Here’s a situation that pops up all too often. You try running barefoot and/or in minimalist shoes. You see that you’ve been encasing your feet in cushioned foot coffins since your youth and your feet have suffered. You don’t want your children to suffer the same fate, so you begin investigating the available options. Much to your surprise, the kids’ minimalist shoe market is virtually non-existent.
Merrell is on the brink of releasing their Barefoot Kids line of minimalist shoes. The release date is set for May 15th. I was lucky enough to score some for my children a few months ago to give them adequate time to test them out. My son Reese (4) has been testing a pair of Trail Gloves, and my daughter Ava (6) has been testing a pair of Trail Gloves and Pace Gloves.
Why Minimalist Shoes For Kids?
The American Podiatric Medical Association (yes, those same people that routinely bash barefoot running) recommends children use lightweight, flexible shoes. There are several companies that supply these… until kids outgrow the toddler stage. At that point, options are limited. Most parents would simply slap some raised heel, restrictive, motion control shoes that end up deforming their kids’ feet.
A good minimalist shoe will allow your child to continue walking and running with their natural gait. The shoe will provide some protection while not restricting the foot to the point of deformity. Most importantly, you will give them the freedom of not having to suffer a lifetime of reliance on cushioned, supportive footwear and orthotics.
Until we received these shoes, we had to settle for Croks. They are far from minimal, but were better than the other offerings from Payless Shoes or the Nike outlet.
Okay, so here are the shoe basics:
The shoes maintain all the positive characteristics of their big brothers and sisters. They have a zero-dropped heel, wide toe box, are lightweight, and extremely flexible. Both kids wear all three styles with and without socks, so the interior is smooth. The sole is of a different design than the adult versions, though still made by Vibram. It does not have the lugs of the others. The kids’ versions are smoother as if designed for flatter surfaces. Honestly, this sole would make an excellent road shoe if paired with an adult Trail Glove. 😉
For this, I had to rely on my kids’ reports. This is what they had to say:
Ava: “They feel like I’m not wearing shoes. It’s almost like I’m walking in the wind.”
Reese: “I like how they feel. I can run faster than mom!”
The design team made a smart decision by utilizing Velcro closures as both kids can easily take them on and off without our help.
I’m not much for making a big deal over my kids’ appearance, but these shoes look pretty sweet. The only other minimalist shoes I could find were essentially leather moccasins. I didn’t mind the look, but other parents may appreciate the stylish appearance of the Merrells.
These shoes will endure any punishment your kids can dish out before they outgrow the shoe. In the months they’ve used them, the shoes are nearly pristine. Well, aside from the perma-mud caked on them from their escapades in the muddy field behind our house…
Once they do outgrow them, the shoes will still be able to be used for our youngest son Ty (2.)
Merrell’s new barefoot line of kids shoes will provide parents with a healthy option for their kids’ feet. The shoes are comfortable, have all the qualities of a good minimalist shoe, and look good. It would not surprise me to see this shoe become insanely popular in parenting circles. I fully expect to see them on the covers of those parenting magazines in the checkout line at the grocery store.
Where to Buy
Since the shoes won’t officially be released until May 15th, I’m not sure where they will be available. I think they will be available at Merrell retailers, especially if they already carry the adult Barefoot line. Your best bet would be to ask the local retailer. They should also be available at Merrell.com.
PARENTS: please help a fellow runner and share this review with any parenting communities you frequent. Thanks!