Top Recommendations for Barefoot/Minimalist Shoes

Probably my most important travel tip is to find yourself the perfect pair of shoes (or several) that suits your travel needs. Those well worn purple Vibram “toe shoes” as we call them were my first trek into the barefoot/minimalist shoe world. They walked and hiked all over the country for a good 5yrs until they finally decided to kick the bucket. I always had issues with slightly tipping forward when I walk and it can cause a bit of back pain. I grew up in the horse world and pretty much lived in a pair of boots since jr. high. When I started researching solutions to correct that back pain I found out the heel, though short, of my boots was likely the culprit that was making me pitch forward. So I took a chance on my funny toe shoes and never looked back.

Our current assortment of barefoot, minimalist, zero drop heel shoes. Back row left to right – Xero Shoes Mika boots, Vivobarefoot Primus Lite, Merrel Vapor Glove 3 leather, Vivobarefoot Primus Trail. Front row left to right – Voovix water shoes, Vibram KMD Sport LS.

It feels somewhat embarrassing to post a pic of your dirty collection of beloved shoes, but I wanted to show some variety and give some pros and cons of each.

Note- The following contains affiliate links. Should you click on one, I may get a small commission at no cost to you.

1.Xero Shoes Mika winter boot. These are my most recent purchase. I was looking for something that would replace an old pair of winter boots that could hold up for some hiking. It was recommended to order up a size, which I did and they fit perfect. They are nice and toasty (but maybe not negative digits toasty without some wool sock layers). These are my first Xero shoes and I’m pretty impressed. They have good quality construction and though I do think the toe box could be slightly wider, they still give plenty of room for proper toe spread, even for my slightly wider foot. The sole is very flexible, my only complaint is that it’s flat on the bottom as where I think it would have been better if it had a more rounded edge to mold to your foot like some of my other brands. Very lightweight and I’ve had no problems walking in them for several hours. They’ll be my main shoe for a winter trip to Germany soon. The mens version, Denver, don’t quite have the same style but are similarly constructed.

Me wearing my Mika’s. They are so cozy it’s like wearing slippers.

2. Vivobarefoot Primus Lite. My sad looking Primus Lite shoes are two years old. They have gone through the wringer and yet they still. wont. die. I’ve tried to kill them, they refuse. I bought these as work shoes, I would never wish to own white shoes if it wasn’t required! (They do come in several colors, I was just required to have white shoes.) Worse yet, I worked outside quite a bit in a dusty and sometimes muddy environment. To keep them white-ish, every Sunday, they were soaked in hot bleach water and left sitting in front of a fan to dry. (Note – still wont die!) My only complaint is that the sole on these can be a little slick, especially if the ground is damp. Now that they are more yellowish than white, they’ve been downgraded to yard work shoes. Mowing and gardening, and yet 2yrs later and a bit ugly, they are still holding together like the day I bought them! Toe box on these are perfect for me and have become the standard in which I judge all others. If you aren’t used to that you may feel like you have duck feet until you get over it and enjoy the comfort!

3. Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Luna Leather. I bought these as a “nicer” looking pair of tennis shoes to wear when I didn’t want shoes that stick out as “weird.” I decided on the leather version as they are waterproof as well and I do prefer leather for how it molds to the foot. I love the black with the tan sole (though they also come in gray and burgundy), gives it kind of a retro look and they clean up nice. They are indeed waterproof as I’ve splashed through puddles without worry. The sole is made by Keen and has a great grip and conforming fit on the foot. My only drawback is that the toe box is not as wide, it’s the narrowest of all that I own. However, my toes are not squished and the leather has allowed them to mold to my foot over time so they do not bother me. They are often the pair I wear the most to run errands or be seen in public.

4.Vivobarefoot Primus Trail SG. These are my husbands. He was having some foot issues and I’ve been trying to convert him for years, so I picked these up on sale. Vivobarefoot does some killer sales if you watch for them! He’s not as used to wearing something without support so they are not his go to shoes, but things I love about them is how grippy the soles are, nice deep treads on these. They may be hard to get on as the tongue is integrated into the shoe. My husband doesn’t seem to have that issue, but I’ve seen that as a common complaint about this style. Again, Vivobarefoot primus is such a quality made shoe, you really have to work hard to kill them.

5. Voovix Water Shoes. Looking for cheap? These fit the bill! I was actually searching for something for my son. He’s had Vibram Five Fingers when younger, worked great for his parkour class he was in. While he liked them, getting them on him was worse than a trip to the dentist. Sometimes little toes just don’t go where you want them! I was pleasantly surprised to find these cheap little shoes to be well constructed and very comfortable. They have a removable insole that is made of a yoga mat type material. So it’s nice and squishy if you feel you need a little more cushion. The sole is super flexible and grippy and the shoe stays on nicely. I bought another pair for me and often wear them for yard work if its kinda muddy or damp out. They also pack easy for the beach! I highly recommend these if you are looking for a minimalist kid shoe but don’t want to spend a fortune on one of the top brands only to have them outgrow them 2 months later!

6. Vibram KMD Sport LS. My second pair of Vibram Five Fingers. I do love the Five Finger design, especially if you are hiking up rocks and boulders as they allow your toes to grip uneven surfaces. However, my biggest complaint is that I’m constantly getting debris stuck between my toes and if it’s damp out whatsoever my feet are soaked. These are likely my last pair of Vibrams as I feel the above brands are far superior for most of my needs. However, I could see these as being far preferable if you might do indoor rock climbing or activities that don’t have you walking through grass to collect souvenirs between your toes.

If you are looking for cute and different, I recently stumbled upon Faery Steps, a small shoe maker in the UK that offers custom designed barefoot/minimalist shoes. I ordered a custom pair of Hollys recently for my birthday and they were worth the wait! Super cute and comfy! The color of mine are a rich distressed burgundy with matching leather laces. You can also get them with ribbons or wear them without. They are built on a grippy, flat Vibram sole that is nice and flexible. The leather is soft and has that broke in feel from day one. Highly recommend!

For sandals I wear a pair of Bed Stu Sotos, not a barefoot brand shoe, but I find the toe to be nice and wide on these and the sole flexible. My only complaint is that they can be slippery as the sole is leather and doesn’t have any tread to it. They are super cute though and VERY comfy.

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2 Comments on “Top Recommendations for Barefoot/Minimalist Shoes

  1. Pingback: Packing for Winter in Germany – EdVentureTrekking

  2. Pingback: Xero Shoes Mika Boot 4 Weeks in Europe Review – EdVentureTrekking

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