Cleat options for barefoot enthusiasts by
Updated: Oct 24
Barefoot enthusiasts have been searching for a shoe, which seems to be mysterious and somewhat elusive... A "barefoot cleat". Whether it's for parents seeking shoes for their children, or for the athletes themselves - specific ball sports such as, Baseball, Rugby, Soccer, & American football require a cleat with treads/spikes, in order to optimize a change in direction at a moment's notice. Unfortunately, for most barefoot enthusiasts, wearing a non-barefoot shoe is akin to undermining their own ideology, and when having to do certain activities requiring alternative footwear, this can cause a problem.
Most cleats are notorious for their extremely narrow fit, tight toe-box, and inflexible sole. The reasons behind the narrow toe-box is in order to assist in cutting (changing direction on a field); the shoe acts as a snug extension of your foot, which in turn ensures that your toes don't slip, or move around. With this being said for those of us who have wider feet and a nice splay there are some options out there.
One other thing to note, is I don't recommend competing in your high-level sport in the below mentioned cleat alternatives of these as they are not good for the rigors of the sport. However, what I do recommend is practicing in them, in order to achieve better foot stability, mobility and strength.
One of the most popular barefoot brands on the market; Vivobarefoot has designed a number of shoes targeted at trail runners. The trail range comes in both SG (Soft Ground) and FG (Firm Ground) soles, and are particularly useful for trail runners/hikers facing a myriad of terrain, such as grass, snow and mud. The SG sole has 5mm lugs, providing an adequate amount of traction on turf. Furthermore, I have personally used these, and am happy with the result on turf and grass. However, it is important to note that due to Vivos wide toe-box, your toes can slip when changing direction.
Pictured below is the Primus Trail SG Mens (available in womens also). It is priced at $160 USD and available in sizes US7-US15. Click here to view on the Vivobarefoot website.
You can use our Code VIVOTBSR for 10% off!
If you want a bit more traction than the Primus Trail SG for turf, then the newest grippiest tread the ESC is what you are looking for. Still lightweight and flexible but an upgrade on the previous soft ground model.
What is noticeably helpful here is the heel counter which helps with lateral stability.
Having it sit slightly higher on the ankle makes it similar to many cleats that football players wear. You can also swap out the quick zip laces for regular ones.
You can find it here and you can use our code VIVOTBSR to save 10%.
It also looks like this model has been discounted but you can still find it on some sites or stores of Vivobarefoot or on Amazon here.
Recently Vivo has rereleased this model in a different color called the Hydra Esc. It essentially functions the same and can be found here Code VIVOTBSR
3. Inov-8 X-Talon series
Inov -8 is renown amongst CrossFiters and obstacle racers, and they design a variety of different styles.Their X-Talon series have aggressive 8mm spikes on them, which are designed for obstacles such as mud. One thing to note however, is that the X-Talon series has a drop of 3-8mm, run narrow and therefore are not a true minimalist shoe.
X-Talon 260 Ultra. Click here to view.
X-Talon G235. Click here to view.
X-Talon G210. Click here to view.
After Speaking with Chad the Owner of Codefootwear here what we pulled up.
After receiving foot scans, our cleats also require a couple measurement photos and some personal data points; height, weight, level of activity/sport, as well as your current and past favorite pairs of footwear worn on and off field. All that info determines how we engineer your personal pair to have just the right amount of flexibility/stiffness. All cleats are zero drop and made to flex under mid foot. We also include varying levels of toe spacers to be worn with and without shoes. Our 3D code work allows us to not only make the cleat fit your exact volume and toe shapes.. but allows us to dial the toe box shape to fit with a toe spacer being worn inside cleats. This gives a huge advantage (if your feet are strong enough) to finally cater to someone with strong feet and allow them to be fully splayed, and not slide around The price varies largely because of the time and material needed to print a small kids shoe vs. an adult with large feet. Cleats also come with custom insoles that have a space where you can swap out 1 of 5 foam pieces of varying heights. Not meant as a piece to prop your arch up.. it’s soft and domed and allows transverse arch to engage more some people like it, some hate it, that’s why the option is there to tune it to your specific needs. Same with toe spacers. They can be worn in between one or all toes, and can be mix matched for user preference. The cleat itself is made of various levels of TPU in the upper for lightweight containment. Slip on fit means no break in, yet can be cinched up with laces for even better performance. Interior utilizes a 1 piece seamless microfiber for ultimate touch on the ball and a textured insole to keep you from slipping around inside cleats. Our goal is to provide the best cleats you’ll ever experience no matter your age, weight, or skill level.
