The Best Barefoot Shoes for Every Occasion
There’s no better feeling than your bare feet against the soft ground, your toes squishing in the mud and the great connection you feel with the earth. Well at least that how it is for me. Your experience may be different.
No matter how you feel about walking barefoot, the evidence shows that we were not meant to wear the types of footwear which are commonplace today.
Our feet are were made to get us from point A to point B. Before the domestication of horses, and for many people long after, our feet have been our primary mode of transportation. We are able to walk great distances EVERY day without many of the problems associated with our feet in this modern era. So what’s wrong today?
In the grand scheme of things, footwear is a relatively recent invention. Modern footwear is almost certainly hurting your feet! Modern shoes are certainly worse for your feet than the shoes your ancestors used to wear.
For most of us, wearing shoes is just what we did from an early age.
I hear so many parents today yelling at their children to put shoes on before they go out the door. My own parents have yelled at my kids to put on shoes before they go outside. “It’s cold out, put on shoes!” “You can’t go without shoes” and other lines. It turns out you can go outside without shoes, even in cold weather, and it’s definitely healthier. We’ve also gotten away with walking into a car dealership without shoes (because we forgot to put a pair in the car) and we never bring shoes with us when we leave the house for jiujitsu practice.
Your shoes are forcing you to walk with an unnatural gait, deforming your feet (Chinese foot binding anyone?) and is most likely the cause of knee and foot pain.
The majority of people wearing shoes will experience knee and foot pain often related to the shoes they are wearing. Never knowing that they could often alleviate this pain through using appropriate footwear.
In Daniel Vitalis’s ReWild Yourself Podcast #140, a medical foot doctor describes something crazy that we’re doing to our feet. He says that people having bunion surgery are actually cutting off a natural part of their foot. The bunion is actually caused by trying to fit our feet into unnaturally narrow shoes (which are the majority of shoes on the market) and this pushes the big toe into the other toes, causing the bone to appear to protrude out the side of the toe. In fact, this is the natural position of the bone and only appears to protrude because the toe has been squashed into the wrong place. Many people opt for surgery to remove this “bunion” which is actually a natural part of their foot.
Don’t let this happen to you.
You can prevent this. You can even reverse your foot problems by slowly transitioning to the right footwear and learning to go barefoot as much as possible. Most people can do this. Please listen to this podcast and learn some of the tools and practices you can implement to support your feet.
WHAT’S THE PROBLEM WITH SHOES?
Most foot related issues and many issues with the knees and hips can be traced back to standard footwear in some way. Whether you know it or not, most adults in America have feet that aren’t anything like what nature intended for us. Most people purchase
Most people purchase shoes out of convenience, comfort or the way they look. The problem with that is most shoes will, over time, change the actual shape of your foot, leading to many of the problems below.
WHICH SHOES WOULD YOU WEAR?
Make the wrong choice and you may be setting yourself up for a lifetime of foot pain.
According to Kelly Starrett and a handful of medical studies, wearing the wrong footwear can cause knee pain, foot pain and ankle pain, much of it due to shortened heel cords and improper functioning of the foot.
Stop wearing shoes with heels and start wearing flat shoes, otherwise referred to as zero drop. Ideally, you would go most of the day without shoes, but not everyone can do that.
We’ll dig into the best barefoot shoes for you based on our trials at work, play and travel.
HIGH HEELS AREN’T JUST FOR WOMEN
We may think that high heels are only for women and men don’t have to worry about heels, at least barring the men who like to wear women’s high heeled shoes. But we would be wrong.
In the photo above you see my old pair of black leather shoes I used to wear often. My feet and calves would hurt so much after wearing those “fashionable shoes”. Look at those heels!
Men, listen up. Check out those heels on your leather dress shoes and the more traditional pairs you have in your closet. Yes, most men’s shoes have quite a significant heel on them. In fact, check out the heels on the running and athletic shoes you have in your gym bag.
Men and women’s athletic shoes may not appear to have heels in the same obvious way that dress shoes do, but most athletic shoes come with a huge heel cushion, causing the heel to be higher than the toes. Take a look at these athletic shoes and notice the difference between the height of the heel and the toe. You’ll notice that the heel cushion causes the toe to be sloped down.
