Best Minimalist Shoe Options (That Still Look Good)

Wanna wear minimalist shoes that don’t look like cardboard and string? Here’s an extensive list of fashion-forward options for the minimalist shoe lover.

Best Minimalist Shoe Options (That Still Look Good)

Throughout the span of human history, wearing shoes is a relatively new trend. And, while shoes have brought us a lot of benefits (shock absorption, injury prevention, tap dancing), they’ve had some drawbacks too.

Conventional shoes have often made our feet weak — and sometimes deformed!

Enter minimalist shoes. Minimalist shoes allow our feet to walk as if they were barefoot, or closer to our “natural” state.

Read on to discover why you’d want to wear minimalist shoes, plus which minimalist shoes are good options to choose from.

Minimalist shoes: How did we get here?

Two forces in the world increased the interest in minimalist shoes.

  1. In running circles, people like ultramarathon runner Golden Harper cut off the heels of their trainers to create “zero drop shoes,” where the heel is at the same height as the ball of the foot. This allows your foot to behave just like it would when it’s barefoot.
    • In studies, runners who wore zero drop shoes increased their foot muscle size and had stronger feet. (source)
  2. Meanwhile, in the paleo and primal worlds, thought leaders urged people to return to natural movement patterns and ancestral lifestyle habits. Advocates recommended spending time barefoot to help restore posture and strength.
    • Specifically, biomechanist Katy Bowman (Instagram name: nutritiousmovement) popularized the importance of wearing minimalist shoes.

The Problem with Modern Footwear

The human foot contains 28 bones, 30 joints, and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. All of this anatomy works together to allow us to stand, walk, run, and move in our environment.

According to natural movement experts, the modern shoe is “toxic,” and doesn’t support your entire foot. This can lead to issues like plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, bunions, hammer toes, bone spurs, etc. Problems with many conventional shoes include:

  • Too narrow of a toe box. This can cause hammer toes, bunions, and overlapping toes. It also restricts proper movement.
  • An elevated heel. This unnatural slope can weaken the foot and lead to problems like plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis and excess pronation.
  • Lack of ankle support. Shoes like flip flops or slides cause your toes to “grip” the shoe to keep it on, creating all sorts of structural issues for your feet (and the rest of your body).
  • Too stiff of shoe. Many modern shoes are similar to casts in that they don’t allow the muscles in your foot to move, adapt, and be part of your movement. This leads to weak feet, balance issues, and lack of endurance.
Modern Feet vs traditional feet

As you can see, our feet can literally form to the type of shoes we wear, so we want to be sure we are wearing proper footwear.

Examine your infant’s foot and you’ll see that their toes are more separated and they use their feet often to “grip” and engage with the ground as they walk. This type of movement is best for our foot health, and we want to find shoes that help us do this.

Now for the fun part…

Let’s shop for shoes! I start with the most “normal” looking shoes and then move toward the most minimalists for the purist.

After doing lots of digging online, I found a decent number of “traditional” shoes that meet most, if not all, of the criteria for minimalist shoes.

Can Minimalist Shoes Actually Look Good?

Let’s be honest. Some of the minimalist shoes on the market look like they’re made from (organic and upcycled) cardboard and string.

But Mama ain’t playing that.

In the following shoe selections, I picked a variety of styles that fit within the minimalist shoes spectrum. Whether you’re a fashionista or hard-core purist, you’ll find something you like on this list!

Minimalist Sandals

Roxy Women's Bailey Multi Strap Sandal Flat
Roxy Women’s Bailey Multi Strap Sandal Flat

I couldn’t believe my luck when I found these fun, neutral sandals that didn’t have a heel, had ankle support and were flexible!

— Check it Out —
Roxy Women's Bailey Multi Strap Sandal Flat
Roxy Women's Rachelle Sandall
Roxy Women’s Rachelle Sandal

Here’s another option that comes in three different colors. I found this style to be the most comfortable.

— Check it Out —
Roxy Women's Rachelle Sandall
DREAM PAIRS Women’s Slingback Flat Sandals
DREAM PAIRS Women’s Slingback Flat Sandals

For those who like a good amount of cushioning, these sandals are a good option and come in lots of colors!

