Shoes: The (SUMMER) List

If you’re interested in reading more on ideas presented in the article below, I suggest reading Whole Body Barefoot. If you’d like movement instruction via video, start with Schoolhouse Series Snacks: Toes and Calves.

I have a lot of thoughts about shoes

This is my third footwear list; previously I’ve posted a general footwear list, and a winter list. In light of “National Flip Flop Day” (here’s why I don’t recommend flip flops) and a Huffington Post article, “The Worst Shoes You Can Wear This Summer” where shoes were subjectively ranked “1-5” for safety, wedge heels were touted as safer for you than flat sandals or sneakers, and no shoes scored a “1”, for “very safe”, I thought I’d step in with a slightly different perspective.

My summer shoe list is less about shoes and more about feet. Shoes that provide a basic buffer between the urban jungle and your body without interfering (too much) with the biological and biomechanics functions of your body make the list. Anything other than barefoot on natural terrain comes with a tax, but I wanted to list some options that offer a chance at better body-geometry.

My favorite summer shoes are my feet, but when you’re wanting a shoe I figure you’ll be wanting something cool (temperature-wise), cool (stylin’-wise), and functional. Any shoe that’s fine to stand around in but not appropriate for walking will not be making my list, as you can imagine.

What I wear instead of flip flops

Unshoes are my personal favourite.

I have logged the most miles in Unshoes (I’m on my fourth pair; I like their Keota model best) and I also love my pair of Earth Runners.

I recently got an email from the Earth Runner creator that said “in your Earth Runners pics online I have noticed you don’t lace your sandals quite like we recommend and I wanted to share my thoughts. I have seen that you route your ankle strap strait into the buckle as apposed to going under and over the thong strap before going through the buckle. This routing of the lace is more comfortable, more secure and they are way easier to slip on and off with out fussing with the buckle.” And then he attached a photo tutorial. IS THAT CUSTOMER SERVICE OR WHAT?

Earthrunners are great and offer pretty amazing customer service too.

It’s interesting to note that I haven’t changed them. Because they’re comfortable and I don’t fuss with the buckle, and also I might be a tad bit lazy. And confused by diagrams.

Other great strappy sandals I’d hike miles and miles in (but I’m a minimalist so I don’t need a closet full of shoes)

Xero sandals
Luna sandals
Shamma sandals


Other sandals and shoes that breathe

Softstar shoes
Sanuk yoga sandals


Moccasin sandals

Into the WildWay (summer sandal)
The Drifter Leather

You can also check out Etsy; there are many people hand making shoes, like Drifter Leather.

Shamma sandals

If you don’t want to order new shoes, but instead feel excited about the idea of up-cycling what’s currently in your closet:

Going from “flats” to flats

Check out The Resilient Body‘s tutorial on popping off those small 1/4″ heels that are on those easy-to-find, inexpensive “flat” sandals at Ross or TJMaxx.

If you’re excited about power tools, you can do what we do to the “flats” (and not so flats) we come by.

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 7.44.30 AM

Power tools solve problems.

De Flip Your Flops (create a better upper by adding a strap)

Also, DIY Sandals From Old Flip Flops and T-Shirt 

Or what about velcro? A Facebook friend shared her quick flip-flop makeover
Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 7.49.39 AM

Velcro solves problems.

The “best” shoes

Keep in mind that the right footwear is the right footwear for you. Conventional “best shoes” lists stress arch support and a slight heel to take the load off of the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia. Why? After a lifetime of wearing shoes that have arch support and elevated heels (and sitting in a chair in those shoes, a double calf-shortening whammy) your body has adapted to needing those crutches. If you want to reduce your dependence on shoes, you have to use your feet more. Transitioning to minimal shoes means that, over time, you’ll need to stop outsourcing your body’s work to various components of these inanimate objects.

Before you select any pair of shoes, consider the current state (strength) of your feet and what you’ll be walking on. Remember that the most important feature of any shoe is the person wearing them. If the state of your physical body is alerting you to problem, consider not only changing your shoes, but the person wearing them–for the better– by learning more about how your body works, and engaging with corrective exercises and better all-day movement.

