When I wrote my first book on feet and shoes, there were very few “minimal footwear” options. Flash forward six years later and behold—there are a lot more options available. Companies come and go (and so do web pages and first editions of books, it appears), and so I’m updating and editing (in August 2016) this post from September 2012, to reflect new companies and the new gender-netutral version of my first book on feet and shoes.
This list of minimal shoes below is in no way comprehensive, but a great starting point generated by our Facebook and fans that have read both of my books on healthy feet. It might also be helpful to know that in the last five years I have also published shoe lists for winter and summer:
If you’re wanting to know more about why minimal footwear but haven’t read my books on the matter of shoes and feet, I’ll refer you to Simple Steps to Foot Pain Relief: The New Science of Healthy Feet and Whole Body Barefoot. There you’ll find why “the right shoe” is only 1/2 of the equation, and that the other 1/2 is the work you need to do on the posterior leg, the muscles and tissues in the feet, and habitual positioning of the body throughout a day (year, life). You’ll also learn that footwear changes, for many people, need to be gradual. For example, after years of wearing a comfort mule (that you’re gripping your toes to keep on), wearing footwear that’s fully connected and an inch closer to the ground requires using your body in an entirely different way than before. Every footwear type has a specific and profound affect on every joint in the body, as incredible as that seems. When you change, it’s all about physiological adaptation, which takes time and awareness. And work on your end, of course.
Below is a table (from Simple Steps) that shows the variables of a shoe that affect the body. You can see that there are many ways to progress to the “best” column.
There’s no need to transition all five variables at once, especially if you’ve been living in the right-hand column for the last 20, 30, or 40 years—but you should be doing the correctives as only changing your footwear can cause an overload to underused tissues. And now, the shoes:
The DIY Shoe List: The upside of minimal shoes is that you can totally make them for your entire family if you’re so inclined, which means that this transition can be less expensive and better for the environment, especially if you use natural fibers/materials. And, if you’re a homeschooler, how about doing a combo foot-health/art-craft section? Here’s the lesson plan for foot science and below find a list to some easy and fun ways to make your own shoes!
Flip-Flop – Braided Straps
Flip-Flop – Interchangeable Back Straps
Strappy Flip Flops
Shoe list for Adults: I guess should also say “and large-footed children.” And, a note here to say that some of these are just brands, and within a brand there can be shoes that do not fit the profile. Make sure that you evaluate the style for each of the four variables (sole, toe box, heel, upper) to deem it more or less appropriate. Some brands have only one variable (no positive heel) but are heavy and stiff. So, you’ll need to have a transitioning to minimal footwear plan to figure out what’s going to work for you.
I’ve also added an asterisk* next to the brands/styles that are more work-friendly (although entirely subjective based on where you work) for those that ask “what about shoes for the office”.
Soft Star Shoes
New Balance, Minimus
Traditional Native American Moccasins
*Tune Footwear (Dudes. For the office. Check it.)
Shoe list for Children: Something specific for just the littles, but again, I’ll also throw out there that I’ve found a ton of off/no-brand leather or soft-material shoes at kid-consignment shops over the last year. And, that for the first year all I used was a double pair of socks on my little (when it’s cold – still meet all the “healthy shoe” criteria!). So don’t feel that you need to get a shoe on right away or anything.
Happy Little Soles
Soft Star Shoes
Here’s another tip: I have found that there are a lot of people selling handmade shoes on Etsy. Go there and search “minimal and/or handmade shoes,” or add “kids” if you need something for wee feet!
For a bit more reading, you can also check out this article I wrote for IDEA Fitness Journal in 2011, on Fit Feet. I’ve got to go now since I’m very busy not having a baby. UPDATE, 2012: I ended up having the baby.