— Check it Out —
DREAM PAIRS Women’s Slingback Flat Sandals
Sanuk Women's Yoga Sling 2 Metallic Flip Flop
Sanuk Women’s Yoga Sling 2 Metallic Flip Flop

For the flip flop lover, this shoe fits all the criteria of minimalist footwear!

— Check it Out —
Sanuk Women's Yoga Sling 2 Metallic Flip Flop
Adult Solstice Sandal - Minimalist shoes that look good post by Mama Natural
Adult Solstice Sandal

For those who are well-versed in minimalist shoe living, these sandals are perfect. I love the copper color since it can go with anything!

— Check it Out —
Adult Solstice Sandal - Minimalist shoes that look good post by Mama Natural
KURU Sandal Womens
KURU Sandal Womens

This black/olive sandal, made by a true minimalist shoe brand, will go with most anything and look great.

— Check it Out —
KURU Sandal Womens
Circadian Lifestyle Sandals - Minimalist shoes that look good post by Mama Natural
Circadian Lifestyle Sandals

For someone with strong feet and who likes to walk around barefoot, these sandals are ultra minimalist.

— Check it Out —
Circadian Lifestyle Sandals - Minimalist shoes that look good post by Mama Natural

Minimalist Flats

Me Too Women's Lilyana Ballet Flat
Me Too Women’s Lilyana Ballet Flat

The brand Me Too has several flats that are flexible, have ankle support, have a wide toe box and are zero drop (while they do have a slight “heel”, there is elevation in the front of shoe too so it’s even and “zero drop”). If you have bigger toes, you might consider purchasing the “wide” width for more wiggle room and a wider toe box.

— Check it Out —
Me Too Women's Lilyana Ballet Flat
Me Too Womens Kaila
Me Too Womens Kaila

This knit fabric makes this flat even more flexible and comfortable. The sole is great, too.

— Check it Out —
Me Too Womens Kaila
Tieks Ballet Flat Cotton Candy - Minimalist shoes that look good post by Mama Natural
Tieks Ballet Flat Cotton Candy

Expensive ballet flats for the fashionista. Could cramp a wide foot.

— Check it Out —
Tieks Ballet Flat Cotton Candy - Minimalist shoes that look good post by Mama Natural
Minnetonka Women's Thunderbird Softsole Moccasin
Minnetonka Women’s Thunderbird Softsole Moccasin

These soft sole moccasins are a classic and meet all the criteria. Keep in mind, these aren’t a great option if you have wider feet since the toe box isn’t as generous.

— Check it Out —
Minnetonka Women's Thunderbird Softsole Moccasin
Minnetonka Women's Kilty Suede Moccasin - Minimalist shoes that look good post by Mama Natural
Minnetonka Women’s Kilty Suede Moccasin

This kitty suede version has a traditional rubber sole but only the tiniest incline so I would consider this a good minimalist shoe if you have a narrow to normal foot width.

— Check it Out —
Minnetonka Women's Kilty Suede Moccasin - Minimalist shoes that look good post by Mama Natural
Artisure Women's Classic Genuine Leather Penny Loafers - Minimalist shoes that look good post by Mama Natural
Artisure Women’s Classic Genuine Leather Penny Loafers

For the preppier mama, these driving loafers are cute. Again, you need to have a more narrow foot for your toes to work.

— Check it Out —
Artisure Women's Classic Genuine Leather Penny Loafers - Minimalist shoes that look good post by Mama Natural
TOMS Women's Classics - Minimalist shoes that look good post by Mama Natural
TOMS Women’s Classics

For every pair of shoes purchased, TOMS donates a pair to those in need. While I find this style too cramped for my toes, I think a narrower foot would work.

— Check it Out —
TOMS Women's Classics - Minimalist shoes that look good post by Mama Natural
Adult Ballerine Flat
Adult Ballerine Flat

An adult ballerina flat that is truly devoted to the minimalist shoe cause, these soft shoes come in a variety of colors.

— Check it Out —
Adult Ballerine Flat
Ababa Leather Womens
Ababa Leather Womens

For the hardcore minimalist, this flat, that actually looks more like a “clog”, would make a good choice.

— Check it Out —
Ababa Leather Womens

Minimalist Sneakers

Minimalist Shoes: Tread Slowly

If you are like most of us and have worn traditional shoes for most of your life, you need to transition slowly to minimalist shoes to prevent injury.

