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Why are Barefoot Shoes so Expensive?

(Plus 6 Game-Changing Tips to Help Cut the Cost)

Softstar Merry Jane, Why are barefoot shoes so expensive?

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As a barefoot shoe lover, I understand how expensive it can be to maintain a closet stocked with healthy footwear options. Plus, keeping my growing kiddos outfitted with the shoes they need for each season as their sizes grow is no small (or inexpensive) task. Especially when you’re first starting out with barefoot shoes, I realize how tempting it can be to splurge on a replacement for each pair you own, but that's not always feasible.

When you’re first shopping around, you may notice that the prices of barefoot shoes are a bit higher than what you’re used to paying. Trust me, there are lots of good reasons for this - but in the long run, your initial investment will actually save you money, both in the cost of new shoes (because you won’t need to buy new shoes as often) and healthcare bills (see the Benefits of Barefoot Shoes!).

If you’re on a budget, but also as committed to keeping yourself and your whole family running around in healthy, functional footwear as I am, read on.

First, let’s take a quick look at the why.

Production costs:

The barefoot shoe industry is relatively new, which means that most companies are fresh start-ups trying to make their way in the barefoot world. There are so many hidden costs for small business owners, and these small companies don’t have the same cost-cutting advantages of larger-scale shoe companies like Nike or Birkenstock.

Design costs:

While barefoot shoes may have simpler construction, there’s quite a lot of engineering that goes into designing shoes that fit different foot-types with a truly authentic barefoot feel. It’s not as straightforward as you may think!

Material costs:

The materials used to make barefoot shoes are actually more costly than traditional shoes. Because the soles are so thin, they have to be extra durable. And there is no getting around the cost of quality, natural fabrics. Steven Sashen, founder of Xero Shoes, says, “High performance, lightweight materials cost more. The unusual manufacturing techniques that it takes to make a minimalist shoe cost more.”

Marketing costs:

Minimalist shoes are a very niche product! Which means that companies really do have to go the extra mile to get word about not only about their product, but on why their shoes are actually the healthier and more comfortable option. What a herculean task to try and undo decades of marketing and misinformation about what is really best for our feet!

Ethical and Environmental considerations:

Barefoot shoe makers (and wearers!) are generally very cool, thoughtful, and conscientious people. They typically want to use the most socially-conscious sources for materials and manufacturing as possible. That means ethically sourced materials for shoes manufactured locally, and paying employees a fair, living wage.

Think about it in cost-per-wear:

Once you’ve invested in quality minimalist shoes and have been wearing them for awhile, you’ll notice that these shoes hold up! They are so well made with such high quality materials, you won’t have to replace them nearly as often as you did your conventional shoes. So, while they may cost more initially, over time you’ll definitely be saving money.

I totally understand that the cost that comes along with your decision to switch to minimalist shoes can be disheartening. As barefoot shoes start to become more mainstream and companies grow, these costs should start to come down. (Amazon has a few brands like Whitin, Saguaro, Seekway, and Relxfeet that are admittedly not as thoughtfully designed or produced, but are absolutely competitive with conventional shoe pricing.)

To help you navigate this very real problem, I’m happy to share these six tips that I’ve used as I’ve made the transition for myself…

Tip 1: Adjust your mindset from being a consumer of fast fashion to a curator of ethically made, high quality pieces.

Most of us have become accustomed to cheaply made, inexpensive clothes that we treat almost as we would disposable plastic storage containers: use them until they no longer serve us and then send them away into ever-growing piles of discarded junk.

This spills over into how we think about our footwear. We expect shoes on the cheap, and when barefoot shoes end up being a bit more expensive than what we’re used to spending on conventional shoes, it’s time for a paradigm shift.

There’s a better way.

Rather than jumping on board with most other Americans, who mindlessly buy 68 pieces of new clothing per year (more than one per week!), spend time researching brands, reaching out to shoe creators to learn more about them and their processes, and be really thoughtful about your investment.

