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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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May 05 2009

Barefoot Alternatives

By Mark Sisson
185 Comments

I got the following email from a reader:

Mark,

The Vibram 5 Fingers look great for exercise but not very practical for daily use and I’m wondering if there are any decent shoes available.

The Vivo shoes are the most interesting I’ve been able to spot so far (but haven’t tried them yet).

Many thanks,

Scott

Thanks, Scott. This is actually a pretty common question I get from readers, and it’s typical of the essential problem we Primal Blueprinters face almost every day: that constant battle between doing what is right for our bodies and what is deemed socially acceptable.

Do we politely decline the dessert plate?

How do we turn down the freshly baked, homemade bread without offending our host?

Do we tone down the grunts and heavy breathing during our intense deadlift/squat/weighted-pullup circuit at the gym so as not to frighten the guy on the thigh abductor?

The waiter brought us our steak with no silverware; do we chow down with our hands?

And, finally – must we submit our precious feet to the rigid tyranny of the modern shoe simply to avoid looking weird in our Vibrams or, worse, barefeet?

Absolutely not!

Even I’ll admit that wearing the Vibrams will get you some strange looks, especially if you’re at the grocery store or on a job interview (note: don’t wear them to a job interview, unless you’re interviewing at MDA or Vibram itself). They are essentially foot gloves, and their use can be explained away when you’re at the gym or running a trail, but they aren’t all that (aesthetically) practical in everyday life. Like it or not, we are members of society and, unfortunately, the vast majority of its other members cannot seem to handle the sight of bare feet (or the detailed contours of the foot and toes) in a non-sandy, non-athletic commercial setting. Unless you simply don’t care about social mores and norms (which, I’ll admit, I usually don’t), you’ll want to find a suitable shoe that won’t compromise the health of your feet (even if it compromises your personal ethics… kidding!).

So what are our choices?

Well, when I’m not barefoot or Vibrams-clad, I’m usually wearing a pair of TOD’s tan leather Moccasins. They’re extremely thin, flexible, and comfortable, and they’re about as close to barefoot as you’re going to get while still looking “normal.” TOD’s certainly aren’t as funky as Vibrams, and they’re no good for athletics, but they make a great compromise for the fashion-conscious Groks out there. The sole isn’t hard or rigid, and your feet feel unconstrained. But be warned. They are pricey. Other moccasins may do the job just as well.

Another option is simple sandals. Flip-flops, thongs, whatever you want to call them – as long as they’re thin and pliable, they’ll promote better foot health than the most expensive casual shoes. Rickshaw drivers around the world aren’t outfitted in the latest Nike trainers; they’re either barefoot or in cheap thin sandals. Their feet are their livelihood, so you think if they were causing some problems they’d wear “real” shoes. The other good thing about sandals is that they’re actually socially acceptable – little do they know that we’re secretly wearing them to emulate going barefoot!

According to a close friend of mine, Tom’s Shoes is another good option. I don’t have a pair myself, but he swears by them (he’s also a huge Vibram FiveFingers fan, if you were wondering, so he’s into the barefoot thing). He is quick to mention, however, that if you’re looking for a barefoot approximate you’ll want to get the soft suede versions. Most of the shoes have fairly stiff soles, but the suede ones are fairly pliable, especially once you’ve broken them in. He goes hiking a lot, and once he couldn’t find the Vibrams (which he usually uses), so he went in the Tom’s and was pretty happy with it. Again, these aren’t athletic shoes, but the soft suede shoes are decent replacements for going full on barefoot. Plus, for each pair of Tom’s someone buys, the owner will throw in an extra one to a shoe-less kid in a third-world country (although I’d suggest that maybe they’re doing okay already without shoes!).

Those Vivos you linked to look pretty good, although I’d have to try them on before taking the plunge.

To sum up – Barefoot or Vibrams FiveFingers (with a healthy dose of antipathy toward social protocol) are the best, but there are other options. Try Tod’s Moccasins, soft suede Tom’s, sandals, or Vivos, in no particular order.

Anyone else know some better casual barefoot shoe options that won’t get you thrown out of a 7-11?

M.V. Jantzen Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Toe Socks Met Combat Boots and Had a Baby

Why You Should Nix Shoes

Beach Sprints in FiveFingers

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185 thoughts on “Barefoot Alternatives”

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  1. I’ve been trying to track down a shop that sells Vivo Barefoot for a LONG time now. I live in Atlantic Canada and so far the closest I know of is in Toronto and New York. Does anyone here know of someplace closer?

    Right now I wear faux-leather thong flip flops outside and go barefoot/sock-footed indoors.

    1. I noticed you were wearing flip flops, I recommend the following flip flops to my patients. Invented by Swiss and Australian Chiropractors they are a neuro orthotic shoe with TGA and FDA approval and very good alternative to bare foot itself on hard falt surfaces.
      Check out the website equilibras-revolution.com
      Worth a try iif you don’t like going bare foot all the time.

  2. I live in NYC and the thought of even wearing flip flops around the city in the summer really skeeves me out, frankly. I’m understand the health benefits of going barefoot but have a hard time embracing this particular PB suggestion here, sadly.
    Here’s a lengthy but excellent article published last year in NY magazine on this very issue (trust me- the amazing photos alone is worth a look!)- and there are suggestions as to what shoes might be worth a try(note to self!)
    http://nymag.com/health/features/46213/

  3. I am passing this along to so many people! I pretty much live in sandals and if it’s too cold I wear Ugg’s moccasins (with a soft suede outsole…unfortunately I think the newist version has a rubber sole 🙁 ) I am barefoot during my workouts since they are almost always on the beach. People constantly give me a hard time about how bad doing this is for me – arch support, back support, foot support etc etc etc. Now I have proof I’m doing right!

  4. Another option are the Sanuk line of sidewalk surfer shoes. They were also made with the barefoot mentality in mind and are not much more than a sandal with an upper stitched on. I’m going to have to check out the Vivos though since those look even less conspicuous.

  5. Good post.

    I found Vivos a while ago, but have yet to buy them. I often can be found wearing a very thin pair of tsubos.

  6. I’m a huge fan of skate shoes. They’re designed to have minimal padding and are low profile to enable the skater to feel the board, thus giving you much better control.

    I don’t skate anymore, but absolutely refuse to give ’em up. My fave happens to be the Etnies Callicut (http://etnies.com/shop/mens/footwear/shoes/) but the cinch are pretty nice too. DC also makes some similar shoes. I wear my DC’s everywhere and that includes my workplace (in a lovely windowless office). You just gotta pick the right color so it’s not too conspicuous 🙂

  7. Some ‘Puma’ shoes are decent for promoting foot health and mobility. When I can’t go barefoot, or with sandals, this is usually what I choose. Both my wife and I have pairs. They have a very thin sole, and bend, twist, and flex quite nicely.

  8. I wear the Vibrams while training but during the da it’s Sanuk Sidewalk Surfers. Check ’em out at Zappos! Many styles and reasonably priced

  9. “so as not to frighten the guy on the thigh abductor?”

    I about fell out of my chair laughing.

  10. I use some UA sandals (so comfy) for daily walking…and for lifting and running, I’ve been using a pair of Solomon water shoes I got at REI on clearance like 3 years ago. They are almost like wearing sandals with all the mesh but don’t come flying off your foot. I am anxious to try the vibram 5 fingers soon.

  11. Joey- the article I posted mentions the Nike Free as well as Masai, Vivos and Vibrams…
    This is bad news for a girl with a trendy shoe fetish like me!

    1. Yea, the only chance I have of convincing my girlfriend to wear Vibram’s is if I write Prada on them… I think I just thought of a brand new market =)

  12. I have had my 5 fingers for a few years now and have been known to wear them to work as well as out on the town. They will definitely start some conversations, but I have never met anyone who doesn’t think they are cool. Except when they get a little smelly in the Florida summers 🙂

    1. I actually find these and all other ‘bare’ feet apparel, offensive. While we may have the gut of a cave man, and i am more than willing to eat this way, and when on vacation, one can wear sandals, and the ubiquitous ‘flip-flop’ (whether high tech or no), coming from a land where sub-zero freezing temps are the norm for over seven months of the year, civilized Western shoes/boots, and other footwear bespeak civilization. If we can afford to eat Paleo (and grass fed beef, and organic produce ain’t for someone on a budget!) then the least we can do, is dress as if we were above the rank of the barefoot peasant. My 2 cents.

