Best Barefoot Running Shoes Reviewed & Tested for Performance

The best way for mankind to run is barefoot, and there’s no doubt about this. Why is that? When you run in running shoes, the first part of your foot impacting the ground is your heel, whereas if you run barefoot, it’s in fact the ball of your foot that lands on the ground first, which helps prevent lesser impacts on your feet, ankles, knees, and hips.

Barefoot Running Shoes - Vibram Fivefingers

Now that we know that barefoot is better, we all know that in today’s world, this could become quite uncomfortable (gravel, shards of glass and general obstacles). That is why a few shoe companies came out with the brilliant idea to create a running shoe that would make you feel like your feet are bare.

Last Updated: December 1, 2017
By Tenby Lloyd:

Since barefoot running shoes are a newer and more modern addition to the athletic shoe game, this recent update helps to explain the benefits that come from switching to a barefoot shoe. By explaining the history as well as the health advantages, it can be seen why this top ten list is so useful. There is also list of the 10 barefoot running shoes that are available to buy in 2017, and each shoe is reviewed to give a detailed understandhing of both the pros and cons.

Featured Recommendations

Merrell Vapor Glove 2
  • Merrell Vapor Glove 2
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Sticky Vibram outsole for traction
  • Price: See Here
Vibram Bikila EVO
  • Vibram Bikila EVO
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Anti-microbial Drilex sockliner
  • Price: See Here
Merrell Pace Glove 3
  • Merrell Pace Glove 3
  • 4 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Omni-Fit lacing system
  • Price: See Here

Barefoot running shoes (or minimalist shoes) are lightweight, and like the name says it, they’re minimalist, with basic structure to keep your feet snug and give it enough support during your runs. But don’t worry, the styles and colorways are as diverse as regular running shoes. There are styles for everyone: from toe socks to samurai-style split toes, to a regular front shoe. Below, we are comparing and reviewing the best barefoot running shoes of 2017.

 

10 Best Barefoot Running Shoes

 

1. Merrell Vapor Glove 2

We all know Merrell for their perfectly well-structured running shoes, that give us support and comfort throughout our runs and daily activities. This time, the company came out with a barefoot running shoe that would really make us feel like we’re running barefoot. The upper unit is made from mesh and TPU materials that offer a more breathable and secure run.
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Upper Unit Material
The upper unit is made from mesh and TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane – more temperature resistant compared to EVA material) materials that offer more support and breathability for your feet. Not only that, but the mesh has been coated with the M Select FRESH, meaning that all odors are controlled, and bacteria are kept away from the inside of the shoe.

Outsole Unit
The outsole is made with a Vibram layer: a very light rubber outsole that adapts to the foot and thus gives the runner freedom of movement. Because of its thinness, the foot is in close contact to the ground, the posture is more natural, there is more overall stability and the movements are more effective.

Cost and Value
For their quality and popularity, their price is a bargain. While they are not the cheapest of barefoot running shoes, if you’re looking for something that will last you more than a few months, then these Merrell Vapor Glove 2 should be considered.
Pros
  • TPU materials for breathability and support
  • M Select FRESH for odor control
  • Foot bed integrated as one with the outsole
  • Because this is a barefoot running shoe, the lightness of it is very important
Cons
  • Some reviewers mentioned that the upper unit tore after a few months of use
  • A mid-sole would have been useful for a more responsive platform for the feet

2. Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO

Vibram came out with their own line of barefoot running shoes: FiveFingers. These shoes offer a barefoot-like running experience on all types of terrain, making it great for those who love running on road or off-track.
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Upper Unit - Toe Slots
Each toe is snugged by durable material, taking the exact shape of a human foot. This is to improve the natural dexterity and versatility of the foot’s movements, letting the toes spread-out as they should, without being constricted by socks or regular running shoes, and let the shoe adapt to the runner’s biomechanics.

Soles
The soles of the shoes are made of XS TREK technology, providing the runner with an optimum balance of traction and durability. They are responsive to unpredictable terrain, making it perfect for those who prefer off-track runs. They provide added support and comfortability to the feet.

Cost and Value
They can be compared to the Merrell Vapor Glove 2 for the price, but the usage is different. While the Merrell Vapor Glove 2 is more for roads, the Vibram FiverFingers KSO EVO are for terrain runs.
Pros
  • Good ground feel
  • Upper unit is flexible and breathable
  • XS TREK Technology
  • Fast lacing system
Cons
  • Fabric wear off quickly
  • Toes too tight

3. New Balance WT10V1

New Balance WT10V1 is a pair of barefoot running shoes that can get you almost anywhere on off-track trails. From the many new colorways to the Vibram outsoles and premium lightweight foam, there’s no question why these running shoes came in 3rd place.
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Upper Unit
The WT10V1 offer a wide toe box that helps with the play of the toes, and because of the anti-microbial foot bed, the odors are controlled. The upper unit is made of synthetic mesh materials, offering the running breathability and stability.

Off-Road Ready
New Balance WT10V1 has the Vibram outsole with flex grooves that gives the runner extraordinary track and elongates its durability, even on rocky trails. What makes the outsoles so surprising is that even though they are made for gripping during off-track trails, they don’t add any heavy weight and bulkiness to the shoe.

