Barefoot Shoes Hiking Gear

9 Best Barefoot Hiking Boots – Zero-drop, Wide Toe Box and Comfortable

September 27, 2021
Barefoot Hiking Boots by Xero Shoes, Vivobarefoot and Lems

It’s time to ditch those heavy, clunky hiking boots and opt for something healthier for your feet. These barefoot hiking boots are lightweight with a wide toe box and flexible, zero drop soles.  

Do you love hiking, but not the sore feet, blisters, and cramped toes that can come with walking for miles along a trail? After a multi-day backpacking trip in what I thought was a good pair of hiking boots, my feet were sore and my toes hurt. I knew there had to be a better option, so I started researching.

Soon, I realized that all of the things most traditional shoe companies point to as making the shoe better or more comfortable were actually the problem. I didn’t need more arch support, more ankle support, a thicker sole, or more padding. I needed a lighter, simpler shoe that was going to let my foot move naturally. So, I switched out my shoes for a pair of barefoot hiking boots, and my feet have been so much happier ever since. 

In this post I’ve covered what to avoid in hiking boots, what to look for, and the best barefoot hiking boots on the market right now.

Barefoot Hiking Boots by Xero Shoes, Vivobarefoot and Lems

All of these barefoot hiking boots feature a wide, naturally-shaped toe box and zero-drop, flexible soles

Why Traditional Hiking Boots are Hurting Your Feet

How long do you have to wear this pair of hiking boots to “break them in” so they stop giving you blisters and cramping your toes?

Traditional Hiking Boots

Not sure? Well, no amount of wear is going to widen a narrow shoe and toe box, and they’re probably not going to get lighter or more flexible either. Sure, these boots might soften up, but these have a few design flaws no amount of wear will ever fix. They’ll actually make your feet worse for wear.  The more you wear them, the more your feet start to mold to this shape. 

1 The toe box is narrow, pointed, and shaped nothing like natural feet. Every time you wear these boots, your big toe cannot stay in its natural, straightforward position. Instead, it will be forced to curve inward. With enough wear, your toe could become permanently crooked. You may even start develop bunions, which can be super painful!

The tightness of the toe box forces other toes together and downward, leading to more crooked toes or hammertoes. None of that is pretty, fun, or comfortable.

2 These shoes are heeled. You probably wouldn’t wear high heels out on a mountain trail, but most hiking boots have about a 10mm heel raise between the front of the boot and the back.  

A raised heel puts your body into an unnatural position by overloading your forefoot and knees and tilting your pelvis. This can cause pain and soreness all the way up through your neck as your body redistributes the pressure to places it would never naturally be.

3 These soles are inflexible. You might think you’re getting necessary support, but you’re really just not allowing your feet to naturally move. Arch support and stiff footbeds are kind of like putting your foot into a cast. I broke my arm once and while it was in a cast my arm atrophied into a tiny muscle-less twig. When your feet don’t get the chance to support themselves, they atrophy leading to weak joints, muscles and connective tissues.

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What to Look For in Barefoot Hiking Boots

Over the last year or two, the barefoot shoe market has expanded quickly, and now there are a lot of solid options if you’re looking for barefoot hiking boots. All of the hiking boots on this list meet the following criteria:

  • Wide toe box: All of these barefoot hiking boots have a wide, natural ly shaped toe box. No squished or cramped toes here. 
  • Zero drop: No raised heels, arch support, or any other unnatural changes to the footbed. Your feet will rest in a flat, neutral position, just like they were meant to.
  • Thin and Flexible: The thickness of the sole ranges from boot to boot. Some prioritize ground feel, while other try to provide more cushion and comfort while still allowing feet to move naturally. The more I’ve worn barefoot shoes, the more I love thinner soles. If you’re just starting out with minimalist footwear, you may prefer a shoe with a thicker sole. I’ve noted outsole thickness and total stack height so it’s easier to see which boots will provide better ground feel compared to those that will provide more cushion.  

This table lists a quick summary of the best barefoot hiking boots included on this post. For more detailed information, sizing tips and discount codes, read the section regarding each shoe below the table.

