Jumping on the Barefoot Bandwagon

All across the country, people are kicking off their shoes and braving streets strewn with broken glass and rusty nails that house tetanospasmin-producing Clostridium tetani, and heaped with endless piles of toxic dog poop. They somehow manage to traverse sidewalks that crumble underfoot at the slightest touch, throwing a person off balance and putting the ankle at severe risk of permanent injury. Podiatrists’ waiting lists grow along with their bank balances with the endless parade of hobbling barefooters nursing crippling foot injuries; they laugh as their coffers fill.

And yet, despite these confirmed dangers and despite the warnings from esteemed experts, the barefoot revolution continues to grow. It’s pretty remarkable. The recent New York Marathon featured more barefooters than ever before, according to organizers, and the Barefoot Runners Society has seen its membership double since 2009. Purely anecdotally, whenever I’m out hiking, I see more and more folks going in Vibrams or even totally barefoot. I don’t get the weird looks as often (I actually kinda miss ‘em) and I’ve even spotted Vibrams in non-athletic environments, like grocery stores or coffee shops. It’s been awhile since a kid has screamed and pointed at my “monkey feet.” Progress!

Shoemakers are taking note and jumping on the barefoot bandwagon. You’ve got the MBT types offering “barefoot technology,” which despite my post last week actually has some support in the community and seems to help certain segments of the population, but people looking for as close an approximation of the barefoot experience without actually baring their feet generally opt for “just barely there” shoes. For me, my longtime personal favorite, Vibram FiveFingers, are pretty much the only way to go. But for those looking for other options there are a couple coming down the pipe. Let’s take a look at some of the more promising ones.

Merrell, noted outdoor apparel manufacturer, is teaming up with Vibram for their upcoming Merrell Barefoot 2011 line of shoes, with Vibram providing the outsole. There are six models, three for men and three for women, with four colors per model (except for the Tough Glove, which has three colors). The promotional material speaks the right language – “natural stride…encouraging forward momentum, where you land at mid foot”; “lower impact…more aligned at efficient gait”; “connection with nature” – and the shoes look good and light and sport a new “Vibram Trail Glove sole,” so I’m pretty optimistic about them. There is some interesting talk of an “internal support construction wrap” along with “a midfoot absorption plate,” which, as Birthday Shoes points out, may point to a troubling desire to protect our feet from themselves. Let’s hope not. Shoemakers have a tendency to consider themselves indispensable to our poor little footsies, but I’ll give Merrell the benefit of the doubt for now. Here’s a quick summary of Birthday Shoes’ Merrell coverage:

Men’s Collection

Trail Glove

– Designed for (duh) the trail

– Toe protection that wraps around the outside of the foot, perfect for those who stub their toes in the VFFs

True Glove

– Meant for “scrambling across creeks and crags”

– Multi-sport shoe; think workouts, playing basketball, going for a quick trek around the neighborhood

Tough Glove

– Traditional look; great for casual “barefooting” around the office or while out on errands

– Goes well with pants

– Works for impromptu activity, too, since it’s still minimalist

Women’s Collection

Power Glove

– Not sure what to make of it; it’s a boot with straps

– Birthday Shoes calls it a “cross between a removable cast and a snow boot”

Pace Glove

– Standard looking running shoe, akin to the True Glove for men

Pure Glove

– Strap; looks like the VFF Sprint without the toe fingers

– I hope they make one for men; it just looks comfortable

According to a few accounts, Merrell’s run narrow, which hopefully doesn’t bear true with their barefoot line. The big draw of the VFFs, at least for me, is the ability splay out my toes. I hate feeling confined to a shoe. My toes need room to wriggle. They’ll run between “£80 and £90,” or about $130 to $145 per pair. More expensive than the original FiveFingers models, and more expensive than no shoe at all, but, depending on the durability, worth it for interested parties.

New Balance is also coming out with a Vibram-soled minimalist running shoe. The NB Minimus is a running shoe with a not-so-neutral heel to toe drop of 4 mm. 4 mm isn’t much, especially when compared to a standard running shoe with a grossly pronounced heel and 12 mm drop, but if you’re coming from something like the VFF Classic, with its total lack of a drop from heel to toe, the Minimus might be jarring. Still, New Balance claims that it’s the thickness of the heel, and not necessarily the drop, that determines a runner’s tendency to land on the heel, midfoot, or forefoot. I’m not sure. It seems like the Minimus is designed for barefoot newbies, people who’ve never tried it before and want a gradual change before going fully barefoot (or barefoot alternative). It’s the in-between. It’s “closer to barefoot” without wearing funny toe shoes. Since Vibram is making the outsole, I think we can probably trust NB’s claims of enhanced ground tactility. No, not as much proprioception as going truly barefoot, but I feel like I have pretty good foot position awareness through my FiveFingers.

There’s the Wellness – a slip on without laces. Judging from the name, it’s for casual use and walking, like strolling the aisles of your local health food store.

There’s also the road shoe and trail shoe, which sound pretty similar except for the enhanced durability and traction on the trail shoe.