Even these minimalist looking men’s dress shoes have a much higher heel than the toe, and trust us, there’s way better options that looks just as good, or better, without the heel.
While we may not think of men wearing high heels, in fact, many of us men ARE wearing high heels. Like it or not, most of the shoes we all wear do have heels, in that the heel of our foot is much higher than our toe.
Picture from “Why Shoes Make “Normal” Gait Impossible”
When we stand on the ground barefoot, which is how our bodies were designed to operate, our whole body should be perpendicular to the floor. Does that happen when we wear shoes with heels?
Heels throw our body completely out of alignment, and because of that, our body needs to compensate. That actually alters our normal center of gravity and stresses our body while completely altering the way we walk.
What’s Wrong with Heel Cushions
Heels in dress shoes may be fashionable but are likely easy to do away with, for men. But what about the heel cushion in athletic footwear. That heel cushion is what causes the heel to be higher than the toe, but it also cushions the heel during the impact of a run, jump or lift. But the heel cushion is probably causing more people to strike the ground with their heel, a poor mechanical compensation. Striking with the heel on a walk or run is not how the body was designed. Heel cushions are not only making it easier to heel strike, but may be casuing it. This is not good news because heel striking is bad enough and a high heel can cause issues in our legs, feet and knees.
Dr. Kelly Starrett, a physical therapist, CrossFit gym owner, and advocate for wearing flat shoes makes the point that the time we spend in shoes with significant heels causes the tissues in the lower leg to shorten and form into states of poor mobility. He likens shoes with heels, including athletic shoes to Chinese foot binding.
It all adds up. We are wearing these heels essentially from birth, our heel chords shorten and never receive the range of motion in normal daily activity that they should. It’s like wearing a cast on your foot. Then, when we play a sport or go for a run, we ask these tissues to handle a greater stress and range of motion than they have been adapted to and this can cause pain and injury.
A 2014 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise considered the common practices of runners in regards to heel-raised footwear and found that those wearing cushioned heel running shoes with a heel offset of 10mm above the toe caused increased stress to the Achilles. A 6-10mm offset in heel height is common in most athletic shoes.
While cushioning in running, work and dress shoes is a great idea and can protect the foot from the various hard surfaces we stride over each day, the raised heel is something that we think needs to go away.
We at PrimalHacker think everyone should wear the minimum drop shoe they can get away with whether engaged in an athletic activity or working all day. We like to wear zero drop shoes to both work and the gym.
What Does Zero Drop Mean?
Zero drop simply is the measure of the distance of the heel off the ground versus the ball of the foot off the ground. On decent shoes, you will find the drop differential listed in the sales literature. For example, looking up a pair of Innov8 shoes on Amazon tells me that some have 0mm drop and some have 4mm drop. Most shoes list the differential in millimeters (mm). Get a zero drop shoe or as close to it as you can.
FOOT RELATED ISSUES
Shortened Heel Chords and Achilles Tendinitis
A huge issue that comes from wearing shoes with a heel is the shortening of your own heel chords and calf muscles. This moves the center of your mass forward over your toes instead of over the heels where it is supposed to be.
We were born with heels that are meant to be on the ground. As we said above, almost all traditional shoes have a raised heel whether it looks like it or not. When we elevate our heels, our heel cords start to shorten which can lead to many issues down the road, not to mention the increased risk of injury.
Achilles Tendinitis is one of the common issues and can even cause problems to people that transition too quickly to barefoot running. Your Achilles allows you to run on your forefoot or midfoot and absorbs the landing forces of each stride. If you’re used to running in a traditional trainer with a built-up heel platform, the sudden difference in workload can be too much for a tendon that’s been babied by modern running technology.
Plantar Fasciitis and Arch Issues
Plantar Fasciitis is caused by inflammation, tearing and stretching of the plantar fascia, hence the name. The plantar fascia is the band of connective tissue that goes from the ball of your foot to the heel.
