The 7 Best Barefoot Running Shoes to Buy for Women in 2018

Minimal sneakers that help build up strength in your foot

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Barefoot running shoes took off in popularity several years ago and, since then, runners have had varying degrees of success with them. Some women prefer to wear them while walking around to build up strength in their feet, while others use them to achieve a more natural running style and feel more contact and responsiveness from the ground. Other fitness enthusiasts find that they’re the perfect shoe for cross-training activities such as CrossFit, yoga or hiking.

Whatever your reason for choosing barefoot running shoes, it’s important to remember that they may not work for everyone. If your goal is to run in them, it’s crucial to start with a slow and gradual build-up. If you typically run in more supportive running shoes, you should begin with walking or doing cross-training activities in barefoot running shoes. You can build up to running short distances in them, but be sure to listen to your body and take a couple days off from wearing them if you notice any pain.

When shopping for barefoot running shoes, look for ones that are lightweight, flexible, and have a high degree of ground feeling and sufficient foot protection. Check out this list of the best barefoot running shoes for women to find the right ones for your needs, preferences, and budget.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Vibram FiveFingers Women's KSO EVO

The Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO barefoot running shoe earns top ranking on this list for its overall comfort, affordability, and performance. Like other FiveFingers shoes, the KSO EVO features individual toe slots, which mimic the shape of the human foot. The FiveFingers design allows your toes to splay naturally, enhancing their natural dexterity and letting the shoe adapt to your individual biomechanics.

With just the right amount of ground feedback and protection, the KSO EVO lets you feel the terrain or road beneath your feet, while still offering excellent flexibility and traction. It also features a breathable and flexible upper and a quick lacing system for ease and convenience. The sole is less than 5 millimeters thick, so this shoe encourages a natural style of running but is still solid and durable enough to absorb shock and protect your feet. This lightweight, versatile barefoot running shoe works very well as a road or trail running shoe, but can also be used for cross-training, walking and other activities. They’re available in several different color combinations, so you can pick the one that best fits your style.

Best Budget: Merrell Women's Vapor Glove 2 Barefoot Trail Running Shoe

If you’re new to barefoot running, the Vapor Glove 2 Barefoot Trail Running Shoe from Merrell is a budget-friendly way to ease into it. Although it’s a minimalist shoe, it offers a little more support than the five-finger shoes, making the transition from regular running shoes a bit easier. A versatile shoe, the Vapor Glove is a great option for cross-training, hiking, trail running, or even just walking around. The breathable mesh upper molds to your foot for a snug and precise—but comfortable—fit. They also feature a durable outsole for maximum support and traction. These ultra-lightweight shoes have a zero-drop heel, promoting a more natural style of running. Like other Merrell shoes, they’re treated with an odor-reducing solution.

Best for Road Running: Vibram FiveFingers V-Run

Another FiveFingers option from Vibram, the V-Run shoe features an 8-mm thick sole and offers enough cushioning and protection that it’s perfect for running on the roads. It’s also a nice choice for those runners who are transitioning from traditional to barefoot running shoes. The soft upper is made of a comfortable polyester Lycra stretch mesh that has little holes for ventilation, keeping your feet cool and dry. They’re designed to be worn without socks, but can also can accommodate toe socks if you need some additional warmth.

Best for Distance Running: Merrell Women's Bare Access Arc 3 Trail Running Shoe

If you’re a distance runner or brand-new to barefoot running, Merrell’s Bare Access Arc 3 zero drop running shoes allow you to run naturally, while offering some toe to heel cushioning for added protection and comfort. The easy-wash, breathable mesh upper provides a snug fit while keeping your feet cool and comfortable. This shoe is intended for neutral runners who want a lightweight, yet durable, barefoot running shoe. It also works very well for avid walkers or anyone who spends a lot of time on her feet.

Best for Trail Running: Vibram FiveFingers V-Trail Runner

The Vibram FiveFingers V-Trail barefoot running shoe provides the perfect balance of ground feel and protection from rocks and other debris on rugged trail surfaces, making it an ideal shoe for a runner who wants to take their natural running style off-road. When you do run over stones, the shoe’s extended rock protection mesh under the sole helps diminish the shock, reducing your risk of bruising. This shoe also features padding around the heel, toe bumpers at the end of the toes, and an aggressive tread design for additional comfort and protection.

Best for Walking: Vivobarefoot Stealth II Women’s Running Shoe

Vivobarefoot Stealth II
Courtesy of Zappos

Walking in barefoot running shoes is an excellent way to strengthen your feet, and the Vivobarefoot Stealth II Women’s Running Shoe is a perfect choice to lace up for your walks. Made of 100% vegan-friendly materials, the shoe features a 3-mm thick rubber outsole that provides flexible traction, no matter the conditions. The thin, breathable fabric lining offers a comfortable, snug feel while keeping your feet fresh and cool. Although the Vivobarefoot Stealth II is an excellent shoe for walking, it also makes a fantastic running shoe, once you build up foot strength and get more accustomed to the minimalist style.

Best for Cross-Training: Vibram FiveFingers V-Train

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 comfortable and reasonably-priced option. They offer the flexibility and feel of a barefoot shoe with a little more structure. The shoe’s lug patterns provide added grip and traction, especially for lateral movements and rope climbing. With a speed lace system and a Velcro closure at the instep, it’s quick and easy to get a secure fit in these shoes.

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