Here’s a blurry pic of all three of them (Wellness, Trail, Road) from here.

The Minimus is due for a March 2011 release. $100 each (all models). This bearded guy who runs upwards of 200 miles every week seems to enjoy them. I’m not so sure I dig the orange and black design, to be honest.

Richard Nikoley is real big on the SoftStar Runamocs, even preferring them in most instances over the Vibrams. They – surprise, surprise – feature outsoles made by Vibram: the 2 mm thick “Street” or the 5 mm thick “Trail.” I’ve tried these babies on myself, and to be completely honest I wasn’t a huge fan of the way they looked on me. But that’s just one guy’s opinion. If you like the way they look they’re a good barefoot option. They run $87, about the price of a pair of FiveFingers.

A few of the my staff members wear Vivo Barefoot shoes designed for casual use and they all seem to love them and always praise the wide toe berths, though they haven’t tried the Evo runners.

As with any shoe, trying these barefoot shoes on before you fork over cash is absolutely required. And it’s always smart to be wary of a shoe trying to emulate the natural barefoot state. I mean, even the VFFs aren’t really barefoot; they’re just really, really close to it. The beauty of VFFs is that except for the fact that you’re wearing a piece of rubber on your feet, they are almost completely neutral. Your toes can move, you feel stuff beneath you (albeit somewhat dampened), and your foot retains a mostly natural movement and landing pattern. It ain’t perfect and it ain’t barefoot, but it’s pretty darn close.

These shoes might do the same thing. I don’t know. They’re definitely a huge step up from padded running shoes, and they make entry into barefooting more palatable for more people, but until we try them on, we won’t really know. In any case, I’ll be sticking with my tried and trusty FiveFingers for now.

What do you think? Happy to see shoe manufacturers jumping on the barefoot bandwagon? Are they close enough to barefoot for your liking? Will you consider buying a pair? Share your thoughts in the comment board and Grok on!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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150 thoughts on “Jumping on the Barefoot Bandwagon”

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  1. Shoe companies move at blazing speed of one inch per year into the right direction. Hahaha

  2. i’m pretty excited to see some minimalist shoes that are new england winter friendly…i’ve been wondering what i would do with my VFFs when the snow comes. maybe now i can pick up something that can handle the cold and the office dress code

  3. i love this idea, for running…what is your take on going bare for more plyometric type exercise?

    1. When I started P90X in 2007 I would do all the workouts barefoot on a fitness mat. The idea of the fitness mat was to prevent the carpet from being worn away in one spot, not really to reduce plyometric shock with ground. I always had calf muscle issues when running, even just 2 miles. I liked P90X because I thought it was the warm up and stretch routines preventing injury. Now I think it may have been because I was simply barefoot, allowing my legs and feet to move naturally. Also, I’m back to running and recently ran a half-marathon that I trained for in vibrams.

  4. VERY upset at the choice of name for the ‘Power Glove.’ The REAL Power Glove is perfection incarnate and should NEVER be belittled by having its name placed on a mere SHOE.

    1. If you are referring to the Nintendo Power glove popularized by the classic movie, The Wizard. Then I 100% agree with you.

      1. Oops. If I had scrolled down a bit more I would have seen that someone had already posted that. 😛

        Can’t seem to delete it…

  5. I am really interested in getting some barefoot running shoes. My first choice would definitely be a pair of VFFs. With Christmas rolling around I figure they would be the perfect gift but have had a heck of a time tracking them down as most sites, including Vibram’s if I’m not mistaken, classify these as a seasonal product. Does anyone know if there is a restock coming or is it true Vibrams are seasonal? Also, how close are the Evos to the VFFs? The price is certainly different.
    PS. I’m from Canada so perhaps that could be part of the issue (?)

    1. shoptrailblazer.com That’s where I got both pairs of my VFFs and they are an authorized retailer.

    2. Oh, wait, they don’t ship to Canada.

      Well do what I did. I went to the store locator on the Vibram site and went to the website of one of the US shops there and that is how I found Trailblazer. They have a list of Canadian ones by province so you may even be able to find a place that stocks them locally.

  6. Glad to see some new options, though none of these look like a likely purchase to me (not digging the styles much).

    I love my VFF, but I have two problems with them:

    1. They tend to smell pretty bad after only a couple of wearings, and washing doesn’t really help much.

    2. They don’t fit most social/professional occasions. They’re great for working out and leisure outings, but not for work or nights out.

    Would love to know if anyone has seen stylish minimalist shoes that you could wear socks with, for men or women. Everything I have seen is either crazy space-age workout gear, or a shapeless, style-less lump.

    1. I just use toe socks and order VFFs in a size larger to accommodate them, I have the kangaroo skin trek ones as a warmer option (although they are not waterproof alas) – I’ve emailed VFF asking for some kind of Goretex product to get a winterproof version out there -I also use the VFF kso, sprints, and neoprene treks too.