Which leads me to…

Tip 2: Adopt a minimalist mindset to your wardrobe (or at least your shoes).

Anyone heard of a capsule wardrobe? This is a concept I stumbled across on Pinterest a few years back, and fell crazy in love with the idea.

With a minimalist, or capsule, wardrobe, you intentionally limit the number of clothing items available to you in any given season.

You focus on:

  • Quality over quantity. A capsule wardrobe consists of high quality, durable clothing items that are designed to last a lifetime.

  • Versatility: The clothing items in a capsule wardrobe are chosen for their ability to be mixed and matched to create multiple outfits

  • Timeless style: A capsule wardrobe is not based on the latest fashion trends, but rather on classic styles that can be worn confidently through the years. Even as new styles come and go, you’re never out-of-date with a capsule wardrobe.

  • Neutral colors: The clothing items in a capsule wardrobe typically feature neutral colors which can easily be mixed and matched. (This doesn’t mean you can’t add a splash of fun! In fact some of my favorite shoes are Kelly Green boots from Wildling. Because most of my wardrobe is made up of earthy neutrals, my green boots always provide a matching pop of personality.)

  • Minimalism: A capsule wardrobe is all about simplifying your wardrobe and reducing clutter. By limiting the number of clothes (and shoes) you own, you can reclaim space in your home and your brain as you reduce decision fatigue each morning while you’re getting ready to walk out the door. You can be confident that whatever pair you grab will have you walking/jumping/climbing/playing in comfort and style all day long.

The wonderful thing about barefoot shoes is that they are all designed for optimal comfort, so one pair can be very functional for a variety of uses.

For instance, in the winter I wear my Unshoes Forager model to the gym (and kick them off before lifting or running barefoot), while walking my dog, while traveling, or as slippers around the house.

Unshoes Forager, Why are barefoot shoes so expensive?
(My puppy had a little fun with these, hence the lack of buckle and black patches.)

My Magical Shoes Explorer 2.0 are perfect for an outdoor run and super cute as a casual sneaker on an ice cream date with my kids.

Magical Shoes Explorer 2.0, Why are barefoot shoes so expensive?

My Wildling wool-lined boots are perfect for Spring and Fall hikes as well as a cold-weather date night.

Wildling, Why are barefoot shoes so expensive?

If I happen to be dressed up wearing my SoftStar Mary Janes and my dog happens to escape her leash, I can dash away to retrieve her without worrying about my shoes flying off.

Softstar Mary Janes, Why are barefoot shoes so expensive?

And let’s not forget about Earth Runners. These babies are basically all I wear for literally everything all summer long (I’m talking errands, running, walking, hiking, beach days, ETC). And by mid-August I have the tan lines to prove it.

Earth Runners, Why are barefoot shoes so expensive?

When you switch to minimalist shoes, you really don’t need a closet full to meet all your shoe needs. If you adopt a capsule wardrobe, or even just a minimalist approach to your outfits, you’ll only need a few pairs of shoes to complement literally everything you own.

Wildling, Softstar, Magical Shoes, Unshoes, Earth Runners, Why are barefoot shoes so expensive?
Clockwise from top: Wildling, Softstar, Magical Shoes, Unshoes, Earth Runners

Tip 3: Explore second hand options

There are a plethora of ways online you can find new-to-you shoes!

  • Websites like Poshmark, Ebay and Mercari are a great source to find shoes from the bigger barefoot brands like Vivobarefoot, Xero, and Vibram.

  • Gently is a super cool site that will scour the web’s second-hand sites for the particular brand you are looking for, and send you daily email updates on its findings!

  • There are some great buy/sell/trade groups on Facebook! Here’s one that I love.

  • Vivobarefoot has a site called Revivo. They take back their old shoes, refurbish them, and sell them to people like you!

Tip 4: Get creative with DIY!

Barefoot shoe fanatics tend to be pretty creative (and sometimes eccentric) people. There are so many fun and practical ways to DIY your own barefoot kicks!

