Splay Freestyle: Best Budget Barefoot Shoes Alternative to Vans

October 14, 2023The Splay Freestyle is 6.5mm budget barefoot shoe alternative to Vans for skate and casual.

Hi, my name’s Andrew, and these are the Spay Freestyle, the best budget barefoot shoes alternative to Vans for walk, skate, and parkour.

Features

Lately, one of the questions I’ve been getting asked a lot in the comments is: “Are Vans barefoot shoes?”

And the answer is…no.

Because while they are zero-drop (aka flat), Vans have a pointy toebox that squashes your feet and a thick clunky sole that limits flexibility and ground feel.

So I asked Splay for a pair of their Freestyle’s to test, and, yea, they’ve got vibe and toughness of a skate shoe, but with the freedom of real minimalist footwear.

Upper/Inner

For starters the Freestyle’s have an extra-wide foot-shaped toebox made with 100% natural cotton, along with classic flat laces, side grommets for breathability, and a padded back for heel lock.

Sole/Tread

Underneath you’ve got a medium thin 6.5mm sole that’s highly flexible in all directions, plus a grippy tread that wraps around for side protection.

FYI, I went with Pine, but the Splay Freestyle’s also come in Sand, Shale, Plum, Royal, Cherry, and a bunch of other colors and slip-on styles.

Testing

My first impression of the Splay Freestyle’s was that I freakin’ loved that the toebox is extra-wide but kind of squared off, so it actually looks cool.

Walking

Predictably, it felt really good to be able to spread my toes out while I was walking, and although the sole had lots of flexibility and ground feel, it was also sturdy enough to handle rough pavement and gravel.

Parkour

Doing some parkour around a local park the Splay Freestyle’s were like wearing a pair of Spider-Man shoes with tons of agility for leaping over benches and grip for jumping onto metal beams or running up concrete walls.

Skating

Annoyingly, I got rid of my skateboard this summer while cleaning out the basement, so I had to improvise by standing up on the top bar of my bike like a skate deck.

But cruising around curves, switching stances, and landing a few jumps I figured if I hadn’t wiped out riding on a little two-inch bar, then the Freestyle’s would probably work even better for actual skateboarding.

So check this out, I set up a board at 45º and regular barefoot shoes just slide right down, but the Splay Freestyle sticks like gum.

That said, the sole is still pretty thin, and it’ll last longer for stuff like casual long-boarding than heavy abuse at a skate park.

Conclusion

Overall the Splay Freestyle’s are a great barefoot alternative to Vans type shoes and they’re a rare example of affordable footwear that’s actually better than a lot of premium options at twice the price.

Pros/Cons

Because the Freestyle’s extra-wide toebox is super roomy, the natural cotton upper feels tough yet comfortable, and the 6.5mm sole is durable and grippy on all kinds of hard surfaces.

However, the sole can feel too thick for longer runs, the cotton fabric isn’t as breathable for hot weather, and the toebox might be too wide if you have narrow feet.

Alternatives

In terms of similar barefoot shoes…

  • Mukishoes Jasper: ultra thin 3.5mm sole, extra-wide toebox, organic cotton upper, and minimal tread for roads.
  • BeLenka Champ: thin 4mm sole, extra-wide toebox, leather upper, and minimal tread for roads.
  • Bearfoot Ursus: thicker 7mm sole, triple-wide toebox, tough canvas upper, and minimal tread for indoor cross-training.
  • Resources

    If you’d like to support the channel, you can shop with the referral links above/below, or watch my Zero-Drop Transition video to learn more about barefooting.

    If you have a question about the Splay Freestyle, or about barefoot shoes in general, let me know in the comments.

    Thanks for watching, catch ya next time. Peace!

    Andrew Folts

    Andrew is a writer/filmmaker who creates video guides and reviews for a community of 25K+ creative rebels on YouTube.