Five-toed Athletic Sandals For Barefoot Comfort ((FREE))
Vibram Fivefingers are outdoor sandals with individual toes. Wearing them is said to mimic the feeling of going barefoot, without the blisters and no-shoes/no-service hassles. They're certainly cool-looking!
Five-toed athletic sandals for barefoot comfort
The Xero 360 sneaker is the most versatile barefoot trainer available and my top pick if you want one pair of shoes that works for running, court sports, lifting in the gym, and basically any type of athletics.
Get flexibility, traction and comfort with these lightweight minimalist hiking sandals. These are the best minimalist and barefoot hiking sandals that protect your feet while still allowing ground feel.
For a little background reading on the barefoot movement, check out the book Born to Run. Barefoot sandals grew in popularity about the release of the book in 2009. The author, Christopher McDougall, recounts his experiences meeting members of the seemingly superhuman Tarahumara Native Mexican tribe. These people ran ultra distances in record times, in minimalist sandals with minimal injuries.
Deliberate Life Designs are custom, hand-made minimalist hiking and running sandals. If you want a lot more input into the size and shape of your barefoot hiking sandals, then Deliberate Life Designs are the way to go. These made-to-order sandals come in two different designs: the Camp Sandal with an over-the-toe strap, and the classic Huarache sandal design.
Runners and hikers looking for a barefoot experience are the best candidates for minimalist sandals. People with patience and little or no history of foot injuries can add barefoot sandals slowly to their running routine and adjust smoothly.
The Pah Tempe also makes a great hiking companion if you need to ditch your regular hiking shoes because of blisters. Compared to similar sandals, such as the Bedrock Carin, the Pah Tempe are some of the best minimalist barefoot sandals for wet conditions.
Earlier, we discussed several benefits of wearing a zero-drop shoe. It all comes down to how connected you feel going over different terrain. Zero-drop sandals are the only way to go for that connected barefoot feel.
Some sandals are so stiff they feel like cardboard taped to your feet. All the shoes on this list are comfy and flexible. Even when less material surrounds and supports your feet, sandals must always be comfortable!
Some people go for ultimate comfort (and fashion) by pairing socks with their sandals. If you want my recommendations on which socks will work best, check out my post on the best hiking socks of 2023.
The single most significant benefit of barefoot sandals is how little they weigh. We looked at some of the lightest out there and how well they balanced the other considerations of runners and hikers.
Whether you spend your summer days on the trail or in the water, a quality pair of hiking sandals is likely on your must-have list. Designs run the gamut from backcountry-focused offerings that prioritize comfort, support, and grip to everyday-friendly models with attractive styling and affordable price points. To reflect the variety of designs and intentions, we break down our picks for the best hiking sandals of 2023 below into three categories: trail, water sports, and everyday wear. For more information on choosing the right sandal, see our comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
Flip-flops and sandals are popular choices of footwear due to their convenience. However, the effects of these types of footwear on lower extremity biomechanics are still poorly understood. Therefore, the objective of this study was to investigate differences in ground reaction force (GRF), center of pressure (COP) and lower extremity joint kinematic and kinetic variables during level-walking in flip-flops, sandals and barefoot compared to running shoes.
A smaller loading rate of the 1st peak vertical GRF and peak propulsive GRF and greater peak dorsiflexion moment in early stance were found in shoes compared to barefoot, flip-flops and sandals. Barefoot walking yielded greater mediolateral COP displacement, flatter foot contact angle, increased ankle plantarflexion contact angle, and smaller knee flexion contact angle and range of motion compared to all other footwear.
The results from this study indicate that barefoot, flip-flops and sandals produced different peak GRF variables and ankle moment compared to shoes while all footwear yield different COP and ankle and knee kinematics compared to barefoot. The findings may be helpful to researchers and clinicians in understanding lower extremity mechanics of open-toe footwear.
Previous research studies suggest that wearing light-weight and minimally supportive footwear such as flip-flops and sandals during childhood has an effect on foot arch development. Rao et al.  showed that habitually unshod children had a lower prevalence of flat-foot and higher rate of normal arches compared to habitually shod children. Sachithanandam et al.  showed that adults who began to wear closed-toe shoes before the age of six had a higher prevalence of flat feet compared to those who began wearing shoes only after the age of six. Although minimal open-toe footwear (e.g., flip-flops, sandals) worn at a young age may be more beneficial in developing normal foot arches in adulthood compared to closed-toe shoes, their long-term effects in adult populations are still relatively unknown. Comprehensive biomechanical data on wearing flip-flops and sandals in walking compared to shod and barefoot walking are very scarce in the literature.