      After 6 months of only barefoot or VFFs my foot anatomy is totally different from before and none of my shoes pre-Primal fit now. As a last resort I had to buy a pair of regular flat leather shoes to give me an option for wet weather here in Scotland but my toes hate not being able to splay completely and even though they are wide men’s sizing my toes still rub on the edge a bit!

      I really don’t give a damn what people think when I wear my VFFs, got lots of very odd looks in London last week but I walked 9 miles with happy feet so who cares!

      For me the toe pockets are the key as they allow your foot to move totally naturally without restriction. My balance is much better and I’ve had no joint/back issues since going ‘barefoot’.

    2. take your smelly VFFs for a dip in a chlorinated pool! the chlorine will kill the bacteria causing the odor and they’ll smell good as new (with perhaps a hint of pool for a couple days)

      i’ve done this numerous times and it really does work!

    3. Patagonia advocates. They’re super light, super flexible, and totally flat. And they look like shoes.

  7. I’ve been wearing a pair of Vivo’s for 6 months now and they’ve completely fallen apart. I’ve glued and sowed them back together several times in the past two months, but here’s the kicker: I don’t run in these. They’re strictly for walking and other casual purposes (like sitting at my desk at work).

    I’m excited for the merrells. I had a pair of their shoes in the past and they’re very good at minimal soles, but the durability of the sole itself was what made me get rid of them. I’m hoping that with a vibram sole I might finally have a barefoot shoe last more than half a year (besides my vibrams, that is).

    1. I also had an issue of my Terra Plana Vivos falling apart. Customer service worked with me and sent me another pair. I haven’t started on my second pair, just wearing the first ones until they completely fall apart. I absolutely love them!

  8. Sorry to hear about Lyle’s experience with Vivo’s. I have a couple hundred running miles on mine and they are holding up very well. VFFs just don’t fit me and the Vivos are a great alternative. The price point is a little painful though.

  9. Gimme a couple sets of huaraches and VFF and I’ll be happy as a clam.

  10. I’m pretty interested in the womens pace glove. if it comes in different colors. i have a pair of vibrams and they get thorns through the bottoms of them when im out hiking.

  11. Feiyue Martial Arts Shoes. Same idea, but just $15. When I have to wear shoes, I wear these. I think they even look kind of cool when worn with pants.

    Otherwise, Havaianas flip flops are super-slim, very flexible natural rubber. The entire country of Brasil can’t all be wrong about them.

      1. I’ll have to check these out. I used to love to wear my old wrestling shoes with the super thin soles….

    1. Seems like the rounded bottoms might be annoying, I used to have that problem with canvas shoes long ago.

  12. My perpetually brush-diced ankles might appreciate the higher ankles of the Power Glove. I wonder if they’d know my feet aren’t “womens”.

  13. I wish they would come up with some for the winter season. I can’t see myself walking around in the snow with these. 🙁

    1. Much agreed. I’ve been wearing my regular sneakers or boots into work and changing into my VFFs. The thought of standing at the bus stop in January when it’s -20F out and 2 feet of snow, oh, and they haven’t plowed the bus stop yet, does not make me want to keep wearing my VFFs outside!

  14. DMak…As far as I know, VFF’s are not seasonal. They make a few different models which could be considered seasonal I guess, one model being for trails, one for road, a neoprene one for water, etc. Try Theshoemart.com. I got mine at this site and got them quickly. The only problem you may run into is sizing. VFF’s run different. Im a 9 1/2 sneaker and size 41 in VFF. As far as the EVO’s and VFF’s I cant comment, never tried the EVO’s. I do however LOVE my VFF’s. Take a little getting used to but this is advertised and should be expected. Good luck, happy hunting!

  15. you don’t like the orange and black ones, Mark? 🙂 beats hell out of those INCREDIBLY ugly Power Gloves….

    1. After seeing this link of yours a few months back … I was determined to get the Sanuks. I checked them out at the mall … liked them … but went home with a similar, but lighter and cheaper pair of …. CROCS!

      Yes, Crocs. They have a minimalist-ish pair called the Santa Cruz. I got mine for $29.99 and I’m wearing them right now. Absolutely the most minimal, lightest, & comfortable (& almost cheapest) shoe I’ve ever owned.

      You just have to get over the fact they’er Crocs. lol


  16. I love my VFFs, but I don’t understand why they are so expensive. How, exactly, are they “minimalist” and yet simultaneous twice what I normally pay for casual shoes? And the VIvos? Are you kidding me? I’m sure they only sell small numbers, but $160 for shoes that, based on some earlier comments, don’t last very long, is ludicrous.

  17. I’m interested in checking out the Merrells. The biggest thing stopping me from buying VFFs is that I can’t stand having anything between my toes.

    1. Even worse is when I wear them in the woods – I end up with all sorts on grassy detritus stuck between them. I have to stop periodically & clean it out. Kind of annoying. Oh well, it’s sorel season here now anyway 😉

      1. I once caught a sand spur in between my big and second toe KSO’s. It was both painful and difficult to remove.

  18. A word of caution for those who like to go barefoot: be aware that you could end up with plantar warts. I went barefoot as much as possible, until I got a plantar wart. 🙁 It’s caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) that can lie dormant in your body until your immune system weakens or foot trauma occurs.

