The 7 Best Barefoot Shoes for Travel

Best Barefoot Shoes for Travel; Close-up of the Lems Shoes Primal 2 in Thailand

Step into a world of comfort as we explore the best barefoot shoes for travel. These shoes celebrate the art of natural movement, offering a unique blend of versatility and a direct connection to the ground, whether you’re navigating city streets or trekking remote trails. 

Designed for freedom and comfort, barefoot shoes ensure each step is a conscious and liberating experience. Join us on this journey to discover the ideal footwear for your travels, where comfort meets style in every stride.

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Table Of Contents

Best Barefoot Shoes

Lems Shoes Primal 2

The Lems Primal 2 stands out as the best overall barefoot shoe for travel, seamlessly combining comfort and versatility, with a minimalist design. Its spacious toe box allows for natural toe splay, promoting foot health during long walks or hikes. The lightweight and flexible construction make them ideal for packing, ensuring you have a reliable pair for any adventure. 

Whether strolling through markets or navigating uneven trails, the Primal 2 delivers a barefoot experience without compromising on style or durability, making them the perfect all-rounder.

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Best Barefoot Shoes

Xero Shoes Prio

The Xero Shoes Prio takes the crown as the best barefoot shoe for adventure travel. Boasting an impressive grip and a thin yet durable sole, these shoes provide a barefoot feel while ensuring protection on various surfaces, from wet concrete to rocky soil.

With an ultralight design and features that cater to the demands of adventurous journeys, the Xero Shoes Prio proves to be an essential asset for those seeking both freedom of movement and reliable performance in any terrain

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Best Barefoot Shoes

VBF Primus Lite III

The Vivobarefoot Primus III is undoubtedly the best eco-friendly barefoot shoe for travel. Crafted from recycled materials, these shoes reflect a conscious effort to reduce environmental impact. Beyond its materials, the high durability of the Primus III ensures longevity.

Vivobarefoot’s dedication to sustainable practices aligns with the values of environmentally conscious travelers, making the Primus III a top choice for those seeking both comfort and a minimal ecological footprint in their footwear

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Best Barefoot Shoes

Whitin Trail Runners

The Whitin Trail Runners emerge as the top choice for budget-conscious individuals seeking barefoot shoes. Offering an unbeatable combination of affordability, quality, and comfort, these shoes prove that you don’t have to break the bank for a satisfying barefoot experience. 

While Whitin shoes may not boast the same durability as some higher-end alternatives, the reasonable price tag makes them a worthwhile investment for those looking to explore the world with barefoot footwear, without a hefty financial commitment.

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Best Barefoot Shoes

Lems Shoes Chukka

The Lems Chukka are our go-to choice for high-ankle barefoot shoes for urban travel. Constructed from a woven canvas material, these shoes seamlessly blend style and comfort, making them perfect for dressing up or down, providing a fashionable option for the city. 

However, it’s important to note that the outsole isn’t “grippy” enough for most outdoor adventures. On the other hand, for urbanites seeking a harmonious balance of fashion and foot freedom, the Lems Chukka is a stylish option.

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Best Barefoot Shoes

Merrell Vapor Glove

For enthusiasts of ultra-minimalistic barefoot experiences, the Merrell Vapor Glove 6 is the ultimatechoice for travel. True to its name, these shoes are akin to gloves for your feet, providing an unparalleled closeness to the ground. They offer a liberating sensation for travelers who appreciate a true barefoot-like journey.

Embracing the essence of a “sandal” in shoe form, the Vapor Glove 6 are designed for die-hard practitioners who prioritize an unobtrusive and natural connection with the terrain.

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Best Barefoot Shoes

Xero Shoes Ridgeway

The Xero Shoes Ridgeway are the optimal choice for individuals seeking barefoot shoes in boot form. Featuring a waterproof construction, these boots provide a reliable shield against the elements, ensuring your feet stay dry and comfortable even in chilly weather. 

The combination of the minimalist design and weather-resistant qualities makes the Ridgeway ideal for travelers who prioritize both barefoot comfort and protection the environment.

