• barefootshoereview

The Ultimate Guide to Hiking in Minimalist Footwear

Updated: Aug 8


Congratulations on taking the first step in unlocking your superhuman power, allowing your foot to strengthen itself and function most optimally. Say goodbye to sprained ankles and and say hello to strong resilient feet.

While spending time moving in minimalist footwear is a huge step towards unlocking your foot function, a wide variety of strength and mobility exercises can obviously help as well.

You can see our Strength training for runners and hikers program here & our Barefoot Transition Course here.


The book "Born to Run" inspired the barefoot running craze, but I believe the more appropriate term would be "Born to Walk" (which is also a great book btw). Think of how effortless walking is compared to other activities. There is a reason why sprint lengths are only 100-400 meters whereas people can hike trails that are thousands of kilometers long. Humans actually evolved to walk, and so I believe the correct term should be born to walk. In the military we were carrying loads of 40-80% of our body weight and I still believe that one of the best functional movements you can do is walk with weight.

And what better way to walk or hike while allowing our feet to function fully with minimalist footwear?!


Without further ado... drum roll or toe wiggle please...

Let's jump right into the best minimalist shoes for hiking!


I like to divide minimalist hiking footwear into 3 categories.


1. Sandals or most minimal = These are great for advanced barefooter's or for shorter hikes.

2. Low ankle = Sits like a regular sneaker and does not have 'ankle support'.

3. High ankle = Has a cuff that sits higher than the ankle. Sometimes this can restrict mobility a bit even in a flexible shoe. These mimic conventional hiking boots the most, or at least in appearance.

We test and rate each shoe and recommend whether its for beginner or more advanced barefooter's. We also discuss its traction and sole thickness.

__________________________________________________________________________________


1. Sandals


Earth Runners Sandal


One of our favorite sandals due to its minimalist lacing system, as well as 3 different sole thickness options making it suitable for beginners and intermediates alike.

There are also 2 types of straps, the Lifestyle ones which are slightly softer and require less break in time, whereas the Adventures ones are slightly stiffer but more stretchy.

It is important to note, due to its minimalist style and thong strap, the foot has to work quite hard when wearing these, specifically in the thinnest model, so despite being a very experienced hiker I am significantly slower in these when hiking.

Flexibility: High

Sole Thickness: 8/9/12

Waterproof: yes

Price: 70-92$

Website: Earthrunners.com

Discount Code: TBSR10 for 10 % off.

Sample Review: Earth Runners Review

Beginner friendly: Alpha model 12mm

Intermediate/Advanced: Elemental model 8mm or Circadian model 9mm

Vegan: Yes

__________________________________________________________________________


Shamma Sandals


Shamma has a beautiful variety of sandals, but our favorite one to hike in is the Apha/Alpha Le model. With a Z strap and a toe post, this sandal remains firmly attached to your feet every step of the way. Having a sandal that is very firmly attached to your foot can make it significantly easier to walk and run especially with added load. We found the Alpha model with the rubber foot-bed to be more ideal for hikes on hotter days since the Alpha Le with the leather foot-bed can feel a bit sweaty. Shamma also has a variety of thong strap sandals. We recommend getting a power strap (which they sell separately) to secure it better to the foot. This helps avoid the common problem of the sandal 'flopping around' which can happen with the thong strap models but can be mitigated with the power straps.

Flexibility: Medium

Sole Thickness: 12mm

Waterproof: Yes

Price: 110/125$

Website: Shammasandals.com

Discount Code: Stay tuned for their seasonal sales!

Sample Review: Shamma Sandals Review

Beginner friendly? Yes. For a more minimalist sole check out their thinner models.

Vegan: Alpha Model

______________________________________________________________________


Xero Shoes: Xero Trail


Xero is known for its variety of hiking sandals, the Z Trail was the first minimalist sandal we ever hiked in. 130km later we were grateful we chose the Z Trail, it has enough thickness to help beginners and is quite similar to Source and Chacos but thinner and zero drop. The Z strap can cause some lateral sliding and sometimes a bit of chafing, but overall it is a great sandal to start out with.

Flexibility: High

Sole Thickness: 10 mm

Waterproof: Yes

Price: 80$

Website: Xeroshoes.com

Discount Code: Stay tuned for their seasonal sales!

