The 5 Best Barefoot Sandals for Travel

Best Barefoot Sandals for Travel; A man wearing Luna Sandals on a rural road in Thailand

Setting out on new adventures involves thoughtful choices about the gear we bring along, and when it comes to footwear, comfort takes center stage. Barefoot sandals offer a liberating and minimalist choice, especially for those who love the feeling of walking freely.

Whether you’re wandering through bustling markets, exploring mountainous terrains, or just looking for a lightweight companion on your adventures, our roundup of the best barefoot sandals aims to help you find the perfect blend of style and practicality for your travels.

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Table Of Contents

Best Barefoot Sandals


After putting various sandals to the test during our travels, the LUNA Sandals MONO Winged emerged as our undisputed favorite. From the get-go, slipping into these sandals felt like a revelation, offering an unmatched blend of comfort and freedom. Their lightweight design and top-notch craftsmanship make them an absolute go-to for travel, especially when every ounce matters. The Vibram sole has proved its worth, as it’s performed flawlessly on city streets and off-the-beaten-path trails, providing reliable traction.

What truly won us over is the easily adjustable lacing system, delivering a snug fit that’ll hug your feet without sacrificing that essential barefoot feel. Surprisingly durable, the MONO Winged sandals held up exceptionally well across various terrains and activities. The addition of the winged design, boosting lateral stability, is a game-changer during long walks and hikes.

Best Barefoot Sandals

Xero Shoes Z-Trail EV

For the adventurous traveler seeking a sandal with the perfect amount of cushioning, our unwavering recommendation goes to the Xero Shoes Z-Trail. After two years of putting them through the paces, these sandals have proven to be an absolute game-changer. The cushioned yet minimalist feel is a dream for the exploration of diverse landscapes. They strike the sweet spot between comfort and lightweight agility, making them a top choice for everything from city strolls to nature hikes.

The durability of the Z-Trail is truly remarkable. Despite countless trails, sandy beaches, and city pavements, they’ve held up to near-constant abuse. What sets these sandals apart, aside from their durability, is the unbeatable value. The price tag doesn’t compromise quality; instead, it enhances their overall appeal.

Best Barefoot Sandals

Shamma Sandals Warriors

For individuals who prefer shoes but need a reliable sandal as a backup, the Shamma Sandals Warriors are a great choice. They have exceptional packability, flattening down to nearly nothing and effortlessly slipping into the smallest corners of a bag. Whether we’re mostly wearing shoes during a trip or suddenly find ourselves yearning for that barefoot freedom, these sandals are the perfect backup plan for your trip.

What makes these sandals ideal for travel is the ease of cleaning; the material is a breeze to wipe down before tossing them back in your bag. The Warriors are like having a compact, reliable safety net for your feet— ready to spring into action whenever the need arises.

Best Barefoot Sandals

Earth Runners Circadian

If you’re seeking a sandal with an understated design, the Earth Runners Circadian effortlessly takes the crown. Its simplicity is its strength, making it a solid choice for navigating city streets with a low-key yet stylish touch. While it may not be the ultimate all-rounder for every terrain, it excels in the concrete jungle.

The minimalist design of the Circadian is a breath of fresh air, blending seamlessly into any wardrobe. Whether wandering through parks, strolling down boulevards, or hopping on and off public transportation, these sandals add that touch of minimalist elegance to urban adventures.

Best Barefoot Sandals

Bedrock Cairn Pro

When it comes to extended trips in the great outdoors, our top pick is hands-down the Bedrock Cairn Pro. These sandals have been my steadfast companions through rugged terrains, rocky trails, and all manners of outdoor escapades. The durability they exhibit is nothing short of impressive, withstanding the harshest conditions without showing a hint of wear and tear.

These sandals are more than just footwear; they’re a reliable partner for those who crave durability and performance in the heart of nature. If your adventures take you off the beaten path for an extended period, the Cairn Pro is the ultimate choice for a trustworthy, durable, and adventure-ready sandal.

Honorable Mention

Mayfly Ultralight Imago

For hikers in search of the ideal camp shoe, look no further than the Imago. These ultralight sandals have become our trusted companion for those moments around the campsite when we want to give our feet a breath of fresh air.

