What are "Barefoot" or Minimalist Shoes?

What are "Barefoot" or Minimalist Shoes?

Some call them "barefoot shoes" ...

... While others prefer the term "minimalist footwear." As Vibram's "FiveFingers" kicked off the craze, many barefoot-alternative converts assume "barefoot shoes" must be "those toe shoes" — the eye-catchingly strange foot gloves or shoes that look like feet. But the barefoot/minimalist footwear category is much more than shoes that look like feet.

And 'round here, we sorta like the name "Birthday Shoes" — not just because of the "birthday suit" pun, but also because it's a reminder that you were born barefoot, that homo sapiens survived for eons without high-tech sneakers, and shoe design should consider the natural, biologically "nude" state of the foot. If bare feet got humanity through the stone age, do we really need a thickly cushioned pair of Nike's simply to play outside or go for a run?

What makes a good shoe should be grounded in the foot's natural, bare state. Thus, a basic understanding of the naked foot is the simplest guide as to what the ideal shoe should be. To wit:

  • shoes should allow your feet to move dynamically as they would barefoot.
  • shoes shouldn't support our feet — the need for "arch support" for a healthy foot makes little sense given arches are innately strong structures. Supports may actually undermine the natural function of the arches in our feet!
  • shoes should transmit "ground feel" allowing you to feel the terrain even if that means discomfort — in fact, being able to feel the ground may be the most important facet of learning how to walk and run with low impact, thereby reducing the chance of injury.
  • shoes should have little to no impact on how you would move if barefoot — shoes shouldn't change your natural bio-mechanics (and if you're accustomed to wearing conventional shoes, note that your barefooted bio-mechanics will need some reworking!).
  • shoes should be as light and keep your feet low to the ground!

This isn't a comprehensive list, but it hits on some of the most important facets behind what makes a shoe "minimalist" or "barefoot" ("barefoot shoes" may be an unfortunate way to describe barefoot-styled footwear, but it's probably the most colloquial way to convey the category).

Why are minimalist/barefoot shoes so popular these days? Because these types of shoes let feet be feet, making for healthier and happier human beings. Our kids know what most of us have forgotten—barefooted (or close to it!) movement is fun whether that be running, walking, playing, or just a random trip to the grocery store.

It's time we abandoned the prevailing paradigms around footwear. We don't need these overbuilt, overcushioned, arch-supporting monstrosities strapped to our feet to function. Free your feet and rediscover the inner kid in you.

Below you'll find a slew of detailed reviews of minimalist/barefoot shoes published here on BirthdayShoes. They're organized generally by style — Toe Shoes, Minimalist/Barefoot Shoes, and Huaraches/Barefoot Sandals. If you're new to BirthdayShoes, consider subscribing to our weekly email digest to keep up with the latest releases (as well as hearing about some really sweet deals) — subscribers are even automatically eligible to win free minimalist footwear via new model giveaways!

Note: If you get lost as you peruse BirthdayShoes.com and want to get back to this page, just click on "barefoot/minimalist shoes" in the horizontal navigation menu at the top of the page (below "birthdayshoes" above)!

Toe Shoes 

"Toe Shoes" is the term we've given to "barefoot shoes" that articulate the toes — as opposed to ballet slippers which sometimes go by the same name. There are a handful of types of toe shoes including Vibram FiveFingers, which are the original five toe shoes that arrived on the scene around 2006; Inov-8 EvoSkins, which have five toe pockets and showed up in 2010; Fila Skele-toes, which have only four toe pockets and showed up in Spring 2011; the Adidas Adipure Trainers, which came on in Fall 2011; and most lately, the BodyGlove 3T (Spring 2012), which only has three toe pockets. 

Vibram FiveFingers

As Vibram FiveFingers are so heavily defined by their sole design, the (toe) shoes below are organized by sole style, and within each sub-category, by release date (leftmost are most recent). Links point to reviews, if applicable, or in some cases, pages that aggregate posts about a given model. Surf around!

Fall 2012 Vibram FiveFingers Preview:

Vibram FiveFingers Current Line:

Fall 2012 reviews:

Fall 2012 first look:

SeeYa (2012):

Spyridon (2012):

Trek:

KomodoSport:

Bikila:

Jaya:

Kids models:

Performa:

Original:

Discontinued and/or Models that never made it into production:

[coming soon]

 

Fila Skeletoes

 

Adidas Adipure Trainer

 

BodyGlove 3T Barefoot


 

Minimalist Footwear or General "Barefoot" Shoes

This category of shoes includes footwear that is barefoot-minded, but groups the toes into one single enclosure (basically, the typical shoe design — no toe articulation). 

VIVO BAREFOOT


  

Leming Footwear


 

Merrell Barefoot


 

New Balance Minimus


 

Altra Running

 

Skora Running


 

Soft Star Shoes

 

True Linkswear

 

Saucony

 

Skechers

Other



 

Huaraches and Sandals

  

InvisibleXero Shoes

 

Luna Sandals

 

Unshoes Minimalist Footwear

 

Bedrock Sandals

Others

Category: "Barefoot Shoes"

Vibram FiveFingers Golf Shoe V-Classic LR

Vibram FiveFingers Golf Shoe V-Classic LR
Vibram FiveFingers Golf Shoe V-Classic LR
Last fall we found out about a new Vibram FiveFinger style designed specifically for golfing. The V-Classic and V-Classic LR finally arrived for Spring 2014, and Vibram was kind enough to send me a pair of the LR to test out. I have to say I… more »

Lems Nine2Fives in Black (and Updated Leather)

Lems Nine2Fives in Black (and Updated Leather)
Lems Nine2Fives in Black (and Updated Leather)
In November 2013 I reviewed the Lems Nine2Five in "Coffee and Cream" brown leather but noted that the black Nine2Fives wouldn't be available until 2014. Six months later, here we are, and not only do we have more Lem Nine2Fives in black, but both the b… more »

Shamma Sandals Jerusalem Cruisers and Warriors Review

Shamma Sandals Jerusalem Cruisers and Warriors Review
Shamma Sandals Jerusalem Cruisers and Warriors Review
For the past three weeks, I have been lucky enough to enjoy two of the latest models from Shamma Sandals: Jerusalem Cruisers and Warriors. Shamma Sandals are a huarache company based in Santa Cruz, California. All of their products are hand-crafted and… more »

TRUE Gent Wingtip "Dress Shoe" Review

TRUE Gent Wingtip "Dress Shoe" Review
TRUE Gent Wingtip "Dress Shoe" Review
Fans of barefoot shoes have probably all faced a similar dilemma. A wedding, job interview, or any other potential situation requiring a more formal attire that isn't necessarily conducive to toe shoes or the abundance of casual and trai… more »

Xero Shoes Amuri Cloud First Look Review

Xero Shoes Amuri Cloud First Look Review
Xero Shoes Amuri Cloud First Look Review
Xero Shoes continues to innovate on the class huaraches design with the release this week of their new "Amuri Cloud" barefoot sandals. What is this "Cloud" that I speak of? It's a design feature of the Amuri Xero Shoes that reduces weight and improves… more »

TRUE Linkswear Tour Golf Shoes - 2013 Update/Review

TRUE Linkswear Tour Golf Shoes - 2013 Update/Review
TRUE Linkswear Tour Golf Shoes - 2013 Update/Review
TRUE linkswear is in the process of releasing new styles for 2014, but I wanted to share some thoughts on last year's update to the TRUE shoe that started it all. The original tour was TRUE's debut entry into the minimal golf shoe world, and while it w… more »