If you are new to barefoot and minimal shoes you may have a lot of questions!
We've done our best to provide quick and easy answers to some of the most common questions when transitioning to barefoot shoes. If you don't see the answer you are looking for, drop us a line! We want to make sure you get the right pair, the first time!
What are barefoot, minimal, or natural shaped shoes?
Barefoot shoes, also known as minimalist shoes, are designed to simulate the experience of being barefoot while still providing some protection from the ground. Barefoot shoes typically have a thin and flexible sole that allows for natural foot movement and optimal foot health. They also often have a wide toe box that allows your toes to splay naturally and helps to promote proper foot alignment. Barefoot shoes are designed to be as close to barefoot as possible, while still providing some level of protection from the environment.
The term 'Barefoot' tends to be the catchall phrase for any footwear that is designed to be as close to being barefoot as possible. You will also see the terms "minimalist" or "Foot Shaped Shoes" used to describe what are essentially barefoot shoes.
Minimal or minimalist shoes are defined as providing "minimal interference with the natural movement of the foot." Minimalist shoes are mostly known for providing more sensory contact for the foot on the ground via a thin sole and minimal materials. Some conventional shoe companies have used the term minimalist to describe shoes that don't exactly follow the barefoot model.
Another term that has been popping up lately is 'natural shaped' shoes. This is used to describe shoes that have been designed to follow the natural curves, slopes and size of the foot and toes. This can also be used in place of barefoot, although it's not as common.
What are the three main features of barefoot shoes?
Wide Toe Box:
The front of a shoe is called the toe box, where your toes go! With enough space, our toes can spread, stretch and engage all their joints, muscles and tendons, thus improving strength and balance.
No high heels here! Zero drop means there is no heel and no elevation of the toe box. The sole of the shoe is the same height from heel to toe. This can help improve gait, posture and alignment.
Thin & Flexible Sole:
Feel the earth under your feet! A thin sole helps protect the bottoms of your feet while still allowing your feet to bend and flex naturally.
What does 'zero drop' mean?
Zero drop refers to the difference in height between the heel and the forefoot of a shoe. A shoe with a zero drop has the same level of cushioning and support throughout the entire sole, meaning that the heel and forefoot are at the same height off the ground.
In contrast, most conventional shoes have a higher heel than the forefoot, creating a slope or drop from the heel to the toe. Think about the shape created by a high heel or cowboy boot. This design can alter the natural alignment of the foot and leg, and may contribute to issues such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and knee pain.
Zero drop shoes are often preferred by those who prefer minimalist or barefoot shoes, as they allow for a more natural stride and encourage the foot to function as it was designed to. They can also help improve posture and alignment, and may reduce the risk of injury by promoting a more efficient and balanced gait. However, it is important to transition slowly and gradually to zero drop shoes, particularly if you are used to wearing traditional shoes with a higher heel-to-toe drop.
What are the benefits of barefoot shoes?
Improved foot strength: Barefoot shoes allow your foot to move and flex as it naturally would without the restriction of traditional shoes. This can help improve foot strength and balance.
Better proprioception: Proprioception is your body's ability to sense its position and movement in space. Barefoot shoes can improve proprioception, which can help you move more efficiently and with better balance.
Reduced foot pain: Traditional shoes can put pressure on certain areas of the foot, leading to foot pain. Barefoot shoes provide a more natural fit, reducing pressure points and discomfort.
Improved posture: Barefoot shoes can help you maintain good posture by allowing your feet to move and flex naturally, which can help your body align itself correctly.
Better sensory feedback: Barefoot shoes allow your feet to feel the ground more directly, providing more sensory feedback to your brain. This can improve your overall sense of balance and control.
Increased agility: Barefoot shoes allow for greater range of motion in the feet and ankles, which can improve agility and balance during physical activities.
What is a toe spring?
Toe spring refers to the upward curvature at the toe area of a shoe. It is the upward bend in the sole of the shoe that lifts the toes off the ground and gives the shoe a curved shape. Toe spring is common in many types of shoes, including athletic shoes, running shoes, and even some dress shoes.
However, excessive toe spring can cause problems for some people. Excessive toe spring can interfere with the natural motion of the foot, limiting flexibility and making it difficult to use the toes for balance and stability. This is why many barefoot and minimalist shoe designs have little or no toe spring, allowing the foot to move more naturally and freely.
What size do I wear in barefoot shoes?
Check our guide to find out how to measure and choose the right shoe size!
Do I need to transition to barefoot shoes?
The short answer is, yes! It is very important to take it slow and build up to wearing barefoot shoes. Some people have a longer transition time than others. Starting with foot strengthening exercises is a great start! Check out books and videos by Katy Bowman and Petra Fisher Movement.