Are you into the barefoot movement? Minimalist shoes have been a pretty hot product for a few years now. I think most people have either tried them, love them or know someone that has tried them or loves them. Over the past few years runners, walkers, personal trainers, weight lifters, yoga professionals and more have made a shift toward “less is more” when it comes to footwear.
In general, the minimalist shoe not only looks sleek and cool, but also offers some very nice benefits to the user. Because this style of shoe has so little cushioning (with some, no cushioning at all), it promotes a more natural running or walking motion. Dr. Paul Langer, Board Certified Podatrist at Twin Cities Orthopedics says “this style of shoe has so little cushioning, it promotes a more barefoot-like gait pattern which means the stresses and strains of walking and running are affecting the body in a different way.” The minimalist also offers better stability (much closer to the ground than a cushioned shoe), balance and can help strengthen foot, ankle and leg muscles.
These shoes sound amazing, right? Life changing, even? To some, yes. But, like everything in life, research them and make sure they are the right fit for you. Depending on your interest or activity, one shoe may feel or work better than the other. For example, Dr. Langer runs in Vibram Fivefingers, New Balance Minimus Trail, and the Merrell Trail Glove, but still uses conventional running shoes for long runs, speed workouts and races.
Dr. Langer offers great advice for those interested in giving this style of shoe a try. He states, “My advice is to transition gradually and if at all possible (for those running) run primarily on grass, at least initially. Become comfortable walking in minimalist shoes over the course of a couple weeks, before introducing them to sports like running or cross training. The most common injuries from an overzealous transition are calf and Achilles tendon injuries and metatarsalgia or metatarsal stress fractures. Expect some aches and pains as you transition, but do not ignore pain. Personally, I think minimalist footwear is best used as supplemental footwear, not as a replacement for conventional shoes. And, as a final thought, minimalist shoes do not magically cause the impact forces of running or walking to disappear; they promote gait changes that redistribute the impact forces. So, while there is no research to confirm that minimalist footwear reduces injury rates, the altered gait pattern due to these shoes may be helpful for some people, but could be harmful for others.”
With that being said, I visited with Jake, one of our very knowledgeable shoe fit experts at our Maple Grove store location. While we do carry quite a few options in the minimalist category, Jake focused on three different styles from three different brands. Here they are…
Vibram Fivefingers Bikila
Jake says that the Bikila by Vibram Fivefingers is the truest “barefoot” shoe at our store. This shoe encourages a more natural and efficient forefoot strike. The upper is made of stretch Polymide and has TPU toe caps for protection. The Bikila offers a zero drop from heel to toe (which means no extra cushioning in the heel, mid or toe).
The WT10 Minimus Trail V2 by New Balance is designed to endure the demands of the outdoors, while providing a nearly barefoot running experience. This shoe features a mesh upper, ACTEVA™ Midsole that cushions and resists compression and a Vibram® outsole, There is a 4 millimeter drop from heel to toe (the heel has a little more cushion than the toe).
The Merrell Road Glove Dash 2 is a lightweight that has a 4 millimeter cushion with zero drop from heel to toe (4 millimeter cushion across the sole of the shoe, but from heel to toe there is no difference in cushioning). This is a great shoe to transition from a convention running shoe to this minimalist style. This shoe features mesh upper, the Merrell Bare Access 2 Sole with Vibram® Pods.
The best part of my job is that there are so many shoes…and all the time in the world. I love looking at shoes. I love talking about shoes. I love trying on shoes. I love it all. I love that I walked into our Maple Grove store and Jake was so willing to walk me around and talk about shoes with me today. If you have time, come into one of our store locations. We have a wonderful staff of Board Certified Pedothists and Shoe Fit Experts that will take time to measure your feet, talk about your interests and activities and find the best shoe for you.
***While we do carry a wide range of styles and sizes, inventory varies by store location.***