Little girl standing barefoot in the sand

What are Barefoot Shoes for Kids – Buying Guide

The most important thing to look for in barefoot shoes for kids is thin, flexible soles and a wide toe box. These types of footwear will help kids develop strong, healthy feet naturally!

Proper foot development is very important since it sets the stage for the rest of their movement growing up.

Barefoot shoes promote a natural gait, allowing kids to keep a sensory connection to the world beneath their feet while walking and running.

Thus, let’s find out more about these barefoot shoes! Our buying guide will help you with what to look for, where to buy, and why it’s important for kids to wear barefoot footwear.



What are Barefoot Shoes for Kids?

The term barefoot shoe can be confusing. Going barefoot while wearing shoes isn’t actually possible, right?

But this just means that you can wear these shoes without any socks beneath. Yet, if your kid prefers socks, they can wear them! 

Barefoot shoes are more about the feeling that comes with wearing them, which is the closest to walking barefoot.


Barefoot shoes strive to minimize the foot’s natural movement restrictions. This is why you will often hear the term ‘minimal shoe’.

The minimal shoe is intended to closely simulate barefoot running or walking, opposite to traditional shoes.

Therefore, let’s see why barefoot shoes are important for kids and what to look for when buying one!


Why are Barefoot Shoes Good for Kids?

So barefoot shoes will help your kid’s feet move as if they were barefooted. 

Many shoes restrict kids’ foot’s natural movement with stiff soles, cramped toe boxes, and heels that force their weight forward unnaturally. 


It is never a good idea for little ones to stuff their toes into shoes that limit their natural movement when growing and developing motor skills!

Unfortunately, many foot problems like bunions, hammertoes, or overall weak feet occur when kids wear too narrow shoes and have too much cushion. These shoes don’t provide the feet with a natural range of motion. 

Thus, for the feet to remain strong and mobile, they need to move naturally inside the shoes. 

Wearing minimal shoes allows these muscles to grow and develop appropriately. Unlike wearing unhealthy shoes that can acquire foot problems.

Having comfortable shoes at any age that allows our feet to move naturally is very important. Thus, wearing barefoot shoes at the earliest stages can help kids to develop a natural walking and running gait and maintain their sensory connection to the world under their feet.


Barefoot Shoes vs Minimal Shoes

Often, barefoot shoes and minimal shoes refer to the same type of footwear, and people use these words as synonyms. However, there is little difference between these two terms. 

Minimal shoes provide a good compromise between being barefoot and wearing trainers or running shoes. They usually simulate being barefoot with a wider toe box, a reduced heel-to-toe drop of about 4–8 mm, and a thin sole with little or no arch support.

The barefoot shoes, on the other hand, do not have any of these supports!


Is Barefoot Best for Kids?

It is highly recommended that a kid go barefoot as often as possible. The reason behind this is to encourage balance, posture, and coordination.

Let’s see some of the main advantages of letting our little ones be barefooted.

Optimal foot development – The baby’s feet are still soft after the birth. As the kid grows, the bones harden while the joints and muscles in its feet start to develop. 

Many types of research show that kids’ shoes, especially stiff, narrow, and inflexible sole shoes, can interfere with foot natural development.

Improves agility – When kids walk barefoot, they tend to look up. This is because the information received through their feet orients and secures them.

On the other hand, shoes block that connection, so kids who wear them prefer to gaze down and are more likely to fall over. 

Shoes can also interfere with the balance since they restrict toe spread. But, being barefooted improves coordination by sending information to a kid’s brain about organizing its movement patterns and managing its body through space.

Promotes awareness – Being barefoot can also help kids learn to traverse different surfaces safely. 

Kids gain confidence in navigating their bodies in many settings. They do this by walking and running barefoot on hard floors, grass, sand, and other similar surfaces.

Optimizes sensory-motor development – In the sole of one foot, there are up to 200,000 nerve endings! Being barefoot informs newborns about their environment even before they learn to walk.

Kids will learn more about their surroundings by experiencing different textures and temperatures with their bare feet. Being barefooted while crawling will give kids complete control over their feet and toes.


What to Look for When Buying Barefoot Shoes for Your Kids?

Barefoot shoes are very convenient for little ones. These shoes will provide a barefoot feeling while at the same time protecting kids’ sensitive feet from potential injuries caused by diverse surfaces. 

When shopping for barefoot shoes, have these things in mind!

Wide toe box

Most conventional shoes, both for kids and adults, get narrower towards the front. This is not how kids’ feet nor adults’ feet are shaped. Thus, they cause the toes to squash into an unnatural shape. As a result, mobility and stability are limited. 

Barefoot shoes have a wide toe box built to fit the shape of the foot. This allows the toes to extend out and grip the ground when walking naturally.

Zero drop

The heel drop is the difference in height between the area in front of the shoe and the area underneath.

Barefoot shoes have zero heel drop, and as a result, the heel of the foot is not raised or elevated in any way. Plus, the sole is the same thickness throughout the entire length. Hence, the entire foot is flat against the ground, just as if you were walking barefoot.

Thin soles

The sole of barefoot shoes is extremely thin, allowing the kid to feel the ground beneath its feet.

As mentioned before, the soles of the feet have a large number of nerve endings that provide information about their environment. This information, so-called ‘sensory feedback’, influences our sense of balance and spatial orientation. 

Therefore, when shopping for these shoes, make sure they have a thin sole, around 6 to 7 mm.

Lightness and flexibility

Besides being thin, barefoot shoes need to be lightweight as well.

This is very important because the material used for the shoe sole will determine the shoe mobility and thus the kid’s foot mobility. 

Look out for shoes that feature light, flexible, and sustainable materials for the optimal experience.  

No additional support

Support in traditional shoes, such as cushioning and padding, can ease the foot as it works. 

But, if the foot doesn’t have to do much work, it can become weaker over time.

Barefoot shoes are designed to be devoid of any type of support. The foot (re)learns to sustain itself in this way. Over time, the kid’s foot becomes stronger and more powerful.


How to Measure Your Child’s Feet?

Once we have determined what to look for when buying barefoot shoes, it is important to measure your kid’s feet. It might sound a little complex, but it is not at all!

Let’s see the easiest way of measuring your little one’s feet! 

Using Footmeter, you will have your kid’s foot size in no time!

All you need to do is insert your email, and you will receive the printable sheet where you can precisely measure your child’s shoe size. 

We have provided different measurement sizes, including US size, UK size, or EUR size.

If you are not in a situation to print the sheet, we will provide tables with sizes! All you need to do is take a ruler measure your kid’s feet, and you will soon have the size!

We recommend measuring both feet at least twice. Normally, there is a difference between one foot and the other, meaning that one is always a bit longer or wider.

It is 100% reliable and free, and the best of all, as easy as it seems! 

Once you are sure that you got the right sizes, you can start looking for barefoot shoes for kids with the help of our buying guide!



  • Petra Moskatelo

    Petra is the main editor and writer here at Footmeter. She is passionate about helping people find the right solution. She holds a university Master's degree in pedagogy, and she knows a lot about children and learning.