I don’t know how many people I have talked to that belive the NEED arch supports in their shoes. Just to let you know, you were born with arch support. The problem is that the first time you put on shoes that do the supporting for your foot is being weakened and even causing it damage
Narrowing of the Foot and Bunions
“What a bunion truly represents is a progressive dislocation of the big toe joint caused by footwear.” – Dr. Ray McClanahan
Bunions are when your big toe no longer lines up in a straight line with your first metatarsal. They are not a growth that needs to be removed. Almost all traditional footwear available hold your foot in that position so it comes as no surprise that so many people have these types of issues. Bunions occur when your footwear pushes your big toe towards the second toe, which takes part of the big toe off of where it should be bending on the first metatarsal and gives the appearance of something growing on the outside of the foot.
Let me make this perfectly clear, there is nothing growing there. Ther isn’t extra bone, a calcium deposit or anything that shouldn’t be there. That is just your bone! The reason it sticks out like that is that your big toe has been pushed WAY to far out of alignment.
So for anyone thinking about getting an operation to remove your bunions, PLEASE DON’T! You will be removing part of your actual bone and there are ways to fix it without surgery.
From your feet all the way up to your neck, many issues stem from the shoes we wear. It’s quite overwhelming how many issues can be related to footwear.
While all of the items above are all issues with the foot, shoes can also cause many other problems in your legs, hips, back and even neck. One study on patients with osteoarthritis in the knees even showed that walking barefoot significantly decreases the load on your knees and hips. It also showed that:
“Peak joint loads at the hips and knees significantly decreased during barefoot walking, with an 11.9% reduction noted in the knee adduction moment. Stride, cadence, and range of motion at the lower extremity joints also changed significantly, but these changes could not explain the reduction in the peak joint loads.”
HOW TO FIX MANY ISSUES RELATED TO FOOTWEAR
Spend Time Barefoot
The first thing you should do to correct and reduce your chances of problems down the road is to start spending as much time as possible barefoot. The easiest place to start is in your home. Take your shoes off when you walk in the door and keep them off. Also, spend some time walking around outdoors barefoot on the grass on the beach. Once your feet start to get used to this you can progressively introduce different types of terrain into your walks.
Besides being barefoot as much as possible, transitioning to barefoot or minimalist type shoes is one of the best things you can do to start fixing these issues. There are many different types of minimalist shoes available so we decided to try out quite a few of them to find out what the best options are.
Most of these shoes aren’t available at normal stores so you may have to order them online. If you do decide to continue shopping at normal brick and mortar shoe or department stores, here are some tips to get the best shoes possible.
- Heel– Get shoes with the smallest heel as possible. You may have to do some research on your shoe to find out how close to zero drop they are. 0mm-4mm drop is what you are shooting for.
- Toe– Place your shoes on a flat surface and make sure that the toe of the shoe is flat on the surface, not raised like the picture above. This is common with many athletic shoes.
- Toe Width– The best way to find a shoe with enough room for your toe when buying from a store is to remove the sock liner and stand on it. That’s the thin removable insole in many shoes. When standing on it, make sure that you can spread your toes without them going off the liner.
One of the best ways that I have found to correct bunions and many other foot related issues is by using a product created by Dr. Ray McClanahan called Correct Toes, which are silicone toe spacers.
Using these spacers, Dr. McClanahan treats many different running injuries along with foot conditions like plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, heel spurs, bunions along with other things.
The way those toes look with the spacers in them are much closer to the way our feet are supposed to look. Instead of the toes close together and in many cases, pinched together, they should be spread. The spread of the toes gives us much greater balance and a better stride when walking.
The only negative to this product is in my opinion, the price. For what it is, I think $65 is a little overpriced.
ARE THERE BAREFOOT SHOES AVAILABLE?
Normal shoes make our feet weak and can cause a host of foot problems.
I learned about barefoot shoes from Daniel Vitalis on his ReWild Yourself podcast. I like Daniel and I really trust his opinion when it comes to gear. He’s really put it to the test.
Chris and I met him at the Bulletproof Conference, and he’s the real deal.
After checking out barefoot shoes online, Chris and I decided to try out the Vivo Barefoot shoe first. And low and behold a 60% off sale was happening, and the ad got me to click through to the site. They had shoes from 20-60% off and we decided to make the leap and give these a try.
The rest is history. We spent over $1000 on barefoot shoes and tried them in the woods, in the coporate office, and walking around town. We even wore some to the Spartan Race. What you’ll find below is an updated version of our shoe trials. After tyring to many shoes, Some of the shoes companies have now given to us some shoes to try out. We only recommend shoes we liked.