The cleats are currently available here for custom order on their website.
After personally testing these, these are likely the best cleat one can ask for in the current barefoot market. The major cons are the price cost and the production time.
Softstar hand makes some of the softest flexible shoes out there all out of their workshop in Oregan. Their Megagrip Outsole is Vibram's grippiest sole yet and results in an extremely soft flexible shoe with an extremely rugged sole, due to the upper being a very soft leather, it's crucial that you be careful not to get stepped on or cleated while in this, but it can be a great option for solo agility drills or team practices. We chose the custom option and got to choose all the color schemes and the mega grip outsole. We chose Blue & White for our country and an orange stripe for the local tackle Football Team we play for.
They can be found here.
7. Altra Lone Peak 4
Altra is a popular minimalist shoe brand based in the US. They don't produce truly barefoot shoes, however, all their shoes are zero-drop, and include a wide toe-box. Fortunately, Altra also cater to trail runners, and produce excellent trail shoes, albeit with a bit more padding, when compared to other brands. Their trail shoes range from approximately 25-33mm, with sizing running from approximately US 7 - 15. The Lone Peak for is currently priced at $105 USD.
Click here to view the Lone Peak 4, in addition to other Altra trail shoes.
Another true cleat Alternative that has popped up on the Scene is Natur Athletics, specializing initially in Youth sizes they plan to expand to a full adult sizing range and also are releasing minimalist basketball shoes. Their plan is to launch their Kickstarter in September 2022. What is really unique is their patent pending cleat plate system which will prevent pressure points from the spikes underneath the rubber outsole. We will keep providing more information on these as we receive it.
Update: October 2022, Their Kickstarter is fully launched, and you can back their campaign and receive pair of youth, minimalist cleats, adult cleats or youth basketball shoes. Their campaign is going until November 13th, 2022.
Update: Unfortunately, the Kickstarter camping did not hit its goal, but they are looking for alternative funding.
Update March 2023: Pre orders are now available for both adult and youth cleats and basketball sneakers.
Update October 2023: After personally testing these, we have found them decent on firm ground or grass and ok on turf. They are very wide, resulting in toe spacers required otherwise you slip.
With 25% off all pre orders.
Link can be found here
This is a new Release of vivo and after some testing is quite promising, it has a more lugged sole then their popular firm ground model and is coated with circular lugs making it quite grippy on regular grass or artificial turf. We tested it in 2 sizes, one based on sizing chart and one size smaller. Both fit us well, with the smaller size working better because of its added snugness (but not too snug) it allows for optimal force transfer to the ground with minimal slipping in the toe box or heel. It features a slip on wool upper along with leather edging to make both a water repellent and beautifully aesthetic functional shoe. While it is designed as an all-around shoe and even trail runner, we have found this excellent for playing sports in on turf/grass.
We also reviewed it in full here.
You can find it here on Vivobarefoot and can use discount code VIVOTBSR FOR 10% OFF.
10. Free Kicks is a soccer specific turf shoe and cleat model meant for youth and adult soccer players; its niche is its sticky upper meant for ball handling. It plans to be released mid 2024.
FreeKicks are the 1st true soccer barefoot style shoe. Designed by a lifelong passionate soccer player/trainer Nico Vaccaro. The main characteristics of the Freekicks are
a wider toe box, flexible outsole, zero drop, and with a fly knit upper material. The wider toe box is a few mm wider on each side strategically shaped through extensive R&D to find the sweet spot between comfort and performance. The toe box will not only let your toes splay naturally but will also hug your foot like a true soccer boot and allow maximum ball feel. The flexibility of the shoe is not over the top as well with just the right amount of give but can also fold in your hand. The upper fly knit is the same you’ll find on any “top brand” soccer cleats on the market. It wraps around your foot for a snug one-piece sock-like fit and runs up the ankle excelling touch on the ball without comprising the foots natural function. The outsole texture for both the turf and cleats is a durable rubber. The turfs pattern and configuration give an excellent grip on artificial grass as well as dry grass and the cleats are recommended for wet artificial grass as well as dry and wet grass.
Icarus Footwear also plans on releasing a cleat with a leather upper mid 2024, more details coming soon.
The main reason behind why barefoot cleats have been slow to the scene is due to a wide toe-box having the ability to cause slipping of the foot. In addition to this, the barefoot market is a niche, and people within that market requiring cleats would be of low demand, which would not be worth investing in for most companies.
Perhaps one solution could be to educate sports professionals of the benefits of barefoot footwear, however it would be extremely difficult to convince professionals to sacrifice their performance for the sake of foot health.
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