      1. What I find offensive is foot, knee, hip and back pain. I was plagued with very painful ingrown toenails from ill-fitting shoes as a kid. I loved getting birks and flipflops…sometimes had to buy boy shoes so they’d be wide enough for my duck feet. High heels are ridiculous and ugly to my eyes. And the unnatural gait of women walking in them feels like witnessing something bizarre on National Geographic. Hearing men say self-defeating things like “dress shoes are supposed to hurt” offends me.

      2. Wow. That is easily one of the most arrogant, ignorant, and flat-out silly comments I’ve seen in a long time.

        First of all, if you are going to be offended by what other people choose to wear (or not wear) on their feet, you must spend a whole lot of time offended. That sounds like a rather miserable and unhappy life, to constantly define your happiness by other people’s choices, even when those choices don’t affect you.

        Secondly, you should lose your arrogant vanity and understand that this is about health, fitness, and what’s best for your feet. Most modern shoes are designed primarily for appearance, not for health and function. When I see people wearing shoes with narrow toe-boxes and high heels, I don’t see “footwear that bespeak civilization”. I see footwear from a decadent and misguided society that values weird “rules” for style over comfort and health.

        Personally, I’d rather be healthy, happy, and comfortable than wear your shoes. And if you think that makes me a “barefoot peasant” that is below you, well, I guess that works out in my favor, because I won’t have to deal with your negative attitude and belief that what you choose to put on your feet determines you social value.

  13. dragonmamma beat me on the converse/airwalk suggestion. A pair of worn chucks feel like socks. Why be primal when you can be… metroprimal? 🙂

  14. Vibrams aren’t suitable to work? I wear them to work every day. I’ve tried to stick to the black ones to keep them from being quite so noticable. I figure they just give people something to talk about. I personally feel that vibram’s are more suitable than flip-flops.

  15. I love my vibrams but i also wear my JawPaws alot as well –

    http://www.jjbsports.com/mens-sandals-and-flip-flops/adidas-jawpaw-ii/prod_105170.aspx?utm_source=googlebase&utm_medium=affiliate

    There a touch quicker to put on then vibrams (none of that getting each toe in business) plus u can wear socks (in say winter) and dont stand out as much….

    Better traction in the city then vibrams in the wet as well…

    It also helps that there 1/3 the cost!

    Sadly ive become a fair weather vibram user ;o)

    1. Looked on posted site, even searched JawPaw.
      ‘no product that matches your search’

  16. Forgot to say – to me “primal footwear” needs to fit these criteria –

    – full articulation of the ankle (no “support” – read weakening)

    – minimal sole

    – full articulation of the toes

    JawPaw fits the first two and whilst isnt as good as the vibram on the last one its pretty close…

  17. Great suggestions so far! I am thinking about replacing my Nike Frees with some Vibrams for my weekly sprint session. I am starting to wear my Converse shoes for more than just weight lifting. I would LOVE to find a casual daily shoe, but at an affordable price.

    For any suggestions above or to follow: How are the shoes for durability? With the minimalist soles I fear frequent replacement which would get costly in a hurry.

  18. I second the recommendation of Sanuks. I can’t bear stiff soled shoes – they make me feel uncoordinated, just clunking my feet down with every step.
    Thong sandals IMO are only a good choice if they’re snug (leather ones most often are). If they are even slightly loose, they threaten to fly off your foot with every step, causing some people to develop a habit of gripping with their toes – which undermines the whole purpose of wearing light shoes.

  19. I wear Puma H-Streets for sprinting and weight lifting. They are very minimalist and extremely light weight. They are the next best thing to the Vibrams. I believe Puma has discontinued them, again. The new ones are are called K-Street and there is the Saloh. Haven’t tried them yet, but overall I highly recomment the PUMA.

  20. I bought a pair of vivo barefoot shoes last year precisely for this reason. I’ve worn them almost every day since. Can’t recommend them enough.

  21. I’ve heard very good things about Feelmax shoes – especially their soon-to-be-released Niesa shoe – but they may be hard to get in the US (they’re a Finnish company).

  22. I wore Tsubo exclusively for about seven years. I especially loved the thinner-soled varieties and still keep a pair for variety.

    but for the past year or so, my primary shoe it the Vivo. It’s fantastic. It looks like a (pretty damn sexy) shoe, but it feels kind of like a slipper – except that it doesn’t slip (if that makes any sense). They don’t have much padding, but they fit snug on your feet. Nice.

    The thin sole is great for tactile feel and and foot strike, though there are insoles included if you like a little bit of cushion (and to use in winter). I was concerned about the thinness of the sole at first, but after having stepped in thumbtacks and such several times at work, I have a lot of faith in them – nothing is getting through there.

    The leather is also extremely flexible and allows full range of motion around the ankle. I can even flex my toes in them.

    My only caution would be to make sure you give them a good coat of mink oil before wearing them on wet days, as the leather doesn’t appear to be waterproofed.

    They’re great shoes and I recommend them highly. Especially if you can find them on sale (I got mine for about $45, though I’d gladly pay full price).

  23. I’ll wear my Vibram KSOs pretty much anywhere, unless an event calls for actual shoes (e.g. the bar scene). The shoes will absolutely start conversations at the mall/grocery/etc, and most people seem to like them. I’ve had more than one conversation where the other party demands to know where to buy them (most recently in Turkey of all places).

    I do the occasional 4×400 sprint or mile jog in Vibrams, and fortunately my feet don’t look anything like those in the blog photo!

  24. Rodney – Jawpaws are pretty hardwearing…..ie my vibrams (classic) have started to show wear + the bloody tags at the back have come off one side…

    They also get pretty funky and need washing regularly…

    Jawpaw worn practically everyday outside for 4-5 months (including around house) still no signs of wear on bottom…

    Bit surprising considering how soft and flexible they are…. + no real signs of dreaded mass weapons of biological malodourous destruction… Probably down to the ability to use socks.

    Personnely i think the shoe industry most likely have at some point invented the non-wearing “eternal” sole. Shortly before realising theres no profit for them in it!

    More profit in having a design obselesence of a few months. As well as having the next fashionable sports “technology” comes out….

  25. Sanuk shoes are awesome; especially if you have to work in an office-like world.

    Checkout Saucony Kilkenny XC flats for running. Buy them a size bigger than you would normally wear. They are pretty close to barefoot for running off or on road.

  26. PS – please get rid of that photo. That guy just does not know how to run barefoot. Experienced – or maybe just smart – barefooters never wind up with injuries anything like that. Never ever. Pain porn like that just serves to keep barefoot running looking like only crazies do it.

    1. I agree. That guy has the equipment, he just needs to read the manual. The pic gives barefoot running a bad reputation … and it’s difficult enough to convince people that it’s beneficial and not crazy!!

  27. OMG, those feet are gnarly! I hope there wasn’t any glass on the road!

  28. I recently purchased some vibrams, and have every intention of migrating to their use during workouts, but I just always seem to choose my trusty Tigers from Asics. They’re just rigid enough for barbell lifts and have just enough cushion for running on pavement (I know, I should find a better running surface). Plus, they’re serviceable in just about any setting/situation.

    http://www.classicsportshoes.com/onitsukatiger.html

  29. I was excited to buy a pair of vibrams but then their FAQ reminded me that it wouldn’t work with webbed toes. Hopefully the company gets big enough and can custom build shoes for people with genetically freaky feet…

  30. Great post and comments! I’ve been researching barefoot shoe options for a while since my toes don’t seem to be in the proper proportions for Vibram FiveFingers 🙁

    A good place to look for reviews is BarefootRunner.com. There are cool options there for thin-soled shoes and moccasins, but man, most of these shoes are in the $150 range and the durability is lackluster.

    I think my next purchase will be Nike Frees, which I haven’t tried yet, but guys at the local running shop like them.

  31. Levi –

    The Nike Free does NOT mimic barefoot running! The heel has too much elevation and totally negates one of the main reasons barefoot running works to move you to proper form. You will be much better off in cheap water shoes, XC flats, or um barefoot.

