THE 6 BEST NIKE BAREFOOT SHOES OF 2023
In recent years, barefoot shoes have become commonplace not just among runners but other athletes, too. From sprinters to weightlifters to people who just want some minimalist shoes to wear around town, barefoot versions are everywhere you look.
It should probably come as no surprise that Nike was actually way ahead of the curve. The sports shoe titan first introduced the world to their popular Free Run shoes back in 2004 and have added a number of other minimalist models to their inventory since them.
The 6 Best Nike Barefoot Shoes for Minimalist Runners
In this post, we’re going to cover the best barefoot running shoes that Nike currently sells, which means we’ll also include links to pages where you can actually purchase them if you want.
So, whether you’re looking to run a marathon in the near future, or you just want a neutral pair to wear with your new Nike joggers, here’s the list you need to quickly consider all of your options in 2023.
1. Nike Free Run 5.0 – $100
Alright, let’s start with one of the originals, which we alluded to earlier: the Nike Free Run 5.0. It’s arguably the best barefoot running shoes for men and women (here’s the link for the women’s Nike Free Run 5.0).
For one thing, Nike Free Run 5.0 shoes have the classic low-cut design that barefoot runners love. It strips down all the nonessentials, so you can concentrate on nothing but your stride and enjoy the feeling of connection with nature.
The breathable knit upper provides a snug fit, while the stretchable yarn allows flexibility as the foot enters the shoe. Overall, the effect is a really high level of comfort, especially for a “minimalist” shoe.
You’ll also enjoy natural and unrestricted foot movement thanks to the grooves on their soles, enhancing the sense of freedom and enabling a more natural stride. The wider midfoot and arch support contribute to better foot shaping and stability throughout the run. Nike’s famous Flywire technology loops provide midfoot containment, ensuring a secure fit.
With this lightweight and low-cut design, Nike Free Run 5.0 shoes provide stability while keeping you nice and close to the ground. Combine that with their durable foam cushioning and the handy pull tab at the back that makes them easy to slip on and you can see why many people think these are the best barefoot shoes on the market.
2. Nike Free Run 2.0 – $77.97
Next, we have another Nike Free Run shoe: the very popular Nike Free Run 2.0.
This versatile shoe effortlessly transitions from running to everyday wear, which makes it the perfect pair for people who are looking for one pair that they can wear for a number of different reasons.
With its running roots, the Nike Free Run 2.0 offers an easygoing and flexible experience, reminiscent of the barefoot sensation. Just like with the 5.0, this pair features deep grooves in the sole that provide a natural feel, a signature feature of the Free franchise.
Designed with a bootie construction and crafted with a combination of leather and mesh, these shoes strike a balance between lightweight comfort, durability, and breathability. The plush details around the collar add an extra touch of coziness, while the soft foam underfoot delivers lightweight cushioning for all-day comfort.
These barefoot shoes definitely aren’t as minimalist as the 5.0, but that’s also one of the reasons they’re so popular. Again, they definitely don’t carry as much weight as other running shoes. However, there’s enough that you could definitely wear these with a pair of jeans or shorts without them looking out of place with the rest of your casual attire.
3. Nike Free Run 2018 – $79.97
One last Nike Free Run before we move on to other options.
Its upper material is both light and highly breathable, ensuring maximum comfort during runs. The shoe's secure fit and locked-in heel will keep your foot stable, supported, and even comfortable.
The glove-like feel the Nike Free RN 2018 provides is a makes it a unique choice for runners who may be used to a lot less protection during their runs.
Once again, this pair of Free Runs features a unique tread pattern with nubs and slits, providing traction on roads, sidewalks, and light trails. However, it may not perform well on uneven or icy surfaces. The 8mm offset and innovative sole pattern allow for natural movement and a comfortable running experience.
The shoe's upper construction, which incorporates spandex, offers exceptional breathability and a snug yet comfortable fit. The Flywire cables and internal boot provide added support and stability. The heel lock system ensures a secure fit without causing discomfort or blisters.
