Barefoot Running Shoes

Barefoot Running Shoes

Footwear  |  46 Comments | All Design Reviews

Question: What’s the single best designed piece of running equipment?

Answer: It’s a pair of gear you already own—your bare feet.

Most running shoes, it turns out, do more harm than good. The problem is that these shoes are designed to “protect” your feet in a way that they weren’t meant to be. When encased in an excessively built-up running shoe the muscles, tendons and ligaments of your lower extremities will atrophy. That’s because your shoes are doing the work that your legs and feet should be doing.

The other problem with running shoes is that they encourage you to run with the wrong form. Your body is designed to run on the ball and forefront of your feet. Try going for a run barefoot and you’ll experience this yourself—your heels will barely touch the ground. In contrast, most running shoes will cause you to land on your heels in a way that won’t only slow you down but will inevitably lead to knee and back pain.

Shoes, of course, do serve a purpose. They keep your feet cleaner and drier than bare feet, not to mention being useful when there’s a sharp rock or nail under foot.

So what’s an athlete to do? Get a pair of running shoes with a design that mimics the advantages of your bare feet. Here are our two favorite:

Vibram FiveFingers

vibram-five-fingers-s Follow Me on Pinterest With their individual toe holds Vibram’s FiveFingers look like they are trying to replicate a bare foot in shoe form. The other striking feature of their design is how flexible the FiveFingers are—you can literally bend them in half! These shoe ares also extremely lightweight and are comprised of rubbery material that contours snuggly around the foot. All that makes a pair of Vibram FiveFingers feel more like a second layer of skin than like shoes.

Our suggestion: Although you can use FiveFingers for long distance running Spot Cool Stuff prefers them for more routine physical activity like jogging and light-to-moderate hiking. The soles of the shoe are tough enough for everyday use and for climbing over rocks, gravel or anything else you’d tread on with sneakers. We love these shoes for travel too, especially to tropical destinations. With a pair of FiveFingers you can run on a beach and get that barefoot feeling without the worry of stepping on sharp shells and glass. You can even swim with them on! Of the various FiveFingers models we are partial to the KSO (Keep Stuff Out)—to us they felt more comfortable and looked more stylish than Vibram’s Sprint and Classic models (although they do take a bit of extra work to take on and off).


Barefoot Running Shoes: Vibram Five Finger Follow Me on Pinterest

Barefoot Running Shoes: Vibram Five Finger KSO Follow Me on Pinterest


Barefoot Running Shoes: Newton Follow Me on Pinterest Compared to the Vibram FiveFingers (above), a pair of Newtons may look more like your typical running shoe. But they don’t feel that way. Key to the design of the Newton is the rubber actuator lug that extends from the base of the shoe’s forefoot area to the toes. Imagine a sort of springboard in the middle of the shoe that propels you forward in a way that mimics how a bare foot bounces you from one stride into the next—running in a pair of Newtons feels a little like you are always on a slight downhill. Newtons are also lightweight, highly breathable and among the most comfortable running shoes on the market.

Our suggestion: At the cost of around US$150~175, a pair of Newtons are a significant investment. If you are a frequent runner, and especially if you are training for a marathon or triathlon, Spot Cool Stuff feels that Newtons are well worth the cost. There are a variety of models to choose from. Novice runners, or those uncertain about their form, would do best starting with a pair of Guidance Trainers. More experienced runners should consult the Newton website for advice on which shoe best fits their running style. Of all the Newton models we are most fond of the All-Weather Trainer—it has an especially grippy sole and comes with breathable, anti-bacterial and moisture-wicking sockliners. The All-Weather Trainer, like all Newton models, can be comfortably worn without socks.


Barefoot Running Shoes: Newton Follow Me on Pinterest
Barefoot Running Shoes: Newton Follow Me on Pinterest

More on barefoot running . . .

Best Running Shoes | Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen Follow Me on Pinterest To learn why running barefoot is superior to running in a typical pair of shoes you could pour through out a slew of academic studies on the subject. Or, for vastly more entertaining read, check out Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. This nonfiction book reads like a mystery-adventure; it starts with the question Why do feet hurt so much after one day of running? and ends with an unlikely group of indigenous people in the wilds of Mexico.

America’s Podiatrist has a great overview of the harm typical running shoes can cause your feet, knees and legs. We are also fans of the Barefoot Runner website.

There is, believe it or not, a Society For Barefoot Living. The group runs a blog and has all sorts of info on the benefits of going barefoot; it is also a great resource for meeting people who are anti-shoe.

