We trawled the web to find the most popular minimalist shoe brands for key benefits including comfort, style, value for money, and eco-friendliness (because it’s 2023 and we should care how the things we buy are made).
The last thing you want is to blow $$ on a pair of ugly shoes that make people point and laugh, or worse fall apart in a month.
Say goodbye to uncomfortable, short-lived shoes, and embrace healthy, happy feet with these 7 outstanding options.
But if 7 sounds like too many to choose from (decision fatigue is real, I hear you), these are our top three picks.
Xero Shoes offers a 5,000-mile sole warranty on their shoes. (That’s twice the length of the Appalachian Trail!) They also have over 61,000 5-star reviews. Right!?
Bunny-huggers (that’s us too!) will love the ‘feels’ of Feelgrounds’ commitment to using responsibly sourced 100% animal-free materials.
Vivobarefoot offers a 100-day trial period. Take these babies out for a walk or run and if you’re not happy, you can return them for a full refund. How cool?
What Are the Best Minimalist Shoes for Everyday Use?
Gone are the days of ugly minimal footwear options. Do a quick search on Google and you’ll be rewarded with a plethora of stylish and comfortable shoes to choose from.
Now that you no longer risk ridicule at the office, your only problem is figuring out what shoe to choose. To make your life easier, we’ve done the research and narrowed it down to these eco-conscious barefoot shoe brands.
1. Xero Shoes
Image Credit: Xero Shoes
Xero Shoes nearly didn’t make it onto this list. They’re such a well-known brand I automatically (and wrongly) assumed they wouldn’t be as mindful as their lesser-known counterparts.
I know, super judgy of me.
As it turns out, Xero founders Steven Sashen and Lena Phoenix care as much about the environment as the other minimalist shoemakers on this list.
Their range of minimalist shoes includes brightly colored casual sneakers, boots, girly pumps, sandals, and kid’s kicks. For sports and outdoor fanatics, they also have a variety of running, walking, hiking, and gym shoes.
I mean, you really don’t have to look any further, which I suppose is why Xero Shoes is our best overall pick. Talk about a one-stop shop!
- Wide Toe Box: Lets your toes spread and relax
- Super Flexible: Your feet are able to bend and flex naturally
- Zero Drop: Non-elevated heel for proper posture
- Natural Motion: Their patented FeelTrue sole protects your foot while giving your brain the feedback it requires
Our Top Pick: Xero HFS – Lightweight Running Shoe
Xero Shoes’ HFS has a flexible rubber sole, breathable mesh upper (no smelly feet), and wide toe box (no blisters). They’re billed as barefoot running shoes, but we think they’d work just as well as casual wear.
Pros and Cons of Xero Shoes
Xero Shoes come highly recommended by minimalist shoe wearers all over the world. You just need to read through their reviews to see how truly awesome these shoes are. Couple that with the brand’s commitment to foot health and environment-first approach to doing business and it’s easy to see why they’re everyone’s favorite.
Image Credit: Feelgrounds
The are a bunch of reasons why Feelgrounds made it onto this roundup, but the fact that their shoes are 100% vegan is right at the tippy top of that list.
Sustainability, fair business practices, and transparency are essential values for these guys. Feelgrounds’ Vietnam-based team of highly skilled workers are of age, well-insured, and receive a salary above the regional average.
In a world where child labor and dodgy working conditions are still the norm, it’s heartening to see just how serious Feelgrounds is about doing right by their workers and the environment.
They use recycled materials as much as possible and have independent testing institutes, like SGS, regularly test and approve the safety of their products.
Along with low tops, high tops, and slip-ons, the Feelgrounds range of minimalist shoes also includes barefoot sandals, sneakers, and winter boots. As everyday shoes go, these definitely cover the bases.
- Thin Outsole: Gives your feet the sensory feedback they crave (thick soles are like typing in oven mitts)
- Wide Toe Box: Allows your toes some much-needed freedom (let’s leave pointy shoes in the 80s where they belong)
- Zero Drop: Flat soles promote upright posture, which can prevent knee, hip and back pain*
- Flexible: Soft, flexible soles make for natural walking patterns (gliding vs robotic movement)
*This was one of the main benefits Sporty experienced after transitioning to Vibram FiveFingers.
Feelgrounds shoes are moderately priced compared to other barefoot shoes in the market. Starting from $89 for sandals and going up to $159 for winter boots. Slip-ons are around $109 and sneakers are $129.
Our Pick: Feelgrounds Original Knit
Feelgrounds’ Original Knit sneakers offer a natural walking experience without compromising on style. The shoe’s knit upper is treated with water-repellent, making it the perfect commute sneaker (no soggy, wet feet at the office). They’re ideal for everyday casual wear in spring and autumn (or any season if you live in South Africa).
