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Best barefoot shoes for city breaks

One of the best things about living in Europe is how easy it is to travel to a nearby city for a long weekend. This year we have a couple of trips planned, one to Lisbon and another to Barcelona, and will hopefully plan some others later in the year.

We tend to go in the Spring and Autumn months so we can make the most of summer in Berlin and also to avoid freezing to death when exploring a new city on foot (learnt that lesson in Paris between Christmas and NYE last year).

When it comes to packing light for a city break there’s quite an art to it, and in deciding what shoes to take there are a few important things to consider:

  • Luggage size – if you’re trying to avoid any baggage fees from low cost airlines and manage with hand luggage only you might have to live in one pair the whole weekend.
  • Weather – if you’re visiting London, for example, you’ll want something that can work come rain or shine no matter what the forecast says (the last thing you want is walking around in a pair of soggy espadrilles).
  • Comfort – because if you’re anything like how I like to see a new city you’re going to do a lot of walking.
  • Versatility – they’ve got to work with all your outfit combinations (as well as the variety of activities you might find yourself doing).

So here’s what I’d recommend:


If you’re planning on getting by with one pair for the whole weekend black boots are a good option, especially if you’re going anywhere with a risk of cold and wet weather.

Two barefoot options include:

Vivobarefoot Ryder

All Vivobarefoot shoes have a zero drop (flat sole), no midsole and no arch support so you’re guaranteed a barefoot experience. The Ryder boot also offer thermal protection and water resistance just in case you’re unlucky with the weather.

OTZ Troop Leather

OTZshoes are a self-proclaimed barefoot brand that focus on lifestyle options rather than performance footwear. These Troop Leather boots provide water resistance in a military style that are also currently available in red and mocha (although I personally think black are the most versatile and easiest to dress up in the evenings).

slip ons

If you’re going somewhere where you’re hoping to be able to get your ankles out (hello Lisbon next week) then slip ons are a good option, especially as they take so little room in your luggage.

Minnetonka thunderbird softsole 

I can’t tell you how much I’m in love with these shoes. The sole is made from one layer of suede that wraps around the foot which means you get a very barefoot experience. If you’re heading somewhere with a lot of cobblestones then your feet might get tired after lots of walking as the soft sole really does mean you feel every lump. There is always the option to get the same style with a rubber sole so you’ve got a bit more protection if needs be, otherwise just see it as a great work out for all those foot muscles that very rarely get used.

toms classics

Although not an official barefoot shoe, TOMS classics are very light and have a completely flat heel. Good luck with choosing which colourway will best go with all your outfits…

vivobarefoot jing jing

Ballerinas are always great for squeezing into any non-existent space in your luggage, although from past experience I’ve often found them bad for my feet as they tend to squish my toes (not good unless you want to get bunions). The Jing Jing from Vivobarefoot are made to allow your feet have room to move as they were designed to, unlike a lot of other ballerinas on the market.


If you’re feeling more of a casual vibe, or maybe just have enough room for boots, trainers and slip ons, then these can offer a bit more cushioning if you are newly transitioning to minimalist shoes.

new balance minimus 20v4 cross trainer

These from the New Balance Minimus range (their barefoot offering) are very similar in looks to Nike Free but offer a closer to barefoot heel drop of 4mm in comparison to the 8mm drop of the Nike Free 5.0.


For more of a classic tennis shoe, ANI Originals provide a good barefoot option with a number of different colourways available. All ANI styles are designed with a thin, flexible outsole and flat footbed for a zero drop.

Any other tips on minimalist shoes for city breaks (or even any recommendations on destinations for that matter)? Shout below…

All detail images via respective brands’ sites. 

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