Barefoot Hiking Boots

 

PRODUCT

FEATURES

PRICE

 
Vivobarefoot Tracker FG Hiking Boots Vivobarefoot Tracker II FG
  • Waterproof
  • Lugs on sole made for hiking and extra traction
  • Leather
  • Removable thermal insole
  • Code NMB10 for 10% off
$240 Shop Now
Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest ESC Barefoot Hiking Boots Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest ESC
  • Water-resistant
  • Leather
  • Greater flexibility and grip compared to Tracker II FG
  • Code NMB10 for 10% off
$220 Shop Now
Freet_Kidepo_Barefoot_Hiking_Shoes Freet Kidepo
  • Breathable mesh uppers made from recycled coffee grounds
  • Code KELLY10 for 10% off
$130 Shop Now
Freet Mudee Minimalist Hiking Boots Freet Mudee

 

  • Water-resistant microfiber uppers
  • Freet’s GripPlus outsole
  • Code KELLY10 for 10% off
$150 Shop Now
Xero Shoes Excusion Fusion are wide toe hiking boots Xero Shoes Xcursion Fusion
  • Waterproof
  • Rugged chevron tread
  • TrailFoam layer for comfort on rocky trails
$150 Shop Now
Lems Boulder Boots are Minimalist Hiking Boots with Zero Drop sole and Wide toe box Lems Boulder Boots
  • Waterproof, leather, and nylon versions
  • 9mm air injection rubber soles
  • Good for those who prefer more cushion
$120 – $165 Shop Now
Be Lenka Trailwalkers | Barefoot Hiking Shoes Be Lenka Trailwalker  

  • Breathable suede leather
  • Grippy Tread
  • Very minimal soles to “rewild” your feet
$199 Shop Now
Be Lenka Ranger Boots are Barefoot Winter Hiking Boots Be Lenka Ranger Boots
  • Waterproof
  • Leather
  • Fleece-lined inside for colder weather
$199 Shop Now

1 Vivobarefoot Tracker II FG

Waterproof | outsole + lugs: 6.5mm | Leather Uppers  

Retail $240 | Discount code NMB10

The Tracker II FGs are Vivobarefoot’s fully waterproof hiking boot. They have a classic, rugged look, similar to many of the most popular hiking boots. But, they’re so much better for your feet!

The Trackers are barefoot hiking boots with thin, zero drop soles and a foot-shaped toe box. I’d give these a pretty solid rating in regards to flexibility – they fold up into a ball fairly easily.

The uppers are treated leather with sealed seams and an inner membrane to make them waterproof. These boots also have a removable thermal insole for extra warmth.

The outsole has a 2.5mm base and 4mm lugs featuring Vivobarefoot’s hex flex design. I’ve found this means good ground feel, but the grip isn’t compromised. They’ve performed well in both wet and dry conditions and over various terrain, including rocks and mud.

Fit and sizing

To determine your size for Vivobarefoot’s Tracker FG 2.0 boots:

1 Start with Vivo’s digital fit kit. This tool is on their website under the sizing area for the shoe. To use, take a picture of your foot on a blank piece of paper via the app. It analyzes the photo, then gives you a sizing suggestion. Make sure to do with both feet as it considers both length and width. I recommend going through the process at least two or three times with your longer foot to confirm your results. I did it three times and got two different answers. While it’s ballpark, it may not be spot on. The size that ended up fitting the best was the answer I got twice.  
 
2 If you have a pair of Vivobarefoot sneakers, you’ll want to get at least this size, and maybe size up.
 
3 The big question: should you size up? The digital fit kit would give me my “normal” size and then my “Tracker” size which was always one size up. This suggests that everyone should size up in the Trackers. I initially did order the larger size, but found it to be too big. After I tried on my typical size, it confirmed that the size up was way too big for me. See photo 2 and 3 for size EU 39 (US8) compared to size EU 38 (US7.5).
 
4 The Trackers are slightly larger than Vivo sneakers in the same size. The sneakers fit me just right with no socks/thin socks, and the Trackers have a bit of extra room for thicker socks.

