Barefoot shoes. We freaking love them here at Terradrift. And when it comes to barefoot shoes, we’ve tested a lot because I’m all in on the whole barefoot/minimalist shoe movement. Heck, I’m happy to hike completely barefoot if the conditions allow.
But when shoes are required, as they often are when you go into gas stations or restaurants or bookstores or, say, very gravelly trails, a pair of barefoot shoes or minimalist boots are the next best thing. So since we’ve amassed quite a collection of barefoot shoes, boots and sandals, we thought it was high time we share some of our favorites for every season, from barefoot snow boots to minimalist sandals.
Vivobarefoot Magna Lite SG: The Barefoot Hiking Boot (Spring + Summer)
Naturally, there’s bound to be at least one Vivobarefoot shoe on all of my favorites lists. And this is the one. In fact, Josh and I both adore the Vivobarefoot Magna Lite SG. They instantly became my favorite new barefoot hiking boots the minute I slipped them on. Which is impressive, because frankly, I do not hike in boots. I hike in shoes if I must, but often sandals, and almost never boots.
But these wear more like a shoe than a boot. They’re crazy lightweight, offer loads of ground-feel, they’re supremely flexible, and they’ve got super deep tread. Plus, they’re just so dang comfortable. I not only wear these hiking, but these were the very first barefoot boots that I backpacked in. And yeah, I freakin’ loved them, so I’ve done it a few more times since. They’re so lightweight and breathable it doesn’t feel like you’re wearing a shoe at all. And that’s a beautiful thing.
Merrell Trail Glove 7: The Minimalist Trail Runner (Spring-Fall)
One pair of minimalist shoes that Josh and I have both tested (but Josh prefers more than I do), is the Merrell Trail Glove 7. Josh reviewed these and the previous model (the Trail Glove 6) and loves them because they’re sleek, low profile, and they have a decent tread, even if it’s not very aggressive. And they look just as good with a pair of casual jeans as they do with running or hiking shorts.
They’re not quite as minimalist as some of the other shoes on this list–they do have a little bit of arch support and are a bit narrower–but as a crossover shoe if you’re transitioning from traditional footwear to barefoot running shoes, they’re an excellent option. And Josh doesn’t just wear these trail running; he wears them everywhere. I don’t know how many pairs of Merrell Trail Gloves he’s gone through over the last three years, but it’s been several, because he loves these shoes.
Deliberate Life Designs Pursuit: The Barefoot Sandal (Summer)
Now, those of you who’ve been around Terradrift for a while know that we have whole articles and videos about barefoot sandals. They’re my favorite type of footwear. But my favorite barefoot sandals might just be the Pursuit from Deliberate Life Designs. And frankly, what makes them so great is not only that they’re flexible and thin and come in a variety of sole thicknesses, but they are custom–as in, you can pick out what shape you want the sole of this sandal to be, plus what color straps you want, even print out templates to figure out if the toe plug is going to be in the right place. They’re fantastic. And because they’re so custom, these fit me better than any barefoot sandal I own. I frigging love them.
Although a close second would be the Luna Sandals Oso Flaco because frankly, those things are comfortable as all get out. And possibly the most flexible barefoot sandals we’ve ever tested, especially considering how much tread the soles have.
Feelgrounds Chelsea: The Stylish Barefoot Boot (Fall-Spring)
For a less outdoorsy shoe but one I tested this year that I became obsessed with the moment temperatures dropped below about 65ºF is the Feelgrounds Chelsea. They’re not trail shoes per se, though they do have decent tread, it’s just not super aggressive. What they are is an excellent casual barefoot boot that can handle some light outdoor activity.
They’re impressively lightweight and very flexible and so easy to wear. I mean, a pair of Chelsea boots just freaking goes with everything. Like the Blundstone’s your friends have, but, you know, vegan and barefoot. And I’ve never held a pair of Blundstone’s in my hand, but I’m guessing these are quite a bit lighter (and way more comfortable since these have a wide toe box and are zero drop shoes). But seriously, they live by my front door now because they’ve become the boots that I just slide my feet into whether I’m going out to run errands, head out to take photos, go to dinner, hang with friends, you name it.
Xero Shoes Alpine: The Barefoot Snow Boot (Winter)
And then there’s winter boots to consider, which is maybe not what you think of when you first picture barefoot shoes, but you know what, brands are making them and I love that. And one pair that I dig are the Zero Shoes Alpine waterproof snow boot. They have fairly aggressive tread, which handles walking on snow and slush really well, they’re waterproof, which means you can totally go out and play in the snow in them, which I have, and while they’re not super insulated, they do have some insulation plus a nice, cozy, fuzzy lining by your ankles.
They keep your feet pretty warm into some pretty cool temps, down to about mid-thirties (Fahrenheit). Much colder than that and you’re probably going to need something with more of a liner if you’re staying out for a while or not actively moving. But you could totally go on a snowy hike with these. They’re comfortable, they’re super light for a winter boot, they’re cozy, and like pretty much every Xero Shoe I’ve ever tried, they just feel nice on your feet. So, yeah, I think these are going to get quite a bit of use this winter. This style is only available in women sizes.
If you’re in the market for a pair of minimalist or barefoot shoes or are interested in trying out a pair, you can’t go wrong with any of these, which are some of the best barefoot shoes out there (in our humble opinion).
Also let us know if we missed your favorite barefoot shoe because maybe we need to test those out
I love hearing about what other kinds of shoes people are putting on their feet…so long as they’re barefoot style…’cause if they’re not barefoot, I don’t want ’em. 😂
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Alisha is a freelance outdoor journalist and photographer based in Ogden, UT. She loves backpacking, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking and snowboarding (even though she’s terrible at it). She’s also pretty sure she’s addicted to coffee. alishamcdarris.com