  32. I’m with Levi…

    Nike Frees are somewhat of a step in the right direction but alas, still too thick and way too much of heel, especially when it comes to proper running form. Vivo shoes rock (I own two pairs) and are quite suitable for people who live in colder temps (like Montreal!!!) but otherwise, flip-flops and Vibram Five-Fingers work well in warmer temps. Someone also mentioned Puma; some of their shoes actually do fit the bill of ‘almost’ barefooting…

    For those interested, check out http://www.barefooters.org/ for more info on the subject of “barefooting” and the medical, legal and other implications of the latter…

    And for the more “extreme” among us, here’s another solution: http://www.barefooters.org/faq/22.html

  33. Good on you Leah and Asof!

    I also wear my VFF to work. I work in an office and my KSO’s go fine with my pants and collared shirt.

    I’m shy and hate getting made fun of (though I never did), but my health is more important than what anyone thinks.

    I am either barefoot or in my Vibrams.

  34. Great post! It looks like I have some shopping to do 🙂

    Can anyone suggest a good ‘close to barefoot’ shoe for my 4 year old preschooler? It was easy to find flexible stuff when he was littler, but now that his feet are size 11 everything is so structured and hard. I worry about his feet but am having trouble finding good alternatives. Thanks in advance!

  35. if you can find a pair, the Nike Air Rift (only available in womens sizes) have a split toe design and I (as a man) have been wearing them in public for quite some time, as well as for running.

  36. That’s too bad about the Nike Free’s heel. I guess the few reviews I’ve read and heard were from people used to typical huge running shoes.

    Lots of good suggestions in the comments though, so I’m sure I’ll find something!

  37. What a great post Mark!

    I have been wearing moccasins around the house since I was a kid (25 years or so). The First Nations people them traditionally around where I live, but they aren’t quite socially acceptable a lot of places, or for wearing to work – but when I saw the link to TOD’s, I wanted!

    Moccasins that LOOK like shoes – brilliant. That’s exactly what I have been looking for.

    Amy, you could try converse all-stars in a kids size. They might well be the contemporary shoe design that is closest to barefoot.

  38. Move to a place where it’s normal to go barefoot. I just moved to Thailand, and it’s so liberating. The vegetables, fruits and nature is much better too 🙂

  39. I love Vibrams, but have been considering Vivos since the Vibrams are a smidge more inconvenient to put on quickly. I find myself not wearing my Vibrams as much as I want.

  40. Oh man. That picture brings back some bad memories. I was just starting to work up to barefoot running, gradually introducing it to give my body time to adapt. And one day I tried to do a mile on the university track barefoot. In a word? Ouch. Couldn’t walk for two days, because the bottoms of both feet were blistered solid.

    Glad to see the advice on how to be almost barefoot, but don’t think any of it is going to fly at work (the gym). I already drive my boss nuts by having my clients exercise barefoot.

  41. Jamie: That pic should be removed – it does not accurately portray a person that knows how to run barefoot. That simply does not happen to people who do it correctly. I suggest you avoid barefoot running on modern rubberized tracks because the surface is specifically designed to INCREASE FRICTION to a person wearing spikes or shoes can run faster. That design may lead to blisters for people who are not practiced at barefoot running technique ( which is the same as CORRECT running technique ). Look at the old photos of young Zola Budd – he taped her toes for track racing but not for XC racing – probably for that very reason. So if you have to run at the track, do it infield of lane 1, get on the grass, or just do it on the road. Mostly relax and have fun!

  42. Amy–I was researching Sanuk’s tonight and they come in kid sizes.

    My fee are killing me…that is why I am here reading this post. 🙂

    I have high arches, when I do the foot print test on paper my foot print does not even connect together!

    I also have an ankle that I have sprained 3 times and I roll it often and it feels weak.

    My toes are really short so flip-flops are out since it hurts the space between my toe too much. Vibrams do not fit my toes well either. Do I sound like a whinny wuss or what? LOL 🙂

    Lately my feet have just been killing me all day…everyday! My arches ache, my heels ache, the ball of my feet ache!

    Walking barefoot is still painful at this point, my aches ache like hell when I do and my heel and ball of foot hurt too with every step. I have to admit that I am skeptical that I will ever feel good walking barefoot (unless I am in sand) or in thin flat shoes. My feet are so sore with shoes or without shoes at this point that I feel like I may never find a good solution! This post does give me some hope though.

    One thing no one brings up though is the fact that Grok did not have to walk on cemet sidewalks, tile floors, and flat streets etc. Doesn’t that make a difference? Maybe Mark has talked about this before and I am unware.

    I think at this point my most comfortable shoes I have are a pair of plastic slip on Jelly shoes I bought at the grocery store for $5 about 12 years ago. They have plastic spikes on the bottom that are well worn now and they are of course super flexible. I like to walk over rocks and massage my aching arches!

    Do not underestimate the power of the plastic jelly shoe! It work great for girls on a budget! 🙂

    I also own custom orthodic insoles for my high arches but these really only feel good when I wear them with a worn pair of airwalk flats from Payless. I am guessing that those reading this post would tell me this insoles are probably part of the problem.

    After my extensive research tonight I think I will try the Sanuk’s. I read a post from someone who said that had arch problems and then tried Sanuks and they have a fabric upper and a half inch foam bottom that molds to your foot so after wearing them they no more arch problems. I am also happy that have many styles for under $50.

    No more arch problems? THAT WOULD BE FABULOUS!

    If anyone else reading this has high arches or other pathetic foot troubles lke me I would love to hear a success story.

    Anyone know how many days I will have to walk barefoot before my feet finally start to get stronger and not hurt so darn much?

    Ok I think that ends my foot rant for the evening! 🙂

    1. Jenn – you sound like you are having a difficult time. It will only take a few weeks of being barefoot as much as possible to get used to it. Right now your soles are hyper sensitive from all those years of wearing shoes. They have become that way because they need to feel the earth through all that protective cushioning you have put there. At this point you are probably still doing what all the support & cushioning has taught you to do: walk and run too hard to feel the ground. Try to walk and run more gently. Go barefoot as possible everywhere you can. Don’t give up.

      As far as the arch “support” problems – think through it: In archectecture, an arch is supported from the ends, not the middle. If you put support in the middle, it weakens the entire structure. That is what orthotics and other arch supporting devices have been doing to you for a looooooong time. They have weakened your arch. It will take some time to reverse that, but the end result will be increased strength, efficiency and injury resistance. Good luck!

      1. It has been a little over 2 months since I first posted so I decided to report back.

        Since I posted I went barefoot at home and I have only been wearing my thin plastic 10 year+ old jelly slip on shoes when I have to go out. I have not used my custom arch supports since that day either.

        I did try Sanuks in that first week but they felt too flat to me then. I tried the Vibrams which did feel great but theya re pricey and so I have not taken the plunge yet.

        After two months of no more fancy shoes and supports though I tried the Sanuks again and they feel good now! My feet have definitely changed! I notice that when I do wear a pair of my old sandals or other old shoes for a day that my feet hurt A LOT the next day.

        Now that fall/winter is approaching and my plastic shoes are started to fall apart from all the use I decided I need find something new. I am not happy with how expensive all the options are though!

        Anyone have any cheaper ideas?

        Anyway, thanks for the encouragement thinnman! My feet still hurt but they are A LOT better now. I am not turning back!

        1. Make at home moccasin kits from a craft store are pretty cheap. Not sure how they hold up.

  43. What about playing sports like basketball? Typically, I would wear basketball shoes, which are anything but minimalist, and even have an ankle brace on one of my ankles (due to repeated injury). How do you play basketball in… a pair of vibrams? It sounds dangerous. There’s nothing to support your ankle. You land on someone else’s foot and bam, you’re a goner.

    But then again, I don’t know anything, so perhaps I’m wrong 🙂

    1. If you’re comfortable running and jumping barefoot, then you’d have no issues.

      My experience is with Vibrams. They do have a short learning curve. I wouldn’t just buy a pair and head to the court. Go out and mess around in them often for a few weeks. You’ll have to undo all the bad habits you’ve been getting away with all those years.

      You’d probably need to concern yourself more with the thought of someone landing on your foot 😉 If you roll an ankle in Vibrams… well, you just flat out landed wrong!