If you’re wanting to learn more about why your footwear matters, you can listen to the KatySays podcast; episodes 18, 19, and 20 are all on the feet and shoes! And if you’ve got a great summer footwear suggestion or HACK, please leave it below! Happy Summering!

POST UPDATED JUNE 1, 2017 to include current footwear models and updated version of Simple Steps to Foot Pain Relief.

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32 thoughts on “Shoes: The (SUMMER) List

  1. Thanks for the recommendations. I’ve been trying to look for some super comfortable but cute sandals. Just ordered a pair from the Havaiana’s website, can’t beat the price!

  2. I’ve hacked shoes to remove the heel from “flats” before. It’s usually OK, though not great. Occasionally the inside of the heel area is not solid (for example, it may be a cross hatch internal pattern instead) and once hacked makes lousy footwear.

    One thing that I’ve found that works very well is to take that inexpensive pair of cute “flat” sandals to a cobbler and have him completely resole the shoe with the thinnest possible sole material. My cobbler uses a 1mm Vibram sole. It’s not an inexpensive option but it’s about the same cost as many minimal shoes and you can choose from more cute styles. You just have to look for a pair of “flats” where there is an obvious separation between the shoe upper and the sole (extending along the entire length of the shoe). The cobble will remove the entire sole (including that annoying heel) and attach the new thin sole to the upper. You’re left with a lighter, more flexible, thinner, completely flat shoe in your choice of style.

  3. I barefooted for years and was lucky to be able to just wear socks at work. I also stretch my calves daily but still developed severe plantar fasciitis. I have been in tremendous pain for months and recentlypurchase arch supports and New Balance minimum shoes. They help but I have a long way to go before I am recovered. Barefooting may not be appropriate for everyone:(

  4. Hi Katy! I’ve been reading your blog off and on for a few years and find it very helpful! 🙂 I have switched pillows and tried to be more conscious of the shoes I wear because of you. Thanks for all you’re doing!

    More importantly, your son is ADORABLE! Ack!

    1. I have that Crocs sandal, too. Agree they are cute and minimal and stay on. I thought they were great at first until i noticed some pressure in the forefoot & realized that they are not completely zero drop. Very close though.

  5. I have to say – I love my Sockwa shoes for just working around the house – esp. for gardening. They are effectively a glorified sock with a slightly lighter sole that prevents being worn out – but really nice.

    And I like the video on modifying the flip flop – how cute!

    Colleen – I solved my last issue of plantar fasciitis by looking for trigger points (feel like knots) along my calf – usually along the inside where the calf muscle comes around to the shin muscle. I massaged those out multiple times a day and after about a week much of my pain was gone (I had suffered from pf for over a year, and yes, mostly walked barefooted…). I realize that may not be the sole cause, but definitely worth a try, and I hope it helps.

  6. Thanks so much for your list!

    My biggest problem with sandals is that I just hate the feeling of something between my toes. I find that I constantly rub my big toe against the other one in an effort to dislodge that thing between them.

    I’ve solved this by buying actual ballet slippers for out of the house much of the time. The soles can wear quickly on concrete but they can be re-glued and sewn a few times. I love the Feyue sneakers. They are more reseliant with a rubber sole and the narrow toe box can be made less problematic with the way you lace them. But they have that big red logo painted on that looks horrible with the business casual clothes I often have to wear. Boo-hoo!

  7. Great list! I like everyone else’s suggestions as well. I am so used to barefoot shoes now, though, that when I tried on the Sanuk Yoga sandals they felt decidedly non-minimal. The sole is actually quite thick and poofy. I felt like I was walking on stiff clouds.

    1. I wouldn’t call all these barefoot shoes; they’re just flat and fully connected (two of the 5 things to look for). Some are closer, some are farther away, but perhaps all are helpful?

  8. I am wonder if shoes exist yet that ground you …in other words if you were connected up to a volt meter it would read zero like you when barefoot on grass; or if there is a shoe hack yet in that “grounding” department.