Sample Review: Xero Naboso Trail

Beginner friendly? Yes

Vegan: Yes


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Xero Trek


The Xero trek and cloud models are for more experienced barefooters and are some of the thinnest sandals out there. We have traveled abroad and trekked for weeks in only these, but there have been some issues with them and they can rip/tear in certain places and the last thing you want is your only hiking shoe ripping on you (and then you have to do the rest of the hike actually barefoot ;)

Flexibility: High

Sole Thickness: 6mm

Waterproof: yes

Price: 50$

Website: Xeroshoes.com

Discount Code: Stay tuned for their seasonal sales!

Sample Review: Aqua Cloud Review

Beginner friendly? No

Vegan: Yes


__________________________________________________________________________________


2. Low Ankle Boots


This category is where I recommend most people to start out, in particular because they don’t restrict ankle mobility. Choosing sole thickness will depend on how far you are in your barefoot journey.

Be Lenka Trail Walker


This is probably the most minimal hiking shoe out there, with a thickness of 4 mm, excellent traction and flexibility, it can tackle even the most challenging terrains. I find myself reaching for this shoe again and again even when it's sandal season.

Flexibility: High

Sole Thickness: 4mm

Waterproof: No

Price: 180$

Website: Belenka.com

Discount Code: Thebarefootshoereview for 5% off.

Beginner friendly? No

Vegan: No


__________________________________________________________________________________


Xero Terraflex 2

This was a welcome upgrade and a recent release from Xero's 2022 spring collection. With good traction, their TrueFeel sole, and a breathable mesh upper, we have used these for both longer hikes and trail running. The sole has plenty of thickness for those new to the barefoot world and it can be used as a hybrid sneaker as well.

Flexibility: Medium

Sole Thickness: 9mm, insole adds another 3mm

Waterproof: No

Price: 120$

Website: Xeroshoes.com

Discount Code: Stay tuned for their seasonal sales!

Sample Review: Xero Terraflex 2 Review

Beginner Friendly? Yes- especially with the insole

Vegan: Yes

__________________________________________________________________________________


Vivobarefoot Primus Soft Ground

Vivobarefoot is similar to the above shoe. The Vivobarefoot Primus Soft Ground was the first minimalist shoe I hiked in. It has great lugs which can be good for any sort of terrain, especially softer surfaces like mud, low snow, or loose rocks. They have a wide toe box and is super easy to slip on and off with a zip lace system.

Flexibility: High

Sole Thickness: 5+2.5mm lugs

Waterproof: No

Price: 195$

Website: Vivobarefoot.com

Discount Code: TBSR10 for 10 % off.

Beginner friendly: No

Vegan: Yes

__________________________________________________________________________________


Freet Feldom

The Freets are a beloved brand in the minimalist hiking world and they have yet to disappoint. They share the same sole type with the Ibex model and are one of the grippiest shoes out there that is still a low boot.

Flexibility: High

Sole Thickness: 10.5mm, 8mm without insole

Waterproof: No

Price: $103

Website: Freetbarefoot.com

Discount Code: TBSR 10 % off.

Beginner friendly? Yes- especially with the insole

Vegan: Yes

_________________________________________________________________________________


3. High Ankle boots.


In general I’m not a huge boot person, I don’t like how they restrict ankle mobility even if they are minimal and flexible. The concept of ankle support has not been proven to reduce ankle injuries, while strong feet and ankles do. With that being said, if high ankles are your thing, be it rough terrain, weather, or simply for aesthetic reasons, here is your go to list.


Freet Mudee


I truly rave about this shoe, its slipper like feel and the added insole made it my favorite hiking shoe for quite some time. While it does sit higher on the foot than the previous model/category, I did not find it restrictive in any way. After hitting the 500 kilometer mark in these, I switched to the Ibex model (see next shoe). This model is being released with the same sole as the Ibex and Tundra later in the year.

Flexibility: High

Sole Thickness: 7mm, 4mm without insole

Waterproof: yes

Price: 130$

Website: Freetbarefoot.com

Discount Code: TBSR 10 % off.

