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The Best Minimalist Barefoot Sandals for Running and Hiking in 2023

CEO Tinh Phung
Best Minimalist Barefoot Sandals for Running (Pictured: Montbell, Luna, Shamma) I've been on a quest for minimalistic footwear for years, ever since I purchased my first pair of Vibram Five Fingers in 2005. After extensive...

Best Minimalist Barefoot Sandals for Running Best Minimalist Barefoot Sandals for Running (Pictured: Montbell, Luna, Shamma)

I've been on a quest for minimalistic footwear for years, ever since I purchased my first pair of Vibram Five Fingers in 2005. After extensive research, I have compiled a list of the best minimalist barefoot running sandals for both men and women in 2023.

Why Choose Minimalist Barefoot Sandals?

Minimalist barefoot sandals are lightweight, highly flexible, and have minimal cushioning in the soles. They are also "zero-drop," meaning there is no difference in elevation from the heel to the toe. Here are some reasons why runners and hikers prefer minimalist sandals:

A More Natural Gait

Switching from traditional high cushioned shoes to zero-drop sandals can feel like learning to walk again. High-cushion shoes encourage a high-impact gait, while minimalist sandals promote a gentler midfoot or forefoot strike, leading to more efficient running and reduced stress on the knees.

Stronger Feet

When your feet can "feel the terrain," they develop stronger muscles and make micro-adjustments for balance. Minimalist sandals allow your feet to work harder and build more tiny muscles, similar to walking on the beach.

Less Weight

Running with lightweight sandals can help reduce fatigue in your leg muscles. Each step becomes easier without the added weight of standard shoes.

No Confining Toe Box

Minimalist sandals provide freedom for your feet, especially if you have foot injuries or medical conditions. They eliminate the restrictive toe box found in conventional footwear, allowing your feet to move naturally.

Our Favorite Zero-Drop Sandals

Luna OSO Flaco Winged Edition running and hiking sandal

Luna OSO Flaco Winged Edition:

  • Thickness: 7mm base and 4.5mm lugs
  • Weight: 7.2 oz per sandal
  • Best for: Rugged adventures through mountains, rivers, trails, and mud

The Luna OSO Flaco Winged Edition is the perfect running and hiking sandal for those who prefer thong-style huarache sandals. These thin yet rugged sandals feel like a natural extension of your feet. The Vibram Megagrip soles provide excellent traction on muddy terrains, making them ideal for trail running or hiking. The Luna straps are comfortable and secure, and their strap placement relieves tension in the big toe area. Make sure to follow their size guide for the best fit.

Xero Shoes Z-Trail EV minimalist footwear

Xero Shoes Z-Trail EV (Men's and Women's):

  • Thickness: 11mm
  • Weight: 5.4 oz per sandal
  • Best for: Running

For those who prefer a non-thong style, the Xero Shoes Z-Trail EV is the best minimalist running sandal. These standard sandals come in both men's and women's models and offer a versatile adjustable backstrap for personalized fit. Xero Shoes is a reliable Colorado-based company known for its durability and outdoor-loving spirit. The Z-Trail EV is great for running and provides a comfortable and secure fit.

Bedrock Cairn for men and women

Bedrock Cairn (Men's and Women's):

  • Thickness: 14mm
  • Weight: 8.5 oz per sandal
  • Best for: Hiking and running in dry environments

The Bedrock Cairn is a popular choice among trail runners and hikers. These sandals offer a minimal and durable design that feels like you're wearing nothing on your feet. With different footbed options and a comparison chart, Bedrock makes it easy to find the perfect fit. The Vibram soles provide excellent grip on various terrains, making them suitable for both hiking and running. The Bedrock Cairn is the most popular and highest-rated sandal on the REI website.

Earth Runners Circadian Adventure

Earth Runners Circadian Adventure:

  • Thickness: 9mm
  • Weight: 5.9 oz per sandal
  • Best for: Adventurers wanting a barefoot terrain feel

Earth Runners is a sustainable brand that offers excellent barefoot sandals. Their Circadian Adventure sandals provide a close-to-the-ground fit, allowing you to feel the full variety of terrain beneath your feet. With various color and lacing options, you can easily dress up or down with these lightweight and durable sandals. Earth Runners are perfect for outdoor activities and everyday wear, making them a versatile choice for minimalist enthusiasts.

Unshoes Pah Tempe 2.0 strap-on footwear

Unshoes Pah Tempe 2.0:

  • Thickness: 8mm
  • Weight: 6.3 oz per sandal
  • Best for: Hiking, running, backpacking, everyday wear in wet conditions

Handmade in the US, Unshoes Pah Tempe 2.0 is a great minimalist sandal for wet conditions. These strap-on sandals offer a stylish look with zero-drop support. The Pah Tempe is comfortable, versatile, and perfect for hiking or running in various weather conditions. Unshoes also has a range of minimalist styles, including options for children. The company is committed to sustainability and provides informative FAQs on their website.