Cost and Value
They are on the higher price ranger – they’re the pricier in our top 3, but they offer you everything you’d want and need for off-track running. Some reviewers even said that they used them to walk or do yard work.
Pros
  • Vibram rubber soles for extra support and grip
  • Anti-Microbial foot bed
  • Wide toe box
  • New Balance Acteva’s midsole gives runner long-lasting cushioning
  • Many colorways
Cons
  • Heavier barefoot running shoes in top 3
  • Expensive

4. Saucony Kinvara 7

4. Saucony Kinvara 7
The Saucony Kinvara 7 can follow the runner through daily training and up-tempo runs that are great activities for both beginners in the barefoot running shoe field and for advanced athletes.
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Upper Unit
The upper unit of the shoe consists of the Flex Film Overlays, which is a thin film attached to the upper unit to give the foot a secure and snug fit. Saucony improved the upper unit from Kinvara 7’s predecessor, giving a good lockdown for every step. This film is hot melded on the shoe, allowing less stitching, thus less surfaces for the runner’s foot to rub onto and creating discomfort.

EVERUN Heel Insert
For the Kinvara 7, Saucony uses the EVERUN Heel Insert: it’s an insert that provides extra cushioning during the whole of the run. It provides a better impact protection because they keep their properties 3 times better than EVA heel inserts. It adapts to the runner’s needs, helping the landings by smoothing them out, and reducing the pressure in the forefoot. The heel insert also returns the energy back to the runner.

Cost and Value
Even though these shoes are discontinued, they are still available on Amazon. Their price is situated between the Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO and the Merrell Vapor Glove 2.
Pros
  • Flex Film Overlays
  • EVERUN Heel Insert
  • RUNDRY Collar Lining prevents moisture
  • 7 colorways
Cons
  • Discontinued
  • Heavy feeling for a barefoot running shoe

5. Vibram FiveFingers Bikila EVO

5. Vibram FiveFingers Bikila EVO
The Vibram FiveFingers Bikila EVO is said to really embody what barefoot running shoes are. They don’t have any arch support, and are extremely light and flexible, which is what you should be looking for in minimalist shoes.
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Outsole
These VFF Bikila shoes use the Vibram outsoles, featuring a 4mm thick contoured pods that give the runner traction. They were designed to fit the feet, following its contour.

Upper Unit
The upper unit of the VFF Bikila EVO has a type of mesh that gives the runner’s feet enough breathability during the run. Even though the material is thin, it provides enough protection against obstacles that could cause bruising. It’s also designed to keep debris from penetrating the shoe. The AEGIS Microbe Shield is added to the mesh for anti-bacterial and odor control.

Cost and Value
These are at the top of the price range for barefoot running shoes, but with so many complimentary reviews and qualities, these shoes cannot be tossed aside. If you want something that will last you a while and if you can stretch your budget a little, then you should definitely consider these shoes.
Pros
  • 8 colorways
  • Superb traction
  • Very flexible
  • Literally fits like a sock
Cons
  • Some reviewers would have preferred better cushioning 
  • For minimalist runners only – Not a transition to barefoot running shoes

6. Merrell Pace Glove 3

6. Merrell Pace Glove 3
This version of the Pace Glove has a standard running shoe length. Even though this model of Merrell was optimally fit for women, these barefoot running shoes are available both for men and women.
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Outsole
Merrell is renowned for their shoes’ durability and quality, and they haven’t skipped the Pace Glove 3. The outsole is made of Vibram’s TC1 Outsole that is one of the most robust and unfailing external sole compounds. The outsole is mostly of rubber, thus protecting the shoe against wear and tear. Merrell even added a Trail Protect Plate for those who decide to take their runs in the wild, where the surfaces are unpredictable and rougher.

Upper Unit
The Pace Glove 3 is made out of Air Mesh and Synthetic Leather, providing the runner with a durable, breathable and comfortable upper shoe. For an added snug feeling, Merrell has used their Omni-Fit lacing system: the fabric strips attached to the laces react to the fastening or loosening of the laces, thus making the fit more customizable.

Cost and Value
The Merrell Pace Glove 3 running shoes are at the lowest price range, but they’re on the heavier side of the barefoot running shoes range. This would all depend on whether you want to stick to a tighter budget or if you’re looking for something close to perfect no matter the price.
Pros
  • Various colorways
  • Perfect for trail runs
  • TrailProtect pad in underfoot for added protection
  • Lightweight - Important feature for barefoot running shoes
Cons
  • ‘Glove’ feeling is lost in this latest version of the Pace Glove
  • The fit is disappointing

7. Adidas Adipure 360.2

7. Adidas Adipure 360.2
Adidas is probably the first company you’d turn to when searching for running shoes, because they are known for the famous, durable and comfortable shoes. These shoes are perfect for dance, cross-training and even boot camp. So if you’re looking for something that can do pretty much anything, then take a look at the Adipure 360.2!
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Upper Unit
This is one of the main reasons why these Adidas are on the list. Adidas kept in mind that the runner has to remain comfortable, with snug and secure feet during exercises. This is why they used the Supercloud technology: a sponge-like material (that doesn’t absorb water!) that takes the runner’s foot shape to add comfortability.

