[A big guide to] Choosing barefoot shoes that fit you right
How do you recognize real barefoot shoes?
Do you want to have a healthy and comfortable stride? For that, you need shoes in which your feet will operate just as naturally as if you were walking barefoot.
What should I look out for?
A wide toe box: The identifying mark of real barefoot footwear
The greatest problem with classic footwear is its non-anatomical shape: the toes are cramped in a narrow tip. Real barefoot shoes do the exact opposite. They give space to the toes and the whole foot.
That’s why you should look for shoes that aren’t narrow in the toe box – look for the opposite. The foot should have the most space in this area. Also pay attention to the socks, they can also constrict the foot.
Notice the shape of the toe box. This is how you’ll recognize real barefoot shoes.
Our tip: When you put on real barefoot shoes for the first time, they’ll seem unusually wide to you at first glance. This is just because you’ve been wearing unnaturally narrow shoes your whole life. You’ll soon get used to it, and the average sneaker will seem ridiculously narrow to you.
Zero drop: What is it?
You’ll encounter the term “drop” often with barefoot shoes. It’s used to indicate the heightening of the heel in relation to the tip of the shoe – typically by using a heelpiece or a reinforced sole. Any heelpiece, even the smallest one, will tilt the body. That’s why barefoot shoes have what’s called “zero drop”. This means the heel is on the same level as the tip of the foot.
Zero drop means that the heel is at the same height as the tip of the foot.
Flexibility: Shoes that can be bent in all directions
You may have also seen photos of barefoot shoes rolled up into a ball. That’s a good sign: True barefoot shoes have to be perfectly flexible. But bendiness and flexibility length-wise isn’t enough – they have to be flexible in all directions. Only then will they adapt to your movement.
In order to properly grip the terrain, flexibility in the other direction is also necessary, allowing the foot in the shoe to “grip” rocks along its path.
A proper barefoot shoe is flexible in all directions.
Weight: Barefoot shoes are ultra-light
The lighter the weight the better. That’s why the best shoes are the simplest and lightest.
Sole: Thin is not enough
You’ll recognize a barefoot sole according to two characteristics:
- It’s thin, usually up to 5mm. For example, our ballet flats have only a 3mm sole.
- It’s very flexible, adapting to the shape and movement of your foot.
Does my foot shape matter? It does, but…
You may have already encountered divisions of foot shape into Egyptian, Greek and Roman, etc. How then should you choose shoes according to this typology? The advice from physiotherapist and founder of Ahinsa shoes Lukáš Klimpera might surprise you:
“Good barefoot shoes provide ample space for ALL the toes, and we pay close attention to this while making Ahinsa shoes. That’s why it doesn’t matter whether your first or second toe is longer than the other.
What does matter is learning to center your foot so that the toe axis links up with the axis of the metatarsal bones. Then you should choose shoes that have enough space for all the centered toes.”
According to Klimpera, the most important thing when choosing Ahinsa shoes is the width of the foot and height of the arch.
Narrow, standard and wide
In addition to “standard” barefoot shoes, at Ahinsa shoes we make extra narrow and extra wide barefoot shoes. How can you tell that they fit? It’s not only about the width of the foot, but about the height of the arch and instep and the overall size of the foot. To make things easier, you can follow these divisions:
- Do you find your foot “drifting” in most (standard and barefoot) shoes and have an unpleasant excess of space? Choose narrow shoes.
- Do most shoes constrict you? Choose wide shoes.
- “Standard” Ahinsa shoes are here for all the others.
There should still be enough room for the toes, even in the narrower version of barefoot shoes
Be careful! Barefoot shoes by principle are wider than classic shoes. That’s why it might seem like you have too much space the first time you put them on. But this doesn’t mean you need the extra narrow version. In the right barefoot shoes, you have to have enough room for the foot in the “centered position”, i.e. in a natural position where the toe axis is centered with the axis of the metatarsals.
Some barefoot shoes are “curved”. Why?
Ahinsa shoes and some other barefoot shoes are curved inward like a banana. Physiotherapist Lukáš Klimpera explains why they have this shape:
“The curved shape of Ahinsa shoes stems from the functional human foot in its proper position. If the arch is collapsed and the ankle is rotated inward (talipes valgus), the foot is altogether longer and straight. If the arch is adjusted and the ankle is centered, the foot functionally shortens, the instep rises and the shape of the foot isn’t straight, but curved.”
Barefoot shoes allow for a healthy stride, activating the arch and altering the shape of the foot. That’s why barefoot shoes are slightly curved.
Notice the slightly curved shape. It’s based on the shape of a functional foot.
How to pick the right size
With barefoot walking, it’s important that your shoes fit perfectly. That’s why you should check each manufacturer’s size chart. Ours can be found here.
How should you correctly measure your foot size? You’ll need a ruler/measuring tape and a box or other straight object.
- Stand up with your heel touching the wall.
- Put a box down so that it touches your longest toe.
- Put your weight on the foot.