Therefore, the main objective of this study was to investigate differences in GRF, COP and lower extremity joint kinematic and kinetic variables between flip-flops, sandals, barefoot and running shoes at a controlled speed during walking. We hypothesized that due to minimal support and cushioning, flip-flops and sandals would yield different values of GRF, joint kinematic and kinetic variables compared to shoes but not to barefoot.
All participants participated in one testing session. Before the actual walking trials, participants were asked to walk in flip-flops and sandals in a hallway for 5 minutes to become acclimated to these footwear conditions. Anatomical markers were attached to the iliac crests, greater trochanters, lateral and medial femoral epicondyles, lateral and medial malleoli, and head of 1st and 5th metatarsals, in order to define the joint centers for the pelvis, and right thigh, shank and foot. Four tracking markers were attached to the lateral-posterior aspect of pelvis, and lateral thigh and shank via thermoplastic shells and neoprene wraps to track the segmental motions during the walking trials. Three tracking markers for the foot were placed directly on the skin of the posterior and lateral aspects of the calcaneus the foot. For the running shoe condition, markers were placed directly on the skin of the right foot through several cut-outs on the posterior and lateral heel counter. Three separate static calibration trials were collected for flip-flops and sandal (one static trial), barefoot, and running shoe conditions, respectively, with both anatomical and tracking markers. The anatomical markers were then removed before the walking trials were performed.
Barefoot produced a shorter stance time than sandals, flip-flops and shoes while shoes showed a longer stance time than sandals and flip-flops (Table 1). Loading rate of 1st peak vertical GRF was smaller in shoes compared to barefoot, sandals and flip-flops. It was also lower in sandals compared to barefoot. The peak propulsive GRF was lower in shoes compared to barefoot, sandals and flip-flops.
Peak medial COP displacement was greater in barefoot compared to sandals, flip-flops, and shoes, while greater in sandals and flip-flops compared to shoes (Table 1). The mediolateral (ML) COP displacement in stance phase was larger in barefoot compared to sandals, flip-flops and shoes. Finally, barefoot showed a smaller anteroposterior (AP) COP displacement compared to sandals, flip-flops and shoes.
Barefoot showed a smaller foot contact angle (flatter foot contact angle) compared to sandals, flip-flops and shoes, while shoes showed a greater contact angle compared to sandals and flip-flops (Table 2). Ensemble curves of ankle sagittal and frontal plane angles are presented in Figure 2A and C. Ankle dorsiflexion contact angle was smaller in barefoot compared to sandals, flip-flops and shoes, and smaller in sandals compared to shoes. Ankle plantarflexion ROM from foot contact to peak plantarflexion was greater in shoes compared to barefoot, sandals and flip-flops, and smaller in barefoot compared to sandals. Peak ankle dorsiflexion in mid-stance was greater in barefoot compared to sandals and flip-flops but smaller compared to shoes. In addition, it was greater in shoes compared to sandals and flip-flops. Ensemble curves of knee sagittal plane angle are presented in Figure 3A. Knee contact angle was greater in barefoot compared to sandals, flip-flops and shoes. Finally, knee flexion ROM in stance phase was smaller in barefoot compared to sandals, flip-flops and shoes, and greater in both sandals and shoes compared to flip-flops.
Ensemble curves of ankle sagittal plane angle (A) and moment (B) and frontal plane angle (C) and moment (D) of all four footwear conditions, where the solid line is for barefoot, dash line for sandals, dotted line for flip-flops, and dash-dotted line for shoes.
Ensemble curves of knee sagittal plane angle (A) and moment (B) of all four footwear conditions, where the solid line is for barefoot, dash line for sandals, dotted line for flip-flops, and dash-dotted line for shoes.
Ensemble curves of ankle sagittal and frontal plane moments are presented in Figure 2B and D. Peak ankle dorsiflexion moment in early stance was smaller in barefoot compared to sandals and shoes, and greater in shoes compared to sandals and flip-flops (Table 3). Dorsiflexion moment was also smaller in flip-flops compared to sandals. The peak ankle inversion moment in late stance was significantly greater in barefoot compared to two open-toe shoes. Ensemble curves of knee sagittal plane angle are presented in Figure 3B. Finally, peak hip flexion moment in late stance was smaller in barefoot compared to sandals and flip-flops.