In recent years, there has been a growing trend of people ditching their traditional hiking boots in favor of so-called “barefoot shoes.”

These minimalist shoes are designed to closely mimic the feel of walking or running barefoot, and proponents claim that they offer a number of benefits over conventional hiking shoes, such as improved balance, increased proprioception, and stronger feet.

But are these claims supported by the evidence? Let’s take a closer look.

The Case for Barefoot Shoes

There is some research to suggest that barefoot shoes may indeed offer certain advantages over conventional hiking boots.

A study published in 2012 found that when participants wore Vibram Five Fingers shoes (a type of barefoot shoe), they had better Balance, Proprioception, and Muscle Strength than when they wore conventional hiking boots.

Another study, published in 2016, found that barefoot shoes improved Postural Stability and Reduced Joint Loading compared to conventional running shoes.

The authors of this study concluded that “minimalist footwear may be beneficial for athletes who seek reduced joint loading during impact-loading sports such as running.”

The Case Against Barefoot Shoes

However, not all the evidence is in favor of barefoot shoes. A study published in 2013 found that runners who wore minimalist shoes were more likely to experience Musculoskeletal Injuries than those who ran in conventional running shoes.

And a 2019 review of the literature found that there is “insufficient evidence” to support the claim that minimalist shoes offer any significant advantages over conventional running shoes.

So, what does all this evidence mean? Are barefoot shoes good for hiking? The answer is maybe. If you’re interested in trying out a pair of barefoot shoes on your next hike, there’s no harm in doing so—but be sure to start slowly and listen to your body.

If you experience any pain or discomfort, it’s best to stick with traditional hiking boots until you’ve had a chance to build up the strength and stability in your feet and lower legs.

Conclusion

There’s no doubt that barefoot shoes have grown in popularity in recent years—but are they actually any good for hiking with a toddler?

The evidence is mixed, but if you’re interested in giving them a try, there’s no harm in doing so—just start slowly and be sure to listen to your body.