What are barefoot shoes?
Barefoot shoes respect the foot's natural shape and do not impede its function with “support” or “technologies” that make unfounded claims about injury prevention. You may have heard the words, natural, foot-shaped, minimalist, or zero-drop. This sector of the footwear market is exploding, and for good reason. People are beginning to question the narrative that their feet are so fragile that everyone needs a massive amount of foam and support between their feet and the ground at all times, or they're bound to get injured. Well, if shoes are so great, why haven't they solved the problem? About 70% of runners still get injured every year. As a physical therapist who works with athletes at all levels, I can tell you that foot and ankle dysfunction is at least partially at play with my patient's injuries. Whether it's knee, hip, or low back pain that they're dealing with. And for someone to show up in my office with no signs of foot and ankle dysfunction and deformity--that's quite rare. Most young people don't recognize the slow onset of “normal” foot deformities and dysfunction (i.e., bunions, hammer toes, fallen arches). The problem is they won't feel the pain until they're into their 40s and 50s. The American College of Sports Medicine agrees, when selecting running shoes, avoid high, thick cushioning, a high heel to toe drop, and extra stability components, aka, big bulky shoes. People want something better, more natural, and more freeing than the stiff traditional shoes we're used to.
The adaptive abilities of the human body are remarkable, so there's no reason to believe your feet can't learn to support themselves like they were designed to. Unfortunately, we have adapted to a fast-food-office-chair-television-from-the-couch-big-bulky-shoe-existence that we know we weren't meant for. Do you wear work boots to the beach? Of course not, we want to feel free! And just like barefoot carefree youngsters playing tag in the park, we deserve to be free also. We have some work to do to reclaim strong, healthy feet, but the first logical step would be to gain an understanding of what typical footwear is really doing to us.
Every Step Counts reviews just some evidence as it relates to this topic from the perspective of a physical therapist and runner. But remember: however excited you may become about reclaiming strong and able feet, you must walk before you run. This book is dedicated to the indigenous peoples around the world, to whom we are forever indebted. Thank you for your wisdom and a reminder of what it means to be a human being. Without the preservation of traditions within
these communities, the barefoot movement would not be possible. Consider making a direct donation to one of the non-profits listed to the right that help to support these communities in an ever rapidly changing world.
Welcome to the healthy feet club!
We support brands that are dedicated to making shoes that have a natural, anatomically appropriate shape and lack elevated heels or support structures—the same characteristics that the American College of Sports Medicine recommends. You won't see any of the mainstream brands here because, well, these large corporations usually put fashion and profits ahead of health. This page was created to bring attention to all the options a healthy-minded person has today. Each shoe in the following sections is merely one example among, sometimes many, options from a single brand. Follow the links to explore more from each brand. Pay attention to the notes at the beginning of each section, and remember, walk before you run!
thin running shoes
Designed to go the distance, hit the gym, for running errands, or any situation at all. These shoes vary from minimal to ultraminimal in design, as such only seasoned minimalist runners should be running any considerable mileage in these. Novice minimalist runners could wear shoes like these in their off time for walking in nature and on varied surfaces, in order to improve mobility and strength of their feet. Follow the links to find a variety of styles from each brand.
Medium-thick running shoes
When making a transition to minimal footwear for running and athletics, it is important to do so gradually. Pay attention to the stack height (the overall thickness) of the shoes. Only make small changes from the shoes you are accustomed to at one time, and integrate the new footwear into your routine very gradually. Shoes in this section range from medium thickness shoes for the more seasoned minimalist runner, to thick shoes for the novice minimalist runner. Follow the links to find a variety of styles from each brand.
Trail running shoes
Depending on the strength and preferences of the runner, even thin minimalist shoes can be used for trail running. However, the following shoes have been optimized to handle rugged terrain. Follow the links to find a variety of styles from each brand.