How Should Barefoot Shoes Fit?

Barefoot shoes have become increasingly popular in recent years. They allow your feet to move and function naturally, as if you were actually barefoot, while still providing protection from the elements. However, finding the right fit can sometimes be tricky with barefoot shoes. Since they are structured differently than traditional shoes, you can’t rely on your normal shoe size to get the perfect fit.

We will cover everything you need to know about getting barefoot shoes that fit comfortably. From measuring your feet to trying on shoes to understanding sizing charts, we’ve got you covered. Read on to learn all the fit tips and tricks to find your ideal pair of barefoot shoes!

Why Proper Barefoot Shoe Fit Matters

Choosing a properly fitted barefoot shoe is crucial for several reasons:

  • Lets your foot move naturally. Barefoot shoes are designed to mimic being barefoot. When they fit correctly, your foot can flex, stretch, and move the way nature intended while walking or running.
  • Prevents pain or injury. Shoes that are too tight can cause blisters, bunions, and other foot pain over time. Loose shoes increase your risk of tripping or falling. Proper fit keeps your feet comfortable and stable.
  • Maximizes benefits. You’ll get the most out of barefoot shoes, like improved balance and foot strength, when they move with your foot instead of constricting it.

Take the time to get sizing right so you can truly experience all the advantages of barefoot shoes. Don’t just rely on your standard shoe size – use these tips to find your perfect fit.

Measure Both Feet

Measure Both Feet

The first step is to measure the length and width of both of your feet. You’ll need these exact measurements to compare to sizing charts and find shoes that aren’t too big or small.

Here’s how to measure properly:

  • Stand on a flat surface with your weight evenly distributed on both feet. You want your feet to be in a neutral position, not stretched out or scrunched up.
  • Ask a friend to help you, or prop your foot against a wall to measure yourself. Keep your knee straight and place a ruler perpendicular to the wall, flush against the longest toe.
  • Mark the spot where the tip of your longest toe hits. Measure from that point to the wall to get your foot length. Repeat on the other foot.
  • To measure the width, place the ruler across the widest part of your foot, usually the ball/metatarsal area.
  • Write down both measurements for future reference. Include right and left foot.

Measuring length and width accurately is key for finding well-fitted barefoot shoes. Don’t just guess your shoe size or go by what size you normally wear – take the time to properly measure both feet. Even a small difference in sizing can drastically affect comfort and performance.

Understand Barefoot Shoe Sizing Charts

Once you know your precise foot measurements, it’s time to consult sizing charts. Barefoot shoe brands will provide detailed size charts specific to each shoe model. Here’s what to look for when reading them:

  • Length – This refers to the inner length of the shoe’s sole, from the heel to the toe. Compare to your measured foot length.
  • Width – The width listed is the inner width of the ball of the shoe. Compare to your measured foot width.
  • Toe box shape – Barefoot shoe toe boxes are wider than traditional shoes but vary in shape by model. Select a shape that matches your foot.
  • Heel-to-toe drop – Most barefoot shoes have 0mm drop (no heel lift). This encourages midfoot striking.
  • Weight – Barefoot shoes are lightweight, usually under 10oz per shoe. This enhances the ground feel.
  • Foot shape – Some brands classify shoes by foot shape (wide, narrow, high volume, etc.). Pick what matches you best.

Don’t rely solely on standard US or EU shoe sizes when shopping for barefoot shoes. Consult the brand-specific size charts to dial in the perfect length and width.

Leave Room for Toes

When selecting your size, make sure to leave ample room for toe splay. Here’s how much space you need:

  • Closed-toe shoes – Leave a thumb’s width between the tip of your longest toe and the front of the shoe, around 10-15mm.
  • Sandals – Only leave about 5mm since your toes aren’t confined at the sides.
  • Kids’ shoes – Children’s feet are still growing so leave 18-20mm for future growth.

This extra toe room allows your foot to fully extend when landing and push off properly when walking or running. It may feel strange at first if you aren’t used to it! But this space is crucial for natural foot motion.

Don’t size down too much just to prevent shoe slippage. Proper toe splay room must be accounted for.

Try Shoes On Properly

You can learn the most about fit by actually trying on barefoot shoes. Follow these tips for the most accurate at-home test:

  • Shop in the afternoon – Feet swell during the day, so try shoes on later when your feet are largest.
  • Wear socks – Test shoes with the socks you plan to use for exercise. Thicker socks take up room.
  • Walk around – Get up and take a few steps. Make sure your heel doesn’t slip and toes don’t hit the front.
  • Simulate activity – If used for running or sports, mimic motions. Make sure shoes stay snugly in place.
  • Check width – Ensure all toes can lay flat and spread naturally without squeezing.
  • Consider inserts – If you use orthotics or other inserts, bring them along when trying on shoes.

Don’t just casually slip on shoes for a few seconds – take time to properly walk around and test fit. This gives you the true experience of how they will feel and function during actual wear.

