What’s the difference between running with shoes on and running barefoot? None – and that’s precisely the point behind the newfound soaring popularity of shoes with toes. Essentially, runners the world over have been desperately trying to find running footwear that would help them avoid injuries as effectively as possible. The results? Not so impressive. It seems that the best way of running for leisure or fitness is still the good, old-fashioned method with no shoes on, but, of course, that doesn’t offer the athlete nearly as much grip as needed. The compromise solution? Shoes with toes, the ten best of which are featured below.
1. Vibram FiveFingers Bikila
This is arguably the most popular brand of shoes with toes, since they don’t feature the raised heel of many other brands. This is important, since, according to an entire host of medical studies, runners who do not wear shoes tend to land on their forefeet, not their heels. This helps them align their center of gravity as naturally as possible, thereby avoiding injury. Since there is no heel on the FiveFingers Bikila, the runner’s natural biomechanics are given all the freedom they need.
2. Vibram FiveFingers Men’s KSO
This is by far the most popular type of running shoes with toes for men. They’re fit for any type of sport, not just running, which pretty much explains their incredible popularity. The stretch nylon and mesh upper covers the foot in its entirety, keep out dirt, dust, pebbles and all other types of debris. If you’re a trail runner, or simply an avid hiker, you will love this shoe. Its outsole is made of non-marking material, which allows for just enough grip to keep your foot secure and safely tucked into the shoe for the duration of your run.
3. Vibram FiveFingers for Indoor Sports
The model featured above is the Women’s Classic from the Vibram FiveFingers range. It costs upward of $41, and is available in several colors, including slate grey and red. The manmade sole is made of Vibram TC-1 performance rubber, which makes it fit for practicing sports indoors, be it tennis, squash or handball. The antimicrobial microfiber of the footbed makes this shoe as hygienic as possible, keeping out germs and bacteria, in order to avoid infections specific for athletes.
4. Fila Skele-Toes
The Skele-Toes from Fila are the Italian brand’s response to the already famous Vibram range. There is a model for women, called the 2.0 Slip-On Fashion Sneaker, as well as one for men: the EZ Slide Shoe. Prices range upward of $30 on the women’s models and $38 for the men’s models. While other shoes with toes are marred by the issue of giving the wearer a hard time when they’re putting them on, the Skele-Toes boast bungee loops and a combined slot for the two larger of the five toes. They’re perfectly fit for all outdoor summer activities, according to the manufacturer’s description.
5. Walter Martin & Paloma Munoz Shoes with Toes
While most of the other shoes with toes featured here are geared directly toward runners, designers Walter Martin and Paloma Munoz produced something… a little bit different. The two pairs of shoes featured above are not for wearing, but for being displayed in museums and exhibitions as works of art. Yes, that’s right: the footwear in the image, created in 1994, was completed in Hydrostone, oil paint, and gold leaf and cannot be found at any retailer worldwide. They do have toes, though…
6. Vivo Barefoot Achilles
They are not shoes with toes per se, but they are, after all, running sandals, with the big toe separated from the rest of them. Among runners, the concept of huaraches, light, thin-soled sandals, has grown in notoriety ever since the spread of barefoot running as the healthiest alternative. As such, Vivo came up with these high-end huaraches of sorts, in response to numerous runners trying to use their home-made, DYI versions for running. They are uniquely designed, don’t provide too bad of a running experience and can be purchased at selected offline retailers for upward of $60.
7. Vibram FiveFingers Jaya Shoe
Up for more Vibram five-finger excellence? Here comes the Jaya shoe, especially designed for women, and available in some rather snazzy color combos. The shoe is made of stretch polyamide, with antimicrobial microfiber for the footbed and a 5.5 mm EVA sole. They can be safely machine-washed and cost upward of $61.5.
8. XCEL Hawaii Infiniti Drylock Split-Toe Boot
This is not a five-finger shoe proper, nor was it made for running. It’s a high-end split-toe diving boot, which aficionados of underwater sports can purchase for prices ranging between $60 and $70. The sole is solid at the front, where the toe splits, and the pull tab on the upper makes it easy to put on and take off. The bootie also features lining especially made for diving, which repels water. It’s ideal for cold-water surfing, as it’s pretty much guaranteed to keep the wearer safe, snug, with a firm grip on the board.
9. Comme des Garcons Black Leather Shoes with Toes
If you’ve arrived at this page intent on finding nothing but running shoes, we can only hope that this addition to the list won’t repel you. The black leather shoes with toes from iconic Japanese fashion brand Comme des Garcons were too cute not to include, even though they sort of clash with the rest of the list. They are also available in tan—with the toenails painted red!—and were initially featured in the brand’s 2009 runway show.
10. XCEL Reef Split Toe 1 Mm Boot
These lightweight split toe booties must have been born for diving fanatics, as they offer almost all perks they can possibly dream of: the flexible split-toe sole, an adjustable fit system, which features a pull cord and a barrel lock, comfy no matter the girth of your shins, plus high-cut cuff covers that reach above the ankle—in case you were worried you wouldn’t be getting enough protection. The ‘Gripper’ trademarked sole makes these shoes perfect for surfing.