Given my affinity for barefoot living and shoes that provide little or no support, it has been great to see so many “minimalist” shoes come to the market. Here I’ll give you a quick run down of some of the versions I have, some I like and would like to try, and a few other models floating around out there for the Bare 5 roundup of the minimalist shoe market.
Here’s my current lineup:
I love the feel of the VFFs. Every one of the models I have owned the last three years has been fantastic although I particularly enjoy the soft inside lining of the more current models including the Bikila, Speed (with regular laces) and Kimodosport (LS version has an easy pull tie lacing system). I get a lot of attention when I wear the Vibrams out and about which I have counted as a blessing because I really enjoy talking to people about them and the concept of “natural” shoes. People ask me if I like them, if they’re comfortable, if they provide enough support, etc. and my first response usually is, “Well, I own six pairs if that tells you anything.”
Merrell: Barefoot Run Trail Glove.
A great shoe- looks more like a regular tennis shoe but it’s flat (no elevated heel) and has a lot of room in the toe box, meaning there’s plenty of room for the toes (my toes don’t get squished at all). This is a great transition shoe for people interested in minimalist shoes but not quite ready for or favorable of the Five Fingers.
New Balance: Minimus 10.
Very cool as well, similar to the Merrell- looks like a shoe but feels like next to nothing on your foot. Light, comfortable and several great looking styles.
Vivobarefoot: Neo Trail
Love these shoes, particularly for off road and hiking. they have little cleats on the bottom that are small enough to not impact regular wear but perform really well on the trail. These have also been some of my most complimented shoes from minimalist fans as well as the general public.
My casual sandal of choice. I wear these whenever I can, particularly if dressing in a way that requires something nicer than a sporty shoe. Sanuk has dozens of slippers and sandals that are all very comfortable and cool looking.
Nike: SPARQ Free Trainer (the version I have is out of production, this link is to the closest version I could find available)
The only “tennis” shoe I still wear on a regular basis. I simply like the light feel and look of these. They’re about as “minimal as a tennis shoe gets. I’ve also had other Free versions and liked those as well but the SPARQ Free seems to be the most minimal of all the Nike Shoes.
I also have a few pairs of sandals/flipflops which I wear more in the summer. The version I wear the most are my O’Neill sandals (the linked version is the closest I could find to what I have, which are a few years old and still in great shape).
Some footwear I have seen or heard about and would like to try include…
Luna Sandals – several sandal and huarache type versions, developed by Barefoot Ted, a big name in the barefoot/minimalist world. Much of this brand was inspired by the Tarahumara, highlighted in the recent book Born To Run by Christopher McDougall. The basic sandal version, The Original Luna looks simply awesome.
STEM Footwear – ancestral footwear with just a few simple versions, I think I’ll try the Primal Origins first.
Invisible Shoes – simple huaraches in two main styles with the ability to customize, also very reasonably priced and a product guarantee. I am looking at trying the Connect.
Saucony – recently entered the minimalist running shoe world with a few cool looking options including the Hattori.
Nike – the first minimalist shoe I owned a few years ago was in the Nike Free family. My wife loves her Nike Free shoes as well.
True Linkswear – minimalist golf shoes? I have got to try these at some point!
Some others I have seen advertised but am not interested in at the moment include…
Addidas – their version of toe shoes (Adipure Trainer) has not met with good reviews.
Fila – Another toe shoe version (Skele-Toes) with the last two toes sliding into one pocket. Haven’t heard any reviews of these, not really interested in them at the moment.
Reebok – more promoted as a natural movement shoe, the RealFlex Optimal and similar models offer a flexible fit. I have heard these are pretty comfortable.
Be Real – looks similar to Vibrams but I haven’t heard any reviews of these toe shoes.
That’s most of the big ones at the moment. There are dozens more coming to market and I’ll try to keep this updated as I come across more models and styles.
If you are interested in learning more about minimalist footwear or barefoot living, you can also check out the Bare 5 Barefoot HQ for much more info and links, including where you can try on and buy minimalist shoes.
Just for fun, here’s a simple breakdown of my take on minimalist shoes…
1. Minimalist shoes are nearly the only shoes I wear. I recommend everyone try some out.
2. There are several styles, check out many different ones before you decide on one.
3. Try them on first. Many are sized differently, you need to feel how they feel on your feet.
4. They do not feel like regular shoes, don’t expect them too.
5. Ease into using them, particularly if you are going to exercise or run in them.
Thanks for reading, have a great minimalist footwear day!