Barefoot Running Follow Me on Pinterest

published: Nov 2009


Related posts:
Europe’s 6 Best Marathons & Running Events
The World’s 5 Best Shoe Museums
Lose Weight While Traveling: Three Fun & Cool Trips

Special thanks to Kellie Finn for her help with this post


  1. Colleen says:

    September 7th, 2012at 8:18 pm(#)

    I already run in fivefingers, and I just bought a pair of Newtons. Since I am used to “barefoot” running, do I still need to slowly adjust to the Newtons or can I just start running in them?

    [Reply to this comment]

  2. Paul says:

    June 20th, 2012at 1:21 am(#)

    Those 5 fingers really sound pretty great. My question is how big a size do they run? I wear a 15 in running shoes. Am I out of luck?
    Paul recently posted..Get Over The Hump WorkoutMy Profile

    [Reply to this comment]

    Matthew Hampton Reply:


    Vibram sizes are European (cm) with sizes up to a 47 on the website. I measured my feet, however I recommend going into a store and actually having them fitted. I started with a air of Komodosports and now use the Bikila almost exclusively. It has been a life changer for my spouse and I as any chronic pains from running ave all but gone away. I’ll be writing a blog post on our story concerning barefoot and minimalist running. Hope this helps!

    [Reply to this comment]

  3. Abe says:

    May 22nd, 2012at 6:13 am(#)

    Hi I swim a lot and go spear fishing. Can I swim with these shoes?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Spot Cool Stuff Reply:


    Water is meant to pass through these shoes. So we’d say, yes, you can go swimming with them on. You’ll find swimming in barefoot shoes much easier than regular shoes but not as comfortable as swimming shoe-free.

    ~ SCS

    [Reply to this comment]

  4. Ross says:

    February 4th, 2012at 1:09 pm(#)

    Big fan of the Newton running shoes. I have a pair of the Moteus’s and they are some of the lightest and most flexible shoes that I have ever worn. I find them easy to use on tracks and when I am doing sprinting/interval sessions as they naturally encourage running on your forefoot when you are running at speed but I do struggle with them when I am plodding. Still good shoes though and I am a firm natural running shoe convert!
    Ross recently posted..Marathon TrainingMy Profile

    [Reply to this comment]

  5. EZamora says:

    January 5th, 2012at 1:38 pm(#)

    I am an experienced runner (30 years) and I have to say that as comfortable as the shoes are, i find the sole too thin to cushion the bottom of the foot. On a treadmill it KILLS the bottom of my foot and I was afraid I would develop plantar fascitis, so I avoid doing that. Nice comcept but in my opinion, use for walking and/or light jogging.

    [Reply to this comment]

  6. christine says:

    November 6th, 2011at 12:06 am(#)

    I really want to try barefoot shoes but live in cold climate with 6 months of snow. Can I still use these or should I go with something else?

    [Reply to this comment]

  7. Deanna says:

    August 10th, 2011at 4:17 pm(#)

    Can you wear vibrom in pool? Will the choline mess them up?

    [Reply to this comment]

  8. Michelle says:

    June 13th, 2011at 7:32 pm(#)

    I prefer the Vibram shoes for running on the beach. I find that the impact is just too much to use them on the pavement. The knees tend to get sore otherwise.

    [Reply to this comment]

  9. John says:

    May 11th, 2011at 1:38 pm(#)

    I have not yet tried barefoot running but I have run for over 25 yrs. As far as causing knee damage, well my knees are as good as an 18 yr olds and I’m 48. I did have foot surgery (for a non running related injury) and the podiatrist said the muscles in my feet were probably the most developed he has ever seen. Guess that puts to bed the arguement about running shoes casuing foot muscle to atrophy.

    Maybe there is something to this whole barefoot gimmick but I can attest that regular running shoes do none of the harm this article says they do.

    [Reply to this comment]

  10. aiden says:

    March 14th, 2011at 3:22 pm(#)

    Check out Inov-8’s shoes , they’ve been doing this for about 13 years already and are the only company that offers runners the conditioning option. They have shoes with various cushioning thicknesses allowing you to gradually get your foot strike correct without rushing the process and not injuring yourself. Great to see so many enthusiasts!

    [Reply to this comment]

  11. TJ says:

    October 30th, 2010at 4:33 pm(#)

    eric diaz. find the whole shoe/no shoe discussion fascinating. But I just don’t see how shoes really do cause all those injuries and how being barefoot protects you against over-use injuries. Doesn’t that sound just a bit too good to be true?