      1. Yeah well landing wrong in basketball in inevitable. You land on someone else’s foot ten times, and your ankle will twist either inwards or outwards inevitably at least once. The big basketball shoes and the ankle brace make sure your ankle doesn’t move too much, so the force is transferred somewhere else. With Vibrams, I don’t know what will happen even if you’ve been wearing them for years. I can only imagine it’ll be ugly.

        1. I’m no expert on basketball, I don’t even care for it. Just saying…

          What on earth did they do before the advent of the basketball shoe (and that whole $10 billion dollar a year industry) not so long ago?

          I wore Chuck Taylor’s exclusively for years in the 80s (the best selling shoe of all time) and I don’t remember them being particularly good for anything except a coolness factor.

          That said, I’ve never worn Vibrams with an ankle brace. I do have a old broken ankle injury that will probably go arthritic in a few decades. It pops about every step while running, and has for years. You run differently in Vibrams. There’s no heal impact.

          It’s not a whole lot different than the “healthy whole grain” industry. Oh dear! How could we possibly live without them and all the benefits of their bowl supporting & heart healthy “fiber”. LOL

          Industry spends billions on marketing to convince us these things are essential for living. You can’t blame them really, they’re just trying to make a buck. Doesn’t mean you have to bite.

          Sure some products offer that extra advantages, (electrolyte replacement drinks for marathoners comes to mind) but for the average Joe it often doesn’t make a hill of legumes. How did anyone ever manage a whole jog, treadmill workout, or even a whole day’s work before the advent of Gatorade?

          Something to chew on.

        2. Sepand:
          You are looking at what one allegedly gains from wearing high tops and ankle braces: the added protection and stability. But the need for protection & stability has come about because of the design of the shoe itself which isolates you from feeling the ground, the impact, the landing and twisting and accelerating forces. So instead I suggest you look at what is lost by wearing all that stuff. You lose the sense of feedback you need to jump and land properly. Your body loses its ability to respond quickly and compensate to a landing that is interfered with by hitting another foot. Your body jumps and absorbs landings as a whole – it isn’t all just up to your ankle to make corrections. Additionally, without an elevated sole, it is virtually impossible to turn an ankle. Take your shoe off and try to turn it – you really can’t unless you muscle it. Turned ankles begin when you “fall off” the sole of a shoe, then gravity takes over to turn the ankle. If you eliminate the elevated sole, the twisting forces are not amplified by gravity.

        3. Well, I will be purchasing the Vibrams soon (as soon as tomorrow’s hurricane passes 🙂 ). I plan on walking in them at a fast pace for one week, starting with only 5 minutes and adding 5 minutes each day so that on the 7th day I’ll be walking 35 minutes. On the 8th day I’ll be jogging in them for 10 minutes, and with every next jog I’ll add a few minutes. After doing this for 4-6 months, I’ll *consider* playing basketball barefoot. But it honestly sounds scary. I’ve seen a lot of people walking barefoot/in vibrams, but never once have I met someone who plays bball barefoot. THere might be a good reason for that.

          Oh, and I have to admit, I’ll be walking and jogging with my vibrams at night. Sorry, but the first time I saw my friend wearing a vibram i made fun of him for 20 minutes.

        4. EXACTLY @thinnmann! I hadn’t gotten to that part of my book yet 😉

          Looking forward to reading over your website some. Funny, even though I know it’s Vee-brum, I say Vye-brum 50% of the time. Hard to break old habits sometimes. This one has been harder than grains.

          I was hoping to pre-order both new models today, but I don’t have the extra cast at the moment.

  44. Does anyone know of any primal boots, aside from moccasins? I go barefoot a lot during the summer (or else I wear a pair of old flip flops), but I don’t really have that option in the winter time. Between ice and road salt, I would undoubtedly kill my feet!

    1. Try finding a pair of neoprene booties. They are designed for watersports, but many barefoot runners use them in winter. Performance has a pair designed for cycling, but if you don’t cut the cleat holes into the bottom, they are also nearly barefoot http://tinyurl.com/ljhk9l

    2. The new Vibram KSO Trek will be out soon, but may or may not work for your application. Who knows. You might be able to spray them with a water proofer to help keep out some moisture.

      Get some Injinji socks. They have a wool cold weather version. They’ll offer some bennies for your toes anyway.

  45. We have alot of Amish around us (out in the country) and they all go barefoot all summer. Even mucking out the barn (ugh). I guess they have healthy feet…………….

  46. Two years ago I purchased a pair of Fila low-profile shoes to work with my bicycle. I needed to find shoes that were smaller than normal running shoes so they would fit into the toe-clips on my pedals.

    The shoes that worked out really well were Fila Retro Spike Suede. The sole is very thin, and it is close to those “barefoot” running shoes.

    I just looked up “Fila Retro Spike” on the Internet and I came up with several shoes on those big online-mega-shoe-sites. Fila has apparently decided this is now a Women’s shoe and no longer a Unisex shoe. Well, whatever, these Fila shoes were only 25 dollars when I got them, and they are a nice alternative to the typical running shoe. They are almost form-fit around the foot, and have a thin sole on the ball of the foot, and about 1 cm of foam at the heel. It’s a very modest “running” shoe. Might be worth a try for folks who don’t want to spend 150 for special kevlar barefoot shoes.

  47. I have extremely wide feet, and have such a hard time buying shoes that I would prefer to be bare foot. The trouble is, though, I have very high arches, and have lots of foot pain if not given enough support. The pain was bad enough I had to quit martial arts from my feet getting so torn up on the mats. Even conventional shoes (New Balance) with added arch support don’t quite do it. Is there any hope for me?

    I have found Teva flip flops to work well, though I only got away with wearing them to work or with slacks when I was pregnant…

    1. I also have wide feet and high arches. I find it painful to go barefoot on any hard surface. Beaches and backyards are fine, but not hardwood or tile floors. Teva flip flops are my summer shoes, Dansko clogs are my fall/winter/spring shoes, and my year round indoor shoes are Crocs. Stop your laughing right now! Since I began wearing these shoes that have arch support, I have noticed a significant decrease in foot, knee, hip, and low back pain. Anyone else have thoughts on Dansko clogs?

  48. I worked at a camp for seven years, often playing bball barefoot on the asphalt. As you may guess, my feet are tough enough that I’ve stepped on tacks without noticing (aside from the clicking noise when I walked).

    I just bought my first pair of Vibrams, and I’m of a like mind with Thinnman. I’ve been searching for posts to confirm my suspicion that playing in my Vibrams will be safe, but this is the best I could get. I’ll probably hit the court a lot sooner than 6 months. I’ll try to let you know what happens.

  49. Question. I’m just learning about this primal thing so maybe it’s already been answered and I just haven’t found that page yet, but aren’t athletic shoes better for the artificial surfaces than barefoot? I’ve been a barefoot fan since infancy, but I have trouble with foot and back pain when I walk for long on Cement or black top. not to mention I’m becoming more sensitive to gravel.

    I have to admit I spent about four years nearly immobile while I was ill with incipient diabetes and cancer so I’m guessing that has a lot to do with loss of callouses and sensitivity but I just don’t know if I’m up to forcing myself to walk on stuff that hurts just to build them up again. LOL So what do you do when you walk on artificial rock? LOL Kitty

  50. I wear Vibram Five Fingers everywhere. I’ve worn them on a job interview and got the job. They will get you noticed and talked about. But no shoes no service cannot have a complaint against them. I have not tried to go completely barefoot anywhere.

  51. Toms have kind of become a fashion trend at my school, which is great. The only problem is they will fall apart in six months if only worn on flat, “safe” surfaces like concrete and flooring. They will fall apart faster should you choose to be adventure. They are a little expensive for the lack of quality, although they are comfortable and good-looking shoes. Happy Grok-walking, everyone!

  52. I used to have flat feet from pre-teen to about 40. Then I dropped a brick on my foot and broke one of the bones. After the break had healed (about 6 weeks) the doc said that I could strengthen my feet by going barefoot. Since then I am barefoot about 95% of the time. The arches have returned and my little toe has straighened out.

    1. Damn I’d like to have a pair of those or the “Russell Tracker.”

      Perhaps I’ll put a pair in the budget for next hunting season. I hate boots and shoes anymore! I wore Vibrams for a good part of this year, but got lucky with dry conditions.