Finally, this is another pair of Nikes that you could definitely wear for a number of different occasions, from happy hour to running errands without looking like you’re hitting the track at some point.
4. Nike Free Run Trail Running Shoes – $70.15
These aren’t in production anymore, but they remain extremely popular with barefoot runners, and you can still find them online, so we’ve included them on this list.
They’re also still one of the best options for barefoot runners who want trail running shoes that have that neutral feel but still provide enough protection for the challenges of running offroad.
Nike Free Run Trail Running Shoes are designed specifically for those seeking an adventurous off-road running experience. Their trail-ready construction offers the perfect combination of cushioning, traction, and flexibility to tackle uneven terrains with confidence – all without the added weight that often comes from normal trail-running shoes.
They also feature a durable yet lightweight upper that provides breathability and support while keeping your feet protected during off-road runs. The outsole is equipped with aggressive lugs and deep grooves, delivering exceptional traction on various surfaces, including dirt, gravel, and rocky trails.
As you could probably tell by the name, Nike Free Run Trail Shoes also incorporates the iconic Nike Free technology, which allow for a natural range of motion and a barefoot-like feel, so your feet can move freely and adapt to the changing terrain.
5. Nike Vaporfly – $155.97
These last two options are going to be more “honorable mentions” than actual barefoot shoes made by Nike.
They definitely aren’t “zero drop shoes” – or even close – but they have become popular alternatives for athletes who aren’t 100% comfortable wearing barefoot shoes.
To that end, the Nike Vaporfly is a good option if you want a very lightweight shoes for running long distances but don’t feel like the other barefoot shoes we’ve covered are the right fit.
We’ve also covered how world-class runner Eliud Kipchoge wore Vaporfly shoes when he came the first man to run a marathon in under two hours.
So, why do runners love them as an alternative to traditional barefoot running shoes?
With an enhanced upper, the Vaporfly offers unparalleled comfort and breathability, ensuring a smooth and cool run for everything from 10Ks to marathons.
Exceptional cushioning and reliable support are two other reasons they’ve become a favorite among racers worldwide.
Featuring Nike ZoomX foam for remarkable energy return and a responsive feel, along with a full-length carbon fiber plate to keep you moving forward with every stride, the redesigned upper incorporates breathable mesh fabric for a softer, cooler fit that molds to your foot.
Say goodbye to the arch band as the lightweight side supports now secure your laces, reducing overall weight. And enjoy the benefits of reinforced forefoot durability, extra cushioning at the heel, reduced lace pressure, and a roomier toe area for added comfort. With flexibility grooves on the sole, conquer various surfaces and weather conditions with confidence.
6. Nike Streakfly – $160
Again, this last one really isn’t a barefoot shoe, but we’re adding it to our list because it does seem to be a popular alternative for runners who want minimalist footwear but can’t go full “zero-drop” because they run longer distances and feel better with a bit more protection.
And yet, the Nike Streakfly still offers the ultimate in lightweight speed. This racing shoe is a scaled-down, streamlined version of the aforementioned Vaporfly, designed to propel you through shorter races up to a 10K. So, it’s not necessarily great for marathons, but if you find that traditional barefoot shoes leave you aching after longer runs, the Streakfly may be a great choice.
Just like the Vaporflies we covered a moment ago, these barefoot shoes feature a thin, full-length layer of ZoomX foam in the midsole, so you'll enjoy a plush-yet-springy ride, while a PEBA plate at the midfoot provides stability and support.
The thin knit upper offers excellent breathability and weight savings, reinforced at the forefoot for added durability. An offset lacing system keeps the shoe snug, and the outsole is designed for optimal traction. Step into the Nike Streakfly and leave your competition in the dust.
Are Nike’s Barefoot Running Shoes Right for You?
If you’re interested in enjoying the many benefits of barefoot running, it makes sense to consider your options from a well-respected name brand like Nike – a company synonymous with athletic shoes.
Fortunately, compared to the countless other options that exist out there, Nike’s barefoot offerings are actually pretty affordable, too.
So, whether you’re just starting out or looking for your millionth pair, Nike is a great place to start for your next pair of barefoot shoes.