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Honorable Mention

Softstar Primal Sawyer

As an honorable mention among the best barefoot shoes for travel, the Softstar Primal Sawyers showcase exceptional craftsmanship. Handcrafted in Oregon, these shoes are made from nubuck leather, offering a premium aesthetic and feel. 

While not claiming the top spot, the Softstar Primal Sawyers earn recognition for their unique combination of quality materials and a design that features an exceptionally roomy toe box.

Barefoot Shoes For Travel

Shoe Comparisons

Shoes Main Material Outsole Weight Style WR
Primal 2 Microfiber / Mesh LemsRubber 195 g Sneaker No
Xero Prio Synthetic Leather FeelTrue Rubber 215 g Sneaker No
Primus Lite Recycled Plastic N/A 180 g Trainer No
Whitin Trail Neoprene N/A 350 g Trainer No
Lems Chukka Cotton Canvas LemsRubber 289 g Chukka No
Vapor Glove Recycled Fabric Vibram EcoStep 180 g Trainer No
Ridgeway Suede / Polyester FeelTrue Rubber 330 g Boot Yes
Primal Sawyer Nubuck Leather Vibram Pyramid 190 g Chukka No

How To Choose A Barefoot Shoe

Actionable Information

Barefoot shoes, also known as minimalist shoes, are a category of footwear designed to closely mimic the natural shape and function of the human foot while providing a thin and flexible sole. The concept behind barefoot shoes is rooted in the idea that traditional footwear with elevated heels, arch support, and thick, rigid soles may interfere with the natural biomechanics of the foot, leading to potential discomfort, weakened muscles, and altered gait patterns.

Barefoot shoes typically feature a few key characteristics:

Thin Soles: Barefoot shoes have thin, flexible soles that allow for greater ground feel and responsiveness. This encourages the foot to move and flex as it would when walking barefoot.

Zero Heel-to-Toe Drop: Unlike traditional shoes with elevated heels, barefoot shoes maintain a more natural, level alignment between the heel and the toes. This design aims to promote a more neutral stance.

Wide Toe Boxes: Barefoot shoes often have wider toe boxes to allow the toes to splay naturally. This mimics the natural shape of the foot and promotes stability.

Lightweight Construction: These shoes are typically lightweight, reducing the overall burden on the feet and promoting a sense of freedom in movement.

Barefoot shoes come with several potential benefits, although individual experiences may vary. Below is an in-depth look at the advantages of wearing barefoot shoes:

Strengthening Foot Muscles: One of the primary benefits is the potential to strengthen the intrinsic muscles of the feet. Traditional shoes with arch support and thick soles can lead to muscle atrophy. Barefoot shoes, with their thin soles and minimal cushioning, encourage the foot muscles to work more actively.

Improved Proprioception: Proprioception refers to the body’s ability to sense its position in space. Barefoot shoes provide greater sensory feedback from the ground, enhancing proprioception. This heightened awareness can contribute to better balance and coordination.

Encourages Natural Foot Movement: Barefoot shoes allow for a more natural range of motion. The toes can splay, flex, and grip the ground, facilitating the biomechanics that are often restricted by conventional footwear.

Promotes a Neutral Foot Strike: Many barefoot shoes have a zero-drop design, meaning there’s no height difference between the heel and the toe. This encourages a more natural foot strike pattern, potentially reducing the impact on joints and decreasing the risk of certain injuries.

Alters Running Gait: Some studies suggest that transitioning to barefoot running or using minimalist shoes may lead to changes in running gait. For instance, individuals may shift from a heel-strike to a forefoot or midfoot strike, which could affect the distribution of impact forces.

Potential for Reduced Joint Pain: By allowing the foot to move naturally and promoting a more even distribution of forces, barefoot shoes may reduce joint stress. Some individuals report experiencing less knee or back pain after transitioning to minimalist footwear.

Lightweight & Flexible Design: Barefoot shoes are typically lightweight and flexible, providing a greater sense of freedom and agility during movement. This can be particularly advantageous for activities that require agility and quick, precise foot movements.

It’s crucial to note that the benefits of barefoot shoes are highly individual, and the transition to minimalist footwear should be gradual. Abrupt changes in footwear can lead to discomfort or injury. Additionally, while some studies support the potential advantages of barefoot shoes, more research is needed to fully understand the individual variability in response to this type of footwear. 

