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"

Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO

Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO
Coming Spring 2014 — Subscribe to stay up-to-date on the release (And catch more upcoming minimalist shoes for 2014)! If there was one model that brought Vibrams to the masses, it had to have been the FiveFingers KSO. When it launched, there… more »

Merrell Vapor Glove - Running, Crossfit Review

Merrell Vapor Glove - Running, Crossfit Review
This review is long overdue. The Merrell Vapor Glove was released to great fanfare in February of this year, and almost immediately came the flood of fawning reviews. I think in the months since release I've only seen one negative review, with even that… more »

Review-Speed XC Lite FiveFingers from Vibram

Review-Speed XC Lite FiveFingers from Vibram
The FiveFingers Speed XC Lite is one of the new Vibram toe shoe models released for the end of Summer/Fall 2013. The Speed XC Lite (or "XC Lite") is a riff on the water-resistant Speed XC FiveFingers that released earlier this year. Both these new Spe… more »

Lems Mariner Boat Barefoot Shoes Review

Lems Mariner is a new "barefoot casual shoe" that favors the "boat shoe" design ported to a minimalist/barefoot style and function—zero drop, huge toe box, low stack height sole, and no arch support.  On the left above you can see a the Mariner in the cam
Lems Mariner is a new "barefoot casual shoe" that favors the "boat shoe" design ported to a minimalist/barefoot style and function—zero drop, huge toe box, low stack height sole, and no arch support. On the left above you can see a the Mariner in the camel colorway; on the right you see the Mariner in sand. Note the colors are a bit saturated/stylized in this photo.
http://birthdayshoes.com/toes/Lems_Mens The Shoes The Lems Mariner boat shoes come in two colorways. On the left are the Mariners seen in the "Camel" colorway. On the right, you can see the Mariners in the "Sand" colorway. Here you can see a… more »

Barefoot B.E.R.B.S. Minimalist Golf Shoes Review

Barefoot B.E.R.B.S. Minimalist Golf Shoes Review
More and more companies are releasing barefoot style shoes, and it should come as no surprise to see more being offered to golfers. We've previously reviewed barefoot golf shoes by TRUE linkswear and Vivobarefoot. Another option in this minimal golf c… more »

Minimalist Shoes on Sale Here

Nobody wants to maximalist prices for minimalist shoes. Thankfully, if you're here you're well on your way to hooking up a sale or two on some of the most popular minimalist shoes around. Let's dive in: Merrell Barefoots 40% off!EMS has var… more »

What Should I Put on My Feet to Go Run?

What Should I Put on My Feet to Go Run?
If you've got kids, you're familiar with bedtime routines. Part of our nightly bedtime routine is reading books. My almost-four-year-old Avi gets to pick out a couple of books before it's lights out. So I was excited when author John McClung reached… more »

Earth Runners Circadian Review

Earth Runners Circadian Review
I love huaraches. I've raced in the bare minimum clothes and bare minimum shoes you could have without being naked. I wore them for my first marathon. Heck, huaraches have even started to take over as my default CrossFit shoe on days where any running i… more »

LEM Boulder Boot Review

LEM Boulder Boot Review
Lems Shoes (the barefoot shoe company formerly known as Lemming formerly known as Stem Footwear) recently dropped their new boot for Spring 2013—the Boulder (see Meet Lems Boulder, the Barefoot Shoe Boot for the original release announcement).… more »

New Balance HI-REZ Minimus Review

New Balance HI-REZ Minimus Review
In practice, the ground feel of the Hi-rez is absolutely tremendous. Surprisingly you can’t really feel the individual hexagons underfoot, but rather it feels like one uniform sole. In a side by side comparison with the Vibram El-X, running on a varied terrain of asphalt, grass, and dirt, there was virtually no noticeable different in ground transmission. It’s really just amazing what New Balance has been able to pull off in this regard. more »

Breatho Trail Vivo Barefoot Shoe Review

Breatho Trail Vivo Barefoot Shoe Review
I'm planning on doing a GoRuck Challenge (GRC) in a few months, and I was at a loss for what type of shoe to use. For those of you not familiar with the GRC, it is a 12 hour "adventure" designed by the GoRuck company to test their back packs, which… more »

Luongo Footwear Review

Luongo Footwear Review
I'm rather partial to slip-on shoes. Especially slip-ons that are thin but tough and exceedingly functional. A big part of this is that I like to get moving as soon as possible. I own several pairs of huaraches and the ones I wear most are rarely the be… more »

Review New Balance Minimus 10v2 Trail and Road

Above are the New Balance Minimus 10v2 Trail (left) and 10v2 (right)
Above are the New Balance Minimus 10v2 Trail (left) and 10v2 (right)
If you’re like me, then it’s time to replace those original Minimus Trails that you picked up back in 2011 just a few weeks after they were widely released. Luckily, New Balance has come through with a reboot and update of the Minimus 10 in both the Ro… more »

Luna Mono Huaraches Review

Luna Mono Huaraches Review
It's no secret that I love me some Lunas. I've tested their socks for the first time on race day with no prior experience with them, because I trust Luna that much. Then I ran my first marathon in Luna Venados. But I'll be honest: I wasn't entirely… more »

Merrell Vapor Glove Available for Sale!

Above photoed — Men's Merrell Vapor Glove in black; Women's Merrell Vapor Glove in Orange/Blue
Above photoed — Men's Merrell Vapor Glove in black; Women's Merrell Vapor Glove in Orange/Blue
http://birthdayshoes.com/toes/W_Vapor_REI http://birthdayshoes.com/toes/M_Vapor_CS http://birthdayshoes.com/vapor-glove-merrell-barefoot-initial-review more »

SeeYa, Speed FiveFingers Back in Black!

SeeYa, Speed FiveFingers Back in Black!
Did you know that Vibram has snuck out two new colorways of the men's SeeYa and Speed FiveFingers? Yep! And the colorways are likely to please as the Speeds are now available in a flat black (see above) and the SeeYas in a black/grey mash-up (al… more »

Soft Star RunAmoc Moc3 Review

Soft Star RunAmoc Moc3 Review
I've been transitioning to minimalist a piece at a time over the course of the last two years. First was the gradual change in my actual training shoes. Then casual and business wear -- still an ongoing process. Oddly the only persistent holdout was the… more »

Meet Lems Boulder, the "Barefoot Shoe" Boot

Meet Lems Boulder, the "Barefoot Shoe" Boot
I got good news from Andrew Rademacher, founder of upstart minimalist/barefoot shoe manufacturer Lems Shoes* ("Light. Easy. Minimal.") — the first batch of the much-anticipated Lems Shoes Boulder Boot are now available for order! I say "first batch" be… more »