The 6 Best Barefoot Running Shoes for Men

Vibram KSO EVO Cross Training Shoes let you feel the ground and stay protected

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Active people embrace barefoot running shoes for many different purposes, from encouraging a more natural running style and building foot strength to working on foot grip and flexibility for weight training, CrossFit, and other activities. Barefoot running shoes, also known as minimalist shoes, have minimal cushioning and are low to the ground to simulate a shoeless experience while still protecting your feet from rocks, hot pavement, and other hazards.

Reviewed & Approved

Our best overall pick is the Vibram KSO EVO Cross Training Shoes for their individual toe slots that allow your feet to splay naturally for a comfortable run. If you're looking for minimalist shoes specific for trail running, the Vibram V Trail Runner is a good choice.

To get the maximum benefit from minimalist shoes, make sure they are well-fitting and lightweight to provide the most ground contact. For our roundup, we evaluated barefoot running shoes for men based on the overall weight, how much foot protection they offer, and flexibility of the shoe.

Here are the best barefoot running shoes for men.

Best Overall: Vibram KSO EVO Cross Training Shoe

4.7
Vibram KSO EVO Cross Training Shoe

Courtesy of Amazon

The Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO barefoot running shoe gets our top ranking for its comfort, affordability, and performance. A versatile and flexible barefoot running shoe, it can be worn on the roads or trails, but also works well for cross-training, walking, and other activities. With the right balance of responsiveness and protection, the KSO EVO lets you feel the ground beneath your feet, while still keeping them safe from debris. The FiveFingers design features individual toe slots that allow your toes to splay, which is a huge plus for runners who often feel crammed in traditional running shoes.

With a sole that’s less than 5 millimeters thick, this shoe encourages a natural style of running, but still provides enough traction and durability to protect your feet. The KSO EVO also features a breathable and flexible upper and a lacing system that makes it quick and easy to get them on and off. They’re available in several different color combinations, including black, gray/black, blue/black, and black/red.​

Best Budget: Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Trail Runner

Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Trail Runner

Courtesy of Amazon

The Vapor Glove 3 Barefoot Trail Running Shoe from Merrell is a solid, affordable choice, especially for barefoot running newbies. It provides some more support than the five-finger shoes, so it’s easier to transition from traditional running shoes. If you’re not into barefoot running, it’s also a nice option for cross-training, hiking, CrossFit and other activities.

The durable outsole features good traction, even in wet conditions. With a breathable mesh upper and Merrell’s odor-reducing treatment, you don’t have to worry about your feet getting sweaty and stinky. These shoes are available in some fun color combinations, including Molten Lava and Shaded Spruce, so you can pick one that best suits your style.

Best for Road Running: Vibram V-Run Running Shoe

Vibram V-Run Running Shoe

Courtesy of Amazon

Another FiveFingers option from Vibram, the V-Run shoe features an 8-mm thick sole and provides the right amount of cushioning and protection for running on pavement. It’s also a solid option for runners who are used to traditional running shoes and want to transition to barefoot running shoes. Your feet stay cool and dry, thanks to the polyester Lycra stretch mesh fabric. These lightweight shoes are designed to be worn barefoot, but can also accommodate toe socks when running in colder weather.

Best for Trail Running: Vibram V Trail Runner

Vibram Men's FiveFingers V-Trail 2.0 Trail Running Shoes

Courtesy of Dick's Sporting Goods

If you plan on hitting the trails in barefoot running shoes, you need a shoe that offers the right amount of protection from rocks and other debris. The Vibram FiveFingers V-Trail barefoot running shoe delivers in that area, and also provides enough ground feel for a minimalist running experience. It features an extended rock protection mesh under the sole that helps reduce the shock when you run over stones or roots. With padding around the heel, toe bumpers at the end of the toes and an aggressive tread design, these shoes are sure to keep your feet comfortable and protected on the trails.

Best for Hiking: Vibram Trek Ascent Walking Shoe

Vibram FiveFingers Trek Ascent

Courtesy of Zappos

These Vibram Fivefinger Trek Ascent shoes are built specifically for those who want a barefoot experience while hiking. The shoe’s 4-mm EVA midsole provides lightweight cushioning and shock absorption, while the Vibram rubber outsole offers excellent traction and grip. The upper securely hugs the top of the foot, so you don’t have to worry about pebbles and dirt getting in. These shoes also feature a speed lacing system so you can adjust them quickly and easily.