When selecting the ideal barefoot shoes, it’s crucial to factor in a variety of considerations to ensure they align seamlessly with your individual needs and preferences. 

First and foremost, assess your foot type, taking into account factors like arch type and toe shape, as barefoot shoes often offer a wide toe box to facilitate natural toe splaying. 

Second, consider the intended use of the shoes, whether for running, casual wear, or workplace environments with specific dress codes. 

Third. if you’re new to barefoot shoes, plan for a gradual transition, starting with models that provide a bit more cushioning and flexibility before progressing to minimalist designs. Evaluate the sole thickness and flexibility, choosing based on your preference for a closer-to-barefoot experience or additional protection. 

Fourth, evaluate the drop height, which indicates the height difference between the heel and toe, as this is another critical factor to consider, with both zero-drop and low-drop options available. 

Fifth, pay attention to the materials used, considering breathability, durability, and personal preferences for natural or synthetic materials.

Sixth, ensure accurate sizing by referring to brand sizing charts, and consider factors like sock compatibility. 

Lastly, balance your budget with the desired quality of the shoes, keeping in mind that personal comfort is paramount in finding the perfect pair.

While not all podiatrists are against barefoot shoes, some may express concerns due to potential risks associated with certain foot conditions. Podiatrists often emphasize individualized care and consider factors like foot anatomy, gait patterns, and existing medical conditions. 

For individuals with certain foot issues, such as plantar fasciitis, overpronation, or specific structural abnormalities, barefoot shoes may exacerbate problems or lack the necessary support.

Barefoot shoes can offer several potential benefits for certain individuals. They encourage a more natural gait, promote better proprioception, and engage the muscles of the feet, potentially improving foot strength and overall posture. Wearing barefoot shoes may contribute to increased sensory feedback, allowing for a better connection between the feet and the ground. 

However, the suitability of barefoot shoes varies from person to person, and individuals with pre-existing foot conditions or specific comfort preferences should approach them with caution. It’s crucial to transition gradually into barefoot shoes and consider individual factors such as foot health, lifestyle, and activities before determining whether they are a good fit for you.

Transitioning to barefoot shoes is best approached gradually to allow your feet and muscles to adapt progressively. In the initial weeks, wear your barefoot shoes for short durations during everyday activities. This helps your feet acclimate to the new style and encourages the development of natural foot mechanics. 

After a few weeks, start incorporating them into low-impact exercises or short walks. As your body adjusts, gradually extend the time spent in barefoot shoes. It’s essential to listen to your body during this process. If you experience discomfort or strain, take a step back and allow more time for adaptation. 

The transition timeline varies for individuals, so be patient and let your body dictate the pace of the shift. If you have existing foot concerns, consulting with a healthcare professional or podiatrist before and during the transition is a wise step for personalized guidance.

Wearing socks with barefoot shoes is a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer the barefoot experience without socks to maximize the natural feel and allow their feet to breathe. 

However, if you find that socks enhance your comfort or if you’re using barefoot shoes in colder conditions, thin and minimalist socks can be worn. The key is to choose socks that do not interfere with the natural movement and flexibility that barefoot shoes provide, like toe socks. 

Barefoot shoes are not a guaranteed solution for fixing flat feet, but they can potentially contribute to improved foot strength and mechanics. Flat feet, or fallen arches, occur when the arches of the feet collapse, leading to the entire sole of the foot coming into contact with the ground. 

While some people with flat feet may find relief or improvement through exercises and activities that strengthen the muscles supporting the arch, the impact of barefoot shoes varies from person to person.

Wearing barefoot shoes encourages a more natural foot movement, engages muscles, and promotes better proprioception. These factors can contribute to enhanced foot strength and stability over time. However, individuals with flat feet should approach the transition to barefoot shoes gradually. 

Additionally, other interventions such as specific exercises, orthotics, or physical therapy may be recommended for addressing flat feet. It’s essential to consider individual factors and consult with a healthcare provider to determine the most suitable approach for addressing flat feet.

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Alan & May

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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