Pros and Cons of Feelgrounds Shoes
Feelground shoes strike the balance between comfort, style, and ethical practices, making them a popular choice in the barefoot shoe market.
Image Credit: Vivobarefoot
Vivobarefoot is my number one choice for a casual minimalist shoe you can wear every day. As a brand, they’re very heavily focused on sustainability. Treading lightly on the Earth and making shoes that are healthy for the people who wear them is at the core of everything they do.
While I absolutely adored my Primus Lites, I’m equally enamored with my Primus Trails, which I’ve had since December 2020. They definitely served me well while we were living on the farm and they’re holding their own on the trails around town as well.
- Thin Soles: Provides maximum sensory feedback for your feet
- Wide Toe Box: Promotes natural foot function
- Puncture-Resistant: The Pro5 Puncture Resistant finish keeps the painful bits out, while still letting the feeling in
- Highly Durable: These shoes are built to last*
*I have a club foot. My 3cm leg length discrepancy means I have an uneven gait, so I’m I’m pretty hard on my shoes. Despite this, I wore my Primus Lites solidly for two years before they gave up the ghost.
Vivobarefoot shoes can be a bit pricey, with women’s and men’s styles ranging from $130 to $240. Kids’ styles range from $60 to $95. However, Vivobarefoot offers a 100-day trial period, so you can make sure the shoes are right for you.
Our Pick: Vivobarefoot Primus Lite Knit
The Primus Lite Knit is ideal for active lifestyle wear and low-intensity workouts: weight and strength training, calisthenics, animal flow and light road running. Plus, how cute!?
Pros and Cons of Vivobarefoot Shoes
Vivobarefoot brings a mix of sustainability, comfort, and style to the barefoot shoe market, making them a solid choice for any minimalist shoe enthusiast.
On the Wish List: Vivobarefoot Geo Racer
The Geo Racer’s newly engineered knit upper offers an ultra-lightweight design that works effortlessly from the ground up. Whatever, I just like how they look.
4. Ahinsa Shoes
Image Credit: Ahinsa Shoes
Ahinsa Shoes tick all our personal ethos boxes. They’re 100% vegan, ethically produced, and handmade to last. Pretty much the antithesis of fast fashion. Oh, and as promised in the post title, they ain’t ugly either!
Ahinsa offers an extensive range of minimal, comfort, and barefoot shoes for all occasions, with a strong focus on everyday use. You could wear them to work, on a date, to the movies, or out to dinner.
If you’d prefer to go with a more individualist look, they even offer a custom-made option where you get your own unique design courtesy of Petr Jáchym.
- Non-Slip Sole: Proven to be up to 2.5 times more grippy than normal outsoles
- High-Tech Materials: We’re talking breathable, waterproof, and abrasion-resistant
- Super Lightweight: One pair of size 41 Ahinsa shoes weighs 450g
- Thin Outsole: They measure only 2mm, but won’t wear through
Priced in Euros, Ahinsa shoes range from €119 to €270. Sandals and ballet flats are on the lower end of the scale, while boots will set you back around €169-269. Sports shoes (running and hiking) hover around the €200 mark.
Our Pick: Ahinsa Bindu 2 Airnet Sneakers
Ahinsa’s Bindu 2 Airnet barefoot sneakers are available in beige, blue, and black, which means they can mix ‘n match with pretty much anything. Except maybe lime green. But, since it’s not the 90s that’s not an issue.
Pros and Cons of Ahinsa Shoes
Ahinsa Shoes is known for producing high-quality, ethically-made footwear. They’re a favorite amongst minimalist shoe lovers who appreciate their commitment to vegan, ethical practices. Like anything (except maybe coffee), they have pros and cons.
Image Credit: Bohempia
Founded in 2015 by Tomas Rohal, Bohempia’s main goal is to promote environmental and social sustainability in fashion. With a strong focus on bringing hemp back to mainstream use, their unique range of barefoot shoes and other apparel is produced in family-owned high-standard factories in the EU.
Bohempia’s range of barefoot shoes is largely casual, though a few of them have the potential to be paired with a smarter outfit. We’re talking low tops, high tops, and slip-ons in a variety of colors.
Bohempia is also the first Czech fashion brand to attain PETA certification as a vegan brand. High fives!
- 100% Vegan: PETA-certified
- Durable and Flexible: This means they’re comfy for the long haul
- Sustainable Materials: Made from hemp, natural rubber, and/or advanced microfibre Ultrasuede®
- Removable Insole: In case you want even more of a barefoot feeling
- Wide Toe Box: Ample room for the toesies
If you’re looking for more affordable barefoot shoes, Bohempia is worth considering. Ranging in price from €109 to €139, they’re definitely cheaper than some other minimalist shoe brands.