    I guess about 10 percent of people have the virus. I probably got it at a water park. It took two months to get rid of the wart (with acid and duct tape, lol) and it was painful to walk the whole time.

    1. yeah i got one probably pool deck and i won’t even put my toes on the pool deck or gym shower/locker room without flip flops now…those things hurt like hell, i had to dig out the root of the thing

    2. Apple cider vinegar works for removing warts… within 3 to 4 days. Just passing the info along. 🙂

  19. Over the past 6 months at my CrossFit affiliate gym, 4 people have fractured their 2nd or 3rd metatarsal while using VFFs, including myself. Each of us eased into running with the VVFs slowly, carefully & cautiously. We are disappointed & frustrated that this happened, for we had high hopes for reaping the benefits of barefoot exercise. Three of us want to eventually try again, but are reluctant for obvious reasons. I share this as a cautionary tale.

  20. to be honest it is better to run barefoot since the pain in your feet teaches you how to run correctly. vibram or other minimalist shoes can be dangerous if you have bad form. i started w/ 5-10 min in the mornings and after 2 months i was able run as much as i want on rock trails with crushed rock. i play basketball, sprint, walk arnd barefoot as much as possible..i do 3-4 times activity then my friends and no injuries or pain in my joints..of course be patient..be carefull where you step..it is more fun than everybody thinks. barefoot ken bob is a good teacher to learn some tips. google it ..he gives free classes in LA

    1. I tend to agree – the ability of bare feet to adapt is pretty amazing. My story: I started working as a parachute packer at a a commercial drop zone. This is a great full body workout, involves a lot of jumping on & off the packing table, etc.; you can’t wear shoes because they might damage the ‘chute – not good! But the path out to the hangar (where we took the finished ‘chutes,) was about 40 yards of 1.5″ to 3″ river rock. When I started, it was very painful & slow to just walk on those rocks; after a week or two of getting used to it, it was nothing to throw 3 or 4 tandem parachutes (~45lbs each)over my shoulders & quickly walk out to the hangar over those rocks barefoot (piece-work: we get paid by the chute, so faster is better, no time to put on shoes for the walk.)

      Seriously I was amazed at what my feet could do once I asked them to do it. Pro tip: 100% pure aloe vera on them feets every night keeps the callouses supple & avoids that hard heel pad w/ cracks around the edges.

  21. I love my VFFs. But as many have noted, they get stinky. My slightly older model is starting to wear out and, most importantly, they are dorky as all get. My girlfriend can’t stand the sight of them.

    Those black merrell tough gloves look neutral enough. I might give them a whirl.

  22. IreScotsWelsh: What were you doing and how did you fracture your toe?

    1. All four of us broke the 2nd or 3rd metatarsal mid-foot (dorsal), on the top of the foot (so not the toe, but it is the same bone as the toe. All did it while running (not sprinting). In my case, I was turning a corner and “crack”, it happened just like that.

  23. Where’s the Inov8 love? I have some Inov-8 195’s and I love them. They are super light and hug my feet like a glove.

    1. Agreed! I was reading through the posts fully planning on making a similar comment if no one else was going to mention the Inov8s, awesome footwear!

  24. I powerlift competitively and have been using pool shoes for years. Ever since a child I have always preferred to be barefoot and just don’t seem all that concerned about arch support. The pool shoes are cheap, flat (a requirement for PL meets), lots of traction, and always stretchy mesh tops. I wear them practically everywhere when shoes are required.

  25. this is awesome, now if they would just use the minimalists approach to the price tags too. Hard to afford $100 – $200 dollar shoes. I may just keep mine bare.

  26. Hey, you forgot to mention the feelmax shoes 🙂

    I have used them for 2 years now and they give a great barefoot feeling. When it comes to running or hiking i use my fivefingers sprint. But I wear my feelmax osma the rest of the time.

      1. I’ve been wearing the feelmax shoes for about a year now, and I love them. I like them even better than my VFFs.

  27. LOL.. OMG the absurdity of “barefoot shoes” that cost so much!
    Four dollar watershoes from KMart suit me just fine, when they get stinky or worn, toss them. Mine last a lot longer than the above commenters pricey shoes.

  28. I just got a pair of Zembooties and like them more than the VFFs for a variety of reasons. I like the split-toe or ninja style better than the five fingers. For one, they are easy to put on. The sole is thinner, but will likely wear out quickly. I wore them on a trail and they weren’t grippy enough for the slick, wet leaves. I’d LOVE to see a hybrid between the Zem and VFFs. A ninja-toed, thin-soled, wamer foot-mitten. I may check out the NB shoe for trails. I’ll buy anything Anton Krubicka is selling.

  29. I think the biggest benefit to having more “barefooting” shoes would not be to have other shoes to run in (my VFFs do just fine) but to have more options for when nicer-looking shoes must be worn. Can’t see wearing my VFFs to a job interview with a nice skirt, for instance. But if a good barefoot-style shoe was to come out that looked dressy enough, that would be a big bonus. I was well known for going barefoot in my office building when I used to work out of the house anyways.

