Below is a comprehensive review of minimalist shoe-wear options that I personally own, love, and recommend. These minimalist shoes allow you to develop healthy, natural foot function, and move the rest of your body and structure naturally.
I have first hand experience with each of these shoe styles, and brands; if you run into any questions regarding any of this information, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Made by a small, eco conscious company based out of California, Earth Runners are my all time favorite, most loved, most worn shoe. Inspired by the ancient Tarahumara huarache sandals, Earth Runners are equipped with a Vibram® sole, a canvas grip footbed, and a grounded, conductive lacing system™. In short, this makes for a durable, protective sole that allows you to feel the ground while providing enough room to spread your toes and enough friction to prevent your foot from sliding around (which happens frequently in modern flip flops and sandals - over time, all that sliding means your toes are having to grip to keep your shoe in place, and results in unnecessary strain).
These sandals not only look great (I have people come up to me all the time to ask where I bought them), but the company offers 3 different sole thicknesses (I recommend starting with the Circadian if this is your first minimal shoe) and a variety of lace colors.
These are incredibly durable, long lasting shoes. If your laces wear out, you can re-order replacement laces for less than $20. When they get dirty, rinse them off or toss them in the washer.
Many of my friends, family, and clients have purchased these shoes, and after the initial adjustment period (it takes a little time to get used to the strap between your first and second toe, and to fine tune the laces for your perfect, comfortable fit), everyone raves about them and says they can't imagine ever wanting to go back to a "conventional" modern shoe or flip flip.
Love them so much you don't want to stop wearing them in the winter? Pair them with merino wool toe socks and you get cold weather protection.
*For a limited time, get your Earth Runner's at 10% off with the code: FEELTHEEARTH
Handmade and very customizable, Softstar is an amazing company out of Oregon creating some of the highest quality minimal shoes I've come across. They offer a number of different style options from flats and sandals to athletic shoes, moccasins, and winter boots. These are minimal shoes that not only FEEL SO GOOD, but also LOOK GREAT and can be worn as casual, everyday shoes, or dressed up for more formal attire.
I personally own The Solstice Sandal, and it fits like a dream. The leather wears in beautifully, and forms to your foot while accommodating natural foot strength and function through a wide toe box and adjustable strap . The company has incredible customer service, and will gladly talk you through sizing and options to find your optimal fit.
The ultimate winter shoe, the Phoenix Boot is the coziest, best looking minimal winter boot I've yet to come across. Unisex and available in a few colors, these boots are durable, lightweight, and also warm enough to wear in the dead cold of winter. Worth the investment, these boots provide a flexible sole and (as they wear in and mould to your feet) wide toe box without sacrificing comfort and warmth. These boots are fully lined with lush sheepskin - at first I worried that they would fit too snug, but discovered that after a few uses the inner sheepskin and outer leather beautifully that moulds to your foot for ultimate comfort.
A little bit of regular conditioning and upkeep during wet, salty, and sandy winter conditions keeps the leather and suede on these boots in top condition. While they can easily be worn sock-less, a pair of wool socks guarantee extra warmth and temperature protection.
DAVINCI FOOTWARE BOOTS
I have long been looking for a shoe that provides the benefit and comfort of barefoot function, but with the style and aesthetic of a "real boot." DaVinci Footwear has by far and away accomplished this better than any other company I have come across, and these have quickly become my favorite everyday casual boots. A flat, flexible sole provides full barefoot function, and an extra long toe box allows for extra width across the toes, without the typical barefoot shoe "flat wide look." Hand crafted in Leon, Mexico, all DaVinci boot styles are made with high quality leather that becomes wonderfully soft and supple with use, enhancing their overall comfort. Weatherproofed and durable, these boots are multifunctional and can hold up in all terrain - indoors, outdoors and everything in between.
Designed specifically for outdoor adventures, hiking, and varying terrain, the Tracker FG from Vivobarefoot, a European based minimal shoe company, is the perfect minimal hiking shoe. It has a flexible but durable and puncture-proof sole that protects on rocky terrain, but also allows you to feel the ground and move functionally. It comes with a removable thermal insole that provides all season temperature protection, making this a perfect option when the weather cools down, or in snowy conditions (though I do recommend pairing with wool sock for extra warmth). The boot is also treated for waterproof protection, though I did end up with damp feet after a 5 hour snow-shoeing adventure in these last winter.
For those who like a little extra ankle support for hiking, these boots hug the ankle comfortably and provide just enough support to add security, but still allow your foot to move naturally and functionally.
I found my usual shoe size in these was too narrow for my liking, and the return process for the next size up was slightly more difficult than returns with other companies, but in the end it all worked out, and I love having these boots as an option for hiking in winter and variable terrain.
When I first discovered this company, I fell in love with the fact that they based their shoe design on the 5,000 year old shoes that were discovered on the mummified remains of a prehistoric man called "Ötzi, the Iceman." Modeled after this most basic, functional design, OTZ recreates these minimal, prehistoric shoes with a fresh and relevant approach to modern style.
They use high quality leathers, and each shoe comes with a removable cork insole (I take mine out, but for those who are used to a bit of insole support, these provide it).
The women's Leather Paso Boot is a great minimalist take on the classic Chelesa Slip On Boot, and I love having this stylish option in my closet.
The Espradrille is a great minimal version of a Toms slip-on shoe.
Handmade, and local, Taos Moccasins are simple, easy, and very "barefoot" with their minimal, full grain cowhide sole. These don't offer any padding or protection against varying terrain or weather, so for some these are best suited for indoors, or very mindful and mild outdoor use.
Minnetonka has been around since the 40's, making soft leather moccasins with quality comfort. While many of their modern style moccasins, slippers, and boots are now made with a firm rubber sole, you can still find soft sole options on their website and through other vendors. And even the rubber sole options, despite their not so flexible soles, are a step up from conventional shoe wear, as the leather toe box construction allows for toe spread and functional foot movement, while providing some protection from cold weather and terrain.
The soft sole versions offer full barefoot feeling, with grounding properties and supple moulding of the leather to your feet.
The men and women's soft sole loafers are a great option for around the house (especially paired with wool socks in the winter), and like the Taos Moccasins, don't offer any padding or protection against varying terrain or weather, but can be a great option for indoors and mindfu outdoor use in mild weather.
Another wonderful indoor shoe option for those who want the feel of being barefoot with the added bit of protection and warmth from soft genuine leather are these Moccasins from Canadian made company LAM Leather Moccasins. Though they start off fairly narrow in the foot bed, the leather is so soft and supple that it quickly yields to your foot shape and accommodates wide toe spread.
Below are a few lists of shoes I've personally tried on or worn, but are companies I've researched, talked to, or have heard first hand accounts on from friends, family, and clients who have tried these with great success. As such, I thought it would be helpful to share these with you, as well:
Men's & Women's Custom Fit Leather Shoes:
Men's & Women's Life Style Shoe:
As I mentioned in last week's post, restoring natural foot function is so essential to optimal foot - as well as whole body - function and well being. And, it is important to approach a transition to more minimal footwear gradually, in manageable increments to allow yourself to fully adapt to the changes of going from conventional shoe wear to minimal shoe wear without rushing or running into problems.
Please get in touch if you have any questions or are interested in more resources and tools in the realm of natural foot function and minimal shoe wear.