Hear me, mama!

There are numerous reports of runners ditching their old running shoes in favor of minimalist shoes and ended up with some serious injuries. (source)

Modern feet are weak. We need to slowly build up their strength, just as we would any other part of our body. Here are some tips to transition to minimalist shoes.

  • Start with a more structured minimalist shoe (more on that below) and wear for 15 minutes a day.
  • Each week, increase your time in the minimalist shoe by 15 minutes until you get to wearing comfortably for 4-5 hours a day.
  • Wear these toe separators at night starting with 5 minutes at time and slowly increasing to 1 hour each night. This will help you make the transition to minimalist shoes.
  • Go barefoot as much as possible as you continue on your foot health journey to strengthen your feet naturally.

What To Look For In Minimalist Shoes

  • Wide toe box so your toes have room to move and react to your walking surface
  • Zero drop shoes that don’t elevate your heel and create an unnatural movement pattern
  • While flip flops are certainly “minimal”, you need to find shoes with ankle support so that your toes don’t have to carry your entire foot!
  • Flexible shoes that can easily bend. This allows your foot to engage versus being in a “cast” like traditional shoes. Unfortunately, shoes like Birkenstock are too stiff to be considered minimalist. The new plastic ones are more flexible but they don’t offer them with an ankle strap. ?

Want Healthy Feet? Go Barefoot!

So there you go, a list of healthy shoes for the modern person. If you really want to heal your feet and get strong, practice going barefoot each day. It’s free and as nature intended.

How about YOU?

Do you wear minimalist shoes? What’s your experience been? Share with us in the comments below!

Genevieve Howland

About the Author

Genevieve Howland is a childbirth educator and breastfeeding advocate. She is the bestselling author of The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth and creator of the Mama Natural Birth Course. A mother of three, graduate of the University of Colorado, and YouTuber with over 85,000,000 views, she helps mothers and moms-to-be lead healthier and more natural lives.

36 Comments

  1. Great read! I saw a few comments mentioning an addition of a kids section, where can I find that?

  2. we love unshoes! They have a footbshaped version of Toms. Toms are on this list but they are not minimalist.

  3. Ahhhhhh, vivobarefoot are the best. My three children, husband and myself like these shoes very much!

  4. What about Xero shoes?

    • boots. I love my xero shoes I have the sneakers and cloud sandles. I also have pair of their boots.

  5. Where can I buy those strapped leather sandals you have on the top of the article? the one with the green leaf underneath them

  6. I am not totally ditching all my heels! I do however wear mostly minimalist shoes in my day to day life, but let’s face it minimalist shoes are seriously not that stylish! They are getting better but still are not on a fast track to being all that trendy. So while I will be 80% healthy about foot wear, 20% of me will be on fleek with my foot wear! I do thank you for the informative article I truly think more people need to why we have so many foot problems.

  7. I love minimalist style sandals for summer! This year I’ve been wearing Tkees. They’re really popular for their flip flops, but they do have styles with ankle straps and closed toed shoes. They are on the expensive side though. And although it looks like there is minimal arch support on the bottom of their shoes, I find them good enough to wear everyday on my half hour walk to and from work.

  8. I have a very wide toe box (maybe cause I haven’t abused my feet?) and walk around barefoot mostly, but Colorado winters are cold and I am having trouble finding slippers and are grounding and WIDE. Any suggestions? I’m willing to pay good money if they will fit and last!

    • Xero shoes is based in Boulder and has a number of colder weather options.

  9. I have been minimal for about 3 years now and the most important thing about minimalist shoes is a foot shaped toe box. Not necessarily a wide toe box. I think it needs to be said more because something can still be wide and squish your toes like a lot of the recommendations on this list. Vivobarefoot is one of my favorite brands for my families feet. They are always foot shaped and some are wider than others. Fulham is my favorite fashion boot! Altras which are cushioned and great for those transitioning or when your looking to do all day concrete walking (like theme parks). I have also found some target brand sandals that are foot shaped with a small heel that can easily be shaved off and there are loads of Greek sandals on Etsy.

