The minimalist shoe movement: what you might want to know

Among my group of trailblazing buddies, we use entirely minimalist shoes for hiking and climbing, which has enabled us to eat many trail miles with relative ease. Look at all of that mud!

“Look at those weird-looking shoes.” I commonly hear this comment in my daily life while donning one of my favorite pairs of Vibram Five Fingers shoes. Then, the predictable barrage of questions from curious family, friends and strangers ensues.

Yes, they’re real shoes.

No, I don’t think they’re weird.

No, I don’t they should be banned for being so funny looking.

Yes, I think you should try on a pair.

The minimalist shoes that my feet love are Vibram Five Fingers and I often contemplate if I’m their best customer. I love them and own about 30 pairs. They fit my feet like custom made gloves and my legs never fatigue when I wear them. I’m an ER nurse, hiker, climber, canoe paddler, weight trainer, avid walker and my Vibrams eat miles while on my feet during all of those activities. They never, ever fail me.

The minimalist or barefoot shoe craze isn’t new. It took off a few years ago and has since gone strong. It’s a specific kind of shoe technology that’s not for everybody. But for those who have benefitted from them, there’s been no looking back.

My first pair of minimalist shoes was a very no-frills pair of Nike Air athletic shoes. My body immediately stopped hurting after working long 12-hour shifts in them, and from there I was hooked. I realized that my fancy nursing and traditional athletic shoes were causing wrongful posture and alignment, leading to throbbing feet, and painful hips, knees and back. Magically, becoming “one of those” minimalist shoe users changed my life for the better.

Some shoe brands that use minimalist or barefoot technology (click on the photos to see them for sale on Amazon, I picked the shoes my friends, family and I wear, or ones that are highly rated):

Vibram Five Fingers

Merrell

Nike Free/Air

Vivobarefoot

New Balance Barefoot

Many more…

I don’t think they’re funny looking. I think they’re super cute!  As a bonus these kinds of shoes tend to have style options in brighter colors. Plus knowing the happiness they bring to my feet, when I see them I feel love, peace, joy and enthusiasm. And life is grand when you invest in a few pairs of good, well-made shoes that keep your feet comfortable.

If you’re like me and have monkey toes and hands for feet, “Ninja Toes,” as some friends have called them, your feet might love minimalist shoes. Being light on your feet has so many positive benefits for certain people:

Mimicks the God-given foot positioning, spinal alignment and joint physiology as our bodies naturally were meant to have.

They’re all-terrain and durable in all kinds of conditions. A trail can be dry and dusty, muddy, flooded with rainwater, you can cross raging streams, then bury them in mud again all in one trek, and my Vibrams handle these changes seamlessly.

Long-lasting. My first pair of Vibram is still going strong. These shoes seem to never die.

Easy care. Just rinse, leave at your doorstep and they’re ready for the next adventure. Occasionally I’ll throw them in the washing machine for an extra cleaning, but never in the dryer, as the seams will melt (yes, I once killed a pair of Vibrams this way). I do dry them in a breezy windowsill for a few days and they’re good as new after that.

“Ground feedback”, a term used by many in the minimalist shoe community. It means that your feet can grip or wrap around different subtulties and contours in the ground and actually feel where you’re stepping, which gives stability and minimizes slipping, tripping, falling or rolling your ankles.

Improved spinal alignment due to no unnatural heel lift.

Good for people with flatter and wider feet without pronounced arches.

Keeps me lighter on my feet, with far less shoe bulk, so I’m not weighed down on trails and can go long.

Arch pain, which in the past was longstanding, is gone due to a barely-there arch lift.

No stress on my hips nor knees due to the shoe structure that mimincks a natural foot.

Never a blister nor pressure sore ever. The shoes are solid and very well-made, you never feel seams.

More comfort, you forget you’re wearing them.

Almost non-existent foot fatigue, which increases stamina.

So there you have my personal synopsis of minimalist shoes. There’s a happy place for them in society, and for many people they create happy feet. Hopefully the “ban those shoes because they’re funny looking” crowd might start to see the many great benefits of them, try on a pair, and their feet will be happy too. Then we can all sing joyful songs in ode to barefoot shoe technology while sitting together around a campfire wearing our super cute minimalist shoes.

 

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