Although there are more barefoot shoe options on the market then there were a few years ago, most styles are typically running shoes, tend to have less options for women and many don’t seem to take latest footwear trends into account.
This barefoot shoe guide is an attempt to provide a list of both self-proclaimed barefoot brands that offer stylish lifestyle options, as well as other (non-barefoot) brands that still offer minimalist shoe styles.
Note that some of these brands, especially those that aren’t ‘officially’ barefoot, will almost certainly have shoes that do not fit the barefoot profile. Where possible, I have called out particular styles that are minimalist but just be wary when looking at other designs of theirs.
Hooray to ANI’s mission, “to provide stylish, vegan, eco-friendly, barefoot shoes to the world”. Current styles are all casual wear (although not performance) but I like casual wear and especially like the look of their originals, lo-tops and slip ons.
Chala Sandals are made by the folks behind barefoot shoe store Voycontigo and started when they realised they couldn’t find a huarache supplier in the country to stock in their store. All materials are sourced from Germany and are handmade in Freiburg. They also produce a DIY kit, which means you get the soles in your standard size and can tailor them to fit the exact shape of your foot (a nice present idea methinks).
I particularly like the range of bright colour options for the laces so you can add a bit of pop to your huaraches.
Boldly claiming that they’re the first to successfully make a sexy pair of barefoot shoes, it’s difficult to deny it when you see their High Feels sandals. And with a new adjustable, unisex style planned for SS17 – as well as a non-restrictive, chic bra further down the line – I have the feeling this new German brand is one to watch.
If you’re a fan of the chukka boot then you should definitely go check out Höss’ shoes. All are made to order and created by hand in the US. The design provides a pair of very lightweight and flexible shoes, which are easily folded to only two inches wide so you can squeeze them in your travel bag when you’re on the go.
Joe Nimble’s barefoot beginnings goes back more than 30 years and very much focuses on freedom for the toes. If you’re a fan of wide toe boxes and a zero drop this brand is definitely worth a look, although some styles are slighter narrower than others so do check the details before ordering.
Not all styles are to my taste but there is a really wide range, so don’t be put off if the first thing you see isn’t to your liking. I’m a fan of the wittyToes, fuseToes and flexToes.
All of Lems shoes are designed to mirror the natural shape of the foot (for maximum toe wiggle room), and all with a zero-drop platform. They’re able to make some big claims about their shoes, the Boulder Boot for example is not only “arguably the world’s lightest boot” but also “the world’s most pack-able”, and it’s certainly on my packing list. Make sure you also check out their Primal 2 style, a great option for an everyday trainer that looks ace paired with cigarette trousers or skinny jeans.
If you’ve read Christopher McDougall’s best-selling book Born to Run then Barefoot Ted needs no introduction. If not, I’d recommend the book, and in short the brand came about after founder, Barefoot Ted travelled to the Copper Canyons of Mexico in 2003 to run a 50-mile ultra-marathon with the Tarahumara runners. While there, he became friends with Manuel Luna who made Ted his first pair of traditional huarache sandals made from tire. Ted loved them so much that back home he started designing and making his own sandals and, well, the rest is history.
Luna have somewhat of a cult following in the barefoot running / ultra-marathon scene but even if you’re not an ultra-marathon runner they do make for a great everyday huarache (I like styling mine with a summer dress).
And, they’ve just released their first women’s lifestyle model the Brujita, which looks amazing and I can’t wait to get my hands on a pair.
Around since 1946, Minnetonka Mocasin is a quintessential American brand. Although not self-proclaimed as barefoot, their soft-soled shoes – including the Classic Fringe Boot and Thunderbird – offer a very barefoot style through their soft suede soles.
The Minimus range is the brand’s latest barefoot offering that, although performance focused, does include styles that could work for everyday wear. Despite not being as good looking as their classic running shoe, the Minimus 20v4 Cross Trainer does at least provide a barefoot alternative. All shoes in the Minimus range include a Vibram outsole and 4mm heel drop – a third of that of their traditional running shoes.
Although designed and marketed as running shoes, many people wear Nike Free as an everyday trainer. With a line that provides different levels of cushioning and heel drops, Nike’s current styles range from the 5.0 (with a 4mm heel drop) to the Bionic 1.0 (with zero-drop).
Love the story behind this brand, which was inspired by Oetzi the Neolithic iceman, who when discovered in 1991 still had his shoes intact – the oldest of their kind in the world. The original aim was to redesign Oetzi’s footwear incorporating today’s trends and technology and I think OTZShoes would have done him proud. The Troop Leather and Paso leather boots look especially good, as do the range of coloured espadrilles.