    Hi Eric, I ran most of my youth barefoot, as I got older I started running in shoes. after 6 years of running I started developing shin splint problems, knee problems, lastly a tibial fracture. I was about to give up running, attributing my problems to being older when I attended a natural running clinic that claimed to have the answers to my running problems. They asked why I had starting wearing running shoes and recommended I start running barefoot again. Well I went home, got out some duct tape and taped my foot like I use to and headed out for what I thought was to be a very short run. Several miles later you could not remove the smile from my face. I had absolutely no pain, no shin splints, a knee that was bothering me at the start no longer hurt and I was faster. My running shoes are $10 and comes in a roll. I will from time to time because of the race conditions slip on a pair of cheep swim shoes but I can say that traditional running shoes did a tremendous amount of damage in my case. Believe it.

    [Reply to this comment]

  12. annemoss says:

    October 25th, 2010at 9:09 pm(#)

    These are on our review list. I asked our foot doctor what he thought of them and his response was, “It doesn’t matter what you have on your feet provided it does not alter your gait. Actually, anything that strengthens the intrinsic musculature of the foot (like these shoes ) is a good thing…again, provided there are NO abnormalities in foot function. If abnormalities exist, the risks definitely out weigh the benefits. Said another way, a person without abnormal biomechanics will not have problems with these shoes…heck, they could run barefoot if they wanted and not have problems. All bets are off if a pathomechanics exists.” So worthy of our attention. Thanks for your post. Very reasonable. We, too, feel they might not be the ticket for really long distance running.

    [Reply to this comment]

  13. Sonoma says:

    September 14th, 2010at 6:20 pm(#)

    The Vibram FiveFingers without a doubt is the most popular shoe since Ugg boots. We sold these to every demographics you can imagine, young, old, active, and couch potato.

    [Reply to this comment]

  14. eric diaz says:

    August 19th, 2010at 10:42 pm(#)

    I find the whole shoe/no shoe discussion fascinating. But I just don’t see how shoes really do cause all those injuries and how being barefoot protects you against over-use injuries. Doesn’t that sound just a bit too good to be true? The suggestion that Iliotibial band syndrome, stress fractures, ankle sprains etc. only happens with shoes is a bit of a stretch. There are definitely benefits to barefoot running, but come on. Really? A foot fracture is very likely when you strike the ground over and over again in running. Maybe even more likely barefoot. Lets be honest!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Maggie Reply:

    Try reading “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. Prior to the 1970’s we never used the modern-day built up running shoe. That is how humans ran for thousands of years. Are we wrong or right?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Spot Cool Stuff Reply:

    Exactly, Maggie. That’s why we mentioned the Born To Run book in our post. Of course, you could argue that humans wore loin clothes for thousands of years too, and that that’s no reason to give up our blue jeans. But there’s plenty of modern scientific evidence in support of barefoot running shoes in addition to it being our human history.

    ~ SCS

    [Reply to this comment]

  15. anonymous says:

    August 13th, 2010at 12:35 am(#)

    Another minimal running shoe is the Soft Star RunAmoc LITE. The “street” version has a 2 mm flat Vibram sole. The “trail” version has a 5 mm flat vibram sole. I have one pair of each. I ran 5 miles on pavement this evening in the “trail” version. On a trail run, gravel can get inside through the not-securely-overlapping areas on the sides of the shoes.

    Vibram Five Fingers shoes don’t fit my unnaturally bent toes. I’ve never been able to put one on either of my feet.

    [Reply to this comment]

  16. anonymous says:

    August 12th, 2010at 7:59 pm(#)

    I’ve never purchased the Newton Guidance Trainers, and I don’t feel like recommending them. I’ve purchased the Newton neutral Performance Trainers and the Newton neutral Performance Racers. I recommend the Racers, because the heel has less offset from the ball of the foot, and because they are lighter and less expensive than the Performance Trainers.

    I’ve purchased the 11.5 men’s size, then removed the sock liner. Even without the sock liner, the shoes are pretty snug for my toes and forefoot. (In conventional running shoes, I usually buy men’s size 11.5 EE.) I just ordered the men’s size 12 neutral Performance Racers.