    1. I cannot speak for women’s shoes but I have taken two actions:

      1) I took my dress shoes to the cobler and had the heel removed and a flat sole intalled.

      2) My work shoes are steel-toed boots. The same cobler removed the heels and installed 6 mm Vibram non-lugged soles.

  30. Toms are good for everyday use. Just rip out the insoles and slip ’em on without socks.

    Vivo Barefoot has some good casual models, as well as some dressier options. I recently wore mine to a wedding. Again, just remove the insoles.

  31. My Terra Plana Aquas are holding up fine. I had to get them since I was no longer allowed to wear vibrams t work, although people can wear sandles.

  32. Has anyone looked into barefeet in pregnant women? There is risk for flatten arches during pregnancy and is recommended that they don’t walk barefeet and limit walking in general.

    1. Interesting, considering my obstetricians all suggest walking as ideal during pregnancy.

      Being pregnant does change your shoe size and flatten your feet due to the hormones involved. I don’t know that it’s really possible, or ideal, to orthopedically bind/contain your feet to prevent that though…

    2. I went 90% barefoot through two pregnancies (one DD is two tomorrow, the other is three weeks old). I walked, lifted weights, and performed all activities of daily living in a barefoot state. I was a teacher, so being barefoot in the classroom was no big deal, and for walking back and forth or shopping I wore flip flops or my very flat, very comfortable Sketchers dress-y shoes.

      I found that my feet are still strong, with no arch collapse at all. They are wider, but pregnant or not, widening of the foot will happen once you start bare-footing more often. I also have good stability and no soreness in my feet or ankles, and my back aches less now that my posture seems to have naturally realigned.

      I was never a shoe person anyhow, even from childhood. I wore them to follow fashion and social convention, but in the past 5 or 6 years I’ve just gone without. Don’t fear barefoot mobility during pregnancy – how many pregnant human females have existed over the past hundreds of thousands of years before the advent of shoes, and still managed to hunt and gather and take care of babies?

      Consider that the artificial support of most shoes molds the foot to fit the shoe’s shape, and that “falling arches” or foot-flattening is more likely to be a beneficial re-shaping of the foot’s anatomy to a more natural state, rather than an occurrence of deformity.

    3. Personally had no issues being barefoot during my first and second pregnancy. Also had injury free second pregnancy working out 6-7 days a week doing kickboxing and weightlifting and running trail races all in my VFFs up to the day of giving birth. And now post birth and in comparison to my first pregnancy in which I wore regular running shoes and did less exercise, my feet and ankles are much stronger the second time around! and my feet did not flatten. I had worn VFFs for a few years now. Awesome!

  33. Seems like just another fad to me. I’ll stick with my running shoes.

  34. I’m new to this, so apologies for asking about something that’s no doubt been covered…. What’s the consensus opinion on Birkenstocks? I started wearing their sandals a few years back, and they’re all I wear now. I prefer to go barefoot, and I always have. For winter, I make and wear ‘yoga socks’. I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t had to be concerned with a work dress code that prevented open-toed shoes. If/when that occurs, I will probably try one of these options, and or one of the Birkenstock shoes.

  35. I like that the Merrel shoes have a toe wraparound–it would really help with parkour.

  36. It’s great to see other companies jump on the bandwagon. I love to run in my VFF but with winter weather on its way here in Michigan I won’t be able to do so very soon. Its great to know there are alternatives that will allow my feet to stay warm in the winter!

    1. @Primal Toad:

      My winter running shoes are $13 canvas sneakers from Walmart and medium weight wool socks. (I will be running in the same ones from last winter.) The soles are thin and, after about 30 miles, are very flexible.

      We here in southwest Texas don’t have the vicious winters you do but these cheap sneakers have served me well in six-inch snow, ice, and melting snow. The only time they failed me was when I had to run through ankle-deep melting snow back in early March. That sucked.

  37. I like going barefoot as NO shoes. My feet are adapting to new sensations and when I put VFF’s on I can feel a big difference in my gait and how heavy my step is in those. I am hoping to be able to ditch those for all my runs and hikes.
    Unless one is running through a construction zone, there are no nails on sidewalks and if there were, thin VFF sole wouldn’t be much of a protection either.
    So far I haven’t met even one barefoot runner in real life or online rushing to a podiatrist.
    I am in awe how quickly shoe companies are banking on this movement though. They are the ones laughing all the way to the bank.

    1. AMEN! I’m more likely to get injured walking into a door jam (I’m a bit klutzy) than my feet, which have been COMPLETELY freed for over 6 months. I’ve had a few scrapes on them, but nothing that didn’t heal up within a few days.

      To the previous poster who got plantar warts: plantar warts can only grow in warm, dark and moist environments… like the inside of a shoe. The same with athlete’s foot.

  38. I have a pair of VFF’s and love them for training and all around town fun. I also just picked up some Patagonia Loulu’s for the office which have plenty of room for the feet and the sole is as close to barefoot as I can find in the dress shoe department.