I included a few photos comparing size 38 Trackers to size 38 Primus Trail shoes on my Instagram. You can see the Trackers outsole and insole are both slightly longer (photos 5 and 6). This made sense then as to why my typical size would then fit in the Trackers.

5 These Vivobarefoot boots are wider than a traditional hiking boot, but on the narrower end of the spectrum when it comes to barefoot shoes. If you do not have particularly wide feet,  Vivobarefoot may be a great brand for you. If you have wider feet and are female, opt for the men’s version.  

➳ Shop Now: Mens | Womens

Vivobarefoot Tracker FG Barefoot Hiking Boots
Vivobarefoot Tracker FG Barefoot Hiking Boots

Vivobarefoot Tracker FGs Hiking Boots

2 Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest ESC

Water-resistant | outsole + lugs: 9.5mm | Leather Uppers  

Retail $240 | Discount code NMB10

The Tracker’s have been one of Vivobarefoot’s most popular barefoot hiking boots for awhile now, and this season Vivo added a new version to the lineup. The Tracker Forest ESC varies from the original Tracker FG in a few ways:

-it’s water-resistant, not fully waterproof

-more aggressive lug pattern designed for more traction on steep inclines/declines

The Tracker Forest ESC is basically meant to handle even rougher terrain plus give you more flexibility and breathability. The tradeoff is that these barefoot hiking boots are water-resistant, not fully waterproof. But if your focus is on better performance on backcountry trails, then the Tracker Forest ESC may be your better bet.

The soles feature a 2.5mm base and 7mm lug height made of high-performance rubber. As part of Vivobarefoot’s sustainability efforts, the leather uppers are sourced from small farms with free-roam cattle.

➳ Shop Now: Mens | Womens

Vivobarefoot Tracker Forest ESC Hiking Boots

3 Freet Kidepo

Breathable | 4 mm outsole | Mesh Uppers  

Retail $130 | Discount code KELLY10

Freet is a British company launched in 2011 with a mission to free your feet! Their initial 4+1 patented design featured a separate space for the big toe to allow it to move independently. Freet also has a full line of barefoot shoes with the more standard five-toe toe box, including the Kidepo.  

The Kidepo is a lightweight, barefoot, wide toe box hiking boot. The mesh uppers are made from recycled coffee grounds. This innovative knit fabric is lightweight, durable, super breathable, antimicrobial and quick drying.

The Freet Kidepo’s are an excellent option if you’re looking for a vegan barefoot hiking boot that is great for warmer weather. They’re not waterproof, but work well for hiking through water and need your shoes to dry out quickly.  

These barefoot hiking boots have a 6.5mm stack height, comprised of a 4mm outsole and 2.5mm insole. The insole is removable, but provided a bit of cushion and shock absorption. Even with the insole, these have good ground feel.

You can purchase these directly from Freet and get 10% off using the code KELLY10. If you’re based in the US, you can also order them from online retailer PedTerra, which offers free shipping and free returns. Use code NOMANBEFORE for 10% off at PedTerra.

Fit and sizing

Freet barefoot shoes tend to fit those with wide, high-volume feet best. Sizing is unisex. The size can vary a bit from model to model, so check the measurements at the bottom of each shoe page.  I typically wear a size EU 38, and opted for a size 38 here. My longest foot measurement is about 233mm, and the 38s have a 240mm insole. The toe box is very roomy as the mesh uppers curve out and up, so you have even more room beyond the insole.

➳ Shop Now: FreetPedTerra

Freet Kidepo Minimalist Hiking Boots

4 Freet Mudee Boots

Water-resistant | 4 mm outsole | Microfiber Uppers  

Retail $150 | Discount code KELLY10

The Freet Mudee is a water-resistant hiking boot, made for all kinds of weather. The uppers have the appearance of leather, but are actually an advanced hydrophobic microfiber material. This makes them breathable, durable, water-resistant, and because it’s hydrophobic, they actually shed water.

These barefoot hiking boots have a 7mm stack height, comprised of a 4mm outsole and 3mm insole. There are also 6mm insoles available for purchase separately if you prefer a bit more cushion and distance between you and the ground. The outsole has what Freet calls its GripPlus performance, designed to take you from mountain to town.