The slip-ons are on the lower end of the scale, while the high tops and some of the unique designs tend to be a bit more expensive. (Sign up for their newsletter and you’ll receive 5% off your first order.)
Our Pick: Bohempia Hemp Barefoot Kolda
The Hemp Barefoot Kolda is available in two widths (standard and wide). The hemp canvas upper is light and breathable and the natural rubber sole is thin and flexible. Plus, they’re red and pretty cute.
Pros and Cons of Bohempia Shoes
Bohempia provides a unique, hemp-based alternative to more traditional shoe materials. This aligns with their dedication to sustainability and ethical practices, making them a favorite among eco-conscious minimalists.
Image Credit: Groundies
The name alone makes us want to buy a pair of these casual barefoot shoes. While they do use leather to make some of their shoes, Groundies also offers an extensive range of vegan options.
With durability being a key point of sustainability, the guys at Groundies have made it their mission to produce barefoot shoes that are made to last. Oh, and they’re also climate-neutral.
Groundies offer a range of styles for everyone, including sneakers, boots, casual shoes, and girly slip-ons for those of you who aren’t all about being practical like Sporty and me. For guys, the Palermo could easily be worn as dress shoes.
Check out their FAQs page to find out more about sizing, materials and production, returns, warranties, shipping, what makes Groundies special, and most importantly, whether or not they’ll keep your feet warm in winter.
- TrueSense® Sole: Super flexible. Hello, good posture and stability!
- Zero Drop: The completely flat sole mimics the natural barefoot position
- Lightweight: There’s absolutely nothing clunky or heavy about these shoes
- Wide Toe Box: A toe-friendly, anatomical fit means greater stability and fewer
Groundies shoes are priced similarly to Feelgrounds, ranging from €89 for casual styles and up to €139 for boots. They’re not shy with their sales either. You’ll often find items discounted by as much as 50%.
Our Pick: Groundies Women’s Grounds Vision
These are perfect for everyday casual wear. They’d go great with jeans, chinos, or even a summer frock. Although, we can’t say for sure about the latter since we’re not frock gals.
Pros and Cons of Groundies Shoes
Groundies bring a blend of style, durability, and environmental consciousness to their shoe range, adding their unique touch to the barefoot shoe market.
Image Credit: Tadeevo
Tadeevo says they are a small company and want to stay that way. (Right off the bat that makes us love them.) Their aim is not mass production, they simply want to make ultra-minimalist shoes for people who consciously choose natural movement.
Tadeevo shoes are zero drop, lightweight, breathable, and sport a wide-toe box. Everything you want from a minimalist shoe. Their vegan range of barefoot minimalist shoes is free from any animal products, by-products, or animal-derived ingredients.
Their range of minimalist shoes includes casual low tops, boots, and girly pumps for the ladies. Given the free shipping, I’m inclined to try a pair of these as soon as my Vivobarefoot shoes wear out in, oh, I don’t know, the next decade or so.
Tadeevo’s FAQ page is as minimalist as their shoes, but you’ll find everything you need to know about the brand and their policies. They offer a 30-day money-back guarantee and FREE shipping worldwide.
- Minimalist design and structure: Promoting natural movement
- Altura Zero® sole: Ensures maximum flexibility and sensory feedback
- Lightweight and breathable: For added comfort
- Extensive choice: Casual and formal styles
- Kids range: Lots of options for toddlers and children
- Vegan options: Plenty of options available for those following a plant-based lifestyle
- Big sizes: Available in 48-53
Tadeevo shoes are priced competitively, with ballet pumps starting at $119 and going up to $174 for rugged boots. Toddler booties will set you back around $43 and kids’ shoes about $99. As a customer-friendly company, they offer free worldwide shipping.
Our Pick: Tadeevo Bliss Vegan Orange
Tadeevo Bliss is the epitome of natural ultra minimalism. Everything about this shoe is aimed to give your feet freedom. It has no artificial stabilization and features a natural barefoot-like movement. Plus, cute and jaunty.
Pros and Cons of Tadeevo Shoes
Tadeevo brings a mix of ethical practices, minimalist design, durability, and comfort, making them a unique choice in the barefoot shoe market.
What Are Minimalist Shoes For Everyday?
These shoes are designed with a wide toe box that allows your toes to spread out naturally, preventing problems like bunions and hammer toes. The soles are super thin and flexible, which means the gazillion nerves in our human feet are in touch with the ground. Finally, minimalist shoes are flat. They have zero drop. So, whether you’re strolling through town or tackling your daily errands, minimalist shoes for are all about keeping your feet comfy, looking good, and connected to the world around you.
