One of the best things about hiking is the connection you have with nature. Shouldn’t your feet also be a part of that connection?
If you use minimalist hiking shoes, you’ll feel the ground beneath you more easily. This can improve your hiking and reaction to the environment. It will also improve your posture, and keep you on your toes while running.
That last part is only a slight exaggeration. Running or hiking in minimalist shoes encourages you to use your midfoot more than your heel. This improves your foot health and gives your joints a break.
If you want to improve your hiking experience, then check out our minimalist shoe list for men and women.
Best Minimalist Hiking Shoes For Men
Xero Prio Running Shoes
Xero is a company that got their start on Shark Tank. They pitched a DIY Sandal Kit that molded to your feet and gave you a true minimalist experience.
Since then they’ve grown as a company, offering minimalist shoes for men and women. Their shoes are great for on, and off, the trails. But only a few are best for the rigors of hiking.
If you’re a casual hiker and a gym rat, then Xero’s Prio Running Shoes are the best for you. You can transition between indoor and outdoor adventures with this light-weight shoe.
The Prio has a zero-drop sole that keeps your heels and the balls of your feet on the same level. This helps correct your posture, but won’t offer any arch support.
If you’re concerned about arch support, you can tighten the laces on your shoes or use the 2mm removable insole.
The rubber sole protects your feet from any natural debris but keeps you connected to nature. The sole of the shoe is only 5mm thick. This is thicker than some minimalist shoes but thin enough that you can still feel the road under your feet.
You can wear the Prius shoes with or without socks. For the best barefoot experience, wear these without socks on the trail. You’ll feel the ground, and the toe box is wide enough for your toes to do their thing.
New Balance MT10V1
New Balance has taken their shoe making skills and produced a minimalist hiking shoe.
The shoe top has the same materials as other New Balance sneakers. It’s a mix of synthetic materials and mesh to keep your feet fresh during long hikes. The classic “N” symbol is reflective, so you can go on night walks without any worries.
The sole is 4mm thick, thinner than the Xero Prio. It uses patented Vibram sole designs to give your shoe the grip you need on the trail. There’s also an upturned toe at the front of the shoe to protect against any unexpected boulders in your way.
The inside is as well constructed as the outside. It features a wide toe box to give your toes lots of room to spread out and get their grip. They also spent some time on the mid-foot grip, so that nothing goes sliding around on the trail.
There’s a foam insert for added comfort, although minimalist shoe purists will take that out. The whole shoe is treated with an antimicrobial solution so you don’t have to worry about shoe odor.
The New Balance MT10V1 is probably the most comfortable shoe when it comes right out of the box. The foam insert might annoy some purists, but the MT10V1 is ready for anything you throw at it.
Merrell Vapor Glove 3
Merrell is another company with great barefoot shoes made for outdoor adventures. Their Merrell Vapor Glove 3 is one of many great minimalist shoes but made for hiking.
Like New Balance MT10V1, Merrell has a toe guard at the front of their shoe, although it covers more space. Some people could think that the toe guard makes it harder to find your grip on rocky trails, but that’s not the case. It’s there to add a layer of protection but doesn’t sacrifice foot feel.
Speaking of foot feel, the Merrell Vapor Glove also boasts a design with a Vibram TC5 outsole. This outsole gives you the protection you need on the trail while minimizing the distance between the ground and foot.
It also has a Trail project pad to protect the underfoot.
The Vapor Glove fits your foot like a glove. This way you can wear your shoes without socks and still feel the shoe is snug on your feet.
Merrell Vapor Glove is good for your hiking adventures if you’re looking for a wide toe box with a large toe guard.
Xero Terra Flex
If you want a heavy duty hiking shoe, but still want a minimalist shoe, the Xero Terra Flex is your best bet.
Xero Terra Flex is a hiking shoe with extra trail-gripping features that help on any surface. If you’re worried about going uphill or downhill in bad weather, the Terra Flex gives you that traction.
Despite these extra grips, you still have the same thin sole other Xero shoes have. The FeelTrue rubber sole is 6mm thick, so you’ll still feel sharp rocks or pebbles under your feet. You won’t get jabbed in the foot with them, which is the whole point of a good minimalist hiking shoe.
There’s also a layer of BareFoam, which adds comfort without adding too much material.
The one thing the Terra Flex won’t protect you against is water. The top parts of the shoes are breathable fabrics and mesh. You’ll get some ventilation on your feet, but if it rains you’re soaked.
Xero minimalist shoes, like the Terra Flex, have adjustable instep straps. If you’re worried about keeping your shoes snug or arch support, the Terra Flex is great for you.
Vivobarefoot Primus SWIMRUN FG Men’s Specialist Firm Ground Trail Running Shoe
This Vivobarefoot minimalist shoe is for long distance running, but it’s good for hiking.
The Vivobarefoot Primus SWIMRUN FG Men’s Specialist Firm Ground Trail Running Shoe is great for hiking near rivers or in wet weather.
