You were born barefoot, and a growing body of evidence suggests that’s how you should have been. The technology and padding of the modern shoe protects your feet, however protection is not always what you want. The feet were made to stretch, bend, roll and bend, and let them do what they evolved to do can reduce shock damage and offers a wide range of other benefits.
That said, do not buy a pair of these barely available shoes and start walking or running, as you always have. It does not work and it can lead to injuries. You need to ease into everything that is barefoot related, and to some extent you need to learn to walk and run again. In this guide, we can afford to make the transition from padded shoes to “barefoot shoes” (also known as minimalist or zero-drop shoes), and we’ve put together our favorites. They are as close as you can get to achieving that barefoot feel without running on edge with “No shirt, no shoes, no service” signs.
Be sure to check out our other buying guides, including our best running gear and best snow gear.
Updated June 2022: We have added Xero Aqua Cloud water sandals and updated prices and links everywhere.
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