The Best Barefoot Shoes For Women Review

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The simple, running oriented Vibram SeeYas in action at the beach where the sensitive barefoot feeling allows the wearer to feel the sand without getting dirty.
Credit: Katherine Silus
So you like the idea of going barefoot. But what is the best barefoot shoe for women? To find out, we tested seven of the most popular FiveFinger models in head-to-head tests to figure out which are the best for specific activities and which are most versatile overall. We wore them in sand, snow, and mud, and took them for runs on rocky trails and pavement trails. We wore them around the city, to the office, and walking the dogs. After months of comparison tests, we put together this review, rating each pair on barefoot feeling, warmth, traction, foot protection, breathability, comfort, and style.

But before you go any further, we recommend first learning more about the decision to go barefoot in our our Barefoot Shoe Buying Advice article. Also check out our Men's review for other options.

Read the full review below >

Review by: ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Barefoot Shoes - Women's Displaying 1 - 5 of 7 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Vibram FiveFingers TrekSport - Women's
Vibram FiveFingers TrekSport - Women's
Read the Review
Vibram Spyridon LS - Women's
Vibram Spyridon LS - Women's
Read the Review
Video video review
Vibram FiveFingers KSO - Women's
Vibram FiveFingers KSO - Women's
Read the Review
Vibram FiveFingers Alitza
Vibram FiveFingers Alitza
Read the Review
Vibram FiveFingers See Ya- Women's
Vibram FiveFingers See Ya- Women's
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award      Best Buy Award   
Street Price Varies $59 - $100
Compare at 7 sellers
Varies $70 - $89
Compare at 3 sellers
Varies $55 - $90
Compare at 5 sellers
Varies $63 - $85
Compare at 5 sellers
Varies $62 - $82
Compare at 3 sellers
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User Rating Be the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate it
Pros Versatile, comfortable, secureSuperb traction, great barefoot feel vs. high protection ratioMulti-use, good for waterStylish, lightweight, highly sensitiveUltra-lightweight, simple graphics, ultra-barefoot
Cons Great all-around shoe but doesn’t excel at one thingUnattractive graphicsBasic, no frillsNot warm, least amount of protectionLimited protection, not very warm
Best Uses Trail hiking and running, road running, general fitnessTrail running, trekking/hiking, road runningWater sports and paddleboarding, general hiking or running, trails or roads, general exerciseCasual and everyday wear around town, pilates or yogaFitness, running or walking on groomed or paved surfaces, casual
Date Reviewed Jul 06, 2014Jul 06, 2014Jul 06, 2014Jul 06, 2014Jul 06, 2014
Weighted Scores Vibram FiveFingers TrekSport - Women's Vibram Spyridon LS - Women's Vibram FiveFingers KSO - Women's Vibram FiveFingers Alitza Vibram FiveFingers See Ya- Women's
Barefoot Feeling - 30%
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Warmth - 10%
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Traction - 15%
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Foot Protection - 15%
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Breathability - 10%
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Comfort - 15%
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Style - 5%
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Product Specs Vibram FiveFingers TrekSport - Women's Vibram Spyridon LS - Women's Vibram FiveFingers KSO - Women's Vibram FiveFingers Alitza Vibram FiveFingers See Ya- Women's
Style Velcro Quick lace Velcro Slipper Velcro
Outsole Thickness (mm) 4mm, TC-1 performance rubber XSTrek Vibram rubber, 3.5mm; multi-directional, agressive tread design 3.5, TC-1 performance rubber with razor-siping 3.5 mm TC-1 rubber Vibarm TC-1 rubber
Midsole/Insole Thickness 4mm EVA midsole, anti-microbial microfiber liner midsole has molded nylon mesh for "rock block" effect which disperses impact over a wider area of foot 2, anti-microbial microfiber liner 2 mm EVA with AEGIS anti-microbial and Drilex sockliner 3mm (polyurethane with anti-microbial Dri-Lex sockliner
Upper Material Coconut Active Carbon fiber, TPU toe protection coconut alive active fiber (34% post industrial) abrasion-resistant stretch polyamide with Hypalon(R) straps polyester stretch mesh polyester stretch mesh
Weight (oz) per pair 9.6 10.22 9.4 6.78 7.5
Best For (running, hiking, etc.) fitness, travelling, trekking, running barefoot running, light trekking, outdoor fitness, casual, outdoor, multi-use, watersport fitness, casual fitness, running, casual, multi-use
Comments machine washable (air dry), relfective application for safety in dark outsole design is unique, many uses serrated blade-lug outsole design provides traction while still being flexible, machine washable (air dry only) instep has minimal rubber for maximum foot feel and flexibility; "ultra streamlined for serious minimalists"
Colors black/charcoal black black; black/blue/green; grey/rose/purple (reviewed); pink/grey; lavender/silver light grey/orange/aqua

