Cleat options for barefoot enthusiasts by Sean Haber
Updated: Mar 10
Barefoot enthusiasts have been searching for a shoe, which seems to be mysterious and somewhat elusive... A "barefoot cleat". Whether its for parents seeking shoes for their children, or for the athletes themselves - specific ball sports such as Gridiron, Rugby, Soccer require a cleat with treads/spikes, in order to optimize a change in direction at a moments 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 sport in any 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.
1. Vivobarefoot SG (Soft Ground) Range
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.
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2. Inov-8 Bare grip 200
This is the only truly minimalist shoe which actually mimics a cleat. Unfortunately, Inov-8 no longer produces this model, but you may still be able to find it on alternative sites, such as Amazon.
It is completely zero drop, and void of any arch support, in addition to thick aggressive lugs designed for mud and/or obstacle racing. I have never personally used this shoe, but its been recommended to me by a lot of people.
Click here to view.
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.
A company in 2015 which promised a barefoot custom made soccer cleats using 3d printing from a scan of your own feet. Unfortunately, it seems they've experienced delays in production.
The good recent news is Prevolve has now merged with Code2footwear and are now continuing their project.
The cleats are available to pre order on their site. Click here to view.
3ms, or 3 motion sole (neutral, plantar flexion and dorsiflexion) was a startup company which designed a prototype for a barefoot soccer cleat, providing a true barefoot soccer shoe. Unfortunately, there have been no updates besides a rumour of a partnership with Softstar, so perhaps the idea has been scrapped.
6. 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 company has appeared on the Scene recently called Naturathletics which is specializing in minimalist field cleats and basket ball sneakers for youth.
More information will be released when we get it.
The main reason behind why barefoot cleats have not been created 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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