Research on barefoot entrepreneurship is growing, yet we still know little about the potential limits of institutional entrepreneurship in the context of extreme poverty. Challenging institutional entrepreneurship theory’s agency-centric assumptions, we seek to understand how barefoot institutional entrepreneurship efforts fail amidst resistance from powerful actors in the institutional context. Our qualitative study of marginalized waste pickers in Colombia sheds light on the role of power in barefoot institutional entrepreneurship failure. We unpack a paradox of inclusion: the more marginalized barefoot entrepreneurs push for and gain regulatory legitimacy for their market inclusion, the more this accentuates overt and covert power mechanisms that work to suppress the diffusion of institutional change, aggravating barefoot entrepreneurs’ market exclusion. Our study shows that while regulatory change is necessary to enhance barefoot entrepreneurs’ market inclusion, on its own it is not sufficient, without normative and cognitive support from powerful actors in the institutional field.