6 best minimalist hiking boots

Based on reviews from 108 experts and 348 users. Learn how our rankings work or see our guide to minimalist hiking boots. Updated Apr 2020.

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Minimalist hiking boots may seem intriguing to you. Hiking boots are known for their sturdy build and hefty weight while minimalist denotes an almost barefoot feel. With the rising trend of hikers wanting more connection to the ground, outdoor brands have started to develop low-profile, light and utterly flexible hiking boots.

Need to know about minimalist hiking boots

Making the switch to minimalist hiking boots require sufficient time for your feet to adjust and leg muscles to improve. Here are some of the things you need to know about minimalist hiking boots.

Take it slow

If you are used to wearing standard hiking boots, it is recommended to give yourself enough time to adjust before fully transitioning to minimalist footwear. Regular boots are well-padded and have features that absorb shock from ground impacts. On the other hand, minimalist boots do not offer much padding, so every vibration from ground impacts affects your foot or legs. Do not abruptly change your gear as it can cause a great strain on your Achilles tendon. Gradually wear boots with less cushioning and observe how your foot respond to the changes.

Gait changes

People who wear traditional hiking boots are usually heel-strikers. With minimalist footwear, hikers tend to land first on their midfoot or forefoot (sometimes even on their entire foot). This results in an extensive change in a person’s gait. If you are used to wearing a traditional hiking boot, you have to know that minimalist footwear has less cushioning, especially at the heel. Most, if not all, have zero drop, meaning there is no difference in the height from the ground between the heel and the ball of the foot.

Improved balance and proprioception

Since the goal of minimalist hiking boots is to make you feel more connected to the ground, you will have to rely on the muscles in your leg, foot, ankle and hips to gain control of the environment. This is the reason why switching to this type of footwear may require you to take it slowly. Strengthening these muscles will eventually lead to improved balance and proprioception (awareness of the body’s position and movement), thus reducing injuries.

Wide toe box

A number of minimalist boots come with a wide toe box. It allows your toes to splay naturally and comfortably to enhance your body’s ability to dissipate impacts across the foot. It contributes to providing you with an improved balance and stability.


Most minimalist hiking boots are ultralight. Since it is designed to give you more ground feel, it uses thin yet durable materials to shave off weight. This type of footwear also has less cushioning than your regular hiking boot.

Comfort and fit

Minimalist hiking boots are designed to be worn with or without socks. In this case, ensuring that you are comfortable with your gear comes in utmost importance. Before you get a pair, it is recommended to get a feel of it first, especially if you are used to the cushioned interior of a hiking boot. Take time to discern if you really need a pair of minimalist boots, especially when you already feel at home with your conventional gear.

Brands that offer some of the best minimalist hiking boots for men and women


Vivobarefoot is just one of the many brands that specializes in providing barefoot, minimal shoes for hiking. Their off-road range usually employs a puncture-resistant sole which enables their wearers to tackle various types of terrain. Along with thin and flexible materials, their products aim to let your feet feel the ground while helping to improve your balance and foot placement.

Xero Shoes

Xero Shoes’ offerings are all about what is natural. Their products, backed by the 5,000-mile sole warranty, give you the protection, support and comfort you need on the trails. Their flexible soles have a low-to-the-ground design which contributes to enhanced balance and agility. Their patented FeelTrue sole shields your foot against abrasive elements while allowing you to feel connected to the ground.

Lems Shoes

The brand indicated that their packable men’s and women’s boots have a wide toe box, carry a minimalist look and wear a lightweight build. Their barefoot boots aim to promote healthy foot development, increased mobility and better balance. The designers also believe that minimalist hiking boots should fit the wearer’s foot anatomy without limiting its movement. The zero-drop design of their footwear places the entire foot flat on the ground which corrects posture and encourages a midfoot strike. This mechanism helps relieve back pain.

1 best minimalist hiking boots

  1. Vivobarefoot Tracker FG
Paul Ronto

Paul loves adventure. Over the past 20 years, he has climbed, hiked, and ran all over the world. He’s summited peaks throughout the Americas, trekked through Africa, and tested his endurance in 24-hour trail races. He has worked in the outdoor industry as a whitewater and hunting guide, gear tester, copywriter, and outfitting specialist at places like The National Outdoor Leadership School, No Barriers USA, and Sierra Trading Post. He has been quoted in NYMag, NBCNews, and Business Insider to name a few.

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