Choosing the right model and the right size of a barefoot shoe is not an easy task for beginner. Feet, trapped in tight fitting shoes for many years, are not accustomed to such freedom and need time to adapt.

You may not have quite a real felling at the beginning if your toes really have enough space in the shoe. Here are few tips that will help you choose the right size of your barefoot shoe.

1. Wide toebox

Your toes should be in its natural position inside the shoe, which means that the shoes should not push your toes together (not even a little).

A common rookie mistake is choosing the barefoot shoe with not enough space in front of the toes or too narrow shoes. Our feet has become accustomed to narrow shoes, therefore it is very difficult to find the right feeling if our toes really have enough space at the beginning.

In fact, the barefoot shoe that is slightly too narrow for our feet can still be quite comfortable in comparison to the shoes, which we wore before. But that does not mean that the shoe is wide enough our your feet.

You can also expect that after few months in barefoot shoes your toes would spread. And the barefoot shoe that fitted you well at the beginning can eventually become too tight for you.

The figure below shows an example of two different barefoot shoes. Although they look quite similar at first sight regarding the width, my big toe is pushed inwards in the left shoe. In the right shoe there is enough space for my toes. Right shoe has a better toebox for my feet, while the left shoe is more suitable for people with a narrower foot.

Comparison of shoes – in the left shoe I don’t have enough space for my toes, but the right shoe fits me well

2. Insole width

When choosing the right shoe size help yourself with the insole.

Some barefoot shoes have the removable insole, which serves as additional protection when walking on different surfaces, as a protection against the cold or it can even help you to get a better fit with the shoe.

For example, if you need more space in the shoe you can remove the insole, but if your foot is narrower than the shoe or if you have a rather low instep you can keep the insole in the shoe (or you can add it if the shoe does not have it). In this way you can achieve a better fit. If you know that you will always wear your shoes with the insole (e.g. winter shoes), take this in mind when selecting a size and rather choose a bigger size.

The insole could also be a good indicator if your shoe fits you or not. Your toes should not hang over the insole. The foot can be slightly wider than the insole, but not much.

There is usually a little bit more space in the barefoot shoe than you have on the insole. Therefore you should always try how your toes feels inside the shoe and only then you can finally estimate the amount of space you have.

The figure below shows examples of my foot on different insoles. In the first two pictures above you can see the insoles from the same barefoot shoe brand in two different sizes. Lets take a look at the insole in upper left corner. The insole is too narrow for my foot, my toes are hanging over it and I don’t have a lot of space in front of my toes. If I size up (upper right picture), I have enough space for my toes. They are in their natural position, but the shape of the toebox is not quite ideal for my foot.

In the three pictures below you can see my foot on the insoles which shoes fit me well. I have just enough space on the insoles, but the shoes fit me really well and I have prenty of space inside the shoe.

The better the toebox mimics the shape of your foot, less space in front of the toes you need to get a good fit (although I like at least 10 mm space in closed-toe shoes).

Examples of my feet on different insoles

3. Space above your toes

The feeling of spaciousness is achieved also with the space above your toes.

The insole is not the only indicator if your shoes fits you or not, but it is a rough indicator which can eliminate large variations.

Let’s look at the example in the figure below. This shoes are not exactly the same. They are the same model, but the left one is a men shoe and right one a women shoe. Both have the same insoles in the shoes. But they feel different in the toebox. Why?

Comparison of shoes with the same insoles
left: men’s shoe, right: women’s shoe

Not only the insole width and shape influences on your toe freedom, but also the volume of the shoe in the toebox. That is the space you have above your toes and the circumference of the shoe. However, our foot is three-dimensional.

In some sizing charts, in addition to the length and the width of the shoe, also the circumference of the shoe is provided. So, if the width of the shoe is slightly narrower than the width of your foot, it does not necessarily mean that the shoe won’t fit. The volume can still be large enough to have enough space for your shoes.

And what do you think in which shoe my toes feel better 🙂 I definitely have more space in men’s. But the men’s version is wider around the ankle and the instep which would cause slipping my foot.

4. Prevent foot slipping in shoes

Your foot should not slip out of the shoe, nor slip forward while walking.

This problem often occurs with slip-on models and ballet flats which don’t have any additional straps to fix the shoe on the foot. This problem may occur even with other shoes. If you have very skinny ankles or low instep, sometimes you can’t even tighten the laces or velcro enough to prevent slipping at the heel.

If you grip your toes in the shoe, this shoe doesn’t have a good fit for you unless you customize it. A better fixation of the shoe is done with laces.

If you really like the shoe model you can try to improve the fit by inserting additional insoles, using felt pads at the instep area or using some yoga socks. Sometimes this can help, but not always.

5. The amount of space in front of your toes

How much space you need in front of your toes is a matter of your own preference. Minimum recommended space for movement is at least 6 mm (some brands recommend less).

The required amount of space in front of your toes also depends on the type of the shoe. I prefer 10-12 mm space in front of my toes in closed-toe shoes. In winter shoes there can be few mm more, to have more space for thicker socks. In open-toe sandals is recommended to choose less space to avoid tripping.

The required amount of space in front of the toes depends also on the shape of the toebox and your foot shape. The better your foot shape corresponds to the shape of the toebox, less space in front of your toes you need.

On the amount of space in front of the toes also affects the width of the foot. Normally, in the same shoe narrower feet need less space than wide feet.

The amount of space in front of my toes, which I usually choose for me

6. Inside length and width of the shoe

Sizes can vary from brand to brand. I mostly wear size 42, but I have also size 41 and all the way to size 44. And all the shoes have very similar length.

Therefore, it is important to know you foot length and width. In the sizing table you should only look for the inside lenght and width of the shoe and not the shoe size.

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There are several different brands of barefoot shoes on the market. Some types of the barefoot shoes are better for narrower foot, some for wide and some work well with many different foot types.

At the beginning, you may need a little more patience to find the most appropriate shoe for yourself, but eventually you will get a feeling and you will quickly evaluate if the shoe fits you or not.

Also, keep in mind that your foot can slightly spread over the time and eventualy you could need a little wider and longer barefoot shoes than you had at the beginning.

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