  39. I use $5 water shoes with 4mm Vibram Cherry soling material glued on. The uppers of the shoes are a lot tougher than the soles and with the Vibram soles they have lasted a bit over 100 miles on city streets.

    I recently purchased a second pair of VFF KSOs and after only 50 miles they are coming undone.

    Altra Running (altrarunning.com) is coming out with some “zero drop” shoes. I’m waiting to get my hands on, or my feet in, their “Adam.”

  40. The Merrell women’s pure glove is adorable and I’d love a pair for everyday wear at work (for me, nursing homes/retirement communities). It’d fit into “business casual” without getting freaky looks from boss, coworkers and clients, and still be healthy for my feet with all the walking I do all day around campus and to/from work. Cool.

  41. Less shoe, less design, just as much, or more money for the shoes company. This type of shoe should not be expensive. You could make these and turn a profit for fifty bucks. C’mon.

  42. hmm, $100 for a pair of minimalist shoes…sounds like a joke to me!
    I get it, don’t get me wrong, just seems the more minimalist things get the more complicated they are.
    Living in Australia I do not have to bare with the cold (like some). I will however never pay more than a minimal amount ($20) for my minimalist shoes. Vans slip ons treat me sweet.

  43. I wear my Vibrams whenever I think I can get away with it (and sometimes when I know I can’t!). I seem to be getting less weird looks or maybe i’m just getting used to them now.

    They do seem to cause a sensation though, but i don’t think i’ll ever give them up.

  44. Well this was an excellent blog post Mark. You should have your moderator delete the other post on the MBT’s as a troll post. 🙂

    Here is another brand that may work for some folks –


    I have not tried the Zemgear out myself but do plan to order a pair. They are definitely on the affordable end of the spectrum.

    I have a pair of VFF KSO’s and two pair of Vivo’s. Obviously the Vivo’s get the most use as they look more … uhhhh, neolithic. 🙂

    Around the house I generally go around with “real” bare feet. It took me about 6 weeks to learn to walk in the more natural or evolutionary appropriate way, but it is all good now.

    For those new to this way of walking, get a pair of foam ear plugs and then try and learn to walk such that the sound of your feet striking the ground is as silent as can be — at that point you have it down. Sounds weird I know but if you try it you will know exactly what I mean.

  45. The Pure Gloves look like the conventional women’s style known as “Mary Janes”. I’m wearing some right now although not Merrell’s … really comfortable flatties with a thin, very flexible rubber sole. I might consider these for the office. As for the other styles, oh dear. Why do they never seem to treat women’s shoes as seriously as men’s.

  46. Hey Folks

    Did not have the time to read all your most excellent remarks – BUT –

    I AM an ex-barefoot runner. As a high-schooler, I ran BARE FOOT for short 3-milers – MAN could I FLY!!!!

    After about the 1st week (and after the blood blisters healed) – you are ready to [email protected]!

    Highly recommend it – even if you are a road dog (like me). I was running on bare cement (watch the broke glass!) in 85 degree [email protected]!

    [email protected]!

    It CAN be done – most importantly – it is GOOD for your body (Egoscue – frame straightening & muscle imbalances).

    Really busy rigth now – will not have the time to pick up further on this – peace brothers – RUN NUDE!

  47. I’m with Richard on the Sanuks. They’re kinda like Vans but the soles are made from lightweight materials similar to flip flops.

    I went to grab a pair at the mall and ended up getting a pair of Crocs instead. Yes, Crocs believe it or not.

    They make a low, flat, minimal slip-on loafer called the Santa Cruz that’s pretty darn close to barefoot for me. Super light and tons of room & flexibility for my toes.

    I love them. Plus they were less than $30. 🙂

  48. Mark,

    I’ve seen these minimalist shoes popping up everywhere and I’m actually considering getting some minimalist running shoes for my next pair. My dad has even jumped on the bandwagon!


  49. Anybody try the Flows for cold weather? I have KSOs and KSO Treks. I wear the Treks to work, but even with Injinjis, the cold can be a problem. I was also thinking about trying to find the Vivo Oaks to be more business friendly. Anybody have info on those?

  50. I still run barefoot, but I don’t use Vibrams so much anymore. I discovered Luna Sandals, and they are by far the best minimalist running footwear I have come across. The lower, non-traditional tying method makes them great for spring/summer/fall footwear if it’s not too cold out, too.

    Barefoot Ted just created a new model and ran the Leadville 100-mile Ultramarathon in them. (I still wear Vivo Barefoot Aquas as casual and Vivo Barefoot Oaks as formal/work shoes and LOVE them. Look for the 50% off coupons!)

      1. RetailMeNot.com is a good place to start, but following Barefoot Ted’s Google Groups led me to the rarer, less frequent, 40% and 50% off coupons.