  53. Wish I could come up with a fancier alternative for those special occasions.
    Perhaps I can just glue some rhinestones to the slippah 🙂
    Right now my most worn “shoe” is a purple pair of “Locals” slipphas 1.99 at Longs drugs. And even these get parked at the first sign of sand.

  54. These mainstream (and inexpensive) Minnetonka Mocs
    http://tinyurl.com/ycm658j are very unstructured. I live on the beach in North Carolina and can get by for most of the year barefoot (even at work and in most stores–I carry a pair of flip-flops just in case). For the wet winter I found a pair of Teva Proton 4 water shoes (which I think have been discontinued):
    http://www.trailspace.com/gear/teva/proton-4/

    They’re also good for footbiking, my favorite sport and transportation.

    In general I like moccasins, which can look almost like dress shoes for those occasions they’re needed–but soft-soled, of course.

    1. Thanks Pete. I wore a pair of mocs for about a year a while back and have looked for them in these posts, but this is the first one I found. I hope these wear as well as my first pair. I wore them to work everyday and didn’t have problems. They covered my feet in a respectable way and gave me all the freedom of movement of being barefoot. I decided that if I’m wearing a shoe and I have trouble curling my toes under and flexing my muscles, the shoes are too tight. These mocs look like a match to the ones I had years ago. Thanks.

  55. Whenever im not sporting my five fingers, I have a couple of Sanuk sandals that I wear. Its a shoe-like top with a flexible sandal bottom. I even wear them to ride my bike. I also wear them to work because my hr department told me to cool it with the five fingers. They say their shoes have bere foot un-technology. they were my favorites for over a year before I found VFF’s

  56. I’ve been wearing my VFF’s everyday since I bought them last week. I alternate the KSO with the KSO Trek so they don’t need to be washed as often. I tried wearing my Converse the other day and it was unbearable as they squashed my toes. I’ve noticed my feet are so much wider since converting to VFFs. Hooray primal!

  57. FWIW, I live in VivoBarefoot shoes. I have 5 pairs now (2 leather for work, 2 casual for play, and a pair of the new EVO running shoe). All but the EVO are cut pretty wide. They’re super comfy, and have a very durable sole.

    They run a bit expensive, but they’re having a 50% off sale right now, with discount code ENDOFSEASON if you’re interested in trying them out.

    I’m not sure I’ll ever wear another shoe again, though I may give a pair of FiveFingers a try, since the EVO is cut too thin to be comfortable.

  58. Minnetonka makes some relatively inexpensive (~$50-$60) moccasins. The moosehide softsole mocs, especially, are perfectly good and very soft right off the bat.

    My personal choice, albeit a little pricier, is Arrow Moccasin company. They hand-sew their mocs from very durable leather in their little company in Massachusetts, and they make all sorts of styles from the traditional canoe moc to full-blown sport mukluks. Great for kicking around or hunting. Plus, they have an adorable 90’s-era website: http://www.arrowmoc.com

    The leather takes a bit of time to break in, but it’s definitely worth it.

  59. I have worn my vibrams for about three months now. When I’m not at work, that’s ALL I wear. If I’m going somewhere where it’s ok to where jeans or shorts, my Five Fingers are on my feet. I work in a hospital where for some reason it’s ok to wear those goofy worthless rubber “Crocs” that are meant for gardening, but I tried wearing my Vibrams for a week, and with no support from H.R., I was told they weren’t allowed in the policy. So, I wear them EVERYWHERE else, and welcome the many questions I get about them. The more I talk about them, the more popular they will become, and eventually the nurses will start wearing them to work. When the nurses approve them, they’ll be ok for everyone else! It took a little while to adjust my feet to the toes…my right foot was pretty messed up from years of even very low heal dress shoes. But now I can put them on with hardly not help from my hands, and they are SO comfortable. They’ve done what $400 orthotics could not do. FYI…since tennis shoes ARE ok for work, I wear them now, even with dresses, since I can’t wear my beloved Five Fingers.

    1. Hey April;

      Genuine authentic question, I get where HR might take issue with the VFFs, but prohibited by policy? Did they give you chapter and verse, was it actually true? Or just their judgment? Crocs aren’t particularly good footware, and worn out ones can be downright scary on a hospital tile floor if there is any moisture.
      I’m kinda surprised they had a policy preventing VFFs.

      1. April, I’m in the same situation – I was so excited about getting a pair of VFFs, but was told firmly by my Supervisor (and shown the documentation) that wouldn’t allow me to wear them. I even disputed it with HR, and they supported the existing documentation. But, I will still get my VFFs and wear them every other instant, including on my lunch break at work, which they cannot enforce since I’m not on the clock. Neener neener, HR! 🙂

  60. Just bought a pair of FiveFingers and they are great. I wouldnt have the confidence or tolerance for pain to run barefoot without some protection.

  61. I just got a pair of vivo barefoot oaks. They are now my go-to normal wear shoes for everyday life. I got too fed up with the grocery store looks.

    I do own a pair of vff kso and a pair of bikilas on the way, but I’ll certainly be buying more vivo barefoot in the future. Big thumbs up.

  62. I have three VIVO Barefoots and my wife has Tom’s. We love them and they don’t look too weird either.

    Nice for all occassions.

  63. Look into the Oetzi brand of sneakers. Their design is modeled after the leather deer-skin moccasins found on the Oetzi Man (aka the Ice Man, dug out of a glacier in northern Europe sometime last decade.) I got a pair last month and absolutely love them.

  64. As a baby dancer, they started me in ballet flats. I got into pointe shoes at 7 (way too young!) When I first started Modern Dance at age 10–it was a revelation to dance barefoot! Been a barefoot gal ever since–though I do love all my shoes–I take ’em off whenever I can, walk barefoot at home where I work, and got the very FIRST Vibrams when they came out for hiking/racewalking rough terrain! Right on Mark for recommending this! SHOES definately create problems–doesn’t matter if they’re the “expensive” kind! Since this blog is about Primal Health and that covers a LOT–for those who want to continue a discussion with other BAREFOOT RUNNERS there’s a blog just for THAT: http://budurl.com/Blog4BarefootRunners

    1. those look really cool. how could i resist? XD

      (i also got a pair of Vibram.)

      cheers,

  65. What about my worn in Birkenstocks? They have formed to my feet. I have a high arch, so I’ve always been told to go for arch support, and shoes without it do tend to hurt my back somehow (maybe from training my body this way?) Does anyone else wear Birks? Are they considered “flip flops”?

    1. I used to wear Birkenstocks – have about a dozen pairs, accumulated over the years. Howeer, since switching to Vibrams and generally working hard on walking barefooted more, my Birkenstocks now hurt my feet – so I am actually getting rid of them (and I cam from not being able to walk more than 5-10 minutes without their support!).

      Hope that helps…I have definitely been working hard on finding shoes that are comfortable and (in the snowy winter) will keep my feet warm when I walk the dog in the snow and mud…Vibrams let me have cold toes once it got below 45°.

      1. For cold weather, you could take a look at the Terra Plana Vivo Barefoot line. They have some new shoes this season that are insulated and water proof. Women have a few more choices for cold weather than men, but frankly, I’ve just been wearing my regular Vivo Barefoot Aqua’s this winter with no problems, although if it’s snowy I will wear socks.

  66. I can vouch for Terra Plana “Vivo Barefoot” Evo. You may be happier with the insole out if you want more floor feedback.

  67. Straying a bit away from shoes, I’ve found some great articles on running heel first vs. ball-of-foot first… I’ve put the links on my Twitter.. before I found the articles I was reading up about the FiveFingers shoes and contemplating whether or not to get them 😛

  68. I started wearing moccasins two years ago, Cabela’s elk because they were available in wide widths. Two thin layers of leather and a thin pad in-between. I took the innersoles out, and when the bottoms wore through a few months ago I put the innersoles back in. For my comfort, especially in cooler/colder weather, I wear “Smart Wool” type socks. They are still going strong around the house, which includes a gravel driveway and rough/uneven forest floor. And after a few months I would even forget that they weren’t city shoes and accidentally wear them into work. So recently I bought another pair for dress up and work…bison leather this time. LLBean also has a good selection (but not wide).

  69. I have been wearing Inov8 F-Lite 230s for a few eeeks now an I am thrilled with them! At first I was nervous due to their somewhat narrow width, but they stretch out to conform to any width foot, and are extremely light and airy! Use for walking, short distance running and primarily strength training/weight lifting where you need to maintain “flatness” without rocking.

