- What is a barefoot/minimalist work boot in the first place?
- Benefits of barefoot boots
- Downsides of barefoot/minimal work boots
- Are there any barefoot boots for winter?
- Where to buy barefoot work boots
- Conclusion and last thoughts
A wonderful thing about footwear is that we live in an age where there are work boots that cater to everybody. Work boots are often perceived to be rugged, heavy-duty boots for Mr or Mrs builder.
But since boots were first invented way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, people of all kinds have used them for either doing bits around the home, for pleasure, or to earn money, food, or anything else they could trade with.
Fortunately for some, quite a niche product is recently on the market. Barefoot boots, minimalist boots, zero drop boots. Whatever you want to call them, they’re all much of a muchness.
This article is going to tell you all you really need to know about barefoot work boots.
We’ll discuss their good and bad points and what kinds of jobs they’re useful for. If you’re lucky, we might even show you some places to get them.
Hopefully, after checking out all the information, you can decide if barefoot work boots are worth having, in general, and particularly for the jobs that you do.
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Author & Researcher
Researcher & Editor
What is a barefoot/minimalist work boot in the first place?
Before we get too deep in information, let’s clarify what barefoot boots are.
These are boots that are part of what has become somewhat of a movement.
They are boots that keep your heels and balls of the feet at an equal distance to the ground, just like when you’re walking barefoot, except with boot soles in between.
Wedge or heel-soled boots are different because they make the heels higher than the toes and balls of the feet.
Benefits of barefoot boots
This section should give you an idea of what barefoot boots are useful for.
Then you can judge for yourselves whether they are worth having in general, but more importantly, whether they would suit the jobs that you do as individuals.
- Wide toe Earthing
- Minimal material
- Reflexology/Acupressure aspect
- Can increase natural foot strength
- Natural movement
- Vegan friendly/Environmentally friendly
- Keep your feet cool
1. Wide toe area
Minimalist footwear generally has a wide fit at the toes.
This gives lots of freedom of movement, rather than having the toes cramped together, as is the case with many boots these days.
The ability to spread the toes helps with balance and grip.
2. Minimal material
This could be either good or bad depending on what job you do. These boots are best suited to jobs that don’t give them brutal use.
Because there aren’t a lot of materials in the boots, there isn’t as much stiffness as most. This flexibility is useful for jobs that require you to be in awkward positions.
Roofing is a prime example. Especially working on pitched roofs.
Roof workers need work boots that allows them to feel what’s underneath their feet so that they don’t tread on loose or broken tiles, or actually break tiles with their weight.
Along with the slip resistance that these boots offer, this ability to feel what’s under their feet helps with grip.
Roof workers also squat or walk at awkward angles, because of the gradients of the pitched roofs.
Following on from the amount of material in boots, work boots are usually heavier than other footwear.
After a long day of wearing them, the weight of them can often make us tired and weary.
I’ve often felt this myself. Lightweight footwear can make a world of difference.
There are said to be many health benefits to walking around barefoot. This boot emulates that sensation.
Scientific research has shown that the ground has a magnetic field and electrons, and that barefoot walking is beneficial for receiving those signals from the ground.
In fact, I practise Tai Chi and Qi Gong. These are arts that collect and move around energy from both the atmosphere and the human body.
My teacher always trains in special shoes that conduct electrolytes and energy from the ground. Baffling stuff really.
Society is mostly provided with synthetic, non-conductive outsole materials.
5. Reflexology/Acupressure aspect
These are two different things, but are similar in relation to barefoot boot benefits.
As long as you’re not walking on brutal surfaces while wearing these boots, you’ll receive a free foot massage.
Feet are a gateway to a lot of our organs and health issues. They’re full of pressure points, of which are used by specialists to treat ailments.
Speaking of pressure points and massaging of the feet, here’s a non-exclusive list of health benefits from how minimalist boots emulate walking barefoot:
- Improves sleep
- Reduces swelling
- Helps with Restless Leg Syndrome
- Eases menopause symptoms
- Helps to lower blood pressure
- Improves blood circulation
- Reduces effects of depression and anxiety
- Accelerates healing time
- Accelerates recovery from intense physical activity
- Eases headaches and migraines
7. Can increase natural foot strength
The foot is made up of 26 bones, 33 articulations (each with 6° freedom of motion), over 20 muscles (10 of those in the arch, in 4 layers). The natural way of using all of these mechanisms gifted by our ancestors is barefoot.
Although beneficial in so many ways, the support from footwear can have a way of weakening the muscles. Barefoot walking can strengthen the muscles used in the arch.
Think of neck braces and arm slings. If we wear them all the time when not injured, the muscles around those areas weaken and become reliant on them.
8. Natural movement
Our bodies are designed to move in a certain way. All the previously mentioned mechanisms in our feet serve a purpose.
Sometimes, footwear can restrict those purposes, which then hinders the natural movement of the foot. Not in all cases. But very restricting shoes can eventually cause damage.
There are cases in history where footwear in certain cultures deformed feet. Chinese shoes centuries ago, for example.
9. Vegan friendly and environmentally friendly
Barefoot boots have a large market for people who are environmentally friendly, because a lot of the brands use only recycled materials.
This is also a plus for people who don’t use animal products such as leather.
10. Keep your feet cool
Because there isn’t a great deal of materials and insulation in these boots, they should help to keep your feet cool in hot weather.
Downsides of barefoot/minimal work boots
Whilst most things have benefits, there are also downsides. Here, we list some of the negative points of wearing minimalist boots.
