Have you ever thought much about the shoes you wear and how they affect your overall body and wellness? I admit that I didn’t use to! And while I totally realize that talking about feet is kind of a strange topic, I’m actually super excited to share what I’ve learned with you!
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The Benefits Behind Barefoot & Minimal Footwear 🦶
It’s quite simple: the purpose of shoes should be to protect our feet from sharp objects and dirt, and that’s it. Not alter our stance, squish our toes, or change the way we walk.
I remember when I first realized that most footwear is actually too small and doesn’t allow our feet to take their natural shape. My mind was blown and now I can’t unsee it 🤯
Most modern shoes are rigid, heavy, don’t follow the primitive shape of our feet, and don’t allow feet to really sense the surface they’re walking on. They basically allow feet to relax, which might sound like a good thing. BUT, this actually makes foot muscles become weaker over time.
Personally, I’ve always worn shoes for style and cuteness, not foot health. I just didn’t really give it much thought 🤷♀️ I cringe thinking back to my days in the corporate world wearing tight, pointy, and uncomfortable high heels. Sorry, feet!! 😖
And not that I enjoy talking about my feet with strangers on the internet, but, I definitely have shoe-shaped feet from wearing modern shoes my whole life. I always thought bunions were just hereditary in my family. Turns out, that wearing shoes that squish your feet into a shoe shape your whole life is what causes bunions! If I ever have a child, they will go barefoot as much as possible and I will never put them in cramped shoes! (it’s *especially* important for little ones as their bodies are developing)
What makes a shoe “minimal?” 🤔
The best thing you can do is go barefoot when possible! But, unless you live off the grid and never go out in public, you’ll need to put on shoes at some point! Here’s how minimal and barefoot shoes differ:
- Wide toe cage for stability and to allow your toes to take their biological fan shape; regular narrow shoes are tapered and restrict the innate splay and recoil of your toes!
- Flat with no heel drop or toe spring which encourages correct posture
- Thin and flexible sole that allows for feet’s natural range of motion and immediate ground feedback (our feet have over 200,000 nerve endings)
- Support your foot’s integrity!
Highly recommend watching this quick four-minute video called Shoespiracy:
Adjusting to Barefoot & Minimal Footwear: Go Slow! 👟
I’m not gonna lie to you, it’s an adjustment, especially if you’ve worn conventional footwear your whole life and are used to arch support and cushion. Your feet need to strengthen when transitioning to minimal footwear, and wearing barefoot shoes will assist this process in return!
I would NOT recommend wearing barefoot shoes for the first time and then immediately going for a long run, for example. You’ll probably hurt yourself. You need to slowly get used to the shoes! ⚠️ Listen to your body and how it feels as you make the switch.
Go barefoot when you can. You can also do exercises and stretches that help strengthen your feet. This video has a lot of great tips and exercises you can do at home! I also like these toe separators which help spread, lengthen, and stretch toes back to their original length. I occasionally wear them for an hour or so at nighttime when relaxing.
My experience transitioning to minimal shoes:
For me personally, it took a few weeks, maybe even months. I started by going for shorter walks in barefoot shoes and working my way up. The main thing I noticed was that the bottom of my feet got tired easily because I was accustomed to always having cushion. Secondly, my Achilles and calves started to feel a bit strained. This is because regular shoes have an elevated heel so mine was not used to fully reaching the ground when walking. I kinda feel like my body had to relearn how to walk without shoe assistance. Crazy!
But, you WILL get used to barefoot shoes! And I honestly can tell a difference now that my feet have gotten stronger. When I slip on a pair of my old shoes, my feet feel SO cramped and start to hurt after a while! I’m shocked and soooooooo wish I made the switch sooner.
The Best Natural & Sustainable Barefoot Shoe Brands
Now for the fun part! There are lots of barefoot and minimal shoe brands out there nowadays. Yay! But here are some that I’ve researched and have used myself:
I learned about Origo from a targeted Facebook ad, haha…darn you, internet!! They caught my eye because they’re CUTE and I immediately purchased a pair. Some barefoot shoe brands can look kind of ugly and weird, just keeping it real. But these are legit adorable. They have styles for women, men, and kids and are more of an “everyday sneaker” type of shoe.
- Production facility is in León, Mexico and keep the entire supply chain within North America
- Ethical working standards for their artisans
- One Tree Planted member and donate to help Amazon reforestation with each pair sold
But, Origo shoes are made from natural and sustainable materials which is EVEN COOLER (and eco-friendly packaging)! You can choose from three styles: Vegan Cotton Canvas, Natural Leather (Leather Working Group certified and sourced from local tanneries), or Vegan Cactus Leather (organic and responsibly-harvested in Mexico) 🌵 The soles are made from a biodegradable plant-based oat/corn starch biopolymer and thermoplastic rubber, and the laces are waxed cotton.