They’re not waterproof, although the Neoprene ankle keeps debris out of your shoe. Instead, the tops are water-repellant mesh and synthetic materials.
The sides have Quick-Drain mesh panels. They’re semi-transparent panels that will expel water with each step you take. Your feet will be able to breathe on the trail, your shoes will dry quickly, and you’ll avoid gross pruny toes on your hike.
Beyond this, the Vivobarefoot Primus SWIMRUN is another example of great minimalist hiking shoes. The toe box is wide, so you’ll have lots of splay room. The ultra-thin sole is also puncture resistant. It has special 3-point star grips for better traction on the trails.
There’s a 3mm padded removable insole, so you can work your way up to the full minimalist shoe experience.
This shoe should be worn without socks. You can slip them on and tighten them with the locking bungee laces.
If you’re someone who lives next to water or hikes in the rain, the Primus SWIMRUN shoes are a great addition to your minimalist shoe collection.
Best Minimalist Hiking Shoes for Women
Merrell Vapor Glove 3- Women
The Merrell Vapor Glove 3 for women is like the men’s model. You’re still getting the great benefits of Vibram soles, with petal shaped grips. The grips compliment the shape of your foot, giving you a fully supported barefoot experience.
It also has the wide toe box you’d expect in a barefoot shoe. If you’re new to minimalist shoes, you might think the toe box is too wide. If that’s the case, tighten the shoe around your midfoot, and walk around in your shoes. You’ll find that the toe box is fine, you’re only used to having your feet confined by shoes.
Merrell Vapor Glove 3 have a mesh top lining, so it’s quick drying. If you get your feet wet, the water gets pushed out the side with every step, like the men’s SWIMRUN shoe.
The Merrell Vapor Glove 3 is a great hiking option for women. Get the same benefits of Merrell shoes as the men!
Xero Shoes Prio – Women’s Minimalist Barefoot Trail and Road Running Shoe – Fitness, Athletic Zero Drop Sneaker
This is another minimalist hiking shoe that has a men’s version. Xero Shoes create great minimalist shoes for women as well as men, and the Prio is no exception.
The point of a barefoot shoe is to minimize the support a shoe gives so your feet can do your thing. But if you’re used to normal shoes and have a lot of foot pain, you need a little help.
This shoe has the same adjustable V-Straps on the midfoot area. This means that if you have high arches, you can adjust the tightness of the shoe to support you.
It also comes with a removable insole that will help you transition to your new minimalist shoes.
The rubber sole is great for hiking, walking, or trail running. The arrow grips help with traction on slippery surfaces. But the sole itself is only a few millimeters thick.
It’s not as breathable as the Merrell Vapor Glove, but that’s not always a bad thing. If you live in a cold climate, you want to keep your feet insulated. The Prio does just that while using anti-bacterial technology to fight off foot odor.
FiveFingers KSO EVO
Is it really a minimalist hiking shoe list without at least one FiveFinger shoe? We didn’t think so either.
The FiveFingers KSO EVO is the rugged cool version of the classic Vibram FiveFinger shoe. It has a lightly padded tongue with an easy lacing system. This gives you more control over the fit of the shoe, an important feature when take it hiking.
While you might think the FiveFinger model is uncomfortable, it supports the natural separation of your toes. It’s a welcome reprieve from the way your toes are shoved into work and dress shoes during the week.
The rubber sole of the FiveFingers KSO EVO is a textured Vibram sole. The texture gives you better grip on the road, and the Vibram sole gives you a full barefoot experience.
As nice as these shoes are, they’re for minimalist shoe pros. The FiveFingers KSO EVO is the next best thing to being barefoot. The transition from normal hiking shoe to these might be rough.
Take these out for small, short adventures around your home. Train your feet so that you can attack the hiking trial without any hesitation.
Vivobarefoot Women’s Primus Lightweight Soft Ground Running Shoe Trail-Runners
Hiking can be fun, but it can also be wet. In fact, that’s part of the experience! If you’re a hiker who loves rock hopping in rivers or streams, you need a shoe that works well in water.
Vivobarefoot makes the Primus Lightweight Soft Ground Running Shoe with wet surfaces in mind.
Besides the thin sole of the shoe, measuring at about 3mm, there are also arrow shaped lugs for better traction. The PRO5 sole is also puncture resistant, so you don’t need to worry about getting any stray fishhooks in your foot.
The tops are water-resistant mesh they make with recycled plastic bottles. This gives you both breathability as well as quick-draining shoes. If you wade around in the water, each step will push out extra water like the Merrell Vapor Glove.
You put on these shoes by slipping them on and then using the toggle to tighten the ankle. This will keep debris out of your shoe, and you can slip them on and off with ease.
The neoprene ankle is also quick drying. Leave these shoes out to dry overnight, and you’ll be ready to go the next day.
Vivobarefoot also makes a hiking shoe for dry, rocky surfaces, but this is the best for loose or muddy trails.