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How to Choose the Right Minimalist Shoe

Posted by on Feb 13, 2011 | One Comment

I get a lot of requests for minimalist shoe recommendations.  I always approach these requests with trepidation.  Why?  We’re all individuals.  I can give you some advice on the appropriate shoe, but ultimately you have to experiment to find what works best for you.

I recommend everyone use the following method to determine your ideal minimalist shoe.  Note- this is the plan I use.  I will always prefer to be barefoot and only use this method when selecting shoes for conditions that are not favorable to barefoot running.  I view shoes as tools, and this process helps find the appropriate tool for the job.

Step one- Determine your non-negotiables. What shoe features do you absolutely need?  For me, the following qualities have to be present:

  • Zero-drop or near-zero drop heel,
  • Toe box wide enough to allow toe splay, shoe big enough so toes do not touch front of shoe.

These qualities are preferences, but not necessarily needed:

  • Lightweight,
  • Flexible sole,
  • Adequate ventilation,
  • Sockless liner.

These qualities are things I like, but can easily do without:

  • Easy to slip on and off,
  • Easy to adjust lacing,
  • Minimal toe spring

Every person will have their own non-negotiables.  Through experimentation, you will find what you can and cannot tolerate.  Once you determine this, you can eliminate all shoes that do not fit your ideal.

Step Two: Determine how you will use the shoes. Are you running roads?  Trails?  Long distances?  In the rain or snow?  Some ideal shoes simply won’t work for some tasks.  This is the step that allows you to choose the right tool for the job.  Consider issues such as traction, ground feel,  insulation, and ventilation.  Eliminate all those that do not fit the task.

Step Three: Try all the shoes left over from the previous steps. Your feet are unique.  Some shoes will match all criteria, but the fit won’t be quite right.  Others will fit perfectly.  The only way to do this is to test the shoes.  Trying them in a store will be helpful, but testing them in actual conditions is the ideal.  How do you accomplish this?  Befriend shoe store employees. 🙂  Or just accumulate a lot of friends with the same size feet that test minimalist shoes.

Shoe reviews can be useful for the first two steps.  Us reviewers are pretty adept at describing any given shoe’s characteristics.  This will give you a great idea of which shoes you can eliminate.  However, that third step is your responsibility.  Nobody can pick the right shoe for you.

Speaking of reviewers, it is handy to know some of the prominent minimalist shoe reviewers.  Each of the following reviewers has a slightly different preference.  When perusing reviews, that variety can be a great resource to narrow the field.  These are some of the reviewers I trust:


I want to take a moment to publicly thank the team that has been working to bring you Barefoot Running University.  While I treat this like my personal blog, there are several people working behind the scenes to make this happen.  In the near future, I will introduce you to the entire BRU team.

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1 Comment

  1. Tweets that mention Barefoot Running University » How to Choose the Right Minimalist Shoe --
    February 14, 2011

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Marko Roblek, Jason Robillard. Jason Robillard said: RT @barefootjason How to Choose the Right Minimalist Shoe […]