far as possible onto the sheet with toes hanging off if room remains. That measurement is about 1/3 width-wise from toe to heel for both feet.

  • Measure from the end of the big toe (basically opposite where little toes connect) to the floor; that will be your length dimensions in cm.


There’s nothing quite like the feeling of walking barefoot. But, whether it be on a sandy beach or grassy lawn, wearing shoes can feel restrictive and uncomfortable when you’re trying to enjoy nature.

  • Minimal Shoes are versatile- they come in all different colors and styles for any occasion! Barefoot shoes provide comfort while still looking stylish and trendy, so there is no need to compromise healthiness and fashionability.

Personally, I like the variety of different brands and their interpretation of barefoot. I hope to have given you an understanding of barefoot shoes with the above. It should not be difficult to recognize some on the street in other people and have a say.

What kind of healthy shoes do you like most and why? Write in the comments your experiences! I would be happy to talk with you about it.

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