- Measure the distance between the wall and the box.
Still aren’t sure? We’ll help and give you advice on which size is ideal for you. Draw the outline of your foot onto a piece of paper, write in the dimensions, take a photo and send it to email@example.com.
Additional toe space and why barefoot shoes should be a bit “big”.
While walking barefoot, the feet both stretch and shorten, and that’s why you need extra space in a barefoot shoe of up to 8 to 12 mm.
Our tip: Find out if the given barefoot brand adds in this extra space automatically or if you should be counting it into your measurements. At Ahinsa shoes, we don’t automatically figure in the extra space, so you should add it to your foot length.
When your shoes arrive, they might seem a bit large when first putting them on. That’s ok. The foot shouldn’t rub against the wall of the shoe as you walk.
Is there any sense in picking out barefoot shoes from an e-shop?
Even shoes from an e-shop will fit you if you’ve done these two things:
- You’ve correctly measured your feet and selected a size according to the manufacturer’s size chart.
- You’ve made sure you can easily exchange the shoes for a different size.
We’ll be happy to exchange your Ahinsa shoes. Just write us an email and send the shoes that don’t fit to us – we’ll send you a new pair and in a few days you’ll get a pair of perfectly-fitting shoes back.
I’m a beginner. What barefoot shoes will fit me?
Even beginners need spacious, light and comfortable shoes. But, they’ll have trouble stepping delicately at first, falling hard on the heel and potentially hurting themselves with a thin sole. That’s why we recommend the following:
- Make sure the shoes are truly spacious. Free toes will cushion your step.
- To begin with, choose shoes that will slightly reduce the impact on the heel. Have a look at our Ahinsa Comfort line. The foam insole or soft sole will ensure that you’re stepping softly, just like walking over moss.
Make sure your heel is touching the wall.
Barefoot pumps don’t exist. But barefoot running shoes do.
We also receive questions about shoes for various occasions.
If you’re interested in formal barefoot shoes, we’ve got some bad news and some good news for you.
- The bad news: Barefoot pumps and pointed shoes don’t exist. If the foot is raised by a heelpiece or constricted by a tip, the shoes aren’t barefoot and walking in them won’t be healthy.
- The good news: We’ve taken your questions seriously and designed formal barefoot shoes. Have a look at our barefoot ballet flats (they also come in gold, ladies!) and dress shoes. Ideal for a work meeting or formal evening.
Our formal flats are as good as gold. :)
You often ask about barefoot shoes for running or trekking. The same rules apply to them as they do for regular walking. When running and hiking, you need to free your foot so it can provide maximum performance. We’ve even written about this in the article on Barefoot and Performance.
Our tip: Barefoot Chitra sneakrs have proven to be great running shoes. For the open terrain, we head out in Sundara barefoot ankle shoes.
I care about sustainability. How should I choose environment-friendly barefoot shoes?
Focus on these parameters:
- local production
- manufacturing ethics
Materials: Leather isn’t the most ecological choice
You might be surprised, but natural leather is one of the least environmentally friendly materials. Animal-based production requires a huge amount of water and produces a large amount of CO2.
This doesn’t mean you should choose imitation leather that will last you only one season. Choose shoes that are made from durable vegan materials. For example, we produce Ahinsa shoes from CF+ microfiber or Malai coconut waste and provide a 3-year warranty on our shoes.
Other great choices include linen, jute or hemp.
What does natural jute look like? Like this!
Local production = as little transport as possible during production
It’s not always possible to produce in just one country, especially if you want to use the best materials. Despite this fact, we’ve kept our production only in Europe. The materials come from the EU, and we make barefoot shoes from them in the Czech Republic and Croatia, which allows us to control the production quality.
Choose barefoot shoes that don’t travel great lengths to reach you. Especially not from countries like China, Malaysia, Bangladesh or Vietnam, where production takes place in non-transparent conditions.
We produce Ahinsa shoes in the Czech Republic and Croatia.
Durability: Durable equals ecological
The greenest shoes are ones you don’t have to buy, because the ones before them are still in good shape. That’s why you should look for tested, ideally hand-sewn barefoot shoes from durable materials. We test all our materials at Ahinsa shoes, and we’ve realized for example that it’s impossible to scratch the CF+ vegan leather (really!) and the Lifo+ sole won’t wear out easily either.
That’s why we guarantee that you’re buying the best barefoot shoes in the world when you buy Ahinsa shoes. And we guarantee this with a 3-year warranty.
Production ethics: Fair to people and animals
Production that doesn’t cause suffering to anyone is sustainable. That’s why you should look for brands that aren’t embarrassed to show where they produce and from what materials. Production in Asia and the acquisition of animal-based materials are nearly impossible to monitor. In comparison, local companies have to follow European rules for employment.
Reading tip: Choose slow-made footwear. 17 steps towards slow fashion that won’t cost you a fortune.
Pick out a pair of your own
You already know the essentials. But, if you’re still looking for advice, just write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.