You can purchase these directly from Freet and get 10% off using the code KELLY10. If you’re based in the US, you can also order them from online retailer PedTerra, which offers free shipping and free returns. Use code NOMANBEFORE for 10% off at PedTerra.

➳ Shop Now: FreetPedTerra

Freet Mudee Barefoot Hiking Boots

5 Xero Shoes DayLite Hiker Fusion

Breathable | outsole + lugs: 9 mm 

Textile Uppers | Retail $120 

Xero Shoes is a popular US-based barefoot shoe company. They started by making super minimal huarache sandals, and now offer a full lineup of barefoot shoes. Most of their shoes still reference back to the original huarache design, with many of the sneakers and boots featuring Huarache-inspired tension straps either on the outside of the shoe or tucked underneath the outer layers.

The DayLite Hikers are lightweight, breathable hiking boots. The soles are 5.5mm FeelTrue® rubber with 3.5mm chevron lugs that give you both good grip and ground feel. These have a little bit of extra padding Xero calls its “TrailFoam” to make those rocky trails more comfortable.

Xero Shoes sells their barefoot hiking boots direct-to-consumer on their website and through REI (if you’re based in the US). REI is a great option for their free shipping and generous return policy. REI has a 100% satisfaction guaranteed policy, so if the boots are the wrong size or they are not performing as expected, you can return them for a replacement or full refund within one year of purchase. 

Fit and Sizing

These are wide toe box hiking boots, but some people find Xero Shoes to have an overall narrower fit compared to other brands.  I typically wear size US7.5/EU38, and found that these fit true to size. However, I have narrower feet. Xero notes on their website to order a half size up, so this may be to compensate for a narrower fit. If you’re female and have wider feet, opt for a half size up or the Men’s version which run wider. 

➳ Shop Now: Xero Shoes | REI

6 Xero Shoes Xcursion Fusion

Waterproof | outsole + lugs: 9 mm

Lined Mesh Uppers | Retail $150 

If your focus is on a barefoot hiking boot for winter, then the rugged Xero Shoes Xcursion Boots are a great option.  They’re very simple in style and form to the DayLight Hiker Fusion above, but they’re fully waterproof. These barefoot hiking boots have a protective toe cap, seam-sealed inner bootie, and a water-resistant membrane lining the exterior mesh. I wore these for a week in the snow — the waterproof membrane works great.  

The bottoms feature Xero’s chevron tread with 3.5mm lugs for decent grip. They also have the additional TrailFoam padding in the insole. These are super lightweight at just 9.6oz per boot with not a lot of extra padding around your foot. I still found that these  were warm enough for the most part with a pair of good wool socks. See comments above in the Daylite Hiker section about fit and sizing.

The Xcursion Fusions are available on Xero Shoes website and through REI (for those based in the US). As I mentioned above, REI is a great option for their free shipping and generous return policy.

➳ Shop Now: Xero Shoes | REI

Xero Shoes Excursions Fusion Barefoot Hiking Boots with Wide Toe Box

Waterproof barefoot Boots - The Xero Shoes Xcursion Boot

7 Lems Boulder Boots

Waterproof version| outsole: 9 mm |

Leather or Nylon Uppers | Retail $120 to $165

Lems’ Boulder Boot is an all-around awesome barefoot boot. Lems dubs them as the world’s most packable boot, so if you’re looking for something that’s versatile and great for light hiking, these are a great pair of boots to bring along on a trip.  

The Boulder Boots are excellent wide toe box hiking boots with a fairly square shape. They’re really roomy and you should have a lot of space for your toes to wiggle.

The soles are 9mm air injection rubber. This means they’re really lightweight, but do put a bit more space between you and the ground compared to some of the other barefoot hiking boots on this list. If you prefer having some cushion but want a wide toe box zero drop hiking boot, then the Lems Boulder Boots are a good way to go.  

These boots do have some traction and are good for light hiking, but you may want to opt for something with more grip if you’re preparing for more technical or slippery conditions.  

