Sometimes you just have to say ENOUGH! I’ve been working on this guide for months and have decided to publish it unfinished and largely unproofed. In the coming weeks, I’ll be changing out images, checking links, adding reviews, etc. And,
I’ll need your help! What companies/brands am I missing?
This blog started out as the Ultimate List of Shoe Lists, where I sought to publish a list of minimal shoe lists, but that aim took a back seat as the blog evolved. What I did not set out to do was create a comprehensive directory of mostly pure minimal shoe companies. Yet, that is what the first part of this blog has become.
Research for this blog lead me to make distinctions between passionately pure minimalist & barefoot shoe companies, niche companies of primarily one style of minimalist shoe, and traditional shoe companies that offer a limited number of minimal shoe styles in an otherwise large inventory of conventionally made shoes. The List of Minimal & Barefoot Shoe Lists that appear in the second part of my blog include shoes from all of these types of companies.
In this directory, generally, you will not find traditional shoe companies/brands with only one or two barefoot shoe styles. However, since two of my favorite shoes are from a traditional shoe company, Merrell, I’ll include their minimalist offerings as reviews.
What do I mean by Minimalist Cred?
When I think about minimalist cred, I consider Katy Bowman’s original four evaluation criteria plus Ray Mclanahan’s toe spring. In some cases, I relied on companies’ website descriptions, in other cases I had experience with a companies products; in others I used my best judgement based on how the shoes looked.
- wide toe box
- zero drop heel (no decrease in elevation from heel to toe)
- zero to minimal toe spring
- thin & flexible sole
- well attached upper as applies to sandles and clogs/slides/mules
Other minimal shoe qualities that I often see in descriptions of shoes are anatomical shape, light weight, and breathable material.
All websites are in English, but some of the companies are outside of the US.
I include brief reviews for some shoes that I own.
After alphabetical arrangement is a preliminary attempt to categorize shoe companies that offer vegan styles and kids‘ sizes and those that offer shoes that are primarily athletic or sandals. This section is a work in progress. As is the whole damn blog.
I am seeking feedback on any aspect of this directory!
The Minimal & Barefoot Shoe Directory Arranged Alphabetically
Headquartered in Sweden; custom made on demand; ships world wide; natural, sustainable, organic materials – vegetable tanned leather, organic hemp, organic beeswax and metal; grounding properties; Price range: $113 – $340.
Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; wide toe box; thin & flexible sole, no toe spring
Made in the Czech Republic from EU sourced materials; ships worldwide; all shoes are vegan; ethical work practices; ecofriendly; designed by physiotherapists; independent quality checks for every shoe; Price range: $105 – $217.
Minimalist cred: wide toe box; zero drop heel; thin & flexible sole
Award winning; fully cushioned; gender specific; founders are elite athletes and running store managers; free shipping; 30 day satisfaction guarantee; Price range: $90 – $220.
Minimalist cred: wide toe box; zero drop heel
***I consider Altra the gateway shoe for transitioning to more minimal styles. It combines the foot-health benefits of a wide toe box and zero drop heel with a comfortable cushioned sole. The Superior trail runner is my go-to shoe for long rocky hikes or when I have to walk a few miles on concrete or asphalt. It is the shoe that I recommend to clients, when they are ready to begin their transition. Michele McGinnis, FootLove Yoga
Vegan, ecofriendly; participates in Souls 4 Souls. Price range: $65 – $75.
Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; thin & flexible sole
Handmade in Germany
Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; wide toe box; flexible soles. Price range: $46 – $265
Manufactured in Richmond, CA; 1% of sales for the Planet; adjustable strap system
Running shoes; made in the USA; ecofriendly; slip resistance in water
Minimalist cred: wide toe box; zero drop heel; thin & flexible sole;
Greece; ships worldwide; handmade, handcut custom fit on all shoe orders; small family business
Minimalist cred: thin & flexible sole; well attached upper
And here are the Men’s Drifters
Sandals manufactured in Sonoma, CA; crowdsourced feedback; eco-conscious; inspired by Tarahumara running sandals; conductive laces ground you electrically
Minimal cred: zero drop; thin & flexible sole; heel strap
Headquartered in Finland; 1mm thickness outsole
Minimalist cred: wide toe box; zero drop heel; thin & flexible sole; well attached upper;
foldable ballet flats with split-sole construction;
Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; thin & flexible sole
Ships world wide; comes in activewear, slippers & foldable sneakers
Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; thin & flexible sole
Wraps around entire foot
Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; thin & flexible; zero toe spring
Made to order and hand crafted in the USA; unisex; vegetable tanned suede;
Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; thin & flexible sole, zero toe spring;
Handmade moccasins; locally sourced; can have rubber soles added
Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; thin & flexible sole; zero toe spring;
Hand crafted in and ships from Germany
Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; wide toe box
Made from red ketchup bottles, black food trays, and brown beer bottles; certified by the Green America’s Green Business Network as an environmentally and socially responsible business
Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; wide toe box; thin flexible sole; low toe spring
German designed by a group of movement specialists and barefoot professionals; moisture wicking; quick drying; durable, slip resistant sole provides protection from most sharp materials, including broken glass
Minimalist cred: minimal to zero drop heels; wide toe box; thin & flexible sole.
