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The 9 Best Minimalist and Barefoot Hiking Boots and Shoes for Outdoor Adventure!

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A man jumps into the air wearing barefoot shoes.

We shout a lot about barefoot shoes here at Terradrift. But that’s because we believe in the concept not just as a more comfortable and freeing way to exist in the world, but as a way to promote better foot function, balance, stability, and natural movement. After all, our feet were designed to move just the way they are, without all the extra support and cushioning (and the decidedly non foot-shaped design of modern footwear), so let’s let them! So if you’re headed out on a hike, bike, or backpacking trip soon, check out what we think are the best barefoot hiking boots and shoes in town and free your feet.

Bonus: all of these are vegan and PFAS-free.

Looking for barefoot hiking sandals? Check out this post.


If you’re not used to barefoot shoes yet, read about how to transition safely in this post. Need winter barefoot boots? Find our faves here.


The Best Barefoot Hiking Boots and Shoes

These shoes feature all the hallmarks of barefoot footwear for the trail: good tread, flexibility, decent ground-feel, a wide toe box, and a zero drop platform.

Vivobarefoot Magna Trail II FG barefoot hiking shoe.

Vivobarefoot Magna Trail II FG

These are my favorite barefoot boots for hiking AND Travel (and also mountain biking and strolling around town). I’ve seriously worn them everywhere and they might be the perfect multi-functional shoe (I’m only sorry the brand is only making a women’s version these days). Yes, they’re sort of mid-rise boots, but they wear more like a shoe since they’re incredibly light, they have a knit ankle, are tolerably breathable, flexible, water resistant, and have just enough traction for hiking on all sorts of terrain, but not so much they look like hiking boots when you’re hoofing it around town. Plus they’re made of mostly recycled materials. They are a bit on the low volume side, though, so if you have particularly tall feet, they might be a bit snug.


Vivobarefoot Primus Knit Trail FG

Vivobarefoot Primus Knit Trail FG

Lightweight, flexible, and easy to wear, these low-profile shoes may be designed for trail running, but we like them just as much for hiking (and biking…and going to the gym…). The sock-like uppers are thin and breathable plus they’re plenty stretchy to accommodate for movement. There’s a bit more room in the forefoot and toe box than in some of the brand’s other shoes, so you may want to consider getting a half size smaller than usual unless you have wide feet. But we dig the fast-lacing system, because who wants to fuss with shoe laces anyway? Bonus: they’re made of partially recycled materials (upper: 81%, laces and insole: 100%).


Xero Shoes Scrambler Mid II WP

Xero Shoes Scrambler Mid II WP

While we were personally less of a fan of the Scrambler Mid II than the Vivo Magna Lite, we totally dig the waterproof version of these boots and shoes (full review here) and they’ll certainly be our new go-to for wet weather or muddy adventures this spring and summer! While the WP version isn’t as breathable as the original, they keep your feet dry and feature a thick, padded ankle and sticky Michelin rubber soles to help you keep your footing on slick trails. They do tend to be a bit stiffer in the flexibility department because of the rubber, but some folk prefer a more protective sole on rocky trails. There’s also a low version available.


Xero Shoes Mesa Trail

Xero Shoes Mesa Trail

If you like the idea of a low-rise trail shoe but prefer a more flexible sole than the Scambler’s denser Michelin rubber, check out the Mesa Trail. I’ve reviewed and have been running in an older version of this shoe (pictured above) for years and it’s been my go-to trail runner and hiking shoe for much of that time. The sole is flexible, they’re ultra breathable, there’s plenty of room in the toes, and they’re durable (Xero even has a 5,000-mile warranty on their soles). I especially love them because they require no break-in period. They just feel soft, flexible, and slipper-like from the moment you first put them on.


Feelgrounds Patrol Winter boots.
Feelgrounds Patrol Winter boots.

Feelgrounds Patrol Lite

While not as aggressive a hiking boot as others listed here, the Patrol Lite (and the more winter-friendly Patrol) offer what we think is a more streetwear-ready hiking boot, making it a great option for travel if you plan to be hitting the pavement as often as the trail (or if you aren’t an avid, big-mile hiker and prefer one shoe that can do both well). The sole if flexible, the tow box is wide, and these boots are oh so comfy for all-day wear. The boots are a vegan faux leather and water resistant. They’re still warmer than some more summer-friendly options on this list, so may be best reserved for milder temps.


Merrell Trail Glove 7.
Merrell Trail Glove 7.

Merrell Trail Glove

We’ve reviewed several versions of this trail running shoe that’s just as suitable for hiking. We like it for its low-profile aesthetic, breathable upper and high percentage of recycled materials. It’s a bit less barefoot than some other options on this list thanks to a bit of structured arch support, a slightly narrower toe box, and slightly stiffer sole, but it continues to be one of Josh’s favorite barefoot trail shoes.


The Best Minimalist Hiking Boots and Shoes

For those who aren’t as keen on extreme barefoot feel and functionality, but still want a more minimalist hiking boot or shoe with a wide toe box, little to no support and zero drop, these should fit the bill.

A pair of feet in Lem's Boulder Summit barefoot hiking boots.

Lems Boulder Summit Waterproof

Better suited for cool and cold temps than sweltering summer hikes since these boots are a bit thicker and also rendered less breathable thanks to the fact that they’re waterproof, they’re an excellent minimalist option for those who like a higher-rise boot, deep lugs and aggressive tread, and minimalist bot functionality. The soles are thick, so they’re not supremely flexible, but we love them for winter and chilly shoulder-season hikes. Bonus: that classic lumberjack vibe looks just as good downtown as at the summit. The nitro color (crafted from Nylon) is the only vegan version.


Lems Primal Pursuit

Lems Primal Pursuit

For a stiffer sole than you’ll typically find on straight barefoot shoes with aggressive tread but without the bothersome mid-rise ankle, check out the Primal Pursuit. I often wear these for mountain biking since the sole is thicker and stiffer than I tend to like for hiking, but those who want a bit more protection from rocks and uneven terrain may prefer that. The shoes still have a roomy toe box and are zero drop. They also make for a pretty solid trail runner if you’re into that. The black and blue colors are vegan.


Altra Lone Peak 7
Altra Lone Peak 7

Altra Lone Peak

While designs for the Lone Peak have changed over the years, we’ve tested many of these boots and shoes and they continue to be a comfortable and quality minimalist hiking shoe. I say “minimalist” and not “barefoot,” because they’re not *quite* there, but the zero drop, wide toe box, and flexible sole were our introduction to the world of minimalist footwear and since the Lone Peak, we’ve never gone back. There are waterproof and non-waterproof versions, and they make a great transition shoe in addition to an all-around winner for hiking and trail running. The Lone Peak 8 is the most recent version.


Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a solid pair of barefoot hiking boots, look no further. Any of these will do nicely whether you’re looking for the most barefoot feel possible or a solid minimalist shoe to help you transition. Either way, treat your feet to footwear that respects their natural functionality then hit the trail and wander on!

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