Meaning “fun” in Thai, Sanuk definitely comes through in a lot of the styles on offer, particularly with the array of colours and patterns available. Although not an official barefoot brand, certain styles do tend towards a flexible, flat sole and in particular the new Alphie collection has been designed to be “ultra-lightweight” and “super flexible”. It does look like certain styles have a form of arch support (but hopefully that can be easily removed) and I love the idea of the footbed made of yoga mats – genius.
If you’re looking for a flip-flop style that isn’t bad for your feet, it’s worth checking out their yoga sling sandals. These tie around the ankle, preventing any toe gripping required to hold them on and are super flattering on the legs.
Soft Star Shoes are certainly a company with character, from humble beginnings in 1985 working out of the back of an old bus in rural Texas they’re now based in Corvallis, Oregon where all their shoes are handcrafted.
It’s easy to initially mistake them for a brand that make barefoot shoes only kids can get away with. So if you head to their site and see a pair that look like they would be worn by Robin Hood then don’t be surprised. The Ballerine, Phoenix Boot and Hawthorne Chukkas are certainly good-looking barefoot shoes and as with all their shoes are crafted to keep feet healthy.
And if you’re ever on the lookout for a pair of moccs for a Robin Hood themed party then you know where to look too.
Based in Cyprus, The Drifter Leather are a small family business that specialise in classic designs recreated with lightweight, flexible soles. All shoes come with the option of a custom fit to your feet (at no additional cost), which means you can get any extra width or length in the toe box that you might need for a comfortable and barefoot fit. It also means you can request specific colours and a zero drop heel – exactly what I did for my wedding shoes (blog post on that to come soon!).
Designs range from Chelsea boots to Oxfords, Sandals to Ballet flats and follow the latest season’s trends in colour ways and details – whether that’s an ankle strap added to a ballet flat or a fringe added to a classic Oxford shoe.
Based in Barcelona, The Rice Co’s camping shoes are still handmade in the same factory that they have been produced in for decades. Quite similar in style to espadrilles – with a zero drop (completely flat) heel and very flexible sole – they make a great minimalist slip on option for everyday. Good luck with trying to choose which pair to go with from the huge range of colours available…
TOMS have branched out from their original alpargata (espadrille) style shoes, however, it is these that still provide the best barefoot offering from the brand. One of their appeals is that they come in such a wide variety of colours, textures and patterns. And of course, for every pair purchased TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need.
Unshoes came about through owner Terral Fox’s personal quest to find the perfect pair of barefoot sandals. After building prototypes made from rock climbing webbing, duct tape and shelf foam, he settled on a design similar to traditional running huaraches that offered a simple and sporty look.
Unshoes now have five designs, the newest addition being the Keota sandal, which are a fantastic barefoot alternative to flip flops as they stay well attached while having the flattering Y shape across the top of the foot. All sandals are extremely minimalist and available with a 4mm flexible outsole, and in comparison to many barefoot sandals on the market, they’re also very reasonably priced.
Vivobarefoot launched their first patented minimalist shoe in 2004 and today their collection features the most comprehensive line of minimalist shoes on the market. All styles boast no heel, no midsole and no arch support so you’re guaranteed a very barefoot experience across the complete range. I’m a big fan of the Stealth, Kula (which helped my feet survive Berlin’s winter) and the Gobi Hi-Top.
Although not a barefoot brand, Volcom do offer some styles with a zero drop including the Soul Mates and One Way styles. Both are available in a variety of colour ways (depending on your country of purchase), from leopard print to snakeskin, colour block to shimmery champagne, and are very versatile in that they can easily be dressed up or down.
Wilding are actually a children’s barefoot shoe brand, created by a mum and dad team who were unsatisfied with the children’s shoes on the market and decided set out to make their own. Their shoes look to influence the foot as little as possible – only providing protection from injury and the weather – and allowing for a full range of movement as possible.
Their Rewild styles do run in sizes EU 36 – 42, however, just in case any of them appeal to the child in you 🙂
All Zuzii shoes are handmade to order in Los Angeles. Although not officially a barefoot brand, their loafer, oxford and sandal styles are made from flexible rubber soles with a zero drop (completely flat heel). And, they look stunning.
It’s possible to request a wide fit – in case you tend to have problems with slender styles (or want to avoid any toe squishing) – and as all shoes are made from natural materials on the upper it allows them to stretch and form to the shape of your foot for a perfect fit.
As an added bonus, all raw materials are ethically sourced and the company participates in fair trade practices.
This minimalist shoe list is a continual work-in-progress and will be updated regularly. Know of any others I’ve missed? Drop me a note on the Contact form so I can check them out.