    [Reply to this comment]

  17. zbsports says:

    August 10th, 2010at 10:13 am(#)

    I guess vibram is my choice in running shoes…very comfortable on foot and light…the material is design very well and for the comfort of foot…

    [Reply to this comment]

  18. Joe says:

    July 24th, 2010at 11:06 pm(#)

    I have not gone completely barefoot or put out the money for vibram 5 fingers but I have been running in swimming shoes. In particular, Target has a very flexible shoe for $9.99. Get the right size and take the insole out.That leaves about a 1/16 of an inch of rubber between you and the road. Step on a loose rock and you will feel it.

    [Reply to this comment]

  19. Brent Hiller says:

    June 4th, 2010at 5:01 pm(#)

    where were these my senior year of highschool when I was running cross country and track?

    [Reply to this comment]

  20. vishal says:

    June 4th, 2010at 4:48 pm(#)

    are these good for jogging aswell? i will consider buying these please tap back
    and also can these be worn on hard cement ground? thanks :)

    [Reply to this comment]

  21. Clogrunner says:

    May 28th, 2010at 12:13 am(#)

    I’d recommend not buying the Newton Guidance Trainer or even the Performance Trainer. Go straight to the Newton Performance Racer. And also run in Crocs. I’m running in the Crocs Rx Relief in one size larger than the size recommended for my foot length. I wear socks, and now I tie a shoestring across my instep to hold the heel strap up against my achilles tendon. Also, you gotta try the Soft Star RunAmoc. I have a black pair with the 5mm sole and a red pair with the 2mm sole.

    [Reply to this comment]

  22. Alex Whitehead says:

    April 23rd, 2010at 7:15 am(#)

    Vivo Barefoot look like sad old man’s shoes. You can’t beat vibram fivefingers for the real barefoot experience. Well, you can, you just have to actually go barefoot and shred your soles. I think I’ll stick to the Vibrams thanks :)

    [Reply to this comment]

    David Winner Reply:

    Have you seen Vivobarefoot recently? They’ve definitely picked up their game and have a pretty awesome range of barefoot shoes. And Vibrams look …erm, like Vibrams!

    [Reply to this comment]

  23. Mona says:

    April 7th, 2010at 2:48 am(#)

    The hardest part is putting them on for me! Especially because I’ve got the full footed surge vibrams! It’s worth it though, I’ve even walked through snow with them

    Thanks for the great review! I hadn’t read much about newtons until now.

    Anyone tried the vivo barefoot brand?

    [Reply to this comment]

  24. Candy Silvasy says:

    February 19th, 2010at 6:13 pm(#)

    I’ve always been a barefoot kinda gal – especially on beach runs great toe workout. So If the hardest part of running is putting on the shoes. . . . no excuses now! PS I work out barefoot often & find it’s one of the most enjoyable ways to exercise. Spa wishes, Candy

    [Reply to this comment]

  25. Candy Silvasy says:

    February 19th, 2010at 6:11 pm(#)

    They say that the hardest part of running is putting on the shoes. . . . no excuses now! PS I work out barefoot often & find it’s one of the most enjoyable ways to exercise. Spa wishes, Candy

    [Reply to this comment]

  26. ahmed says:

    January 22nd, 2010at 2:56 am(#)

    To be more specific, how about some scuba diving boots. Something like this;

    or this

    ?? Also, what about martial arts shoes. Try to google “feiyue”

    I don’t plan on doing any hiking in them or anything of that sort, mostly simple walking as a transition into the “barefoot” style.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Spot Cool Stuff Reply:


    Your links, I think, back up our point. Those scuba boots only really work for underwater use. They aren’t meant for walking on land. And even if you put up with the discomfort of doing so (which would be considerable after a while) you’d find that simple pavement would tear up the soles rather quickly.

    Now, there are certainly shoes that are designed to get wet. We don’t have personal experience with the martial arts shoes that you mentioned, but Cudas makes a great pair of water shoes that only cost around $25 (a great deal, we think) . . .

    . . . and New Wave makes a pair of water running sneakers:

    For what you are describing a pair of sandals like Tevas . . .

    . . . or even a simple pair of flip-flops would do the trick too. In all of those shoes you could wade through a river or go on a wet canoe ride (okay, maybe not the flip-flops but the other ones). But you wouldn’t really want to swim in any one them. For optimal running form you wouldn’t want to use any of them either.

    Vibrams are easily the best shoes we know of to, for example, go on a walk through a jungle, then stroll on a beach, then wade out across rocks, then go for a swim, then make that trip back all without taking off your shoes. Plus you can go jogging and hiking with them or wear them for every-day use. For your particular situation it could be that you don’t require shoes that are so versatile. If that’s the case then, definitely, there are options like the Cudas that would be cheaper.