They have a wide toe cage, no heel drop, thin/flexible sole, and are flat. I feel like they’re true to size and the Size Guide on their site was helpful. They arrive with two pairs of laces (different colors) and a thin insert if you want a tiny bit of extra padding (it’s flat and not arched!).
I own the Light Blue Natural Leather Sneakers and Black Cotton Canvas Sneakers and truly love both! The cotton styles are ever so slightly more comfortable because it’s a softer material (and more breathable). Leather is a little stiffer and needs breaking in. But I had zero issues and was able to use them immediately (my feet were already used to barefoot shoes). I even wore them around Denmark where I was walking ALL day long (over 20k steps a day) and my feet felt great!
You can use code ORGANICALLYBECCA for 10% off your Origo order!
Related post: 10 Sustainable Fashion Brands for a Simple Wardrobe (+ All Budgets!)
Vivo is one of the most popular barefoot shoe brands and the first one I tried myself. They have styles for men, women, juniors, and kids. I would consider these more of an activewear shoe and not like, a cute sneaker shoe! But they do have some more stylish options like flats, sandals, boots, and hiking boots.
More about Vivo:
- Certified B Corp
- Utilize the barefoot shoe principles (flat, no heel drop, flexible, wide toe, etc.)
- Have a takeback program to upcycle old shoes called ReVivo
- Incorporate natural materials such as Woolmark-certified Merino wool, wild hide leather from small free-roaming herds and independent farms, hemp, algae-based foams, and recycled plastics (until they can find a better alternative!)
- Vegan styles are available if that’s your thing
I purchased a refurbished pair of the Atlantic Blue Primus Knit WMK style almost two years ago and they are STILL in great condition which is awesome. I wear them as my primary walking shoes! I really like that the ankle is a soft stretchy fabric which makes it extra cozy and easy to slip on. Compared to the Origo shoes, Vivos seem to have even less cushion on the bottom and you can really sense the ground.
I also own a pair of the Tracker II FG hiking boots in the Bracken color. They were honestly so comfy from the start and I didn’t even feel like they needed to be broken in! The boots are light and I don’t feel like I’m hauling around a big chunky shoe. And the bottom is really grippy which is great for hiking and uneven surfaces.
Since they’re flat and thin, I can better sense the ground I’m hiking on and feel like I’m less likely to roll an ankle. The boots have a high and cushy ankle which feels supportive too!
Vivo boots also come with a removable thermal insert so you can have extra warmth on cold days, or more breathable on hot days!
The only thing I don’t like about them is the laces because they latch onto hooks instead of the traditional holes you pull them through. Not a huge deal, it just takes longer to lace them up.
The only thing to note with Vivos is that they don’t have many half sizes. I recommend using the size tool on their website because it can slightly differ for each style. For the Primus shoes, I went a half size down from what I usually wear, and for the Tracker boots, I went a half size up! Both fit me perfectly and I’m really happy with them!
Want 25% off your first Vivo order? Use this link to get your voucher!
Now for the ultimate question: do you have shoe-shaped feet or feet-shaped feet? 😁 Have you ever tried barefoot shoes? I’m never going back to regular cramped shoes myself! Thanks a bunch for reading and I’d loveeeee to hear your experience or thoughts in the comments below!
6 comments on “Why I Wear Minimal Barefoot Shoes (& My Fave Natural Shoe Brands)”
I have tried barefoot shoes but I’m definitely having a hard time with them. The first ones I tried are the splay athletics brand but my feet hurt so much wearing them. I think it’s because I just went kind of cold turkey from regular shoes to wearing barefoot shoes but I’m understanding a little more now and I will try to be more patience and try to transition slowly. Your blog gave me a different perspective on it, thank you !
Thanks for reading! Yeah, it definitely takes time! I also recommend the exercises that are linked in the post to help strengthen your feet. You got this!
I chase wide feet and love foot shape shoes. I use Altra and TOPO athletic shoes. I love them I have to have padding in mine
Have you ever tried Feelgrounds or Groundies?
Finding barefoot shoes is next on my list. I am barefoot a lot and don’t like wearing shoes so hopping getting a pair are comfortable.
I haven’t tried those brands! If you go barefoot often then I’d think switching to barefoot shoes would be a relatively easy transition for you!
Interesting! But you don’t have to go off grid to go barefoot. I go barefooted in public all the time. It is not illegal, nor is it violating any codes. Most stores don’t have policies requiring shoes.
One thing I find helpful is to wear barefoot sandals – basically foot jewelry. They complete an outfit while still allowing me to feel the ground. It helps tremendously with balance and especially with circulation.
I do wear minimalist sandals on hot asphalt and minimalist boots in the winter. Beyond that, I’m generally barefooted everywhere.