    1. A few brands include copper pads that fall below the toes and heel. I think EarthRunners have those…

  9. Hi Katy , our family loves your blog and book. Do you happen to know of any FLAT kids gumboots? We are in Western Australia, and the localy available choice of kids shoes is appalling to to say the least. I get Primigi (online) leather boots for our girls. But no luck in gummies, they all have heals, WHY?….
    Thanks Theresa

  10. Adding a strap will add some support, but it won’t do anything to absorb shock?
    But I still like it better than the “clogs” that gets the lowest danger ranking in that list.
    And wow, never thought there were so many health consequences for different types of shoes. You are right though; the “best” type of shoes can vary from one person to another. There’s no one-fit-for-all.

  11. Hi thanks for sharing all the information about Barefoot and Barefoot type shoes. I’ve designed a soul of shoe that Allows you to be barefoot but it looks like you’re wearing your shoes so you can get into different stores and restaurants. More importantly are always connected to the ground naturally. I’ve designed a new barefoot shoe that has a demisole in leather for those who want to have some protection on the balls of the feet. They will be on the site very soon. Katy, if you want to try Barebottoms let me know and I’ll send you some.
    Sole to soul,

  12. I love Luna sandals. Just ordered my second pair. The Soft Star shoes I’ve had wore out too quickly. Vivobarefoot shoes have just never fit me right.

    1. Ah, no worries! I’ll send them your way cuz your product is great, no affiliate compensation needed!

  13. Yay! Thanks for posting this. I’m trying to overhaul our lifestyle and some areas are more difficult than others… Such as my grandma insisting that I need to take her and my daughter to a certain kid-specific shoe store to encase her three year old feet in 2″ of rubber.

    Speaking of my daughter’s feet…

    I’ve noticed she’s developing the “schmear” with her ankles. I’m sure she probably got it from me because I’m having a hard time correcting mine. I was in ballet when I was a kid and that’s when I first noticed it.

    So, my question is: how can I help her correct it in a way she can understand or maybe is there a kind of activity to help it?

    1. Never mind! I just got to some areas in Alignment Matters that seem to address most of this problem. I’ve started taking the kiddos for walks around the neighborhood… Not quite safe because there are no sidewalks and, once you do get to one, there are no cross walks at the intersections. However, I’ve been researching natural hiking trails that I know they’d be happy to spend hours on.

  14. Colleen,
    You very likely have some mal-alignment issues higher up (read:pelvis) that need to be addressed in ord for you to weight ear more evenly on your feet. Also keep in mind that body tissues are made of the food you eat, and especially connective tissue is sorely missing in our current diet, and may have been for a generation or two, contributing you even epicenetic changes that make it all the more important to look at nutritional issues , among the changes perhaps being adding collagen powder along with vitamin c etc to help your connective tissue structures ( bones, ligaments, tendons, fascia) to strengthen over time.

  15. I’d love to know your feedback on these crocs sandals that have a strap going around the back. I’ve found them to be extremely practical, comfortable and affordable. Most of the time I’d rather be barefoot but when I need some protection for the bottom of my feet, I wear these. Are they a good minimal footwear choice? Or good for someone transitioning? I’d love to hear your thoughts before I decide to purchase another pair. Thanks!

  16. The havaianas are not completely flat. They have a slight heel. I tried them in a store but u can see it in pictures too

  17. A potential alternative to expensive Tieks is Yosi Samra, Samara Flat Leather ballet flats.

  18. Hi and thank you for all your research!! I have a trip coming up and we usually walk 11-15 miles per day. I thought i should get better support shoes, although my keds are actually really comfy for me. If I’m comfy does that mean they’re good for me? Or could I still be doing damage? I have natural high arches- dunno if that matters. Thanks!!!

  19. I love Dansko Shoes. Just ordered my second pair. The shoes I’ve had wore out too quickly. Vivobarefoot shoes have just never fit me right. More information
    click here

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