  51. i’m happy with my chaco sport sandals and la sportiva approach shoes…clipless bike shoes for mtn biking and more la sportivas for climbing…flip flops for the pool deck and around town in summer and nice fleecy boots for cool winter outings in town. floppy old trail runners for work (and slippers, we wear slippers at my school!) dress shoes under duress only. the only thing i really need/want is something waterproof that won’t give me blisters on my heels when i am out in the fall, quail, deer and mushroom hunting and hiking mile after mile in the wet forest

    1. I know there are some moccasins out there with zero heel drop and do not resemble a Halloween Pocahontas get-up, but I don’t know any brand names off the top of my head.

    2. I suppose the Mukluk would be a start!

      Virtually no sole, just leather as far as I know.

  52. I bought the Vibrams and I have been very satisfied with them. I enjoy cross-training and since I have spent most of my life barefoot, this seemed like a natural fit. It took some time for my calfs to adjust though, just a word of warning.

  53. HELP!! Went to my physio the other day for knee problems and he had me do a test for my feet alignment. turns out my feet are internally pronated and it could be causing some serious problems with my knees in low back. HE told me to think about inserts called ALINE… ANy thoughts, comments, or concerns??

  54. Ha! Finally! I have been wearing the vibram FF for about 2 years now and have rid myself of knee pain (including ITB issues), lower back pain, and burdening shackles that running shoe soles. I am an avid Crossfitter, trail-runner, and scrambler and do all activities in FF. Can’t wait to try these new models. I love how this community is growing and I’m glad to be a part of it! The thing I seen I’ve seen very little writting about is the benifits to the major lifts.

    1. I have ITB and VMO problems in my left knee. Time to get a pair of FFs me thinks.

  55. I am still not sure why anyone on earth would choose to jog. But I have seen people jogging in their socks up here in frigid Canada. Also, at my gym Vibrams are becoming common place. So ya, this trend has some legs man!

  56. Since your site concerns itself with pre-civilized times, I’d like to point out that back then, everyone walked on an uneven surface, and our feet really are appropriately designed to walk on that kind of surface. HOWEVER, nowadays it’s the exception to the rule to be on an uneven surface. Almost all of our walking is done on a hard, totally even surface, which may not be all that great for our feet. I suffer plantar fasciitis and must always wear inserts to keep the pain away. Walking on uneven surfaces barefoot can almost be like giving your feet a massage, since each step gives you foot something different to touch. Walking on hard, even surfaces seems to put a strain on the arch of the foot, because there never comes a time where something goes in and touches the highest point of the arch. This could be compared to repetitive strain stress injuries that are not at all uncommon these days. It could be that young people can walk around barefoot for a long time, but when they get older and have had years of this strain, it may take a toll.

  57. The Pure Glove shoe is actually CUTE! So great that they are taking the fashion savvy ladies into consideration. I would actually buy those! Not that I am the end all in foot fashion, but I generally think that the barefoot shoes are pretty dang ugly. This is exciting!

  58. I am a big fan on the NB MT 100 and 101 trail running minimalist shoes. Have done 10Ks, trails and just about everywhere with them. Personally love the minimalist footwear in the airport for the security checks.

  59. I have to echo the problem with confining, narrow shoes. I sport a size 14 wide foot that has never been comfortable in most shoes, until I recently bought a pair of Euro size 47 VFF KSO Trek. The ability of the things to expand and flex laterally have changed trail running for me forever.

    1. invisible shoes look really cool. & it’s for a good cause!
      but i have to wait until next summer.

  60. Here’s the crazy thing – on non-teaching days I mainly wear Feiyue kung fu shoes. Not only are they minimal shoes but all my hipster junior faculty members compliment me on them – “hey, cool shoes!”

  61. I have to agree with NB – its the heel. You take away the huge heel and people won’t heel strike. Running flats (i.e. the Fila Corsa Oto) are made to mid-foot strike and they all have low heels.

    I think I’ll be grabbing a pair for some free running.

  62. A little late to the game here, but I just bought a pair of jinga shoes (Brazilian dance shoes, basically). They are minimalist, and there is an all black version that is suitable for a more formal office setting (a requirement for me). They have a 4 mm sole made of PVC, and are quite comfortable.


  63. Does anyone here work in an industrial environment? I do, and have to wear ANSI rated steel (or composite) toe shoes/boots. I really want to find a more minimal alternative, but have yet to find or here of anything – except for resoling an old pair…

  64. Sadly, the Minimus that is coming out in the Spring is only a shadow of the one that was developed with Krupicka. He was insisting on zero drop, for example. But like a concept car, the mass production model is watered down by compromises. Sigh.

  65. I’m pretty new to primal and found this very interesting.
    I have a few back and neck problems and pronate badly, would vfm’s help or worsen my condition?


  66. I tried Vibram 5 Fingers. I really wanted them to work, but alas, their configuration just didn’t work for me. It’s one shape at any particular size. That just won’t do unless your foot fits the mold. My big toe is much larger than my last 2 toes. They don’t even make it into the fingers of my pair of 5 Fingers. So, for me, unless I want a pair of 5 Fingers made from a mold, a shoe form would be better. Looking to these next crop of shoes for success.