Sample Review: Freet Mudee Review

Beginner Friendly? Yes, especially with insole

Vegan: Yes

_________________________________________________________________________________


Freet Ibex


The Ibex is the Mudee’s rugged older brother, it is slightly higher up on the ankle, is leather, a bit stiffer, and has the new TrueFeel grip sole. While I normally refrain from hiking in these types of shoe, on my most recent 90 kilometer trek which was mostly wet and muddy terrain, the sole grip came super in handy. These are waterproof and it comes in a vegan option called the Tundra.

Flexibility: Medium

Sole Thickness: 11mm, 9mm without the insole

Waterproof: yes

Price: 225$

Website: Freetbarefoot.com

Discount Code: TBSR 10 % off.

Sample Review: Freet Ibex Review

Beginner friendly: Yes, especially with the insole

Vegan: No, the Tundra model is vegan.

__________________________________________________________________________________


Vivobarefoot Tracker

The Tracker is a fan favorite. I had these for a few months after which I felt they were too much boot for me. I find them very similar to the Ibex in feel with even more stiffness especially around the ankle. I also used these in the army reserves at times. I love the forest green color and they are the priciest boot in this round up.

Flexibility: Medium

Sole Thickness: 2.5 + 4mm lugs, additional 2mm with the insole.

Waterproof: Yes

Price: 260$

Website: Vivobarefoot.com

Discount Code: TBSR10 for 10 % off.

Beginner Friendly: Yes, with insole

Vegan: No

_______________________________________________________________________________


Lems Outlander

The Outlander is one of the thickest models in this roundup. The Outlander is also probably one of the more stylish boots in this collection. Can pass off as a sexy winter boot while actually rugged enough to hike in. This is one of Lem's new releases and is a welcome addition to the Lem's collection due to their grippy sole.

Flexibility: Medium

Sole Thickness: 16mm

Waterproof: yes

Price: 190$

Website: Lemsshoes.com

Discount Code: TBSR 10 % off.

Sample Review: Lems Outlander Review

Beginner friendly? Very

Vegan: No

__________________________________________________________________________________


Soft Star Switchback

This boot is really cool and has the look of a combat boot. Its sole is super super super grippy. In fact, as you can see in picture, it looks the like the upper was fused onto the sole allowing no discomfort and no bruised toes when rock scrambling.

Flexibility: High

Sole Thickness: 6mm

Waterproof: Water Resistant

Price: 270$

Website: Softstarshoes.com

Discount Code: Stay tuned for their seasonal sales!

Beginner friendly: Yes

Vegan: Yes


__________________________________________________________________________________


Magna Trail



Similar to the tracker but sits more on the mid ankle, this is many people's first go to hiking

boot. With a very sleek aesthetic look and a nice grippy sole, these give enough support but not too much ankle restriction. These are a fan favorite all around versatile shoe, combining aesthetics and ruggedness without being too restrictive.

Flexibility: High

Sole Thickness: 2.5 + 4mm lugs, 2mm insole

Waterproof: Water Resistant

Price: 210$

Website: Vivobarefoot.com

Discount Code: TBSR 10 % off.

Beginner friendly: Yes

Vegan: No

__________________________________________________________________________________


Xero Alpine

These sit much higher up on the ankle than I like and are a bit stiff for a minimalist shoe but they make up for that in warmth. They are the perfect companion for snow hiking and will ensure your little piggies stay warm even in the coldest temperatures. We got this after attempting a knee deep snow hike in the Freet Mudee unsuccessfully.

Flexibility: Medium

Sole Thickness: 5.5mm

Waterproof: Uber waterpoof

Price: 160$

Website: Xeroshoes.com

Discount Code: Stay tuned for their seasonal sales!

Beginner friendly? Yes

Vegan: Yes


__________________________________________________________________________________


My personal favorites and most used from this list:


1. Favorite Sandal - Earth runners all around versatility for any condition, minimalism, ease of slipping on and off and different sole thickness options.

2. Favorite Low Boot- Vivobarefoot Soft Ground (largely as its niche use as a cleat alternative)

3. Favorite High Boot - Mudee because of its comfort, thin yet comfortable sole and slipper like feel.


Happy Hiking

Sean & Sara