  10. My entire family lives in Unshoes. I love their Primrose flats and their Terra Vida shoes most.

  11. I saw requests for a kids section, which it sounds like you’ll add. Can you do one for papas too?!

  12. This brand called Ancient Greek Sandals make very stylish minimalist sandals made of quality leather that comes in many colors—I believe they have silver and gold leather as well. A bit pricy but I’ve had mine for 10 years now and they’re still going strong—I still wear them almost everyday except during cold weather and pregnancy (my feet couldn’t get through the straps lol). Some of the strap designs are a bit out there, but pretty cool!
    Do you have recommendation for winter / wet season?

  13. I used to be a huge shoe lover and had so many pairs of high heels and Nikes even though I preferred being barefoot, so when my sister introduced me to barefoot does, I never went back. I gave away probably 20 something pairs of shoes, and now own nothing but barefoot minimalist shoes. I have a few vivobarefoot shoes I found on sale on Amazon, but live most of the year in my Xero Shoes sandals. I’ve gotten my husband into the minimalist movement and my kids too! All 5 of us have the diy sandals from Xero for this summer! I would love more resources for kids minimalist shoes that would be good for winter and are more affordable.

  14. THANK YOU for this post! I’ve been trying to buy minimalist shoes for a while now and they’re pretty hard to find. I would also love a list for kids.

    I just found some See Kai Run toddler shoes (up to size 12) at Target which I was excited about. I’ve also done Vivo Barefoot shoes for my kids. My picky 10 year old wouldn’t wear them which really made me mad since they’re so pricey! My daughter has loved hers, though.

  15. Lems makes great minimalist shoes. They fit me really well. I had a liz franc foot Sprain and now I only wear minimalist shoes. Pretty sure I got the sprain because my feet were weak from over supported shoes.

  16. I go barefoot all day because I’m at home. Ive always hated the look of tennis shoes and stuff so I’ve never worn anything with arch support, just flat sandals or flat boots in the winter. When I tried on my sister’s shoes I could barely walk they feel so weird. Guess that’s a good sign lol.

  17. Yoga sandals are also great for toe separation!

  18. Vick barefoot makes great kids shoes!!! And I ordered earth runners for my birthday, a specialized grounding shoe!

  19. So we don’t need arch support? I notice my feet and back hurt after an hour or so going barefoot. Is it just because my feet are weak?
    Also, what shoes are best for kiddos?? My son wears Striderite and Native shoes. Are those okay???

    • Just start slow. You don’t want to injure yourself. Baby steps 🙂 I’ll add a section for kids!

      • Thank you! I was just going to ask about recommendations for children, especially those with sensory needs.

  20. Hi, just wondering if it’s different while pregnant. I wore only Minnetonka moccasins, the soft soles for 3 years and while I was pregnant. After I had baby I got plantar fasciitis and couldn’t walk barefooted at all let almond in my soft shoes. I now can only wear Birkenstock’s because anything else (even barefoot) makes my feet ache. I’d love to wear a minimal shoe again. ?

    • Awww, bummer. I should specify that when you’re pregnant, your feet will most likely need more support. I will add that to the post. Just try the toe separators and start slow with barefoot again.

  21. Hi mama! Would you say the shoes also aid in grounding? Just wondering if there’s a major difference between a minimalist you and if she specifically for grounding or if the list above you gave will also help with the That?

    Thanks!!

    • You would need a 100% leather sole to even be close to grounding. It is very difficult to find these on the market. I can add a section though as there are a few etsy places that make them. There are also some other brands that use copper dots to help with grounding.

  22. Please create a list for kids shoes!!! I found Robeez when my daughter was a baby but they don’t make soft sole shoes for toddlers and she’s outgrown the great shoes from them she wore until recently – and I can’t find any other cute and practical options for her.

    • You got it!

    • About a year ago I found some Robeez in size 3-4. They were hard to find on their website and only came in a couple styles but they’ve been great.

    • Splay shoes are my hands down favorite for my kids. They’re rolling out a new model that looks amazing!

      • I am hoping the new one holds up better. We loved them but my son wore threw them soo fast, they sent us another pair : \

  23. I have a kiddo that only does well in minimalist shoes and would rather have no shoes, but school?
    Any recommendations? I have used Katie’s site in the past but need newer and affordable options. I have tried splay and like them, hoping the new version last longer.
    Thanks!

    • I will add a kid’s section.

      • That would be awesome! Thank you!

      • Did you end up adding a children’s shoe section? I am very interested.


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