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.
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.
- 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)
- 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:
Modern Feet vs traditional feet
- 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.
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!