I walked 30 miles in the Prio XeroShoes and 22 miles in the Z-Trail XeroShoe sandals in just 4 days. All over Boston, NYC, and Walden Woods. These shoes and sandals never let me down. My feet were happy and I felt great. These have become my absolute favorite shoes!
Our favorite barefoot shoe for work, if you’re looking for something both traditional, stylish and very unique is handmade, bespoke, leather shoes from Primetrotter. Primetrotter made a pair of shoes for both Chris and me over the winter.
We measured our feet.
Traced them on paper.
Chose the leather color and style we liked best.
We then sent all this over to Primetrotter along with any instructions for unique styling on the shoes.
Thaddeus ordered the bespoke boots and asked for a wingtip style to be added to the boots.
What came back to use was simply amazing!
First, the package, shipped over from Greece was really neat.
Next, the box they came in was beautiful
The shoes themselves were so light and smelled of fresh leather
and they fit like Butter
You can use code PrimalHacker for money off your own unique order. Be sure to just send them an email or use comments to tell them the code and they will take 5% off your order.
We just got you guys a discount on these shoes! – PRIMALVB with get you 10% off your next order!
VivoBarefoot’s goal is to allow you to reconnect. Reconnect your feet to the world rather than keeping them insulated from any sensation of the ground. And reconnecting you to your childhood, where you ran barefoot outdoors.
As a sustainability professional, I look for companies that are eliminating toxic chemicals in the products I buy and sourcing materials in a way that enhances nature.
Vivo claims to use local and recycled materials whenever possible. They also use leather from wild roaming cattle and sustainably tanned hides to minimize water and chemical use.
Importantly, they claim to make a durable shoe. This is super important for us. I once bought some Tony Hawk flat skate shoes from Kohls for $15 after Kohls usual and insane discounts added in. They lasted one season. I want a nice pair of shoes to last many years. Vivo claims they intend to make durable shoes that get better through use and make you love them more the more you wear them. Sounds awesome.
Vivobarefoot shoes are made wide and flexible with a thin sole vs standard cushioned soles with narrow and stiff architecture. These shoes are made to let your feet be feet. Check out this really great graphic on shoe shaped shoes vs foot shaped shoes on foot, knee and overall health.
Check out our review of the Vivos and other minimalist shoes below.
OUR 6 MONTH TRIAL
I have an over 40-mile hiking trail that runs along the edge of my property so I’m always either on the trail or just out in the woods.
I really wanted a hiking book that I could wear year round and also more of a trail running shoe. I decided to get the Tracker FG and the Primus FG.
“I’m going to put these to the test during trail runs on the wooded trail and hiking about my property.”
Will they hold up to the rugged use?
I hope so because they aren’t cheap.
One thing to mention is a little difference in sizing. I normally wear a 11 or 11.5 depending on the shoe. Since I can fit most size 11 shoes comfortably and these shoes supposably are a little big since they’re minimalist shoes, I figured a size 11 would be perfect. The Primus Trail FG fit great but the Trackers were real tight. Hoping that the leather just needed a little loosening up I took them for a hike. I even tried to get the leather a little wet.
That didn’t work so I decided to contact their customer service. Since I had worn them outside I knew that I wouldn’t be able to send them back, but I did want another pair so I asked them if I could get the same price that I bought them for( I got them during a really good sale). Even though I explained to them about the size difference and that another size 11 fit great they would not give me the same deal AT ALL. No discount what-so-ever. Their customer service people seemed not to care at all.
I still wear them but they are super tight so can’t be worn with socks which sucks for the winter time.
Primus Trail FG
I quickly learned that the Primus Trail FG had horrible traction on anything but dry, firm ground. Even the dew from the morning made running in these a little dangerous. These have become my normal everyday shoes when I am going out places and don’t want to wear the Vibram 5 fingers. I’d recommend these to anyone looking to start a more barefoot lifestyle. They even come with removable insoles that you can use if your feet aren’t used to minimal padding. I still use these insoles if I have to run on gravel.
The same goes for the Tracker FG in regards to the traction issue, which really bummed me out since I was wanting to use them for hiking. I still use them but I have to be very careful when walking on slicker ground. Especially when I am going up or down hills.