The Boulder Boots are one of Lems most popular shoes. They’ve expanded the line up in the last few years, so you’ve got a lot of options when it comes to materials and boot height. 

  • Leather Boulder Boots – these full-grain leather boots are the originals.  
  • Vegan Boulder Boots – come in full nylon, or nylon with vegan leather accents.
  • Waterproof Boulder Boots – These minimalist boots have oiled, water-repellant leather uppers and a gusseted tongue to keep the water out. To extend the extend the water-repellant finish on the leather, Lems recommends using Otter Wax. If you plan on using your boots in a lot of rain and snow, then I definitely recommend getting the waterproof version. There is no extra lining for warmth, so you’ll need to pair these with some warm wool socks.
  • Boulder Boot Mid – If you are looking for a mid-cut boot, then you’re in luck! In late 2020, Lems released the Boulder Boot Mid in both leather and nylon. Just note that neither are waterproof.

Fit and sizing

The Boulder Boots are one of the widest minimal boots out there, especially in the toe box. Refer to Lems sizing chart to determine your correct size, but I’ve found the leather and vegan boots to be true to size. Lems recommends ordering a half size up for the Waterproof boots. I’m between sizes according to the size chart, so I ordering a full size up, and they do feel a tad big. A half size up would likely be the right size for most people.  

➳ Shop Now: Mens | Womens

Lems Boulder Boots Minimalist Winter Boots

Minimalist winter boots by Lems

Lems Boulder Boots feature a wide toe box

8 Be Lenka Trailwalker

Breathable | outsole: 4 mm  

Suede Leather Uppers | Retail $199  

Be Lenka is a barefoot shoe brand that has greatly expanded its options over the last two years. They added children’s shoes, sandals, winter boots, and launched a hiking-specific shoe in summer 2021. The Be Lenka Trailwalker is more hiking shoe than boot, but if you’re hardcore minimalist about everything but a grippy tread, these could be for you.  

The thin, flexible soles are designed to rewild your feet and bring you closer to nature along the trails. These hiking shoes have a total stack height of 4mm as there is no padded insole.  

Fit and sizing

Be Lenka shoes tend to fit wide feet best. I’ve typically found them true to size based on their size chart. 

➳ Shop Now: Be Lenka

Be Lenka Trailwalker hiking shoes

9 Be Lenka Ranger Boots

Waterproof | outsole: 4 mm  

Nubuck Leather Uppers | Retail $199  

The Rangers are Be Lenka’s new 2021 rugged winter boots. With grippy rubber soles and fleece-lined insides, they make great barefoot hiking boots during colder months. The smooth nubuck leather is coupled with a protective inner membrane to make these fully waterproof.  

Belenka Barefoot sole shape

Be Lenka redid its sole shape in late 2021, and these Ranger hiking boots use the new sole. If you previously found the toe shape to curve too far over before, the new versions have a straighter edge on the big toe side. These have just as much room if not more in the toe box now.  

➳ Shop Now: Be Lenka

Be Lenka Ranger Barefoot Winter Boots

Other Options for Barefoot Hiking Boots

The ones listed above include brands and shoes I’ve tested and loved. If these aren’t quite what you’re looking for, here are a few more options to consider if you’re still on the hunt for minimalist hiking boots with flexible soles and a wide toe box.

Altra Lone Peak Hiker – Altra isn’t very minimalist when it comes to padding, but they do feature zero drop soles and a wide toe box. If you’re transitioning to barefoot shoes or prefer more cushion, then Altra’s Lone Peak Hikers are a good option. They have a 25mm stack height and a grippy, durable outsole.

Joe Nimble wanderToes 2.0 – These leather boots feature zero drop, 10mm rubber soles with great grip. 

SoftStar Switchback – These minimalist hiking boots are in the works, set to be released in Fall 2021. I love SoftStar’s leather moccasins and sandals, so I can’t wait to try these ones out. Like a number of SoftStar’s other shoes, these will be offered in regular and wide widths, so these are a great option if you have wider feet.

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The Best Barefoot Hiking Boots

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