The Best Women's Barefoot Running Shoes of 2022

The Vibram FiveFingers Women's KSO EVO shoes are running coach-approved

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If the idea of yet another mile on the treadmill doesn't excite you, you may find yourself opting for the challenge of barefoot running. Barefoot running offers more connection to the ground (although whether it reduces injuries is still an open question). Barefoot runnings shoes offer a great way to transition to this style of running since they will provide your feet with some protection.

Reviewed & Approved

Our top pick is the Vibram FiveFingers Women's KSO EVO because they're comfortable, affordable, and versatile enough to use on different terrains. Meanwhile, the Vibram FiveFingers V-Run shoes are great for road running.

The best barefoot running shoes are well-fitted and won't restrict your range of motion. These minimal shoes tend to be slip-on style and crafted of lightweight, flexible material, and some may feature toe pockets. When shopping for this type of shoe you should consider the heel-to-toe drop, breathability, and traction. We researched popular options with these features in mind.

These are the best women's barefoot running shoes, according to a running coach.

Best Overall: Vibram FiveFingers Women's KSO EVO

4.8
Vibram FiveFingers Women's KSO EVO

Zappos

The Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO barefoot running shoe earns the 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 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 for Road Running: Vibram FiveFingers V-Run

Vibram FiveFingers V-Run Shoe

Moosejaw

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

Merrell Women's Bare Access Arc 3 Trail Running Shoe

Amazon

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 Women's V-Trail Runner

Vibram Women's V-Trail Runner

Amazon

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.

Final Verdict

Vibram FiveFingers Women’s KSO EVO shoes (view at Amazon) offer a minimal style while still providing protection from the terrain. The toe pockets mimic your natural shape and the shoe is a solid choice for both running and walking. 

What to Look for in a Barefoot Running Shoe

Fit

Finding the proper fit in a barefoot running shoe usually requires some trial and error. And certain foot issues could make wearing barefoot shoes challenging:

  • High arches: Barefoot running shoes won't have the extra cushioning often needed to protect high-arched runners.
  • Foot shape: Many barefoot shoes have a wide toe box and tight heel cup. This could lead to some discomfort if you have narrower feet or larger heels.
  • Gait: If you overpronate or underpronate and need additional cushioning to help avoid injury, you won't get that in a minimalist or barefoot shoe.

Mobility

Any good barefoot shoe will be light in weight and offer little cushioning in the heels for better foot and ankle mobility. When you put them on, the shoes shouldn't feel like you are wearing much of anything. They should feel more like an extension of your feet. You should be able to move your ankles and feet with complete range of motion.

Heel-to-Toe Drop

The heel-to-toe drop is a measurement related to cushioning height. The heel-to-toe drop in barefoot shoes is zero millimeters. A shoe's drop can be important if you have a history of knee injuries. Lower-drop shoes can put more stress on the knees.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are barefoot running shoes good for you?

    Barefoot running shoes can be good for certain runners, as they offer a purer form of running and more connection to the ground. However, you need to build up tolerance to them. Most runners aren't used to going barefoot, and your feet could feel shocked for a while as you adjust to this new look and feel.

    You also need to take into consideration where you run. If you constantly run over road debris and in cold weather, barefoot shoes might not offer enough protection from the elements.

  • How do barefoot running shoes affect your feet?

    As your feet don't have any cushioning or a flared heel from a traditional running shoe, you are now lower to the ground. Your Achilles tendon will need to work harder, which could lead to injuries or strain on your calf muscles.

    You also might deal with blistering and bloody calluses for the first few weeks as you feet get used to this new way of running.

  • Can you run a marathon in barefoot running shoes?

    You can run a marathon in barefoot running shoes. However, you need to train for this. You should be able to run at least 20 miles in barefoot running shoes before attempting a marathon. When starting your marathon training, gradually increase your distance wearing barefoot shoes by 10% each week to allow your feet to adjust.

  • How do barefoot running shoes affect performance?

    A study in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found that barefoot running shoes allow for optimal forefoot bending stiffness, which can benefit performance. Also, barefoot shoes can improve running economy by allowing a greater range of motion than traditional shoes do.

Why Trust Verywell Fit

Christine Luff has a passion for endurance sports. As as a fitness writer, avid runner, and certified running coach, Christine has spent years researching running and walking shoes. To run or walk in comfort and reduce injury risk, she suggests getting fitted by a professional for shoes.

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2 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.
  1. Hollander K, Heidt C, Van Der Zwaard BC, Braumann KM, Zech A. Long-term effects of habitual barefoot running and walking: A systematic reviewMed Sci Sports Exerc. 2017;49(4):752-762. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000001141

  2. Sun X, Lam W-K, Zhang X, Wang J, Fu W. Systematic review of the role of footwear constructions in running biomechanics: implications for running-related injury and performance. J Sports Sci Med. 2020;19(1):20-37.