Just for clarification, the FG stands for firm ground and the SG for soft ground. Even knowing that I assumed that since they were for trail running that they would be good when the ground was just damp for the morning dew.
Not so, AT ALL!
Another thing that I love about these is the lack of noise as I move through the woods. I feel like I am walking with moccasins.
Even with the traction and sizing issues, I still love these boots A LOT! They are waterproof and if I could wear thick socks with them, they would keep my feet very warm during the winter. Hopefully, I can catch them on sale again so I can get a bigger size or maybe they’ll come out with a version of these with better traction.
Primus Trail SG
The Primus Trail SG has much better treads and grips the ground much better.
I almost feel like I am running in cleats when I have these on.
The only problem I found with them is that I had to really break them in before they were comfortable. When I first got them I went out for a short 1.5 mile trail run just to break them in. After just a few minutes on the trail, I had 3 raw spots on my feet and had to take them off and walk barefoot just to get back. I normally don’t wear socks with minimalist shoes so you may be able to minimize this by wearing them.
Use CODE PRIMALVB for a discount.
Carets is a strange name for shoes. We met Mountain, the owner of Carets, at Paleo FX 2018. He hooked us up with a pair of barefoot dress shoes.
The packaging blew us away. The attention to detail and feel of luxury with these shoes was incredible.
From the packaging:
To the little details like the shoe inserts, the thank you note and the individual cloth wrapped shoe.
We love the Primal wording on the bottom
Carets looks like they have a heel, for the dressy and stylish look we’re all used to, but they don’t actually have a heel and are true zero drop shoes.
Carets even allows you to return the shoes after 365 days if they don’t fit properly. And they offer a service to replace the soles ao you don’t need to buy yet another pair of shoes and break them in.
These shoes fit wonderfully. If you’re in need of a barefoot dressy shoe, here you go.
The Vibram 5 Fingers are probably my favorite everyday shoe. I ended up buying the V-Trail since it had the best soles for trail running. Since wearing them I have noticed that my feet have slowly started to regain the look of a healthy foot. My toes have started to spread, the use and range of motion of my toes have seen great improvement. I really love trail running with these because the separate toes allow me to grip hills that I am climbing and really feel the surface underneath my feet.
I wear these shoes almost daily for running, hiking working outside or just around town and when they are clean still look brand new. These shoes are built to last and I have no problem believing that they will last for years to come.
The only issue I had with these shoes is that it can take a little bit of time to get them on. When I first started wearing them it could be a little frustrating trying to get my toes into the right places, especially when I was in a hurry to get out the door. After about a month though my toes started finding the right spot all on their own.
The EarthRunners sandals are a minimalist running sandal that features a copper plug on the bottom that allows you to stay grounded to the earth without being barefoot.
I ordered the Circadian model because of the reported all weather traction that allowed you to run on any terrain. I really love the feel of running in these sandals, that is until they get wet. Once they are wet my feet slide around in them and running is not very comfortable.
I’ve stopped using these for running and use them mainly to take walks. They feel great and I get the benefit of grounding while being almost barefoot.
Thaddeus and I both got these sandals with the Biohacked subscription box from Dave Asprey. The sandals have a “plug” in the bottom of them that grounds you similar to the EarthRunners. The difference is that this plug is much bigger and you can really feel it when walking on uneven or hard ground.
When walking on soft, even ground they feel great.. Until I step on a rock or stick which shoves the plug up into the bottom of my foot. It doesn’t hurt but wouldn’t be comfortable to walk on for long periods of time.
My favorite shoes are the Vibram 5 Fingers and the VivoBarefoot Primus Trail FG. These are the two shoes that you will find me in most days and I love them both. I also really love the feel and look of the Tracker FG. Hopefully, I can get a larger pair during a good sale soon. It would also be great if they started to make these with the SG sole Use CODE PRIMAL123 for a discount
If I’m wanting to wear a sandal, then the EarthRunners are definitely my goto. While I like flip-flops, the Pluggz are just too uncomfortable to be worn for long periods of time for me.
