Barefoot shoes for exercising and sports? Yes! Here are their benefits
Barefoot for exercising? We're all in! With barefoot shoes, you’ll enjoy better performance, balance and even deeper breathing. How do they benefit you? And what barefoot shoes should you wear to the gym, yoga or jogging? Let’s take a look.
It’s not about the sole – it’s about freedom
We know barefoot shoes as the “ones with the thin soles” or even “sole-less shoes”. But the sole is less important than you’d think.
Good barefoot shoes will free your feet so you can wear them just as if you were walking barefoot. This is their main advantage: freedom. In barefoot shoes, nothing will pinch, constrict or chafe you. Only then can you get maximum performance.
Reading tip: Are you someone who doesn’t believe the myths about barefoot shoes? Read the article 14 myths on barefoot shoes and why they aren’t “those shoes with the thin soles“.
Enjoy the freedom. Put on natural shoes.
How do you recognize good barefoot shoes for sports?
Just looking at the shoes from all sides is enough. How do you know you’ve found the right ones? They’ll have:
- Generous room for the toes. You’re relying on your toes to rebound and using them to cushion impacts – that’s why they need enough space.
- Light materials. After a few kilometers of running, a person can feel even an extra 100g.
- Flexible sole. Barefoot shoes have to copy your movement.
- Breathable upper. We’ve tried and tested the durable AirNet mesh and CoolMax lining, which wicks away sweat from the feet.
- Indestructible material. For example, you won’t scratch the CF+ vegan leather even if you tried.
- Comfort for the heel. Don’t forgive your shoes for wearing down your heels. Not even with a new pair.
- Zero drop. Heels on your shoes or extra material under your own will tilt your body forward and change the way it behaves while playing sports.
- A sole that allows you to feel. When your foot “sees” the terrain, it can react to it in time.
- Grip. Good barefoot shoes will keep you stable on both asphalt or a wet gym floor.
We make Ahinsa shoes with soles that are light, flexible and hold tight even to wet asphalt. For our Chitra Trail nature shoes, we even used top-of-the-line Vibram soles.
Benefits of playing sports in barefoot shoes: Maximum performance, minimum injury
People have been running and exercising for two million years. But modern running shoes have only been with us since the 1970s. How did people use to run? More naturally. We’ve evolved to walk barefoot and run in a way that benefits us more than moving around in a padded shoe.
Less injuries, better performance and great balance. That’s what walking barefoot and wearing barefoot shoes means.
How can playing sports in barefoot shoes benefit you?
- Less injuries. A free foot can react in time to new situations.
- Better performance. You’re utilizing the strength of your toes and the full transmission of power over your joints.
- Better balance. The brain gains information for balance from the soles of your feet.
- Natural positioning. Proper positioning of the feet spreads throughout the body, straightening and relaxing it.
- Good mood. Walking barefoot stimulates brain centers and improves mood.
- Healthy joints. The bones link up to one another with the right positioning. The joints wear down less and are prepared to react to new situations.
- A reliable base. Put your weight down on the whole foot, including your toes, and your feet will truly be carrying you.
How are barefoot shoes and breathing during sports connected?
At the beginning of the article, we mentioned being able to enjoy deeper breathing. How is that possible?
Just try it. Stand up barefoot on both feet. Make sure they’re in the same position as in the video below. Now put your all weight on them. Feel how they’re carrying you. And what else happens?
You straighten up.
You raise your head, stick out your chest and align your spine. You’re not slouching, and that’s why you can make full use of your lung capacity. And you know how important that is while playing sports.
But posture like this is only possible in barefoot shoes that respect the shape and function of your feet. You won’t experience this in modern athletic sneakers.
Did you know that breathing stimulates organ function? When you activate it, you’re supporting your metabolism.
Barefoot running shoes: Examine the sole
How to choose barefoot running shoes? Think about what terrain you run in most often.
For nature, rocks and forest, we recommend the Chitra Trail running shoes. We’ve improved them to include a Vibram sole, which grips the terrain and won’t let go.
The Vibram sole grips on any terrain.
For the city or park, you’ll love Chitra Run barefoot shoes. Our new patented Hexa 4 Grip sole will ensure firm footing, even on wet asphalt.
Barefoot Chitra Run shoes are ideal for the city.
Look for shoes with a wide toe box. The toes reflect the whole body, and that’s why they need space. But you don’t have to go looking for toe shoes for running – just giving your toes enough room is enough.
Reading tip: Most of us have forgotten how to run naturally. Before you set out into the terrain in barefoot shoes, read our guide for runners and non-runners on How to Start Running Barefoot.
➡️ Beginners – add a special insert into your barefoot shoes
Not used to barefoot running? Start slowly. We humans have evolved to run barefoot, but after years of wearing narrow shoes, we’ve forgotten how. We step down hard on our heels and hurt our joints.
