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.

  • minimalist sandals!

    Xero Shoes - Barefoot Running Sandals

Category: "Barefoot Shoes"

Review of the New Balance Minimus Trail Leather Shoes (MT10)

New Balance recently released the popular Minimus MT10 Trail shoe with a leather upper.
New Balance recently released the popular Minimus MT10 Trail shoe with a leather upper.
New Balance's first minimalist shoe offerings hit the market back in the Spring of 2011. Perhaps their most popular "Minimus" style then, and perhaps even still, was the MT10 or the Minimus Trail (which we've reviewed in depth here and with video here)… more »

Altra Provision Running Shoe Review

Altra Provision Running Shoe Review
“Modeled after The Instinct™ platform, The Provision™ adds a firmer midsole and a removable varus stability wedge to assist men with fallen arches, excessive overpronation and knock knees. Built for moderate and high overpronation, the Zero Dr… more »

Unshoes Pah Tempe Review

The Unshoes Pah Tempe is a minimalist sandal that utilizes a unique webbing design to secure the ultra thin Vibram rubber sole to your foot.
The Unshoes Pah Tempe is a minimalist sandal that utilizes a unique webbing design to secure the ultra thin Vibram rubber sole to your foot.
If you've been around ultra-minimalist running and walking for a while you've probably seen more than most of the huaraches available these days typically involve a strap that runs between your big toe and its neighbor. more »

Minimus 3090 Connect from New Balance

Minimus 3090 Connect from New Balance
New Balance teased yesterday on their Facebook page a new shoe in their Minimius line -- the Minimus 3090 Connect. Here's a first look at the shoes, which seem aimed at the high-intensity fitness crowd. I hadn't heard a word about this new release from New Balance so I was intrigued. What more, there was a spastic, 30-second You… more »

Laced SeeYa LS FiveFingers Spotted in the Wild?

Can you spot the prototype model of Vibram FiveFingers?  Is that a 2013 SeeYa LS (laced) we're seeing?
Can you spot the prototype model of Vibram FiveFingers? Is that a 2013 SeeYa LS (laced) we're seeing?
Anything jump out at you from the photos above? Sure there are the crazy gold and green FiveFingers Speeds (More on those here), but the real eye-catchers are what appear to be the Vibram FiveFingers SeeYa with laces. Both our men's and women's re… more »