Outsole
Adidas really thought about everything in this shoe. The outsole is constructed with a soft foot bed. The sole is wrapped to the upper unit, providing excellent comfort and also makes the foot safe from any injury during training.

Cost and Value
These shoes are also on the lower part of the price scale, which is good if you’re looking for a name brand that known for its incredible designs providing the foot with security and comfortability.
Pros
  • Supercloud technology
  • Various colorways for everyone’s tastes
  • Great comfort during intense workouts
  • Wrapped fabric providing extra comfort and security for the foot
  • Seamless
Cons
  • Some reviewers noticed that there is too much room in the toe box, even though their toes touch the tip of the shoe
  • Some reviewers said that the heel box is too big

8. Merrell Bare Access 4

8. Merrell Bare Access 4
Merrell is back with a new version of the oh-so-popular Bare Access. This 4th version features mesh lining and a mesh upper to prevent irritation of the foot and to provide more breathability. The soles are of a flexible rubber and the midsole is cushioned, but it still lets the runner have a feel of the ground.
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Upper Unit
This newer model of the Bare Access uses a more robust mesh, which is full-bodied and durable. The façade has holes that are in fact ports of ventilation so that your feet are always cool and dry. This shoe is also seamless, giving the user a non-irritating experience while running.

Midsole
Thanks to the Mbound technology (delivering ground feedback to the foot of the wearer) adds extra cushioning and lets the runner feel the ground, making the general running experience feel more barefoot.

Cost and Value
For all of the positive feedback and reviews, these Merrell Bare Access 4 shoes are what they’re worth. If you don’t mind paying a little extra for added support, breathability and comfortability, then keep those barefoot running shoes on your list!
Pros
  • Mesh lining and upper, providing breathability
  • Non-irritating to the skin because of the mesh upper and linig
  • M Select FRESH odor-control
  • Bare Access Outsole for extraordinary traction and efficiency in every step
  • Light feel and perfect for competition
Cons
  • Some reviewers noticed that parts of the shoe wore off quickly
  • Not a very good anti-debris because pebbles would get inside the shoe and disrupted the comfort of some reviewers during their run

9. Saucony Virrata 2

9. Saucony Virrata 2
If you're looking for a pair of barefoot running shoes that can give you support, comfort and protection with its quality materials and built, then the Saucony Virrata is sure to please you. The whole of the shoe is evenly secure, but the fact that it's seamless brings the runner to another level of comfortability.
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Outsole
Saucony really grasped the context of barefoot running shoes. Their XT-900 outsole consists of a protective layer of high quality carbon rubber that protects the precarious sections of the sole from wear and tear. The part of the sole that is exposed to the ground surfaces has triangular-shaped gripping lugs that gives the outsole some flexibility, that adds cushioning to the under part of the foot, and that also adds traction during the overall run.

Upper Unit
The upper unit of this shoe utilizes a mesh fabric to wrap the foot and give it a snug feel. Saucony also added an internal bootie to give a sock-like feel to the runner, making the shoe very comfortable and receptive.

Cost and Value
Even though these shoes are discontinued, they are still available on Amazon for a very good price, both in retail and resale. This is a perfect shoe if you’re looking for something on the lower price range for competitive running, or extreme training.
Pros
  • Interior bootie fits like a sock, snug around the foot
  • Added heel support for added security
  • Flexible platform, giving a better range of motion for the foot
  • Quick-drying mesh on the upper unit
Cons
  • Overall shoe feels small to other reviewers
  • Not as resistant as expected against water or dirt

10. Newton MV3

10. Newton MV3
The Newton MV3 offers the runner a lightweight performance with a zero heel-to-toe drop. Perfect for those wanting to improve their speed and for those preferring shorter distance runs.
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Slip-Proof Laces
Too often, runners have to stop in their tracks to tie their laces because they unraveled. Thankfully, Newton came out with a new technology for laces that are literally slip-proof. No more bending down mid-run!

ETC Sock Liner
If you’re looking for a barefoot running shoe with a sock-feel, then you’re at the right place. Newton added an ETC Sock Liner that prevents friction and irritation of the foot. The sock liner also has an anti-bacterial coating, which gives the interior of the foot a cleaner and healthier feel.

Cost and Value
The Newton MV3 is at the bottom of the list for a reason: its price is probably not worth its durability and performance. This shoe is mainly for short distance runs, and is great for those looking to increase their speed during races.
Pros
  • Very responsive
  • TPU toe cap for extra protection
  • Drainage system
  • Wider midfoot for more stability
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Some reviewers noted that the outsole wears out quickly

In conclusion, we have to say that barefoot running shoes should be considered by everyone. Not only can they more comfortable than regular running shoes, but they offer the runner a barefoot-running experience that’s out of this world. After all, it’s how Neanderthals walked and ran, so it’s in our nature to be barefoot. These kinds of shoes offer you protection against the harsh impacts on your lower body when your foot hits the ground. These shoes definitely show you how to run properly (not heel first). We give the barefoot running shoes two bare thumbs up!