  67. Our feet, knees and hips were designed to run on grass, not concrete or tarmac. Anyone want to argue this point? Well then, assuming you agree with this, what do think might be the long term impact on these parts when there is very little or no cushioning? Say goodbye to hip knee and ankle cartilage, especially if you are thirty something and looking to start running again. Just my common sense approach to this.

    1. You are completely correct. Cushioning helps, just not the inch or two in the massive heel of a running shoe. Real cushioned running only happens when you run in shoes (or none at all) that allow your to assume a natural, forefoot/midfoot-first gait. Your muscles absorb the impact of the landing. Relying on small amounts of rubber and insole to protect your joints from the weight of your falling body with each stride is foolish.

      We didn’t evolve on lush soccer fields, ya know, or spongy ground. Plenty of hardpacked dirt and earth out there. We can handle hard surfaces just fine.

      1. Exactly. Assuming “we were designed to run on grass” paints a “Sound of Music”-type backdrop that existed far less than we are likely to believe. Early man ran on arid grasslands, forest strewn with stones, rocky plains and other surfaces arguably less hospitable than flat, predictable concrete. Early man didn’t wear shoes or sandals with ridiculous one- or two-inch padded heels. (Hell, those only came in the early 70’s when Bowerman at Nike thought they would save everyone’s joints – an idea he now, reportedly, regrets.)

        Early man had cushioning. It was his forefoot/midfoot stride. Every joint naturally cushioned his footfall. Nowadays, 90% of the people heelstrike in bulky shoes, relying on the arbitrary, research-absent inch or two of cushioning on the heel, which cannot match a physiologically sound midfoot strike.

        And Unhappy Feet, I was a thirty-something looking to run again. I was unable to run more than 10 minutes for nearly a decade despite being a decent track and cross country runner in high school. I can run now. Two herniated discs and more than 50% of both menisci be damned. What did I do to regain the ability to run? I took off my shoes. I could no longer heelstrike. I was forced to run with a fore- or midfoot strike. Now I run pain-free barefoot, in Vibrams, Vivo Barefoot shoes or Luna Sandals (think minimalist huaraches). I enjoy running now more than ever.

  68. The Five Fingers are great. Lots of good science out there backing it up. More an more everyday. One study that I read showed the that more expensive the shoe, the greater the risk of injury in marathon runners.

  69. I just stumbled upon this post… LOVE the Merrell Pace Glove! Fresh out of the box I did a 6 mile trail run and they were great over rocky, sloping paths. Put on my Nike Frees for a run a few days later and they felt big and clunky!

  70. I love my VFF’s but now I like the fit of the Fila’s better. also, adidas has thrown their “barefeet” in the ring with their version.

  71. I play a lot of tennis. I like the idea of zero drop; however, I do not know of any zero drop tennis shoes. Are there any zero drop tennis shoes out there?

  72. What about barefoot shoes for toddlers and young children? Best to let them keep their natural state from the time they learn to walk. I’d love to see something for these young babes!

  73. I know this is an older post, but I just bought a pair of 4mm NB Minimus. I am well used to VFF Komodo Sports, but wanted something to have a tiny bit of cushion for lateral movement and landing when playing basketball. They feel like playing in Adidas Sambas with a wider toe box. I still use the Injinji toe socks inside them, btw. For straight running and walking, I prefer VFF’s though.

  74. I commented on the “barefoot alternative” post about skateshoes and was wondering, what is actually wrong with a shoe like the Dekline Archer, I recently bought these and without the innersole it’s actually not so much different as my Vivobarefoot shoes, except for the width, but it’s not such a big difference and wear will take care of that, but they’re very flexable, have no ball to heal drop and the sole is not that thick either without the innersole?

  75. Does anyone work out at the gym in just socks? I mean.. just regular socks? What is the difference between that and working out in VFF? I can understand that the gym would not wish you to be barefoot, and I certainly don’t wish to run around a gym barefoot, but wouldn’t regular socks be closer to being barefoot than wearing special shoes?

  76. I’m sure VFF are great…..IF your feet fit properly in them. I tried, I really did, but I have small narrow feet with second and third toes joined at the bottom that simply won’t spread wide enough to fit in the toes comfortably, but worst of all they cut inbetween my small toe (probably because the outside of my ‘British’ foot doesn’t taper off like a ‘Roman’ foot). I mean these shoes are made to fit one general type of foot, allowing only for differences in size not form. Sooooo……..I opted for Vivobarefoot and have never looked back. Lots of room for my toes! Barefoot is the way to go, but no matter how much other people love their Vibrams, make sure YOUR foot is comfortable in them.

    1. Ok, sorry it’s been 18 years since the study. It should read
      (probably because the outside of my ‘Celtic’ foot doesn’t taper off like a ‘Saxon’ foot). LOL

  77. I think this list of minimalist shoes could use an update for the 2014 Holiday Season.

  78. I would LOVE tips of barefoot shoes/wide toe box shoes that look more fashionable. I love my Merrell Trail Gloves, but sometimes I would reeeally like to wear some more good looking shoes/dress shoes that don’t hurt. All tips are welcome!