Hopefully, you know by now that we love talking about movement from the ground up and barefoot science, so today I am going to give you my top five minimalist shoe choices. First, let’s identify what you want to look for in your shoes.
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What To Look For In A Minimalist Shoe
1. Minimal Cushion
The first thing that we want to look at is how much cushion is present. A true minimal shoe is going to fall into a zero cushion shoe. You can see how much cushion the shoe has by looking at the side of the shoe
2. Zero Drop
The second is that it should be a zero drop shoe, which technically means zero to four millimeters heel-to-toe drop. Most traditional shoes have a 10 to 14-millimeter heel-to-toe drop which looks like a high heel.
3. Wide Toe Box
The next thing is we want to have a wide toe box. This is important for the ability of the foot to splay as you push off in your gait cycle. Men have five millimeters of splay women have three when they toe-off in their gait cycle, so a wide toe box is necessary.
4. Flexible Midsole
We also want to have a flexible midsole. That means that the shoe is able to bend at the midsole just like our foot would at toe-off in our gait cycle, rather than a stiff midsole.
Next, we want to have torsion in the shoe. You want to be able to ring it out like a towel. Our foot is meant to spiral with each step of our gait cycle and during dynamic movements.
6. Flexible Heel Counter
Last but not least, we want a flexible heel counter. A stiff heel counter can be good for a flatter foot. In a minimalist shoe, we want to be able to bend the heel counter to enhance the natural foot function.
What to know before transitioning to minimalist shoes
Minimalist shoes are NOT for everyone and it is very important to know your foot type, your injury history, and what is appropriate for you. For example, you do not want to transition from a traditional high cushion sneaker to a minimalist shoe overnight. This should be a very long transition of allowing yourself to acclimate and adapt to this new change and how you are interacting with the ground coupled with intentional barefoot work. Now let’s discuss my top five minimalist shoe picks.
Top 5 Minimalist Shoes
This is hands down one of the best shoes to optimize natural foot function. It feels like you are barefoot and includes all the top features mentioned above.
Xero Shoes are awesome and provide lots of different options, such as sandals with Naboso technology, which is a small neuro proprioceptive surface. They also have great winter boots.
3. Merrell Vapor Glove
They also have a variation of trail shoes for kids. This is a shoe where you truly feel like you are walking on the ground. I’ve worn this shoe for years off and on and loved every second of it.
They have great casual shoes and boots. They have a slightly thicker sole as compared to the Vapor Glove or Vivo. However, they are great comfortable, casual shoes.
This is a shoe that I use a lot for patients with different pathologies, for example, forefoot pain or big toe arthritis, or stiffness. They also have an Ultra Fly Lite 3, which is more of a minimalist shoe. It has a super light cushion, so it is a really good transitional shoe from a high cushion sneaker to a minimalist shoe.
Why is this so important?
Our shoes are meant to enhance our natural foot function, not replace it. Our amazing feet are meant to move, spiral, and transfer energy through the body.
When we have a high cushion shoe, impact forces are increased as they enter the body. We are not able to detect what’s happening, so we strike the ground even harder. Although it might feel good on your feet, it is not good for your movement efficiency, gait, or balance, which are important for movement longevity. The closer that we can get to the ground, the better. The more you can take your shoes and socks off, and stimulate the small nerves in your feet, the better.
If you are not sure where to start, please reach out for a virtual or live consultation so we can figure out exactly what your foot type is and what you need.