- Little protection
- Can increase the risk of injuries
- Might not have enough arch support
- Limited availability
1. Little protection
The lack of padding around the upper and under the feet means that the feet aren’t fully protected against objects penetrating the boot.
This is especially notable in the sole, where the full weight of the body treads on objects. It can be hurtful and harmful if treading on things like jagged rocks or sharp items such as glass or nails.
Also, there isn’t much in the way of safety features. Some boots offer toe protection and slip resistance, but other features like oil and acid resistance, heat resistance, shanks, etc, are nowhere near as available as standard work boots.
2. Calluses (Hard skin)
Calluses develop on skin after friction or pressure. Barefoot boots can create more rubbing against the skin than traditional boots. Therefore, they can create more calluses.
This might not be a problem, unless the friction creates blisters.
But, if you do get calluses, you might need to maintain the hard skin by either rubbing it off regularly or getting the occasional pedicure. By the way, if you want to learn how to avoid blisters in work boots check out this page.
3. Increase the risk of injuries
Barefoot boots aren’t best suited for everyone. Depending on your physical make-up, you might need the support of traditional boots.
Evolution has made us more dependent on things like sole-cushioning, ankle support, arch support, and such like.
Because of this, wearing barefoot boots gives a greater risk of hurting our Achilles tendons and calf muscles.
4. Lack of arch support (for those in need)
People tend to think that all boots need to offer high arch support, but it isn’t the case.
However, people who have high arches do need it to give them sufficient support, and prevent flat feet and supination.
Also, people who suffer from overpronation (the foot rolling inwards when you walk) might need arch support to help stop the foot from rolling.
One has to ask if arch support is completely necessary for everyone.
A recent meta-analysis of 150 studies showed that arch support in footwear is not likely to be needed unless recommended by a podiatrist for specific foot-related problems or injuries.
5. Limited availability
Although barefoot boots have been on the market since the early 2000s, they are still a niche product, which means not that many manufacturers make them compared to standard boots.
The choices are even more limited when it comes to minimalist safety boots. And as stated previously, the safety boots only really concentrate on toe protection.
This probably isn’t too much of a problem, because the boots aren’t designed for heavy-duty or dangerous work, so people doing light duties won’t have a great need for optimum safety features.
Are there any barefoot boots for winter?
You’d think that because barefoot boots are very thin and lightweight, that they wouldn’t keep your feet warm or dry in winter.
But research has shown that there are lots of these boots that provide enough warmth and waterproofing to get you through the winter months. I’ve checked lots of customer reviews that attest to this.
A lot of these boots are used by runners and hikers. These people go out in all weathers.
Hikers in particular tread through streams, snow, and cold altitudes, so they need the boots to protect their feet in these conditions.
Although thin, the boots can have waterproof membranes, and moisture wicking to allow breathability.
Where to buy barefoot work boots
If you do think barefoot work boots are worth having, here is a list of some places you can find them.
- Freet Barefoot
- Xero Shoes
- Lems Shoes
- Be Lanka
- Gaucho Ninja
- Cat Footwear
- Fugu Sa-Me
- Samurai Market
Conclusion and last thoughts
As stated in the intro, whether barefoot work boots are worth having or not is completely up to the individual.
It depends on the job you do, your health/posture needs, your ethical beliefs, and whatever other reason you can think of.
But, it’s safe to say these boots are not best suited for your oil-rig workers, firefighters, groundworkers, or anyone else who needs a high level of protection from things like sharp objects, extreme heat or cold, oils and acids, electrical hazards, etc.
They’re more suited for people like climbers, roof workers, security guards, office workers, factory workers. The list can go on.
Saying all this, while writing this article, I purchased a pair of Waterproof Lems Boulder Boots to walk to and from the train station when commuting to work.
I did this because I’ve suffered for a long time with back problems.
After having loads of treatments and assessments over the years by osteopaths, chiropractors, physiotherapists, and orthopaedic specialists, I’ve come to the conclusion that I must be habitually doing something that is affecting my posture and back strength.
This footwear is part of my process of elimination.
I’ll let you know how I get on with these boots. Although they can be worn in some workplaces, they can’t be worn in mine.
So if they’re any good, I’ll probably get some barefoot safety boots with steel-toe protection to wear at work as well.
My issue is the cost. Even though they’re not anywhere near as expensive as some of the premium work boots, they can still be up to a couple of hundred dollars.
With the tread and upper material so thin, I wonder if they would last a year without having to fork out another couple of hundred.
Some feedback from yourselves on this subject would be really interesting and useful. So, as always, if you would like to share your experiences, please do.
For now, I’m not gonna bother with boots. I’m off to walk barefoot on some glass and hot coal. Wish me luck.
Team Members Working On This Page
Hey, Jimmy here. I’m one of the researchers and writers here at BestForMyFeet.com. I’ve been wearing work boots all my life working as a forklift driver, landscaper, groundworker, and now as a tower crane operator so I know a few things about footwear and footcare in general. I’m also working on my first novel. So writing IS my passion. When I’m not writing I love to spend time with my wife, two children, and furball.
Construction Professional, driver, crane operator, cleaner, head chef … these are just some of the jobs I did in the past. Working in all these different environments taught me that having good footwear to protect your feet from different dangers at work IS PARAMOUNT for any worker! On this website, I aim to share all my knowledge and personal experience in dealing with different footwear and foot care issues, and hopefully, you can get something out of it. Enjoy!