  70. I recently picked up a pair of patagonia advocates to wear to work. Now I wear them for everything, including sprinting and heavy weight lifting. They’re lighter and more flexible than either the vibrams or the softstars, and they’re quite a bit cheaper. They’re kind of a thin-soled synthetic moccasin. They’re pitched as “travel” shoes and made to be crushable for ease of packing.

  71. For something more “socially acceptable,” buy a pair of hemp Clark’s desert boots and remove the heel. Plenty of feeling through the soles.

  72. It’s Birkenstocks for me!! Can’t walk without them.
    They are super!

  73. I would also encourage everyone to go totally nude. It’s healthy to spend a day or a weekend at a naturist (nudist) resort or nature hiking trails with friends and family. It’s healthy for your body to breathe, enjoy some sun exposure and also bond with nature.

  74. “It’s healthy to spend a day or a weekend at a naturist (nudist) resort or nature hiking trails with friends and family. It’s healthy for your body to breathe, enjoy some sun exposure and also bond with nature.” What a load of bull! There’s nothing advantageous about walking/hiking nude versus doing the same with some clothes on. You’ll still get exposure to sun, your body will continue to breath, and you might actually not get bitten by some insects. Plus, you don’t need your penis hanging to bond with nature. Trust me.

  75. I’m one of them. Foot and knee pain for 25 years. Walk/run mainly in VFF, also light kayak shoes. No more running shoes or any shoes with structure. Torture of foot pain and looking at knee surgury now happily distant memory. It took about 3 months for my feet to get strong when I started but I kept with it!

  76. I love the whole barefoot thing. I’m barefoot from early spring to late fall (or in sandals/ skate shoes) but living in a big city like Montreal, which is a very clean city by the standards, is still a risk for even my very calloused feet. So I’ll stay with sandals/ skate shoes while walking in the city and socks and shoes in winter but otherwise, my feet always hurt more from wearing atheltic shoes or dress shoes or even boots.

  77. Lucky for me I live in Hawaii so it is not odd to see people bare foot just about any where. I usually only wear flip flops unless Im going to work. I went on a nice barefoot hike a few weeks ago. It feels good to let the mud get in between your toes.

  78. What is the take on Converse Chuck Taylor’s? I started wearing them because they were cheap and cute. At first my feet hurt when I wore them, then they weren’t so bad. Recently I bought a pair of “real” shoes but have found that they hurt my feet and my back. So I put my Chucks on and I feel better. My question is would Chucks be considered a possible option? i loved to know other opinions on this.

  79. HaHaHaHaHaHaHa….$395 for a pair of moccasins? Oh, please…get real!

  80. I’m just purchased some Merrell Trail Gloves, they are fantastic and look very conventional. They are designed for trails so ground feedback is slightly lacking when compared with my Terra Plana Evos. The arch was a concern as it seems to jab into the side of your foot but this seemed to be due to my overeagerness with the lacing and also requiring some level of breaking in.

  81. I’m a junior/senior high school English teacher in Northren Alberta and where my Vibram 5 Fingers as indoor shoes at work. It took staff and kids a week or so to get used to them but they love them. They are also my I door shoes at the gym, plus I wear them out and about–I love that they wash easily so outdoor use doesn’t mean I can’t wear them as indoor shoes also.

    1. Lol. Spellcheck on my phone: wear not where, not good for an English teacher.

  82. I just ordered a pair of runamocs and I’m really looking forward to trying them out! I think I may be able to get away with them in an office setting too.

  83. Slippers made for Ballet Dancers are my choice, as I find that they’re enough to keep my feet covered and a basic level of protection on the sole without restricting me at all.

    These are what I currently have:
    http://www.donovanslippers.com/
    They’re awesome because they look like regular flats from on top. They work well for women pretty much anywhere. They do come with foam insoles, but I’ve found that those don’t bother me or can be pulled out if/when they do.

    I’m eyeing these up for when my current pair go:
    http://www.bodywrappers.com/details.php?id=953
    I love that there’s only leather sole patches where the foot would contact the ground and otherwise there’s just the fabric. Again, a good choice for covering just enough to get beyond the “no shoes, no service” requirement. They’re not as nice looking, so might not be office-worthy.

    That all being said, I still have my great big galumphing winter boots for winter. Up here in Canada, you can’t go out in anything with a thin sole if you want your feet to stay warm. I just exchange those for my ballet slippers whenever I get inside work.

  84. I’ve been thinking about buying a new pair cross trainer/running shoes and low and behold Mark’s Newsletter to the rescue.
    I just ordered a pair of the Vivo’s.
    The challenge for me is going barefoot in public places. The lack of cleanliness kind of bothers me a little.

    Anyway,
    I can greatly appreciate going barefoot as much as possible for our rubber shoed soles have disconnected us as a race from the healing energy’s of the Earth.
    A great book on the topic is titled
    “Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?”
    For those interested in learning more here is the description of the book from Amazon:
    The solution for chronic inflammation, regarded as the cause of most common modern diseases, has been identified! And it is not blueberries. It is something right beneath our feet-the Earth itself!

    Throughout most of evolution humans walked barefoot and slept on the ground, largely oblivious that the surface of the Earth contains limitless healing energy. Science has discovered this energy as free-flowing electrons constantly replenished by solar radiation and lightning. Few people know it, but the ground provides a subtle electric signal that maintains health and governs the intricate mechanisms that make our bodies work-just like plugging a lamp into a power socket makes it light up. Modern lifestyle, including the widespread use of insulative rubber or plastic-soled shoes, has disconnected us from this energy and, of course, we no longer sleep on the ground as we did in times past.

    Earthing introduces the planet’s powerful, amazing, and overlooked natural healing energy and how people anywhere can readily connect to it. This eye-opening book describes how the physical disconnect with the Earth creates abnormal physiology and contributes to inflammation, pain, fatigue, stress, and poor sleep. By reconnecting to the Earth, symptoms are rapidly relieved and even eliminated and recovery from surgery, injury, and athletic overexertion is accelerated.

    This never-before-told story-filled with fascinating research and real-life testimonials- chronicles a discovery with the potential to create a global health revolution.

  85. Hi Mark,

    I’m 50, overweight and I have begin to embrace the Primal way! Made my first Meatza the other day! I have a question about barefoot walking. I love being barefoot, always have. However, I have flat feet, arthritic knees, hips and a herniated disk that flares from time to time. Wow! What a challenge! I wear orthotics in my sneakers, and I’ve been told that barefoot for me, means overpronation and wear and tear on my joints. Can you give me some advice? I do love being barefoot.

  86. I recently bought a pair of Feivue wushu shoes, and they’ve been great. They’re light, minimalist, and only cost about $15.

  87. What about problems with parasites and worms..
    Any opinions on how easy it is to get them in the soles of your feet.
    Tom’s shoes article talked about this Worldwide problem so they are actually trying to get shoes on all kids in the World especially in developing World

    1. It can be fairly easy to get parasites through your feet in the right part of the world. I lived in the Dominican Republic (shares an island with Haiti) as a child, and I got hookworm once. Hookworm will go right through the soles of your feet, and you won’t even notice it.

      Hookworm and Schistosomiasis are pretty common in subtropical regions. Outside of the tropics you’re pretty safe.

      Don’t go barefoot, and don’t drink water that’s not a) filtered, or b) boiled for 20 minutes, and you should be fine.

  88. I live in the Arizona desert, where if you manage to not step on anything with thorns or sharp edges (good luck with that!), the rocks are super heated by the Sun and burn your feet. I could care less about socially acceptable behavior. However I do care about injuring myself. I’m happy there are barefoot alternatives.

  89. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this,like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with some pictures to drive the message home a little bit,but other than that,this is great blog.A great read.I will certainly be back.

  90. I love my Vibram’s I wear them as soon as I get home, they are great for boot camp and short runs. And yes I get alot of people looking at my feet and then the questions follow

  91. Dr. Kwame M. Brown, I’m wearing the Merrell Trail gloves at the moment. Whilst I am a fan, I have noticed they lack ground feel, do seem to have an unnatural toe spring and the arch is certainly present. They do seem to improve with use (100 mile point)as the very rigid (perhaps too rigid) sole softens.