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


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Selecting the Right Product
First and foremost, you need to decide that you want to transition to barefoot or minimal footwear. Our Buying Advice article discusses this decision at length. Then you need to choose between FiveFinger shoes, which have separate toe compartments, or “barefoot” shoes that don't have the weird look of separated toes.

Once you’ve decided that you want to try the full barefoot experience and have settled on FiveFingers, you will also need to consider which activities you will want to use them for. Vibram makes many different versions of FiveFinger shoes, and each one is appropriate for different situations. Whether you want a rugged shoe to take you exploring in the mountains, or a stylish slipper to wear for a night on the town – Vibram probably has a FiveFinger to suit your needs. So in order to choose the barefoot shoe that will make you the happiest, you need to have a good idea of what you want to use it for.

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Side-byside comparison of the uppers and different styles of all the shoes tested. From left to right: Spyridon, KSO, Alitza, SeeYa, TrekSport, Lontras.
Credit: Sarah Hegg

Note: The Atlantic has noted that anyone who purchases a pair of Fivefingers from Vibram's site between July 22, 2014 to December 31, 2014 can try the barefoot shoes for six weeks, and if they aren't happy with the shoes they can be returned for a full refund. This is an excellent opportunity to try these shoes if you aren't sure about this style of footwear.

Types of Barefoot Shoes
Vibram is the forerunner of barefoot shoe manufacturers. All of their FiveFinger shoes have separated toes and aim to closely mimic the feel of actually being barefoot. Then there are companies such as Merrell, that produce “barefoot” shoes with very thin soles but that look more like traditional shoes and do not have separated toes. The benefit to separated toes is that shoes like this provide much more “barefoot” feel than shoes without. The downside is that they look rather strange – most people don't like the style of them.

If you want to dive headfirst into barefoot shoes, and have decided upon FiveFingers, then we are here to help. Below is our comparison and analysis of seven top models.

Criteria for Evaluation
To organize and standardize our testing, we selected the following 7 metrics to rate and compare each barefoot shoe. The ratings we gave the shoes are in comparison to the other shoes in the group. At times we tried to mention how we thought a barefoot shoe might compare with more traditional shoes, but the ratings and main evaluations were between the barefoot shoes tested here only.

Barefoot Feeling
If you are looking for the utmost barefoot feeling without actually being barefoot, Vibram’s FiveFinger shoes are the gold standard. But even between the different models of FiveFingers, you can get a very different perception of the ground under your feet. If your goal when wearing FiveFingers is to get the maximum barefoot feeling possible, you need to know where each shoe stands. When scoring this metric, we looked for overall freedom of your feet and toes to move around, as well as sensitivity to the ground. The thinnest and barest pair in the bunch is the low-cut Vibram FiveFingers Alitza. Second to these are the simplistic Vibram FiveFingers See Ya- Women's.

Of course, we compared this metric against only the other shoes in this group. So keep in mind that all of these shoes have a unique barefoot feeling compared to traditional or even minimal shoes. For example, the thick and insulated Lontras received the lowest score here for barefoot feeling, but they still provide a far better barefoot experience than any traditional shoe and most minimal shoes.

