Minimalist Shoe Brand Comparison & Breakdown

Date Posted: 25 May 2019

With the minimalist movement exploding and such a large variety of minimalist shoes available, staff member Shaun provides a breakdown of the advantages of the different minimalist shoe brands.

Keep in mind I still actively wear most brands we stock of barefoot shoes so none are better than others. Just because I personally prefer it for an activity you might find your mileage varying due to fit.

Starting with Xero because these are really the best first barefoot shoe. They offer a very small amount of padding compared to other brands, which is great for a gentle transition to concrete. The high volume and decent width also make them the most accommodating shoe for problem shaped feet. I use these mostly for basic exercise activities such as walking the dog at the end of a long day of work or rock climbing when my feet are a little bit sore. The downsides is that the small amount of padding runs hotter than other brands and personally they aren’t the best looking shoes.


True barefoot shoes with absolutely no padding and an ultra-wide toe box - leave these for the diehard fans. They have so many models and colours that you are sure to find something that looks great either in the gym or at work. Their design and style really do look significantly better than other brands, even making some leather dress shoes for those who want comfort on their feet while wearing a suit. The only real complaints are they can feel sloppy if you have a skinny foot - and the price tag - but it’s simply worth it. Personally, I don’t use them for exercise: these are my dress shoes for all occasions.


These are the narrow true barefoot option for those who want a snug fit. Wide toe boxes are extremely popular but when doing parkour, martial arts or any kind of hyper intense gym exercises you really want to feel secure in your shoes so Merrell shines here. They also use Vibram rubber, the same rubber company that is used on rock climbing shoes and mountaineering boots. This makes them super popular for things like Ninja Warrior.


Vibram Fivefingers
These are my go-to shoes for anything technical. If I’m hiking, gardening, working on the roof or walking the dogs through the creek I’m wearing my Vibram Fivefingers. They have the best traction and control of any barefoot shoe. They should do too as they are the glove to your feet the way other brands are an oven mitt. The biggest downsides of these shoes are it’s very particular to get the fit right, socks must be toe socks and if you wear them in public you WILL get questions. Thankfully social occasions don’t usually require the Vibram Fivefingers level of function. You’ll also collect long grass between the toes occasionally, but this is a price much worth paying.