  92. For the women out there, I’d recommend ballet flats.

    I have a black pair and a white pair. Most people don’t notice that they’re not real shoes. The leather bottom is flexible and moves. (note, I said the flats, not pointe shoes).

  93. Merrell makes a nice barefoot shoe. Kigo is an eco-brand that I like too. I get the most comments from the Merrells – neither is a 5-finger style, both have regular toe boxes. I bought my Merrells online – search “barefoot shoe” on any shoe site, and voila. I bought mine from Shoebuy.com. I bought my Kigo from a deal on Pure Citizen.com.

  94. Wore a pair of Vibram KSOs to a job interview. Got the job.

    Life as a CS has its perks.

  95. If anyone is looking for a less expensive alternative to most of the minimalist shoes out there, I recently found that Dr. Scholl’s is making some now. I got a pair for about $50 and they seem to meet all the qualifications for good minimalist footwear. I haven’t seen any reviews about them anywhere yet, and have barely had a chance to wear them myself yet (been stuck at home with a cold) but they feel pretty amazing. I’ve never tried any other minimal shoes to compare them with (I’ve been dying for VFFs but haven’t had the money). However, I can say that compared to wearing regular shoes (my usual have been New Balance whatevers- REGULAR SHOES, AKA strapon boards) they feel sooo much better. I won’t be wearing those NB shoes anymore. I’ve been utterly barefoot in my home for over a year, quite comfortably. I try to exercise the full range of motion of my feet. I’ve been out in the Scholl’s once so far. Found out that walking ‘out there’ where I have unlimited space feels very different. Trying for the light step/midfoot strike. Not sure if I’m accomplishing that or not. My toes seemed slightly tired after this adventure. But overall an interesting experience. A few foot cramps that night, but MUCH less than when I walk around in the NB boards. I seem to have a kind of ‘rolling gait’ when I walk in these. Short circuitous steps. Don’t know if that’s good form or not. Everything about form seems directed at runners, which I’ll never be. Anyway. just wanted to let everyone here know about them. I know some of us are trying to live Primally on a tight budget and thought this might help. Any comments about my gait or re-learning to walk (ha!) are appreciated.

    1. I tried these shoes on at an Outlet mall and they were selling them for only $36. I usually wear a 7 or 7 1/2 and I found that the 8 felt the best. They did not have the color combo I wanted in an 8 so I did not get to buy them. Amazon sells them too for a decent price so I may just buy some off of there.
      I usually wear sanuk sidewalk surfers or a pair of worn out airwalk tennis shoes from Payless Shoes.
      I do own a pair of the NB minimalist running shoes but those cost me $100 and you have to take some time lacing them up so I wear them more for working out or going for long walks.
      I wanted something that I can easily slip on and off in my working from home also mom of 3 with a pet dog “on the go” lifestyle. Sanuks look a little too much like slippers for some outfits so I thought these were a good upgrade. Sanuks cost close to $50 so the price range is similar.
      Please let me know how it goes as you wear them more often! I would love to hear how they are working out for others.
      FYI before I became primal/paleo I had severe arch pain that my doctor had me wearing custom arch support insoles for. Since I work from home I decided to bite the bullet a few summers ago and just go barefoot even though it hurt like hell. I actually posted about it on this post and got support in the comments from others to do this. It was really bad for the first 3 weeks but it started to get better after that.
      After one summer of bare feet in the house and only cheap plastic jelly slip-ons outside I was cured! No arch pain anymore at all! Well, unless I wear some of my old crappy stiff as a board shoes which I only do on rare getting dressed up occasions.
      Thanks for sharing!

  96. If you’re looking for a pair of decent looking shoes that feel barefoot, please consider Stem Footwear. I’ve been wearing Stems in an Oregon winter for five months, and I’m extremely impressed. They’re even more flexible than my Vivo’s and they have worn much better. New company and limited styles, but I can’t say enough about this shoe. Felt like I’d had them for years, right out of the box. They run a size or two small so size up (I’m a ladies size 7.5 to 8, and I purchased the 9 to 9.5 and they fit perfectly). Great company with a strong eco focus and good quality. There are a ton of reviews kicking around the web right now on various barefoot blogs, and Stem has a useful and informative website. Stemfootwear dot com. Can’t say enough good things.

  97. I recently got a pair of the Cushe Surf Slipper Deluxe.
    They are great. Look pretty standard, I think zero-drop, nice wide toe box and very flexible.
    I get lots of compliments on their style, but they feel like the Merrel trail glove or similar.
    http://www.cushe.com/US/en is their US site.

  98. I bought two pairs last February from Soft Star, a minimalist footwear company in Oregan. I’ve seldom worn anything else since and will purchase their Runamoc pairs soon. The shoes look like sandals, and feel like them, too. I often bend the shoe into a small roll of leather to people who are curious about them, and get a good laugh when their eyes bulge. Not only can I feel the different types of ground I step into, but also the sudden and happy babyish instinct to sprint as fast as possible. I often trotter or if I feel like it, tiptoe. No one around me yet has ever opted to buy a pair, alas, but all have shown considerable interest in its lightness and flexibility. Granted, one looks like a toddler in them and perhaps not trendy and elegant to go to a cocktail with. But if that makes one feel free like air, or almost, it’s quite worthwhile, isn’t it?
    Best and thank you for your article.

  99. I found a pair of casual dress shoes from Johnston and Murphy’s that work well. They are very high quality leather and have a low heel lift.
    Pictures and a write-up at:
    http://barefootdain.blogspot.com

    (I tried the Vivobarefoot Ra and did not like it…cheap leather and felt like a clown shoe)

  100. Has anyone tried the vibram imitations that adidas and Fila have put out the last year or so?

  101. Check out the Patagonia Tawa and Loulu! Good looking, thin soled, and VERY comfortable! I wear them every day…

  102. It seems to me that any sole besides leather defeats the biggest reason for going barefoot — the earthing/grounding effect of sole in touch with earth.
    Grok didn’t have the disconnect of rubber or plastic in between his sole and earth.
    A quick google found several choices, including this solely leather soled moccasin, http://www.wassookeagmoccasins.com/earthing-footwear/

  103. I have a Latex allergy so I can’t wear Fivefingers…any suggestions?

  104. It’s a shame that human beings aren’t more rational.

    Shouldn’t what’s scientific and rational determine what is “socially acceptable,” rather than the other way around?

    For example, many churchgoers would probably consider it socially unacceptable to wear a robe and sandals to their Sunday sermon. But think about it. What did Jesus Christ wear?

    Funny what slavishly conformist fashion victims we supposedly “advanced” people can be. Are we really smarter than Grok? I’m not so sure.

  105. An old post, but I’d like to suggest soft ballet slippers. They are a thin leather sock with a slightly thicker patch on the bottom.

    Mine are a size too small and refuse to stretch, but are sill comfy as long as I use a toe-strike gait.

  106. I’ve been wearing barefootshoes by Vivobarefoot (terra plana) coming from Dr.Martens/Army Boots and later Converse Allstars and they really feel great, but I just don’t like the way they look and wanted a more sneakerstyle shoe like Vans etc. so I’ve been trying some skateshoes and been comparing them to the Vivo’s, I’ve tried Vans, but they were much to narrow, tried Etnies Jameson 2’s and I must say, I like these, although the sole is a bit too cushy and you can’t remove them and there is some ball to heal drop, but the width is not too bad and they’re very flexable.
    The latest I tried are Dekline Archers and they are great, okay width, removable sole, very flexable and no ball to heal drop (without the sole).
    I would love to hear some suggestions for these kind of sneakers, ones with a nice width, removable sole and great flexability, because I think they make great barefoot alternatives.

    1. UPDATE:
      Okay, I found out that with a little force you can remove the innersole of the Etnies, they’re not glued that much, but it’s not a cupped sole like in the Deklines, it’s only a thin piece of foam (3mm EVA Midsole) and doesn’t differ that much from the midsole in the Vivos.
      The drop I mentioned is in the rubber sole itself, but it’s not that much.
      Oh and in the above post I called these barefoot alternatives, but they’re more barefootshoe alternatives.

      1. CORRECTION:
        The thin piece of foam in the Etnies isn’t the EVA Midsole, it’s called an Ortholite insole, you can’t remove the EVA midsole.