If you’re a hiker in need of a featherlight camp shoe that embraces the barefoot ethos, the Mayfly Ultralight Imago is the ultimate choice for giving your feet the freedom they deserve.

Barefoot Sandals For Travel

Sandal Comparisons

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Sandals Strap Material Outsole Weight Style Drop
Luna Mono Nylon Webbing Vibram Morflex 160g Between Toes 0mm
Xero Z-Trail Nylon Webbing FeelTrue Rubber 153g Sneaker 0mm
Shamma Warriors Nylon Webbing Vibram Newflex 128g Trainer 0mm
Earth Runners Polyester Webbing Vibram Gumlite 167g Between Toes 0mm
Bedrock Cairn Nylon Webbing Vibram Megagrip 289 g Between Toes 0mm
Mayfly Imago Nylon Cords Coroplast 51g Between Toes 0mm

How To Choose A Barefoot Sandal

Actionable Information

Barefoot sandals, often referred to as minimalist sandals, represent a category of footwear designed to provide minimalistic coverage to the feet while maintaining the sensation of barefoot walking. Rooted in the principles of natural movement and inspired by the concept of barefoot or minimalist footwear, barefoot sandals aim to mimic the experience of walking barefoot, promoting a more natural gait and a heightened connection with the ground.

Typically consisting of thin straps and minimal sole material, barefoot sandals prioritize flexibility, lightweight construction, and a thin barrier between the sole of the foot and the ground. This design encourages the foot to engage its natural range of motion, allowing the muscles and tendons to strengthen and providing a more sensory experience while walking. The philosophy behind barefoot sandals aligns with the belief that traditional footwear with thick, supportive soles may hinder the foot’s natural function and contribute to issues such as weakened arches or altered gait patterns.

Historically, various cultures have embraced the concept of minimal footwear or barefoot walking, and contemporary barefoot sandals draw inspiration from these practices. Modern iterations often utilize materials such as soft leather, elastic straps, or lightweight textiles, allowing the foot to move freely and adapt to its surroundings. While some wearers opt for barefoot sandals for specific activities like yoga, beach outings, or casual strolls, others integrate them into their daily lives as part of a broader commitment to minimalist footwear for its potential benefits to foot health and overall well-being.

Barefoot sandals are associated with a range of potential benefits, reflecting a paradigm shift in footwear philosophy. While individual experiences may vary, below are several aspects that enthusiasts and some studies suggest as potential benefits of wearing barefoot sandals:

Improved Foot Strength & Functionality: By allowing the foot to move more naturally, barefoot sandals contribute to increased strength in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the foot. This enhanced strength can potentially lead to improved foot function and a more stable arch.

Enhanced Sensory Feedback: Barefoot sandals expose the sole of the foot to a greater degree of sensory stimuli from the ground. This heightened sensory feedback is believed to enhance proprioception, the body’s ability to sense its position and movement in space, leading to better balance and body awareness.

Natural Gait Patterns: Supporters of barefoot footwear argue that traditional shoes can alter natural gait patterns. Barefoot sandals, by providing minimal interference with the foot’s biomechanics, encourages a more natural and efficient walking or running style.

Potential Reduction in Foot Deformities: Some advocates suggest that wearing sandals with a minimalistic design, reduces the risk of certain foot deformities such as bunions or hammertoes, as the toes are allowed to splay and move more freely.

Injury Prevention: While research in this area is still evolving, some studies propose that wearing minimalist footwear contributes to a lower risk of certain lower extremity injuries, possibly by promoting a more natural foot strike during walking or running.

Increased Ankle Mobility: The flexibility of barefoot sandals allows for a more natural range of motion in the ankle joint, potentially leading to increased ankle mobility and flexibility.

Choosing the best barefoot sandals involves considering various factors to ensure they align with your individual preferences, activities, and foot characteristics. Below are some key considerations to guide your selection:

Intended Use: Determine the primary activities for which you plan to use the sandals (e.g., walking, running, hiking, casual wear, water activities). Different models may be designed with specific activities in mind.

Material: Consider the materials used in the sandals. Many barefoot sandals use soft, flexible materials like leather or lightweight textiles. Ensure the materials are durable, breathable, and comfortable.