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Direct comparison testing with the SeeYa on left (right foot) and the KSO on right (left foot). The See Ya are thinner and more flexible, and allow for more freedom of movement in the toes than the KSO.
Credit: Sarah Hegg

Warmth
Staying at the proper temperature is important in any outdoor pursuit. If you are living or recreating in cold climates, making sure your feet are warm means that you can continue doing what you love to do. Most FiveFingers are inherently lightweight and highly breathable, which means that they aren’t incredibly warm. Generally FiveFingers are meant to be worn with bare feet – no socks. If you prefer or need socks, there are a few sock makers out there that offer toes socks, such as Ininji and Smartwool. The trick is this: since FiveFingers are so close-fitting, you’ll likely need a bigger-sized FiveFinger if you plan on wearing socks. This makes it a bit problematic to wear the same FiveFinger shoes both with and without socks – you need to pick one state (socks or sockless). This metric compares the warmth of each the FiveFinger barefoot shoes in our group.

The Vibram FiveFingers Lontra - Women's are made for colder conditions and have an insulating layer of fleece in the uppers, among other features, to help keep your feet warm. The Lontras received our highest score for the warmth metric. On the end of the spectrum, the Alitzas got the lowest score for warmth. Their purpose is for general around town and casual situations and don't require much warmth. The trade-off is that these two models also fall on the opposite end of the barefoot-feeling spectrum. More insulation = less barefoot feeling while thinner and less insulated = more sensitive.

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A close-up view of the inner, insulating lining of the Lontra.
Credit: Sarah Hegg

Traction
Traction gauges a barefoot shoe’s ability to grip and stick on the whole array of surfaces a runner or hiker may encounter. This includes loose rocky trails, icy and snowy roads, well-groomed dirt roads, singletrack, pavement, wet rock or other wet surfaces, desert slick-rock, and indoor office and gym environments. All of the barefoot shoes we collected here had outsoles made of Vibram’s TC-1 rubber. This is a durable, sticky, and well-performing rubber. Therefore, most of differences between the shoes were mostly due to the thickness of the rubber/outsoles and the tread design.

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Side-by-side comparison of the different tread patterns of all the shoes tested. From left to right: Spyridon, KSO, Alitza, SeeYa, TrekSport, Lontra.
Credit: Sarah Hegg

The barefoot shoes with the best traction were the trail running oriented Vibram Spyridon LS – Women's, the Lontra, and the Vibram FiveFingers Treksport – Women's, all of which have thick, grooved tread to grip variable terrain. Another model worth mentioning is the Vibram FiveFingers KSO – Women's, which has a unique sipe design that is meant to grip on wet surfaces. We found this to be the best pair for watersports.

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This photo shows the laser siping in the tread of the KSOs, which helps to whisk away water and provide better traction in wet conditions and on slippery surfaces.
Credit: Sarah Hegg

Foot Protection
One of the biggest concerns when you are barefoot (and here we mean truly barefoot) is that you could bruise or cut your feet. This is where FiveFingers come in – their goal is to offer your feet some basic protection while still giving you the maximum barefoot feeling. The amount of protection each shoe gives you depends on its purpose – the tougher the conditions the show is meant for, the more protection it will have.

The Alitzas offer the least amount of protection for your feet, but their main purpose is casual, around-town wear. On the other end of the spectrum, the Spyridons received one of the highest protection ratings - they have a unique midsole material to help disperse the impact from rocks which makes them ideal for rugged, loose trail running.

Breathability
The amount of breathability you want depends on the shoe’s function. In most conditions, allowing your foot to breathe and dissipate moisture is preferable as it keeps you blister-free. However, in moderately wet conditions (a puddle here and there around town, or rock-hopping across a stream), a waterproof or water-resistant shoe can be very helpful in keeping out the moisture, but this water resistance can also reduce the breathability. In a downpour, low-cut shoes will not protect your feet from getting wet. In cold conditions, a waterproof or less breathable upper can lock heat in and help keep your foot warm, but this same shoe will become uncomfortable in warm conditions when your feet get sweaty.