Best for Cross-Training: Vibram V-Train Cross-Trainer Shoe

Vibram FiveFingers V-Train

Courtesy of Zappos

If you’re looking for a barefoot running shoe for cross-training activities such as lifting, yoga, or Cross Fit, the Vibram FiveFingers V-Train is a solid choice. These shoes feature the feel and flexibility of barefoot shoes but have a bit more structure and protection. They provide excellent traction, even in wet conditions, and the shoe’s lug patterns offer added grip that’s ideal for rope climbing or lateral movements. A highly versatile shoe, you can use these shoes in the gym, on the trails or at the beach for watersports. The shoe’s speed lace system and secure Velcro closure make it easy to get in and out of them.

Final Verdict

For optimal comfort and performance, you can’t go wrong with the Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO cross trainer. The shoe’s design allows for the right balance of responsiveness and protection, keeping your feet protected while still maintaining a good ground feel. With an affordable price tag, it's a durable, versatile choice for road or trail running, as well as cross-training and other activities.

What to Look for in Barefoot Running Shoes for Men

Quality

Good quality and construction are essential in barefoot running shoes, as you could injure yourself if your shoes are not well-made. Look for barefoot shoes that are lightweight and have a high degree of ground feel without sacrificing valuable foot protection.

Heel-to-Toe Drop

The heel-to-toe drop relates to cushioning height; it is a measurement of the difference between the height at the heel and the forefoot and can range from zero to 12 millimeters. The heel-to-toe drop in barefoot shoes is zero. If you have lower limb injuries, a lower heel-to-toe drop (such as what you find in barefoot shoes) can put more stress on your knees, ankles, and feet.

In a study on heel-to-toe drop, researchers found that a lower heel-to-toe drop was indeed associated with a higher injury risk in regular runners. If you are injury-prone, be sure to purchase a quality barefoot running product to better prevent further issues. Or skip the minimalist shoes in favor of something with more cushioning.

Flexibility

Barefoot running shoes should not feel stiff. When trying on a pair, bend your feet and feel how the shoes bend back on themselves—they should move and twist easily. The arch support should also not feel stiff. Too much stiffness can prevent natural running movement.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the advantages of barefoot running shoes?

    There are numerous advantages of barefoot running shoes, several of which are supported by research.

    • Barefoot running shoes can help running-related overuse injuries, and the shoes promote soft forefoot strike and quicker strides.
    • Barefoot shoes are lower to the ground and lighter, which creates a purer running experience.
    • Barefoot running shoes can have less ground absorption at the knee, less foot and ankle bending on ground contact, and less ground contact time. They can also create shorter stride length and increased stride frequency.
  • How long do barefoot running shoes last?

    Barefoot running shoes can last approximately as long as other athletic shoes, from one to three years or 300 to 500 miles of running. Inspect your shoes for wear and tear after 100-plus miles, and periodically thereafter until you replace them.

  • How do you clean barefoot running shoes?

    You can clean barefoot running shoes using bacterial wipes all over the interior and exterior of the shoes. You can also spray the interior with sanitizer. In a study on sanitizing athletic shoes, researchers found that sanitizing shoes significantly reduced the bacterial and fungal contamination of the footwear.

  • Can you run faster in barefoot running shoes?

    You might be able to run faster in barefoot running shoes. although they are not for everyone. If you are happy with your conventional shoes, stick with them.

    However, if you do want to try barefoot running shoes, a study from the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine suggests that minimalist shoes can improve your running economy by allowing for a more thorough range of motion in the feet than traditional shoes do.

  • How does barefoot running strengthen muscles?

    Without any cushioning from traditional athletic shoes, your feet must work harder and have a faster strike rate, building up the muscles in your lower limbs. Your Achilles tendon must also work harder to properly support both your upper and lower body as you run.

    However, your experience may vary. Barefoot running can lead to injuries, especially if you are prone to foot and ankle injuries.

Why Trust Verywell Fit

As a fitness writer, outdoor enthusiast, and mom to a teen and a tween, Christine Luff has spent many hours researching and testing outdoor gear and sporting equipment.

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7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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