Our feet are masterpieces of incredible ingenuity, closely interconnected with all the systems of the body. The minimalist or barefoot movement has been gaining ground in recent years and has won over many followers. More than a fashion effect, the transition to minimalist footwear is more like a global and gradual reeducation of the body’s posture.
Whether for everyday activities, hiking or running, the transition to minimalism does not happen overnight. It is not as innocuous as one might think and it is important not to skip any steps. Time and patience are two key ingredients. It was only after 3 months of wearing my models in everyday activities that I ventured to put on my minimalist models for running and again gradually (half a run, half a walk) because the tension in the Achilles tendon can be strong. Our body needs time to get used to doing its natural job of cushioning.
Benefits of the zero drop
My transition began in 2013 when I bought my first pair of Vibram just before I went on a journey abroad. Contrary to popular belief, the heel is a very fragile area that is not naturally designed to absorb shock, a role filled by the forefoot. With cushioned shoes with a heel height of about 14-24 mm, we tend to hit the ground with the heel: part of the impact is absorbed by the sole but the shock wave spreads to the rest of the body. The result is a displacement of the locomotor chain, a misalignment of the spine, leading to back, hip and knee pain.
Benefits of living barefoot
Barefoot shoes encourage contact with the environment, stimulate the foot’s reflex points (7,200 nerve endings in our feet), make room for toes which were crushed and help restore a balanced posture. Toes regain their mobility, foot muscles leave the state of atrophy and the body weight is distributed more naturally. In the travel bag, these shoes, which can be folded on themselves, take up very little space. Once the conversion has been made and some freedom is regained, it becomes difficult to return to rigid and restrictive models.
Five shoes that I wear:
- Leguano’s unisex sneakers (and Leguano aktiv tennis). The development of Leguano (in reference to the iguana and the incredible adhesion provided by the microscopic hairs under its feet) was launched by Helmuth Ohlhoff, an ultra-marathoner with ethical and moral values in a small village in Germany, Sankt Augustin. These shoes are made locally and “made in Germany” in accordance with strict German environmental guidelines, at a time when the majority of brands manufacture their shoes on the other side of the planet, usually at the expense of environmental and social conditions. Today, the company has more than 200 employees. The upper part is made of a breathable microfiber mesh manufactured by the company Kunert, known for its high quality fabrics. The soft, resistant and non-slip sole is made of LIFOLIT®, a non-toxic plastic material. The material wicks moisture outwards, breathes and dries quickly. These sneakers are comfortable and can be worn like a second skin. I wear them at home. Leguano is all about the well-being of the feet: “Everyone’s feet need attention. Their condition is a real social drama that finds no echo,” says Aurélie Chevalier of the French Leguano section.
- Lems’ Womens Primal 2 Eclipse: Lems is a company in Colorado created by an American family. The Primal 2 model is 100% vegan, made of light and flexible materials, offers zero drop and leaves space to the toes, without compressing them, by marrying the natural shape of the foot. The primary objective: comfort and functionality. It is a model suitable for everyday life.
- The Vibram FiveFingers KSO: the FiveFingers hold the foot, adapt to steep paths, uneven surfaces, obstacles (roots, holes, rocks, shells, corals, stream crossings, steep slopes) while protecting the foot thanks to the hardened area of the sole. Each toe fits in its own place. These hybrid shoes are valuable travel allies because they adapt to changing terrain and dry quickly: from diving in the ocean, to jogging on hot sand to the end of the day shower where they are easy to clean. They offer a feeling of great freedom.
- The Tracker FG Womens by Vivobarefoot: they help me with keeping my feet warm during hikes in the cold weather. They are quite non-constraining for winter shoes, especially with a sole that isn’t too rigid. This is my first pair of Vivobarefoot and I have a strong preference for this brand that combines creativity, solid materials, comfort and ingenuity. Trackers are high quality leather barefoot hiking boots designed for all types of terrain with a solid sole. It is a minimalist walking shoe with a waterproof lining and a thermal protection sole.
- Vivobarefoot’s Primus Knit Womens: very comfortable, they let the foot breathe well thanks to the elastic upper fabric. Vivobarefoot is, in my opinion, a brand that has managed to combine the challenges of everyday life with a shoe that respects human physiology. The brand is constantly exploring new designs. I also discovered that it was better to choose a smaller size than I expected (35 instead of 36 in European sizes in my case). I ordered online on the website and was able to make a return to change size.
- End-of-series can be found at a decent price on the internet once you know your size (model Alexander ).
More read about minimalist shoes
“Born to run“(2009) by Christopher McDougall, a jogging addict who was banned by doctors from running after numerous injuries, relates how a Mexican tribe, the Tarahumara, run very long distances (up to 240 km) until a very old age in handmade leather sandals with no cushioning and no support for the foot.