American-run company, 100% family owned
Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; wide toe box; thin & flexible sole, low toe spring
***Lems Primal 2 are the demo shoes that I use in Footlove Yoga workshops and in movement sessions with clients. I remove the insole from one of my Lems and one from a traditionally shaped shoe and lay them side by side. I then ask my client which insole is shaped more like my foot? Of course, they point to Lems. I then prepare to stand barefoot on the traditional insole and ask my client what they think is gong to happen? They are always correct in predicting that my toes will spill over the sides of the narrow toe-boxed insole of the traditionally lasted shoe. They immediately get that this shoe is too narrow for a healthy foot and gait. I then stand on the Lems insole, spread my toes, and demonstrate how a healthy, naturally shaped shoe should be. I love my Lems.
Last winter, I failed (again) to secure a pair of warm minimal winter boots. On a 5 degree day, I decided to try my vegan Lems Boulder Boots with heavy wool socks. I walked about 1.5 miles to the clinic through snowy streets. While I can’t say my feet stayed warm, they did not get nearly as cold I as anticipated. I suspect because of the wide toe box and flexible sole, my feet were able to move and create more blood flow than if they were casted into traditional winter boots. While not waterproof, they accept an application of water seal and thus have stayed dry in snow and rain. Michele McGinnis, FootLove Yoga
Company founded by the famous barefoot Ted; designed, tested, assembled and made in Seattle
Shoes made for women, by a woman; wider toe box and more narrow heel; pronounced like the sound in ‘ocean’…a one syllable o sound with a silent e
Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; wide toe box; thin & flexible; zero toe spring in some models
Inspired by the craftsmanship of the 5,000 year old shoes discovered on the mummified remains of a prehistoric man called “Ötzi, the Iceman;
Minimalist cred: thin & flexible sole
Some styles made from yoga mats
Unfortunately, I am unable to save images from Sanuk’s site.
“We make sandals that are not over-engineered or floppy. They don’t force your toes to hold on for dear life. Sliding around in your sandals unable to feel the ground is not comfortable, a performance fit is!”
SKORA is the result of a 12-year journey to craft a better running shoe; rounded outsole edges;
Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; wide toe box;
Micro-thin 1.2 mm thick durable plastic sole; main office and design studio is located in Ventura County, California; 1% for the Planet
Minimalist cred: thin & flexible sole;
Handmade to order in Oregon, USA; sustainable practices; grounding properties.
Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; wide toe box; thin & flexible heel; well attached upper; zero toe spring
Sense of Motion Footwear; eco-consciously handmade in Colorado, USA;
Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; wide toe box; think & flexible sole
Manufactured in Southern Poland; high flexibility in both torsion and bending; no artificial system of stabilization; designed to emulate barefoot walking; free shipping worldwide.
Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; wide toe box; thin & flexible sole
Unique split-sole and flexible midsole flats that fold and fit in a purse; non-skid rubber outsole patches; crafted from luxurious Italian leather and textiles; associated Gavrieli Foundation has contributed $10 million in funds to women entrepreneurs, who they believe are key in the broader fight against global poverty.
Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; thin & flexible heel; no toe spring
Modern barefoot shoe for men at work;
Minimalist cred: zero drop; wide toe box; thin & flexible sole.
***I’ll be contacting Tune to inquire about this puzzling bit on their website:
“An offset heel such as the one you see to the below promotes HEEL STRIKING, a major cause of ankle, knee, hip, and back pain. Making heel-first contact during your stride isn’t natural from a biomechanical standpoint and it sends the kinetic energy created at impact up your bone structure. As a result, you can experience serious joint pain. A better alternative is a flat shoe that won’t impede your natural stride.
Adjustable, continuous strap that doesn’t run between the sole and footbed; sandals & moccasins
Minimalist cred: zero drop; wide toe box, think & flexible, no toe spring
Subdirectory of Minimal & Barefoot Shoes Arranged by Style
Athletic/Running (primarily) – Altra, Be Real,
Sandals (primarily) – Afoot Sandals,
List of Minimal & Barefoot Shoe Lists
Shoes: The List by internally recognized biomechanist Katy Bowman of Nutritios Movement. This list was posted on Katy’s blog in 2012 and updated August 2016.
Shoes: The (Summer) List by Katy Bowman, posted June 2015. Updated June 2017.
Shoes: The (Winter List) by Katy Bowman. Posted in 2013 and updated Winter 2015/16.
Correct Toes Approved Shoes from Correct Toes. Posting date/updates unknown.
Footwear highlighted here accommodates Correct Toes, encourages natural foot and body movement, optimizes foot strength and promotes proper toe alignment. Generally the shoes on this list have the following features: wide toe box, shaped like an actual foot, zero drop heel, no toe spring, and flexible sole.
Natural Foot Approved Shoes from Correct Toes. Posting date/updates unknown.
These shoes do all of the above except, they are not wide enough to accommodate Correct Toes for most people.
This barefoot shoe guide is an attempt to provide a list of both self-proclaimed barefoot brands that offer stylish lifestyle options, as well as other (non-barefoot) brands that still offer minimalist shoe styles.
Winter Boots List by Barbara Loomis
Restorative Exercise Specialist Barbara Loomis compiled a list of 2016 winter boots she likes. Obviously, which boot you choose depends on your Winter climate and your current foot health. She looked for boots that are flat, flexible, have wide toe box with minimal to no toe spring. Not all of the boots meet all of the criteria, but at least they’re headed in the right direction.
Running & Athletics
5,088 runners reviewed these minimalist shoes with an average score of 84/100
Searching for Minimal Running Shoes? Take a look at the top rated shoes of 2017, Pros & Cons and what to be aware of before buying them in a store!