  107. There’s some mentioning of traditional footwear like Moccasins and Huaraches, but what about other traditional footwear like the Espadrilles, they don’t look to bad, it’s a sole made out of rope with some canvas or cotton attached to it or there’s the Abarka, it looks a bit like the Huaraches, but covers the foot a bit more and I also saw shoes woven from bast.

  108. I became a barefooter after reading this, and doing much research on the topic through various websites. Been barefoot for nearly three years now. Or as barefoot as I can be, anyway. I wear barefoot alternatives.

    I have tried various inexpensive shoes I’ve come across that met my need. I have a pair of Skeletoes, which was how I found out that I don’t like my toes to suck up water (like a STRAW!)and get my feet wet without spending $100+ on Vibram Five Fingers.

    I have a pair of Dr. Scholl’s Freestep Larkins. That has been a fairly good experience, but they are more of a stepping stone to shoes that are “more” barefoot.

    I have a pair of Merrells, though I can’t recall at the moment exactly which ones. They are nice, feminine, with a small swirly stitched detail on the side. They’re somewhat like a Mary Jane in appearance, and I got them specifically to wear as dressy shoes should the need arise. I paid a small fortune for them ($100) and I have to say that while they meet all the basic barefoot requirements, they aren’t necessarily that comfortable. I have feet that swell, and these cut across the top of my foot without any flexibility at all. Sadly, I’m somewhat disappointed in them.

    I recently got a pair of New Balance 730s to wear to the gym. They seem pretty comfy, although they do contain more arch than I would prefer.

    Honestly, the best, cheapest, most effective barefoot shoe (which I just got a second pair of) are my OP beach/pool shoes that I got at Walmart. I think they were $9. Flat, super flexible sole toe-to-heel, roomy insides , comfortable stretchy fit, and just the right amount of ground sensation for me. Not much to look at, but they work. I have an issue with foot swelling that I’ve had since before I went barefoot, and these are the ONLY shoes that I can get into when that happens no matter how big they swell. I can wear a thin sock or a thick sock, or no sock at all. They’re pretty perfect in my opinion. I only got the NBs above, because I’m unsure my new gym will let me wear these OPs.

    Good luck to everyone on the hunt for barefoot alternatives!

  109. I wear some Minnetonka brand moccasins, the kind with simple leather soles for walking, going on errands, anything outside where I’m not actually exercising or at work (I haven’t made the switch at work yet…) I also wear a pair of Teva Zilch sandals for running or anything else athletic or if I just want sandals on. works great free feet 🙂

  110. I’ve been wearing a combination of Teva Zilch sandals and Teva Nilch shoes for my forays into town. Lightweight and comfy and only about a 1/2 cm of sole

  111. I’ve had no choice but to barefoot most of my life … I have extremely wide feet. (Woman’s 7 EEE) I rarely find shoes that fit. Most of the year I wear Tevas (kid size), I have a pair of New Balance sneakers and a pair of dress shoes I hate, plus my New England-required snow boots. Other than that, I’m barefoot.

    I’d love to find something better than the sneakers or dress shoes, if anything comes in wide, wide widths. Even “wide” shoes aren’t wide enough.

    Back when I wore Birkenstocks, a shoe salesman told me I’d ruin my feet if I kept wearing them. I guess I “ruined” them the right way!

  112. What happened to Luna sandals? you mention them in other articles, but not here.

  113. Does anyone have any information/suggestions for someone who is a nurse working 12 hour shifts? I would like to try something barefoot/minimalist…but I’m not even sure that’s an option for someone who stands for such extended periods of time. Help!!

    Looking at FiveFingers…and the guy at Luke’s Locker tried to talk me into Inov-8 195’s.

    1. Have you tried Dansko clogs? They’re not cheap, about $140, but worth the investment. Many healthcare professionals swear by them. They should fit fairly loosely ~ when you push your foot forward you should be able to fit a finger between your heel and the back of the shoe. Be sure to get the size that places the arch support in the correct spot for you. I wear them 9 months out of the year and love them.

  114. Huaraches! I got mind from invisibleshoe.com, but you can make them yourself if you want. Best thing for walking barefoot and still looking like you’re wearing something like shoes/sandles. When my feel need to be covered, I wear Vivobarefoot shoes.

  115. My husband is a Boy Scout leader. A couple of summers ago, some of the boys were wearing Vibrams. He thought they looked weird, but they talked about how much better they were for traction and such while doing all their activities. I bought him a pair of knock-offs at Academy for his birthday. They have worked great for all his outdoor activities where he needs shoes due to mud, rocks, or what have you. They are his tennis shoes. When hunting, he prefers his suede moccasin boots that have only a suede sole. They are comfortable and perfect for those needs. He loves going barefoot whenever possible. He only wore shoes to school and when his dad told him he needed them when he was little. (He doubted his dad only once, and got a goat burr stuck in his foot. He took his dad at his word thereafter.)
    At work, he wears waterproof, rubbersoled, steel-toed, cowboy boots to protect his feet from potential dangers at his job. These new ones are comfortable for him and he does not come home complaining about being in pain, though they probably are not great for his back.
    For me, I have worn my gladiator sandals until they are falling apart and I need a new pair. They have been comfortable, flexible, and, unlike flip flops, do not cause ugly callouses on my heals.
    Our daughters go barefoot a good deal, though when we go hiking, they are required to wear boots for their protection as we not only have briars, but poisonous snakes in this area.

  116. I lived in basketball shoes, flip flops, and these when I was younger and forced to cover my feet. I found a pair of them about 15 years ago, and found they REALLY replicated walking on the beach so far as the workout my legs and toes got! I know they are not as “minimal” as some of those listed, but I still recommend them if you’re looking for fashionable options!

  117. I’ve been wearing Vivo Ra’s and Xero sandals exclusively for about a year now. The sandals are great for everything but fell running, the Ra’s with their 3mm sole and 0mm heel diff are great when I have to attend management meetings in the city. In the mountains I run in Vivo Breatho’s and for trails I use Merrell Trail Gloves and for roads I run in the Xero sandals. Works for me 😉

  118. I’ve been interested in going barefoot for about a year now, but the need for semi-protective/professional shoes at work and the fact that I have (had?) plantar fasciitis makes me leery of the options out there.
    I say had tentatively, because when I first started noticing problems with heel pain, my dad told me to start wearing insoles (I got the cheap Dr. Scholl’s ones from Wal Mart). In the course of three years I’ve gone from wearing the 440 to wearing the 110. For those of you not familiar with the brand, that’s a change from the most supportive to the least supportive insert. The change, as well as the lack of continuing pain, makes me think that I would be okay going without arch support. After finding a minimalist shoe that does look more like a “normal” shoe that will let me squeak by the work requirements, my only question now is whether going minimalist with my footwear could cause problems with my feet again.

    1. Hi Annika,

      I have had plantar fasciitis before myself, and injured my feet pretty badly about 20 years ago, when I fractured all the meta-tarsal bones. I spent years wearing orthotics, both the over-the-counter types, as well as prescription custom-molded models you get through a podiatrist. Going barefoot (or in minimalist shoes) was uncomfortable at first. This is really something you want to start slow. Maybe even walking around your neighborhood for 5 or 10 minutes a day, and add another 5 minutes every *week* or two. When you’re rehabbing your feet, this is not something you want to rush. 5 minutes will not feel like much to the rest of your body, but to your feet, you’ll be using muscles and stretching ligaments and tendons that don’t do too much work when we wear shoes and orthotics or insoles. Vivo Barefoot make minimalist shoes that can pass in office environments. Outside of work, I pretty much live in a pair of Luna Sandals, when I have to wear anything at all. Your feet will learn to move naturally again, and your plantar fascia should become stronger because it will actually be used. Mine has. I even have arches now, which is a first for me.

  119. I’ve only been following a primal lifestyle for 3 months but I have been barefoot or as close to barefoot as I could be for years – clogs and fitflops are my mainstays. But recently I became a huge fan of the New Balance Minimus line of shoes – I have the sneakers, trail shoes, and water shoes. They are all designed to be worn without socks and feel like slippers to wear! I am usually very uncomfortable wearing closed toe shoes and I can’t stand socks but these are awesome!! I highly recommend them!!

  120. Have you heard about this product called vibram five fingers they are great for job interviews and everything one might so in life?