This is meant as an introduction to minimalist/barefoot movement & footwear. For further reading I highly suggest reading this book.
Up until about 2 years ago, I was like most and wore “regular” shoes. I shopped for shoes in department stores, boutiques, and online. My main concern was how they looked, and depending on the use, (work shoes, for example), how they felt. Most of my work or everyday shoes had cushioning, because that’s what makes a shoe “comfortable”, right?
Fast forward to when my oldest baby started walking... I realized pretty quickly that he’d need shoes, but how do you pick out a shoe for a baby? They can’t provide any feedback for how the shoe feels, or even whether it fits their foot. That's when my sister suggested the brand Robeez, since that's what she used for her kids, and sent me a few articles to read about the benefits of infants learning to walk by really feeling the ground. These articles suggested it was important for baby to be barefoot as much as possible, BUT if shoes were needed, they should be minimal- really their purpose was just to protect the foot from rocks or other rough ground on those new baby feet. It made sense to me.
I began to notice with my own toddler- when he was barefoot or wearing moccasins, he could really feel the ground, he used his toes for grip, and he was much more agile than other toddlers I watched at the playground, whose feet were trapped in brick-like sneakers. (Ok, let’s be honest- who doesn’t compare their baby to other babies?!) I felt happy with my decision to use minimal footwear for my son, but I still didn’t really think much about my own footwear.
A few years later, my growing toddler had growing feet, and most moccasin-style footwear for babies unfortunately, only goes up to the 24 month size. This realization pushed me into a mad search to find minimal shoes for my little boy. I was happy with the minimal style shoes he had become accustomed to, and shoving his feet into stiff sneakers just didn’t seem logical to me. I wanted a shoe that was flexible, and that he could move easily while wearing.
In my search, I came across a lovely company called Soft Star Shoes. They are a small business out of Oregon that sell handmade shoes for children AND adults. I quickly ordered a pair of shoes for my son, and fell in the love with the quality and craftsmanship. After that, I couldn’t resist ordering a pair of their ballet style flats AKA “Ballerines” for myself, and that’s where my own minimalist footwear journey began.
I started learning, researching, and reading more about minimalist footwear and barefoot movement for adults, and it was a fascinating rabbit-hole of information.
That was about 2 years ago, and I’ve been wearing minimal style footwear ever since. I haven’t worn a “regular” shoe in months, and the last time I did- (I tried wearing my old hiking boots) -my sciatic pain flared up and my hips hurt for a few days after. It was crazy to have such a bad reaction to shoes!
Some benefits of wearing minimal footwear are:
-Improved sense of spatial awareness
-Decreased back pain
-Stronger leg and foot muscles
If you’re thinking of making the transition to minimal footwear, here are a few helpful tips to get started-
Start slow. Even if you don’t wear shoes when you’re in your house, or think your shoes are already pretty flat, don’t rush it! For me personally, I never wear shoes in my home, and I didn’t wear heels very often. Even still, I noticed my calves and hamstrings would get very tired/sore after time walking out and about with my new barefoot-style shoes. Short outings with minimal shoes are key. After a while though, my feet, legs, and knees got stronger and it’s all I wear now!
Don’t be afraid of the price tag. Yes, minimalist shoes are expensive. However, they’re made to last, and honestly, it’s a good introduction to having a MINIMALIST wardrobe too! Think, "quality over quantity".
Shop secondhand. While this is certainly still a niche community of intentional shoe shoppers, you CAN find shoes secondhand. I like to shop on Poshmark, Ebay, or this minimalist shoe B/S/T Facebook group.
Follow the size chart. Pay attention to the manufacturer’s sizing chart. You might be used to purchasing a size 8 in nearly every shoe you wear, but with minimalist shoes, it’s important to be able to spread your toes, and have room in your shoe for them to stretch. Most brands measure in centimeters, to get the most precise fit, so get a tape measure and find out exactly how long your foot is.
Be prepared for trial and error. Just because a shoe is minimal in style, doesn’t mean it will fit you! Everyone’s feet are different, everyone’s foot is shaped differently, and can fit in shoes differently. Get familiar with the return policy of the brand you purchase, or shop used (see above).
Where to find minimalist shoes:
There are several companies out there that are specifically making minimal style shoes.
Adult Shoes & Sandals- *(vegan options)
Winter Boots & Moccasins
Children’s Shoes- *(vegan options)
So there you have it, my attempt at a brief (Ha!) overview of minimalist shoes!
For additional reading, check out :
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