How Can Minimalist Shoes For Everyday Benefit You?
These shoes are light and airy, you can hardly feel you’re wearing shoes. Their light materials and designed ventilation, help keep your feet cool, dry, and comfortable throughout the day.
The flat and flexible design lets your foot strike more naturally. This helps align your body and optimizes your overall posture. The muscles in your feet and lower legs are activated, encouraging better balance and stability, and making every step feel more grounded.
The use of minimalist shoes is not just limited to casual strolls or errands. They can be worn for all sorts of activities like light hiking, yoga, or even workplaces that allow for more casual footwear. Their design provides you with the benefits of comfort, style, and functionality all in one shoe.
Buyers Guide: How We Conducted Our Research
We poured wine and made snacks before scouring the interwebs to find the best, most eco-conscious minimal shoe brands for your shopping pleasure. We used these criteria to whittle down our list:
- Quality and comfort: Will the shoes look good and be kind to your feet?
- Durability: Are the shoes made to be the opposite of planned obsolescence and fast fashion?
- Sustainability: Is the material mindfully sourced so that it won’t hurt you or the planet?
- Fair and honest employment: Do the brands treat the people who work for them with dignity and respect?
FAQs About Casual Barefoot Shoes
If you’re only just learning about minimal footwear you probably have plenty of questions. I’ll do my best to address some of the most common ones below. However, since I made a point of featuring mainly eco-conscious brands, I’ll start by explaining why supporting them is so important.
Why support eco-conscious brands?
It might be easier and cheaper at the moment to buy your shoes from big-name brands that don’t prioritize things like sustainability, fair trade, and paying their workers a liveable wage.
But, that convenience comes at a cost to the environment and the workers. The only way to change things is by supporting the small, eco-conscious businesses and ignoring the big guys.
Put another way, by supporting eco-conscious brands you become a part of the global eco-wakening that’s driving sustainability. Also, if you’re looking for ways to live more sustainably, this is a super easy win. (It’s definitely easier than eco-bricking your single-use plastic or living off-grid in the middle of nowhere.)
What are zero-drop shoes?
I should point out that minimalist and zero-drop shoes aren’t the same thing. Zero-drop means there’s no difference in height between the heel and the toes. However, a zero-drop shoe can still have a super thick sole.
It can get a little confusing when you’re first venturing into minimalist shoe territory, but if you aim for a wide-toe box and a thin, flexible, and flat sole, you’ll be fine. Opting for a lightweight shoe also adds to the experience.
If you’re a complete newbie, be sure to check out my post on the best minimalist shoes we’ve found for running, walking, and hiking. In it, I explain how to transition to minimalist footwear without injuring yourself.
Hint: you need to take your time.
Can you fix feet issues caused by wearing regular shoes?
Regular shoes generally narrow towards the front, squashing your toes together. The heel stack also means your feet are never flat. Plus, the soles are usually quite thick, preventing your feet from connecting with the ground you’re walking on.
Now, you might say, “Ang, isn’t the whole point of wearing shoes to prevent your feet from touching the ground?”
Yes, but not to the point that you cut off all communication. Think of it like this. Imagine if your doctor put on a pair of oven mitts to examine you. Not going to work, is it? It’s a similar theory to shoes. You want the protection so your feet aren’t exposed to dog poop and thorns, but it needs to be thin enough to notice when you step on something.
Sensory feedback is vital. Our feet are endowed with more than 200,000 nerve endings, which they use to send vital information about the terrain we’re traversing to the brain. The cushioned barrier in conventional shoes hinders this.
Fixing the issues caused by traditional footwear can be tricky, so consulting a podiatrist is the best place to start. Walking barefoot on grass or indoors is always a good idea, as is replacing your ‘not so great footwear’ with something more minimalist.
Investing in a pair of toe separators can help straighten your toes and prevent overlap if that’s something you struggle with. I bought some recently and they’ve already made a difference to my runs. I didn’t suffer from foot pain per sé, but my toes would protest on the longer runs.
Final Thoughts on Minimal and Barefoot Footwear
Minimalist shoes are a great investment for anyone looking to improve their posture and reduce the risk of injury. Not only do they promote natural movement, but they also offer a stylish and eco-friendly alternative to traditional footwear. (And they pair well with a minimalist wardrobe.)
By choosing one of these eco-conscious brands, you can feel good about your purchase knowing that you’re supporting companies that prioritize sustainability and ethical production practices. Even better, you get to thumb your nose at the fast fashion industry.
So go ahead and take the leap into minimalist shoe territory—your feet (and the planet) will thank you!