Shoes: The List

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, it appears), and so I’m updating and editing (in August 2016) this post from September 2012.

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:

Shoes: The (Winter) List

Shoes: The (Summer) List

As well as a full article on back-to-school/kid footwear considerations.

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 do all four 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
One-Piece Moccasin

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”.

Ascent Water Socks
*Chronology
Earth Runners
Fit In Clouds
Kigo
Jambu Barefeet
Kuru Shoes
Lems
Luna Sandals
Merrell

Otz Shoes
Piper Sandals
Santa Cruz
Sanuk
Skora Running
Sockwa
Soft Star Shoes
*Merry Jane
New Balance, Minimus
*Tieks
Toms
Traditional Native American Moccasins
*Tune Footwear (Dudes. For the office. Check it.)
Unshoes
Vibram FiveFingers
Vivobarefoot
XeroShoes

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
MyMayu
Robeez
Skidders
Soft Star Shoes
Vivobarefoot

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.

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46 thoughts on “Shoes: The List

  1. ohmygoodness!!! I am so excited to read this post! I will be spending the evening looking through all of these links! THANK YOU!!!!!

  2. Thank you for this list! My VFF are great for summer (as long as it’s not raining) but won’t be so great for fall, winter, and spring in North Dakota. I am searching for a pair of barefoot hiking-type boots and this list is helpful
    One note – your Tieks link currently links to Vivo Barefoot instead of Tieks.

    1. Vibram fivefinger winter version coming out this fall. Model called “Lontra.” A google search will turn up some pics and early reviews.

  3. Thanks for all the places to find minimalist footwear.

    I have to say just a few weeks ago I gave up completely wearing my Kalso earth flipflops even tho they had the negitive heel I was still gripping with my toes. It has made a big difference in how my feet feel now. It’s crazy how long it took to get that in my head! LOL

    Take care,
    Brenda C

  4. Hello,
    I have your book, but I still have a question! I have hallux limitus and pain from bone spurring on the top of my big toe joint. I’ve never worn high heels, but toe shoes in ballet and an unfortunate habit of slamming my foot into immovable objects probably didn’t help. I have gotten such conflicting advice from: orthopedic surgeons (“wear those thick soled rocker shoes”-my intuition tells me I would break my ankle!), podiatrists (wear a metal plate under your shoe insert-(can’t really work out or dance recreationally with those), physical therapists, etc. I figured out that my 500$+ orthotic insoles were not worth it; but would negative heel shoes work for me? I am massaging and doind the foot exercises for them as well. Thanks so much.

  5. So what do you think of dynamic sole shoes like MBT? They are negative part of the time and move as you step. My plantar’s fascitis loves the rocker, but if they get run down especially in the “squish zone” my medial knee cries out. Thick and flexible within a range.

  6. YESSSS!!!
    A big THANKS!!!
    (I just bought my 9mo some soft stars today for the winter, but I’d love to get the rest of my dcs into better footwear.)

  7. Are any of these shoes suitable for a very narrow long foot that you know of? I wear a 10.5 AA and have a terrible time getting shoes to fit. I have looked at a number of these sites already and they all say medium or regular for the width. After 61 years, I know that my feet just slip around in average width shoes. Thanks.

  8. Hello, Katy. I’m new to your blog and am fascinated. I started going to the chiropractor a few months back and he told me that a lot of my back problems stem from one leg being shorter than the other. He gave me an insert for my shoe to help keep me more balanced. What sort of shoe would you recommend for someone in my circumstance? Any other comments? Thanks.

  9. Great list, thanks Katy. I’m finding it a bit heartbreaking though as am 11 wks preggo and have tendonitis across the top of my left foot, near the toes. I was so looking forward to continuing my long walks in minimal shoes but the the only thing that alleviates it slightly is rest, wearing my crocs and moving with a slow shuffle. Exasperating! Still squatting though!

  10. Katy,
    I love all your postings! I have gone barefoot most of my life, especially indoors, wearing flip flops where shoes are required, and other footwear as weather required. Now nearing 61, my 2nd toes are hammering and toe socks have saved me in ski boots.
    Is there any way to un-hammer?? I’m doing the toe bend behind me as I type!
    Also, my 3 &4 toes on the right are quite webbed and I can’t really wear the Vibrams my son bought me recently.
    I think my feet are happiest bare!
    Thanks so much!
    cyndi

  11. Thank you for posting this list. I have wide feet! Do any of these models cater for wider feet or have an option to purchase a wide style? I haven’t had any luck so far.

  12. Thank you for all the valuable information you share with us. You are an inspiration and a great resourse in our quest for wellbeing.

  13. Thank’s so very much!
    I have spent sooooo much time trying to decide what to buy for my son for the fall/winter.
    Yesterday I got a pair of Stonz from happylittlesoles for my him. I’m totally in love with them!
    I want a pair for myself!

  14. Many of us lifelong barefooters have very wide feet which will not fit into medium width shoes. Most of your list requires a regular width foot, leaving my little toe off the side of the sandal or fighting for breathing room inside the toe box.

  15. I would love a list for Toddler/Little kid Shoes, he is required to wear a rubber sole sneaker type shoe for daycare, he is young but has really big feet. He does not fit into the Merrell’s yet. I have e-mailed a bunch of companies and am awaiting replies. Bobux responded and said they do not have a heel to toe differential. Yay their soles are pretty flexible too.

  16. Hi Katy,
    Could you add this to the list for children…
    http://www.stonzwear.com/default.aspx?refid=2&gclid=CM7plabSu7UCFYk7Mgod_n4AfQ
    Stonz is a Canadian company that make winter gear for infants – children. The boots are real easy to slip over other footwear (socks, minimal shoes) or can be used with an optional liner. It’s wind and water resistant, wash and dry quickly and come in many cute designs.
    I wish I had known about these sooner! It’s wonderful to finally find something minimal, weather proof, kid-proof and affordable!!!!

  17. I have been wearing Altras for running lately, and I love them! New Balance Minimum might have a wide toe box, but tey strangle my forefoot!

  18. Hello Katy, I have just read your book on foot pain relief and it was SO helpful! I have Morton’s neuroma and metatarsalgia –It has been difficult to find any shoes that don’t cause pain. I tried the Kalso Earth shoes and loved them for a few steps but sadly; they hurt the balls of my feet. I’ve been doing some research and I would be interested to hear your thoughts on Birkenstocks- pro or con.
    Meanwhile, thank you for writing the book and for sharing so much great information!

  19. List clarification for your readers: I contacted Teva and the Teva Zilch is not zero drop and has a positive heel. They write, “We do not have 100% zero drop shoes. I apologize for the inconvenience. The closest items to a zero drop shoe would be the Zilch.” For those looking for zero drop sandals, the “zilch” here is more like “almost zilch.” I’ve heard great things about the sandals otherwise.

    I spend a lot more time shoe shopping the more I focus on alignment…

  20. Katy,

    If you have loose ligaments should you go barefoot and wear minimalist shoes. I have had a foot dr. tell me that only if you have healthy feet should you go barefoot. He said feet like mine which overpronate and collapse need a support. I would appreciate your thoughts.

  21. katy,

    I work in a hospital and have been wearing Danskos until I started reading your blog. Now I do not know what shoes to wear. I stand all day and my feet certainly feel it. Just purchased your book and am hoping for some changes.

  22. Hmm it looks like your website ate my first comment
    (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say,
    I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new
    to the whole thing. Do you have any tips for newbie blog writers?
    I’d certainly appreciate it.

  23. Hi,

    I would like to know what you think of the kidofit brand shoes please. They seem like interesting berafoot shoes for kids

    Thank you

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