  • Check on Etsy for DIY kits for minimalist mocs or sandals

  • Xero has a pretty sweet and inexpensive DIY sandal kit! My teenage daughter has actually used this to customize sandals with tie dye paracord she found on Amazon.

  • In her book, Simple Steps to Foot Pain Relief, Katy Bowman suggests hacking off the heel of your conventional shoe to make it zero drop! This won’t work with every type of shoe, but I used a sawzall to get rid of the heel on my LL Bean duck boots, and it worked like a charm. It didn’t solve the problem of a narrower toe box and stiffer sole, but it was a definite step in the right direction.

Tip 5: Get to know economical barefoot shoe brands.

As much as I love a high-quality, hand-made, bought-on-Etsy barefoot shoe, it’s just not always practical to invest so much. Especially with kids, who will wear them for one season and need to size up next year, it's truly so hard to justify spending $100 per pair. Thankfully, there are some economical options!

  • Splay has been a tried and true brand for my kids, and they love them. (See my home page for a discount code!)

  • Amazon water shoes have also been a fan favorite in my house. These don’t usually last more than a season for my active ten-year-old, but they get the job done and he loves how lightweight and flexible they are.

  • As mentioned above, Amazon also has a few barefoot brands: Whitin, Saguaro, Seekway, Hobibear, and Relxfeet (If going this route, be sure to make sure your selected shoe fits within barefoot guidelines - some of these companies make conventional shoes as well).

  • Check out Anya’s comprehensive list for more ideas!

Tip 6: Find practical ways to generate extra income.

If you’re like me, you’re definitely feeling the squeeze of inflation right now, and there just isn’t any room in the budget for new shoes. But if you’re in need of a new pair and are committed to a higher quality shoe that is both comfortable and stylish, there are lots of ways you can earn some extra moola on the side.

  • Donate plasma! You can earn between $30 and $60 per donation, which, after a few weeks, will add up to enough for a shoe splurge.

  • Are you really good with math? (LOL me neither - but my husband is!) English? Or any other subject? Consider tutoring! In my midwestern town, private tutors can charge around $50 per hour.

  • Do you love to bake or cook? Do you have a special recipe your loved ones always rave about? Take a grown-up spin off the lemonade stand and have a pop-up shop! My friend, Ruth, sells a limited amount of homemade pies every Thanksgiving. Someone in my friend’s neighborhood will randomly sell them his incredible tamales! A few years back, my friend, who is a chef, had a road-side guacamole stand with her daughter. And one summer over Covid, my daughter had a brownie-delivery service with her recipe that is to die for. So much possibility with this one!

  • Sell your stuff! Remember earlier when I was talking about finding second-hand shoes? Use those same sites to off-load your unwanted clothing. Or just have a good old-fashioned garage sale. And this doesn’t apply to just selling clothes and shoes… What about that guitar you never play? Old college textbooks? Expensive necessities for a hobby that no longer interests you? Go to town.

  • What can you give up? Are there any subscriptions you can cancel? A Starbucks habit you could break? Where can you cut back on frivolous purchases to save your pennies? It all adds up!

Bonus tip!

Watch for seasonal sales and coupon codes! Many brands have significant Black Friday deals, and there are plenty of coupon codes available year-round.


Whether you go the cheaper Amazon-shoe-route, or opt for a higher end, ethically responsible and/or small business brand, there really are plenty of options for you to find the perfect solution for your specific needs.

You could work on changing your mindset about fashion, adopt a minimalist attitude, buy used, get crafty with a DIY, and get creative about finding extra sources of income.

It may take a little legwork, but there’s no reason you can’t find a pair that’s perfect for what you need right now!

Get shopping!

Your Barefoot Guide,


PS. Any ideas or tips I missed? Add yours in the comments!



Hey, I'm Kim!

I'm so happy you're here.

I believe that your feet are the foundation for full body strength, and living a barefoot lifestyle is key to moving through your years with joy and freedom.

Join me as we live our best barefoot lives together.


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