Know When to Size Up or Down

Sometimes you may need to tweak shoe sizing up or down for the ideal fit:

Size up if:

  • Heels slip significantly while walking
  • Toes felt cramped and pressed against the front
  • Toes were very curled or crowded at the sides

Size down if:

  • It was difficult to walk without shoes slipping off the feet
  • There was excessive space between the heel and heel counter
  • Toes had over 1 thumb’s width of space in front

Don’t hesitate to order 1/2 sizes larger or smaller if needed. It’s better than sticking with an improper fit. Most quality barefoot shoe brands allow free returns/exchanges to dial in sizing.

Adjust Fit As Needed

A few modifications can help tweak shoe fit if it’s not perfect right away:

  • Lace techniques – For closed-toe shoes, try lacing methods like heel lock to optimize fit.
  • Aftermarket insoles – Inserts like Shaped Insoles can take up volume in overly spacious shoes.
  • Tongue pads – Placing pads under the tongue pushes your foot back in loose shoes.
  • Heel pads – These grip your heel in place if shoes are slipping off.

Don’t tolerate shoes that are uncomfortable in hopes you’ll “break them in.” Use these pro tips to quickly adjust fit instead of living with pain or improper fit.

Account For Foot Swelling

Your feet actually swell and elongate slightly when you start walking or running. This is due to increased blood flow. To account for this:

  • Leave a few extra millimeters of length in athletic barefoot shoes meant for extended activity.
  • Make sure the width allows for expansion without cramming toes.
  • Start by wearing shoes for short periods before all-day wear to let your feet adjust.
  • Loosen laces or straps after exercise when feet are larger – don’t cut off circulation!

Foot swelling is a normal response to activity. Finding shoes sized to accommodate this will prevent pain, numbness, and shoe discomfort after you’ve been on your feet for a while.

Focus on Foot Health First

Some foot conditions like bunions or plantar fasciitis may require special accommodations when shoe shopping:

  • Look for shoe brands that offer wider toe box options.
  • Prioritize minimalist construction with thin, flexible soles.
  • Slowly transition from traditional shoes to avoid overstressing feet.
  • Work on foot exercises to regain strength and mobility.
  • Consult a podiatrist; custom orthotics may be recommended in some cases.

While barefoot shoes provide tons of benefits, those with existing foot problems should take extra care when choosing the right fit. Work closely with your doctor to make the healthiest shoe choices.


How much space should my toes have in barefoot shoes?

Aim for about 1 thumb’s width, roughly 10-15mm, between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. This gives your toes room to splay and move naturally.

Should I choose the same size I normally wear in regular shoes?

Not necessarily! Always measure your feet and consult brand-specific size charts since traditional sizing doesn’t apply to barefoot shoes.

What if one foot is slightly bigger than the other?

Purchase your shoes based on your larger foot. Most size differences between feet are minimal enough that they won’t drastically affect fit.

How do I know if my barefoot shoes are too tight?

Signs of overly tight shoes include cramped, curled toes, pronounced pressure points, numbness, and pain when walking or running. Size up or try a wider model if experiencing these issues.

How do I stop my barefoot shoe heel from slipping?

First, make sure to lace closed-toe shoes snugly using heel lock methods. If that doesn’t work, try heel grips or pads to improve hold. Sizing down may also help secure a loose heel.

Finding the Perfect Barefoot Shoe Fit

While it may take some trial and error, getting properly fitted barefoot shoes is worth the effort. Taking precise foot measurements, understanding sizing charts, leaving toe room, and methodically trying on shoes will ensure you find a comfortable pair allowing natural foot motion. Don’t settle for numb toes, heel slippage, or squished feet – use this comprehensive fit guide to find your barefoot shoe soulmate!


Barefoot shoes provide the wonderful experience of going shoeless, while still protecting feet from the elements. However, finding that “just right” pair means taking fit seriously.

Don’t rely only on standard shoe sizing. Measure feet properly, study brand sizing charts, leave plenty of toe room, and methodically test shoes on. A bit of effort yields barefoot shoes that are like a second skin, maximizing comfort and keeping feet happy and healthy.

Take your time, make adjustments where needed, and start enjoying all the benefits of barefoot living!

Sophie Delatorre
Sophie Delatorre

I'm Sophie Delatorre, an experienced and trusted product review expert known for my in-depth and unbiased analyses. With over 10 years under my belt reviewing all types of consumer products, from tech gadgets to home appliances, I provide comprehensive feedback to help consumers make informed purchase decisions.

My specialty is putting products through rigorous real-world testing to evaluate quality, durability, ease of use, and overall value. I credit my background in consumer science and engineering for my meticulous eye for detail and technical know-how when breaking down a product's specs and performance.

I also run my own website and YouTube channel where I share videos demonstrating product tests and detailed buying advice.

When I'm not busy buying and reviewing the latest products, I stay on top of consumer trends and innovations. My passion lies in helping everyday shoppers cut through marketing claims to find the best value products that will save time, money, and hassle.