Strap Design: Evaluate the strap design for a secure fit. Adjustable straps can accommodate various foot shapes, and a well-designed strapping system enhances stability.

Sole Thinness: Assess the thickness of the sole. Barefoot sandals typically have thin soles to promote a natural feel, but the degree of thickness can vary. Thinner soles provide better ground feedback but may offer less protection on rough surfaces.

Sole Flexibility: Check the flexibility of the sole. A good sandal should allow your foot to move naturally and bend easily, promoting a more biomechanically sound gait.

Foot Size: Ensure the sandals are available in your correct size, and consider any width variations if you have wider or narrower feet.

Affordability: Consider your budget. While some barefoot sandals can be relatively affordable, premium or specialized models may come at a higher cost.

While not all podiatrists are against barefoot sandals, there are some concerns and considerations raised within the podiatric community regarding the use of minimalist footwear. Below are several reasons why some podiatrists express caution or reservations:

Lack of Support & Cushioning: Traditional shoes often provide support, cushioning, and structure to the feet. Barefoot sandals typically have minimal cushioning and arch support, which could be a concern for individuals with certain foot conditions or structural abnormalities.

Risk of Injury: Some podiatrists are concerned that the lack of support and protection in barefoot sandals may increase the risk of injuries, especially on uneven or rocky surfaces. Without a protective sole, the feet may be more susceptible to bruises, cuts, and puncture injuries.

Adaptation Period: Transitioning to barefoot sandals requires an adaptation period, and some individuals may not make this transition gradually. Abrupt changes in footwear can lead to discomfort, pain, or injuries, and podiatrists may emphasize the importance of a gradual adjustment.

Individual Variability: Feet vary widely in terms of structure, arch height, and biomechanics. What works well for one person may not be suitable for another. Podiatrists may be cautious about recommending a one-size-fits-all approach, especially for individuals with specific foot conditions.

Foot Conditions: Individuals with certain foot conditions, such as plantar fasciitis, bunions, or severe pronation, may require more supportive footwear. Barefoot sandals may not provide the necessary support or stability for these conditions.

Biomechanical Considerations: Podiatrists may evaluate an individual’s biomechanics and gait when assessing footwear. Some argue that barefoot sandals may not be suitable for everyone, especially those with specific gait abnormalities.

Surface Adaptation: Walking on hard or uneven surfaces without adequate protection can be challenging for some individuals. Podiatrists may recommend footwear with a protective sole, especially for those who spend a significant amount of time walking on hard surfaces.

Barefoot sandals can be beneficial for individuals who seek a more natural and minimalist approach to footwear. Advocates argue that these sandals promote increased sensory feedback, improved foot strength, and a more natural gait. By allowing the foot to move freely and encouraging a more grounded experience, barefoot sandals may contribute to better balance and proprioception.

It’s generally recommended to approach the transition gradually, especially if you’re not accustomed to minimalist footwear. Abruptly switching to barefoot sandals without allowing your feet to adapt may lead to discomfort, pain, or an increased risk of injury. Below are some tips for a smoother transition:

Start Slowly: Begin by wearing barefoot sandals for short durations, such as around the house or during brief walks. This allows your feet and muscles to gradually adjust to the new style of footwear.

Monitor Comfort: Pay attention to how your feet feel – if you experience pain or discomfort, reduce the duration of wear and allow your feet more time to adapt.

Strengthen Your Feet: Consider incorporating foot-strengthening exercises into your routine to enhance the strength and flexibility of your muscles.

Choose Appropriate Activities: Start with less strenuous activities and terrains. Avoid activities that involve high-impact forces until your feet are accustomed to the new footwear.

Gradual Increase: Slowly increase the duration and intensity of wearing barefoot sandals as your feet become more accustomed to the minimalistic design. Listen to your body and make adjustments accordingly.

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Welcome to North of Known! We’re Alan and May, a married couple who have embraced digital nomadism while calling Bangkok, Thailand, our current home base. Over the past 7 years, our shared passion for exploration and adventure has fueled our journey across the globe. Join us as we continue to embark on our nomadic adventures, sharing our insights, discoveries, and travel tales along the way.

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