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Options for Barefoot style hiking boots

I'm interested in knowing what other options are out there for barefoot hiking boots. I currently have Xero Shoes Daylight Hiker, but I know Vivobarefoot makes a couple styles. What do you wear?

7 Replies

my first reaction was "what the heck is a barefoot hiking boot" lol. 

So of course I 'googled' it and saw their site and read this:

"Free your feet in the toughest, wildest environments nature has to offer. Barefoot hiking allows your feet to sense the changing terrain, making every step a vital one and enhancing your experience of the great outdoors.  With minimal hiking shoes your brain is engaged with every foot placement improving balance and reconnecting you with your true potential."

so to just opine for a sec, I've been going in probably the opposite direction, to get the most padded and comfortable shoe on the market (shout out to hoka's).

carrying a pack, for hours, on especially rocky terrain (aka the AT here on the Right Coast in VA), man, you start to feel every rock. 

I personally don't want to feel every rock, or really, any rock.

I think some the trail-runners actually have a steel shank, probably for this purpose.

So, in conclusion, sore feet aren't going to 'enhance my experience', and I can sense the changing terrain by just...wait for it...looking at it.

therefore, I wholeheartedly endorse, more, not less, foot protection.

ps - the one time I tried the much 'ballyhooed' Altra's and put them on to walk around the block, on a sidewalk, I felt every minuscule undulation in the concrete no less.  Man! those where back in the box and returned ASAP!

so, in conclusion, no really, my advice to save your $$ and look for shoes that will protect you feet.

happy trails and good luck

REI Member Since 1979

Thanks for your opinion. I actually already have, wear, and love my barefoot boots. I know there are other people out there who feel the same. I'm hoping to hear from those who do.


just out of curiosity....What is the heaviest load and how far have you hiked, in  barefoot boots?  Wondering about the parameters of this style.....

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one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

I've carried at least 20ish pounds for 8-10 miles so far. I wouldn't call that a limitation of the boots, though. I just haven't carried more than that. I spend nearly all of my time barefoot, though, or in barefoot shoes. It's definitely not something one should just decide to do one day; it takes time to strengthen one's feet and legs.


Good On Ya Mate for being anomalous. Peoples around the world, including from primitive cultures, prefer having some version of footwear when carrying a load typically. I have witnessed all kinds of modifications to footwear just to have something underneath your foot when carrying a pack.

I have had training as a custom boot fitter. I have made orthotic devices for shoes for chiropractors and some podiatry patients. In my years of experience I have witnessed a couple of fads of companies making footwear with almost no support.

Many of these companies have endured legal troubles due to claims they have made on the health benefits of their footwear. Most companies that make such footwear go out of business due to both lack of demand and legal problems.

In my own experience I have spoken with chiropractors and podiatrists who have complained about such products being put onto the market. Very few people have been walking barefoot for most of their lives and are in a condition to wear such shoes. Structurally a very high percentage of caucasians have very weak and misaligned bones in their foot and lower leg which make walking even in shoes challenging.

Many people have endured permanent damage to their lower legs because of attempts to follow certain fads of more free living. If you need to do that barefoot, fine. I am free with the freedom of spirit. I am free with the freedom of the hills. I walk barefoot too, just not very much, and never when I carry a pack.

In some ways I see this similar to asking for a recommendation on a favorite cigarette.

btw, thanks for making me look up 'anomalous', lol

REI Member Since 1979

As an archaeologist, I wish to offer a slightly different perspective.  Years ago, I directed extensive excavations at a cliff dwelling in Canyon de Chelly National Monument with superb preservation of normally perishable material.

We recovered 406 examples of woven fiber sandals, in ll conditions, from new to worn out.  Evidently folks either wore sandals or went barefoot in dealing with very challenging terrain.  Some of the toe and handhold trails rate today as 5.8/5.9 and they did not have sticky rubber!

I wonder if wear analysis of such sandals, coupled with analysis of ankle and leg bones from available burials, might offer insights into physical adaptations of a population without recourse to leather footgear.  Ought to be a worthy dissertation topic....

Getting about in Canyon de Chelly is still interesting.  My preferred footgear became army surplus Vietnam boots, chopped down.  These were good for walking on the wet sands and streams of the canyon bottoms and were decent at climbing the trails leading out, some of which were pretty tricky.  I never tried barefoot, tenderfoot that I am, but I suspect bare feet, properly callused, would do quite well on wet, rain soaked sandstone.

We recovered some sandals with patterned "traction knots" on the soles.  Might these have been prehistoric rock shoes.  Time for experimentation!!

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.