Primus, Gobi, Tracker FG, SAAMI LITE
I hike through the snow in Minnesota daily with my dog on plowed paths and across snowy soccer fields. I tested the snow, ice, and waterproof capabilities, warmth, and comfort of the SAAMI LITE. First of all, these are very comfortable shoes. Vivo does not always offer half sizes. So no 9.5 or 10.5 and notes to size down if you are between sizes. I found this to be exactly the opposite. I wear size 10, so bought size 10. They are totally too small. My feet rub a bit at the top of all the shoes I bought and I would suggest sizing up! After a full winter of wearing the boots, they held up perfectly, but I found them lacking. For a MN winter, they were a bit chilly though. I’d like some additional insulation in these for a true winter boot. But for getting around town and short walks they were fine. I also found that the soles were not very grippy. Ice and snow caused me many slips and near spills. I’d definitely like to see better tread on a winter boot. Vivo Barefoot told me that the wax just had to wear off and they would be grippier, but I did not find that to be the case. Overall, not warm enough and slippery tread makes these a non ideal boot for winter in the north.
Gobi II on my feet in a suit. 2nd photo Gobi II on top, common dress shoe below.
I also picked up a pair of the GOBI IIs for travel. I travel 2 weeks every single month through various airports and locales. I wanted to see how the GOBI’s stack up to travel, city walking, presentations and office work. Will anyone notice? Will they be comfortable?
I wore these for both my TEDx talk and a few key presentations at customers facilities. There were super comfortable, able to be worn for multi mile hikes in San Francisco and Sacremento. They looked super great with my sports jacket and also with jeans on the TEDx stage. For the business traveler who wants a leather shoe, these fit the bill, are stylish and can pair with most anything.
I’ll definitely use these whenever I need a leather dress shoe, which hopefully isn’t too often these days.
The Vivo Primus were my go to shoes for getting around town and wearing to work when I didn’t need to look dressy. These are fun shoes. I bought the blue version. I love the look, I love the feel and I have used them for everything from presentations, to customer meetings to getting around town to hiking. Word of warning, they do not have the best traction. Vivo told me that there is a wax on the bottom of the shoe that will wear off soon and give me more traction. I’ve worn these for months and they are ideal for city and town, but take them on a hike in the dirt and any sort of downhill slope had me scrambling on my butt because of the limited traction. Still, I’ll continue to use these for hiking when traveling because they are just so easy to pack, extremely light weight and I love the look and feel.
I went hiking in the Bay Area in June this year. We hiked in Redwood City Park and I slipped down the steep dirt path all the way to the bottom. I wasn’t alone though, my hiking partners wearing Earth Runners had the same issue. The only shoe I’ve been able to hike in without slipping are the VivoBarefoot Trackers and the Vibram 5 FIngers hiking shoe. Nevertheless, I love the look and feel of these shoes. They are likely the most comfortable shoe I’ve ever worn and I will wear them everywhere.
Again, try code PRIMAL123 for a discount on your own
I bring the Eartrunners with me whenever I travel so I can ground myself to the earth after a flight. I wear them in the summer at home when I go for walks. I’ve found it hard to use these shoes actually. I love the feel of the sandal and the grounding circle at the bottom. I totally use them at home whenever I’m out walking, but my theory of taking them with me when I travel hasn’t born fruit. I typically just go barefoot when I land and whenever possible during the day, so these don’t actually get used for travel. For use at home, I take these on walks with the dog and when I go to shoot archery.
I love the feel of the sandal and the grounding circle at the bottom. I totally use them at home whenever I’m out walking, but my theory of taking them with me when I travel hasn’t born fruit. I typically just go barefoot when I land and whenever possible during the day, so these don’t actually get used for travel.
For use at home on walks to get in some grounding, they are ideal. If you were someone who was embarrassed to go barefoot when traveling or just can’t get barefoot, these would be perfect to bring and are so light and compact, I put them in my carry on without evening noticing they are there. Usually I just throw them on when I’m heading out to the farmer’s market or running to the store and on my walks with the dog. I’ll still travel with them in case I decide to do some hiking and can’t go barefoot due to the terrain.
I use the Innov8s when I go to primal and biohacking conferences. In other words, non-work events. They totally stand out, meaning more people come talk to me, many times just to ask about my shoes.