    ~ SCS

    [Reply to this comment]

  27. ahmed says:

    January 20th, 2010at 10:30 pm(#)

    do you guys think it would work if I got some swimming/pool shoes and ran in them as a cheaper alternative to vibram’s?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Spot Cool Stuff Reply:


    Well, none of the pool shoes we’ve seen are actually very good for swimming in. We have seen a few products billed as “swimming shoes” but none of those make good walking (much less hiking) footwear.

    For such a distinctive, well-made product we think Vibram’s are extremely reasonable in price.

    [Reply to this comment]

  28. Jason Robillard says:

    December 21st, 2009at 5:45 am(#)

    Awesome article! I’m a major component of barefoot and minimalist shoe running. I run a series of clinics to teach people (, and the info you guys provide here is absolutely correct! Nice work!


    [Reply to this comment]

  29. Clynton Taylor says:

    December 9th, 2009at 3:10 am(#)

    Thanks for the post. I have to say, I really don’t get how more shoe – the Sir Isaacs – is getting closer to barefoot?! To be fair, I haven’t tried them, just Vibram Five Finger KSOs and Vivo Barefoot Aquas. But I’ve seen the shoes in person and there’s a lot to them. Don’t get the attention they’re getting. The company talks the talk, but way too much shoe IMHO.

    [Reply to this comment]

  30. haroldtan says:

    December 7th, 2009at 7:54 pm(#)

    great review.. i think a better comparison would be the nike free and vibrams as the nike free are unique in the way it flexes to allow a more barefoot running style.

    [Reply to this comment]

  31. ihatefeet says:

    December 7th, 2009at 4:09 pm(#)

    yes, cool…but kinda creepy…aleksandra k

    [Reply to this comment]

  32. Morgan says:

    December 7th, 2009at 1:58 pm(#)

    These are really neat! How much do they normally go for, especially the Vibram’s Five Fingers? I’m an avid outdoor runner (I hate the treadmill) and would love a pair of these! It all depends on the cost though…

    [Reply to this comment]

    Spot Cool Stuff Reply:

    Hi Morgan,

    Vibram’s Five Fingers are currently around $80, give or take $10. Click our LEARN MORE & BUY links to get pricing information and other details.

    ~ SCS

    [Reply to this comment]

  33. annemoss says:

    December 6th, 2009at 10:33 pm(#)

    That’s why the kenyans are always winning races. They run barefoot and they run everywhere when they are growing up.

    [Reply to this comment]

  34. Chris Kalafarski says:

    December 6th, 2009at 9:36 pm(#)

    Puma H Streets, while not marketed as a running shoe (and not even listed under running on their website) are another great option for minimalistic footwear. And they’re cheap, about $30 a pair if you shop around. They may not be in the second-skin class like V5F, but they are as un-shoe as you get otherwise. Without a thick layer of foam to breakdown, they also last pretty much until you wear a hole through the rubber or rip apart the upper. And if you walk around in them it doesn’t look like you’re one of those people who only wears running shoes. I have been running in them for quite some time now (after a long period of using standard trainers and supplementing actual barefoot running several days a week) and it’s been great. If you’re not used to running barefoot or in low toe/heal ratio shoes, there is a definite transition period (as in, you can hurt yourself if you just switch overnight). And once you’re used to them, standard trainers feel so foreign to your feet, you really start to take the validity of the recent barefoot research seriously.

    [Reply to this comment]

  35. David Turnbull says:

    December 6th, 2009at 9:22 pm(#)

    I have a pair of Vivo Barefoot Aqua shoes from Terra Plana myself. They’re designed to emulate walking barefoot (and do so perfectly) and are definitely worth consideration for barefooters.

    [Reply to this comment]

  36. Mary Duprey says:

    December 2nd, 2009at 9:56 pm(#)

    Newtons are perhaps the best shoes I have ever run in and I have been a runner for over 25 years. Over the past few years I was having a lot of problems with my hamstrings, hips and metatarsal area. I tried Newtons about 3 weeks ago and am now running pain free. Thanks for a wonderful product!!!

    [Reply to this comment]

  37. VABuckeye says:

    December 2nd, 2009at 8:39 pm(#)

    Started wearing the Newtons in September of this year, and after a period of adjustment (as recommended by Newton), can safely say that my running form is much more efficient.

    I’ll never wear another brand again.

    [Reply to this comment]

  38. rawrkadi says:

    November 27th, 2009at 9:34 pm(#)

    this is cool!

    [Reply to this comment]

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