Design Variations Between Regular and Barefoot Shoes

The concept of the barefoot movement says human feet didn’t evolve to use shoes. However, the conventional theory argues the opposite, expressing that wearing a shoe is important to protect the feet from the hard road surface. Different scientists, athletes, and podiatrists have different opinions regarding these matters. To keep it as simple as possible for general people to understand, this article will discuss Barefoot Shoes vs. Regular Shoes in terms of designs and features that each category has to offer.


Barefoot shoes come with a feather-light design (less than 200 grams). Barefoot shoes depend on the body’s natural shock-absorbing mechanisms. Therefore, it comes with non-essential cushioning and stability features. The design of barefoot shoes is meant to contour the shape and fit the structure of the foot more naturally, providing a sock-like feeling. It offers ultra-thin protection from the outsole for sensory feedback. As a result of the elimination of high-end footwear technology and designs, the shoes have minimum bulk weight.

When it comes to regular shoes, the manufacturer employs high-end technology with cushioning and stability design. These shoes come with additional arch support with a focus on comfort and effortless motion. This specialized technology for neutral motion makes the weight of these shoes comparatively heavier than barefoot shoes.

Heel Drop

In the case of regular shoes, the heel drop ranges from 10 to 12mm. However, it varies from brand to brand and model to model. This is usually a part of cushioned midsole technology that creates a high stack elevation of the heel for tackling repetitive impacts. It offers a plush, dampened feel and helps disperse forces during high-impact strikes.

On the other hand, barefoot shoes have a 0mm heel drop which is known as a heel-to-toe drop. This design translates to an entirely level platform with an extremely thin stack height. It offers a low-to-ground feel with the intention of improving posture and balance.


Traction, protection, and durability- are the three purposes of outsoles. While the heel is thicker and can tolerate repetitive impacts, the forefoot is particularly flexible and responsive. This is one of the important differentiators in the matter of Barefoot Shoes vs. Regular Shoes. Regular shoes come with advanced outsoles with channels or grooves to facilitate forward motion grip.

On the other hand, the barefoot outsole is ultra-flexible from heel to toe. Because of this, these shoes can spring back into their original shape after scrunching into a ball. It allows the feel of flex naturally while walking or running, allowing each muscle to function without restriction. It improves sensory feedback and proprioception.


Regular shoes are designed with cushioning midsole technologies to reduce fatigue and offer protection against injuries with an ultra-spongy marshmallow feel. It compresses the impact shock for smooth energy return.

When it comes to barefoot shoes, cushioning technology doesn’t fit the barefooted principle. It frees the feet from the dampening effects of cushioning for better sensory contact with the road or trail. It aims to put less interference between the feet and the running surface. The texture of the surface (be it rough or full of pebbles) activates the brain stimulation to maintain balance in the ground by instinctively stabilizing the feet.


Apart from these factors in the Barefoot Shoes vs. Regular Shoes, there are other design features that set one apart from others. While regular shoes come with high arch support to reduce muscle stress, barefoot shoes come with flat feet to strengthen the arch. The toe box design of regular shoes can be shallower, but in the case of barefoot shoes, it is wider to counter the natural splaying of the toes.