Chala Classic minimalist barefoot thong

Chala Classic:

  • Thickness: 3.6mm
  • Weight: Not listed but super light!
  • Best for: Everyday wear

The Chala Classic sandals are simple, versatile, and timeless. With their wide range of color and style options, you can easily find a pair that complements any outfit. These sandals feature double-layer leather soles designed to last for multiple summers of daily wear. While suitable for running, they are especially great for everyday use. Chala is a German brand that adheres to strict production standards, ensuring high-quality products with transparent origins.

Shamma Warriors ultralight footwear

Shamma Warriors:

  • Thickness: 5-6mm
  • Weight: 3 oz per sandal
  • Best for: Ultralight running, hiking, backpacking, and travel

For those who prioritize lightweight footwear, the Shamma Warriors are the perfect choice. These sandals are incredibly light yet durable enough for running, hiking, and high-mileage travel. The Warriors are the lightest sandals on the market and provide a no-frills experience without sacrificing performance. With rubber and leather versions available, you can choose the material that suits your needs. Shamma is a made-in-the-USA brand renowned for their quality and attention to detail.

Best Sandals for Children

Earth Runners barefoot sandal for children

Earth Runners for Kids:

  • Thickness: 8mm, 9mm, or 12mm depending on the sole
  • Weight: 3.5 - 3.9 oz (single child sandal)
  • Best for: Active kids who want a flexible, easy-to-slip-on-and-off shoe

Children can also enjoy the benefits of minimalist sandals. Earth Runners offer a range of sandals specifically designed for kids. These sandals promote healthy foot development from a young age and come in various sole thicknesses and strap designs. Earth Runners is a company that values sustainability and supports the Tarahumara people of the Copper Canyons in northern Mexico. By purchasing their sandals, you're not only benefitting your child but also contributing to a meaningful cause.

Our Criteria for Reviewing Sandals

Up-close shot of the Vibram sole of the Luna Oso Flacco running footwear

When reviewing these sandals, we considered various factors to determine their quality and performance:

  • Zero-Drop vs. 'Standard' Style: We examined the benefits of zero-drop sandals and their ability to provide a connected barefoot feel.
  • Comfort & Fit: We ensured that all the sandals on our list are comfortable and flexible, giving your feet the support they need.
  • Materials: The minimalist design requires top-notch materials to ensure durability and performance.
  • Strap Style: We explored different strap styles to accommodate different preferences and needs.
  • Sole Thickness: The thickness of the sole plays a crucial role in providing the right balance of protection and ground feel.
  • Durability: While minimalist sandals may not last as long as standard shoes, we selected sandals made from durable materials.
  • Weight: The weight of the sandals is an essential consideration, as lightweight footwear can enhance performance and reduce fatigue.
  • Price: We considered the price range of the sandals, taking into account the quality and features they offer.

Pros and Cons of Barefoot Sandals

After thorough evaluation, here are some pros and cons of minimalist barefoot sandals:

Pros

  • Barefoot Feel: Minimalist sandals provide a grounded sensation while protecting your feet from debris.
  • Lightweight: The reduced weight of these sandals alleviates strain on your legs, making them comfortable for long-term wear.
  • Minimalist Style: The simple, timeless design of these sandals ensures they never go out of fashion.

Cons

  • Longevity: Due to their minimalist construction, these sandals may not last as long as traditional footwear.
  • Visibility of Feet: If you're self-conscious about your feet, minimalist sandals may expose more than you'd like.

Final Thoughts: 2023's Best Minimalist Barefoot Sandals for Running and Hiking

Above view of two feet wearing a pair of black LUNA brand minimalist trail running sandals

The sandals mentioned in this article are our top choices for both runners and hikers in 2023. Consider the pros and cons of each sandal and select the one that aligns with your preferences and needs. Embrace the natural feel and benefits of minimalist sandals on your next outdoor adventure or urban walk.

Zero-drop sandals are an excellent option for strengthening your feet and improving your running gait. For post-workout recovery, consider investing in running recovery sandals like the Hoka ORA Recovery Slide. These sandals provide cushioning and comfort for your tired feet.

Stick with reputable brands such as Xero, Bedrock, Luna, Earth Runners, Shamma, Teva, or Chaco. These companies are known for their high-quality minimalist barefoot running sandals. Remember, footwear is an industry of continuous innovation, and there will always be new options available. However, you can't go wrong with any of the sandals on our list.

Last Updated on July 19, 2023.

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