The Lontras are the least breathable but they are also the only shoes in this group that are water-resistant. All the rest of the shoes have uppers made of highly breathable mesh, offering no protection for keeping moisture out, but they do a great job of allowing your feet stay dry from within.

Comfort
The comfort metric is all about general fit and coziness. This is one of the most important factors in choosing a shoe, especially such a close-fitting shoe as a FiveFinger. If the shoe that gets the best overall performance score doesn’t fit your foot, you’ll have all sorts of injury and discomfort potentials that usurp any performance measures. For this metric, we try to mention factors that are general and not fit-dependent, but we also describe anything that stood out about how each shoe fit our main reviewer’s foot. One nice thing about the FiveFingers is that they are mostly made of really flexible materials, which seems to help them adapt to a variety of foot shapes. For this group of shoes, the comfort metric often had more to do with how much freedom the shoe gave your foot – the more freedom, the more comfortable it was, which is why the Alitza and the KSO score in the top. The Treksport also provides extra comfort with details such as additional padding in the heel.

Style
Style, in regards to most things, is generally a matter of opinion. And for all of these shoes style is a touchy subject. Separated toes tend to create strong opinions: love them or hate them. We try to get past the look of the toes and evaluate style on the look of the rest of the shoe. Generally don’t like flashy graphics and lean towards basic black or more discreet looks. But there are plenty of people out there that are looking for something flashy and showy. When we make judgments about style, we try to explain why we give a poor or good rating so that if you don’t share the same opinion, you can make your own judgment. Our consensus is that the Spyridon has ugly striped graphics even though we love the shoe's performance, and the Alitza's feminine straps are cute for a casual shoe.


Editors' Choice Award: Vibram TrekSport
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The Editors' Choice winning Vibram TrekSport on rocky trails. The rugged outsole on these shoes allows for an average barefoot feeling while providing excellent traction and protection from sharp rocks and twigs.
Credit: Sarah Hegg

We gave the Editors' Choice Award to the Vibram FiveFingers TrekSport - Women's because they are the most adaptable of all the barefoot shoes we tested and can perform well in the most variable conditions. They don’t have the top performance in any one category, but overall perform very well in all metrics. They have a rugged outsole and tread design that adds traction in slippery and loose trail conditions. While they ranked average in sensitivity and ground feel, the thicker outsoles provide protection from sharper objects and rocks. They have a simple, basic black design that can easily fit in with casual wear to the grocery store or any athletic pursuit.

Best Buy Award: Vibram Alitza
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With a thin sole, a breathable mesh upper, and lots of flexibility around the toes, the strappy Alitza wins our Best Buy award for offering the most barefoot feel at a low price. They are best in casual settings but can withstand the occasional trail walk as well.
Credit: Sarah Hegg

At $85, the Vibram FiveFingers Alitza was one of the least expensive shoes in the group of FiveFingers that we tested. It is designed to be a casual barefoot shoe that can be worn every day, around town, and on short walks. Because they hug your feet so well and also have the super-sticky Vibram rubber for the tread, they can effortlessly switch between the office and a walk with the dogs, or from dinner to an impromptu dance-off in the street. Because of this functionality and their low price point, they received our Best Buy award.

Top Pick Award for Cold Weather Barefoot Running: Vibram Lontra
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Test conditions for the insulated Lontras. These shoes have great traction for icy surfaces and the higher cuff provides more protection in snow.
Credit: Sarah Hegg

Vibram is often ahead of the curve with its innovative barefoot technologies, and the Vibram FiveFingers Lontra - Women's is an example of this. The Lontras allow you to have a predominantly barefoot experience, similar to experience felt with the company's other FiveFingers, but with added insulation and protection so you can wear them in the snow, cold climates, and a variety of seasons. There is certainly a trade-off, because these shoes come with a stiffer feel and reduced breathability when compared to the other shoes we tested, but they still allow for separate toes and lightweight, minimal distraction from ground sensations.

Sarah Hegg
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