What Brands Make “Barefoot” Shoes?

When the barefoot boom began back in 2009 thanks to this book, Born to Run by Chris McDougall, there was a really funny thing that happened from 2009 to early 2010. Shoe companies and running shoe stores came out saying, “You don’t want to try that because you’re going to kill yourself. You’re going to get Ebola and step on hypodermic needles and ruin your feet, and you’ll all get Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis,” and none of this was true. First of all, you can learn to run barefoot without having calf pain or Achilles pain, certainly not plantar fasciitis. We have more people who have said they’ve cured themselves of plantar fasciitis by using their feet naturally rather than the other way around. Then by late 2010, the story changed because suddenly all of these companies were coming out with barefoot shoes.

Now, their “barefoot” shoes many of them were no more barefoot than a pair of stilts, and even the ones that did a better job, look carefully because the short form is they just started using the language of barefoot and the claims of barefoot for their minimalist products without any evidence that they actually could deliver on those benefits. You’ve never found a barefoot runner who said, “Oh yeah, that shoe is the same as being barefoot.” Even Xero Shoes, I’m the first one to admit, is not the same as being barefoot because you’re stepping on a piece of rubber every time or, in the Cloud, our BareFoam™, or in the case of our sport sandal the Z-Trail, same thing, a little BareFoam™. It’s not the same because when you’re barefoot, walking on all these different surfaces, all the nerves in the bottom of your feet feel these millions of different things and here you’re smoothing that out with our product.

The Cloud Barefoot Sandal
The Z-Trail Sport Sandal

When you start looking at some of these barefoot shoes or minimalist shoes, it’s a whole different game. The basic idea of a barefoot shoe is that it gives you more natural movement, more flexibility, they’re a lighter weight, they give you more ground feel. When you look at them with that in mind, “Does it really give me natural movement? Does it really put my feet in a natural position? Does it really let me feel the ground at the level that I would like to feel the ground? Does it really fit the shape of my foot?” You’ll see a very different story.
As an example, look at the barefoot shoe below. It’s still a lot of foam between you and the ground. It still has arch support that you probably don’t need. Your foot, your arch, provides support. The arch is a very strong structure. If you want to make an arch weak, support it. Push on the keystone, the whole thing falls apart. Just kind of logical. They are little more flexible in the forefoot but not flexible through the midfoot. It’s certainly more lightweight but definitely not as lightweight as something like our sandals or even as lightweight as something like the DIY kits.


Also, the upper and the upper design can affect how your feet move as well in terms of natural. While the shoe above claims it’s zero drop, which means that the heel and the ball of the foot are at the same level, look at the toe spring that it has. That’s not a natural position for your toes.

So just use your brain when you look at things that are called barefoot shoes and ask yourself, “Does it really fit that characteristic of natural fit, natural flexibility, natural function, and natural feel?” and then that will be very helpful.

    Other Brands That Make “Barefoot” Shoes:

  • Merrell
  • Vivo Barefoot
  • Cheeks
  • Adidas
  • inov8
  • Vibram Five Finger
  • New Balance
  • Jambu
  • Reebok
  • Body Glove
  • Barefoot Ted
  • Saucony
  • Sanuk
  • Puma
  • Fila