I think it is safe to say that barefoot running has really taken off. Compared to the early days you now have a large choice of shoes, some with toes, some without, some from big brands and some from less known ones. Here you will find a selection of models on the market at the moment.
This post is not a review of those different models however. I only own one pair of barefoot running shoes and I believe that you have to own the gear to be able to review it properly. When applicable, you will also find links to reviews on other blogs. Suggestions welcome in the comments, no affiliate links in this post, click with confidence. Let’s get started.
The iconic FiveFingers from Italian manufacturer Vibram was probably one of the first mainstream shoes used by minimalist runners. Its very distinctive shape, with each toe separated from the others is what makes it special. Being made by Vibram, all the models use Vibram soles and generally provide decent grip. There are about 20 different models but my favorite, maybe because I own it, is the KSO TrekSport. Have a look on their website for more choices.
Vivo Barefoot market themselves as the “Original barefoot” shoes. Although I can’t verify that, they sure have been around for a while and are well regarded in the minimalist running world. Out of all the models they have I would pick the Neo Trail and the EVO II but again they have a lot of other models so do check the full range.
Inov-8 is another brand that got into the barefoot market early. Some of their products, like the Evoskins, were a bit controversial, but others like the Bare-Grip 200 have killer looks and provide some interesting alternatives for off road running. Some barefoot shoes do not deliver in terms of traction for trail running (yes VFF KSOs, I’m looking at you) and the Bare-Grip is the answer from Inov-8 to people that want the feel and responsiveness of the barefoot with the added trail running essential grip.
I talked a bit about the Merrell barefoot range when they released it. They have very nice designs which will probably attract people not very into showing their toes. The soles are made Vibram and the shoes come in a lot of different colours and finish from trail running oriented to regular training or even city life. Barefoot running brought to the masses in a simple and compelling package.
- Merrell Trail Glove vs. New Balance Minimus Trail Review
- Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove Review: Another Great Zero Drop Running Shoe Option
New Balance has long been dedicated to running and it was logical that they would get into the barefoot and minimalist market. The latest in date is the Minimus range, a series of shoes with minimalistic design and features. The Minimus Trail for example look very much like a FiveFingers only without the separated toes.
The invisible shoes are inspired by the Huaraches, sandals made out of rubber and used as running shoes by the Tarahumara Indians. Instead using old tires, the Invisible shoes are made from specialy engineered rubber the company calls FeelTrue. This is probably the most barefoot you can get while still waring “shoes”.
Newton Running has some minimalist models. Clearly not as radical as a Bare-Grip, their MV2 model comes with thicker soles due to the use of a mid-sole but still brings minimal support and a zero drop profile for a more natural feeling when running.
This list if of course far from comprehensive and is more to give you an idea about the different big brands doing barefoot/minimalistic shoes. I will try to update the post with more, following your suggestions, so do not hesitate to add your voice in the comments.