That’s why we recommend the Ahinsa Comfort series for beginners. Compared to barefoot shoes, they have a special foam insole. It’ll soften your steps but won’t prevent your toes from rebounding.
Barefoot shoes to the fitness center, CrossFit and gym
When exercising in the gym or fitness center, you’re putting a lot of weight on your feet. In CrossFit shoes, you’re jumping onto escalated surfaces and you want to be sure you won’t fall.
It’s simple: You’ll need the best possible contact with the ground.
That’s why you should focus on barefoot shoes with a flexible, thin sole. Check to see that it’s flexible in all directions. In shoes like these, your feet will grip a step just as if they were barefoot.
Physiotherapist Lukáš Klimpera points out that the main thing you need while working out is a reliable base. That’s why you should look for shoes that will give you the maximum amount of room:
“Although we focus on a certain part of the body when we’re exercising, working out should take place on a stable base,” he says.
We recommend barefoot shoes for fitness and Ahinsa AirNet shoes for the gym. The durable mesh will keep your feet dry and comfortable while the flexible sole holds you up.
Ahinsa Bindu AirNet shoes are breathable and will hold you firmly to the ground.
For group sessions and indoor sports, we recommend barefoot Chitra Run sneakers with white soles.
We recommend white soles for indoor sports. You can count on them not to leave streaks across the floor.
Our tip: You don’t need special shoes for doing squats, CrossFit or weight-lifting. You can do it all with flexible barefoot shoes with a reliable sole.
Barefoot shoes for yoga: The best shoes are no shoes at all
Yoga is linked to breathing. And as we’ve shown, your shoes also influence how you breathe. Classic athletic shoes will change your posture. They’ll make you stand hunched with your chest in, limiting breathing.
So, the best shoes for yoga are… no shoes at all. If you’re exercising at home, in the garden or on your mat in the studio, feel free to take your shoes off.
Are you heading to the park and don’t feel up to exercising barefoot? Put on barefoot shoes for yoga that won’t limit the feet. Ones that are spacious, ultra-light and flexible. There won’t be any risk of hard impacts on the heel, and that’s why a minimal insole or none at all will suffice.
For yoga, we recommend Ahinsa AirNet barefoot shoes. The upper is made of mesh, which lets fresh air in to the foot. The sole will adapt to your needs in any āsana and will hold firmly in place when you need to put your weight on the feet.
Yoga and barefoot shoes are about freedom of movement. Choose shoes that will give it to you.
Barefoot trekking shoes: The ankles need freedom, not hiking boots
If you’re looking for a pair of shoes for mountain hikes, we might surprise you here. Did you know that hiking boots are completely unsuitable for your feet? The thick sole, narrow tip and reinforced ankle prevent the whole foot from functioning.
“Walking in hiking boots is the greatest paradox I’ve ever encountered,” says physiotherapist Lukáš Klimpera.
For trekking, you need shoes that will hold you up.
A healthy foot on its own can prevent injury. The brain collects information about the terrain from the sole of the foot and adjusts tension in the muscles in order to stabilize the joints. A naturally functioning ankle can take care of itself even without the “splint” in hiking shoes. But you have to free the whole foot.
That’s why you should put on barefoot hiking shoes that will free your feet. Focus on the following:
- a durable sole
- space for your toes, which will hold you up
- free ankle movement
Chitra Trail shoes will hold fast to your path thanks to the Vibram trail sole.
Reading tip: Are you walking to lose weight? Watch out for common myths. Read the article on How to Lose Weight by Walking.
A few extra tips before you buy barefoot shoes for exercising
- Shoes for sports have to fit you perfectly. Choose your size carefully and always check the size tables. Read our guide on how to choose a size.
- Leave between 0.5 and 1cm of extra space in the toe box. In a healthy shoe, your foot will increase and decrease in length, and that’s why you need more space than in a classic sneaker.
- Don’t be convinced by the word “barefoot” alone. In addition to a thin sole, you should focus on flexible materials, zero drop and a wide toe-box.
- The best barefoot sneakers will fit you perfectly the first time you try them on. If they’re pinching, chafing or constricting you, they’re not the right pair. With healthy shoes, you shouldn’t have to wait until they’re “broken in”.
- Not used to playing sports in barefoot shoes? Start slowly. Choose barefoot sneakers from the Ahinsa Comfort line. Thanks to the special insole, they absorb shocks to the heel. Once you get used to walking barefoot, you can pull the insole out.
- Look into how durable the shoes are. We like to use CF+ vegan leather, because it’s (nearly) indestructible.
A tip for further reading: Learn how to walk healthily step by step.
Health barefoot walking isn’t something that’s automatic. Most of us have forgotten how to do it. Relearn it with the e-book Step by Step to a Healthy Stride. You can download it for free.