They are super comfortable and allow me to engage in fitness competitions and impromptu workouts. These things actually happen at most non-work conferences I attend. Why is it that attending a work conference the energy is low and depressed, people are bored and just want to get home, yet at conferences I attend in the primal and biohacking space, people are hugging, happy, excited and never want to leave. All conferences should be like this. I absolutely love these shoes. The color alone makes them awesome. They have more cushion and support than other barefoot shoes I own and are perfect for fitness. I hope to find another pair when these bite the dust.
I use the Vibram 5 Fingers to cut the grass every single week and wear them around the house too. I’m still not enamored by the look of these and am too embarrassed to wear them traveling. My feet also don’t fit these properly. The pinky toe on both my feet tucks under, probably a result of wearing too narrow shoes my whole life. Meaning that I can’t even put the Vibram’s on! I literally have to spend 3 minutes manipulating my pinky toe with my hands to get it into the pinky toe of the Vibrams.
I’m sure this is a classic example of what shoes are doing to our feet!.
Once I get my feet into the Vibrams, they feel amazing. I think they may even be helping to spread my toes out in a more natural position and might even be correcting this pinky toe issue I have. I’ll wear them around home as much as I can stand in hopes to fixing my foot. They are damn comfortable. And Yet, I don’t think they’ll fly at work.
The Lems shoes look like solid leather corporate footwear. I fit right in with the standard corporate uniform wearing shleps at work. Even though these are barefoot, I really don’t like the style. They feel great and definitely beat a standard dress shoe, but look too much like a standard dress shoe for me. They scream boring. If this is the type of shoe you need to fit in, they do the job wonderfully. But I’m not in love with the style, they aren’t edgy enough for me and I don’t use them often because of that. I guess if I were following the love it or donate it philosophy of minimalism these would already be at the thrift store.
I received a pair of Plugzz from a quarterly Biohacking box from Biohacked. I have used them a few times while camping. They are definitely comfortable. If you wear flip flops, definitely grab a pair. I do not like wearing flip flops and do not like how I have to keep gripping with my toes when I walk. It seems unnatural. I’ll keep them around for when I need to shower while camping or after pool use, but likely will stick with my Earth Runners because I enjoy the fit. Earth Runners have a strap around my heel which keeps them in place without my toes needing to grip the shoes. They can also be uncomfortable when the plug is poking you in the foot.
Shoes purchased – VivoBarefoot SAAMI LITE and GOBI II, Primus and Hikers. Lems shoe. Vibram 5 fingers hiking shoe, Earth Runner sandals.
OTHER ZERO DROP SHOES TRIED
We liked these too.
Primetrotter (Code Primalhacker)
Vivo Barefoot Primus (code PRIMALVB)
HOW TO TRANSITION
Don’t go cold turkey. Well, you can, and I did, but I can’t suggest you do that in case you get hurt. In fact, just take it slow. Before you go out and buy a few pairs of zero drop shoes, spend more and more time each day barefoot. This will build up muscles you haven’t used in years and begin to strengthen the tendons and ligaments that have to take on supporting your body where your neoprene cushion in the shoe used to do it.
Go barefoot as much as possible at home. Take your walks, mow your lawn and spend your weekends shoeless or using the most minimal shoes or sandals you can find. I like to take my walks and mow my lawn in a pair of Teva like sandals. I also take my shoes off at work and don’t put them back on until I have to move out of my office area, like to use the restroom or visit a colleague.
Go out and buy a pair of 4mm drop shoes, or even a zero drop shoe and begin taking your walks and working in the zero drop shoe.
As your feet become accustomed to this, you can transition to zero drop athletic and dress shoes full time. We have found Innov8, Lems, Soloman, and Nike make some great zero drop shoes of high quality. And of course you can always Old School it in some Chuck Taylors or Vans, in fact, many powerlifters swear by these as their favorite lifting shoes. We have no relationships with any of those companies, we simply find those shoes work well. You can check out the Strong First blog for complete details on wearing Chuck Taylors for all your lifting needs.
Remember, your feet have been stuck in a compromised position for years. You aren’t going to switch to zero drop overnight and expect to be pain free. As you spend more time barefoot or in zero drop footwear, you will be using muscles in your ankles and feet that haven’t been used since you were a kid.
Take it slow and you can make the transition without injury and set yourself up for healthier ankles, feet and Achilles for the foreseeable future.
Don’t forget to checkout our free ebook, “Biohacking 101” to get more tips to increase you performance, health and energy!