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Minimalist Shoe Purchasing Habit Survey

Posted by on Jan 17, 2012 | 17 Comments

[ Edit- Thanks to all those that replied!  I received enough responses, so I’m taking down the link.]

The entire running industry is in a state of flux between the old paradigm of motion-control, raised heel shoes that promote bad form and minimalist “barefoot” shoes that promote better form.  Every element of the industry, from manufacturers to retail stores, are beginning to feel this change.  I think we’re in an excellent position to influence this change by promoting barefoot running as a means of learning better form.

One of my goals is to understand how we (the barefoot and minimalist shoe community) are making choices about where we buy our shoes.  I plan to use this information to promote the spreading of barefoot and minimalist shoe education, especially at the local retail level.  For those that would like to participate, I created a short survey to measure our habits.  The survey is intended for runners that purchase minimalist shoes.  I’d appreciate anyone that would like to complete the survey.  I won’t ask for your personal information, it’s anonymous.

I’ll need about 100 responses.  If you’d like to take the survey, click the link below.  If the link does not work, I’ve reached the maximum number of responses.


Thanks a ton!





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  1. Erik
    January 18, 2012

    Hey Jason,
    Just to give you a little more data, here’s been my experience in St. Paul & Roseville (a first-tier suburb just outside my neighborhood). REI is OK, but has a very limited selection. Can’t speak to their staff because I was just browsing and didn’t try anything on. A chain called Shulman’s had a very informed salesperson who was wearing Vibrams with socks. I went there to get my brother some minimal shoes. They stocked the Vibrams and Merrells. The Patagonia store also had a few minimal casual models. The sales staff didn’t seem to be particularly knowledgeable. I got a response from a barefoot blog I wrote for a friend’s ad agency in Milwaukee from a new minimalist shoe store there. So it seems like minimalist stores are starting to pop up in less likely places, like here in the Midwest. I would think it’s just a matter of time before one opens here in the Twins.

    • Ken Bob Saxton
      January 22, 2012

      Erik and others near Minneapolis,

      Warning: blatant plug for my book, and a barefoot friendly running store…

      You have been warned… Continue at your own risk!

      Roy and I had the opportunity to give a presentation of our book, “Barefoot Running Step by Step” at:
      Gear Running Store
      4406 France Ave S
      Edina, MN 55410

      Much like The Born to Run store in Washington, they are exclusively minimalist footwear, and running technique oriented.

      However, they did try to get some of the more traditional running shoe brands to carry, but maybe I shouldn’t say any more, so I’ll let you ask the owners about that…

      Anyway, besides that they welcomed us, and even gave us wine and snacks while there, I highly recommend them for advice, and/or footwear (despite that I’m often referred to as a “purist”, I certainly wore footwear when I lived in and ran outside in the winter in northern Michigan).

  2. Tk
    January 17, 2012

    Love reading the responses as I on the other side of the fence as a retailer. While I rarely work the sales floor, I love when the accountant that’s been moonlighting as a barefoot expert comes in and proclaims to know everything about a product based on thier “research”. Little do they know the “idiot salesperson” actually has a masters degree in kinesiology, and has dedicated years to leading everything about biomechanics. This plays out most days in our stores, and these new “experts” are the source of much back room laughter.

    Not all accountants are smug idiots, and not all sales people are clueless. Some stores do suck, and some do not. : )
    Jason, keep up the good work, and let me know if you need retail data.

    BTW…we kill it with minimal!!!

  3. .:Ash:.
    January 17, 2012

    This has been on my mind today, too. I went into a local running store, because I wanted a short sleeve shirt for this afternoon’s run. I thought, “Sure, it’ll be more expensive. But, I want to support the running stores around here. And, I need a shirt!”

    So, I walk in and there are primarily three brands of clothing from which to choose, all from shoe manufacturers that have yet to demonstrate any respect for promoting proper form. Then I hear the salespeople talking to a customer about pronation, etc. And, I just leave.

    The higher prices aren’t worth it if the retailer doesn’t want to try to acknowledge that the barefoot/minimalish philosophy is important to running, too. Perhaps I’m too idealistic when it comes to this, though.

  4. Liz
    January 17, 2012

    Given that the social experience of trying/buying minimalist shoes in local stores that are woefully under-stocked (especially for women’s shoes) and staffed by clueless personnel is SO abysmal, I’m totally on the side of price and convenience. Give me an online source that ships free (in BOTH directions) and – BONUS – has discount codes… no contest.

    That said, I enjoy shopping locally for many things and go out of my way to do so. But it would take a HUGE change for me to go that way on running shoes – minimalist or otherwise.

    Except in the case of boutique manufacturers (craftsmen), running shoes are a commodity – price and convenience will always win, unless it comes bundled with a value-added experience.

  5. Kimberly Nasief-Westergren
    January 17, 2012

    I am conducting my own research that I’ll share with you. I’m taking hidden cameras into stores that sell the minimalist shoes to understand how well / poorly sales people can explain the product differentiation. My first one was a doozy (sales guy zips fly)…soon to be posted…

    • Kimberly Nasief-Westergren
      January 17, 2012

      Done, by the way! Thank you.

      • Dan
        January 19, 2012

        You do realize that video taping people secretly is somewhat disrespectful. And if you happened to do it to me, and I found out about it, you would be the recipient of a nice law suit.

  6. briderdt (David)
    January 17, 2012

    I answered the questions in the survey as if it were talking to me, which is going to give a whole different set of answers if I were answering for who I thought might be that “C” group of people out looking for minimal shoes. For myself, I do most of my own research online (through blogs like this one), and pretty much only go to the stores to actually try on the shoes. I’ve learned to basically ignore anything the sales people have to say. They still try to step in anyway, and a lot of the time I just give them that smirk (“yeah, right, whatever, just go get the shoes I asked for”) and go about my business.

  7. Rob
    January 17, 2012

    We also didnt have a link for sites like and I know, probably more of a niche…

  8. Flint
    January 17, 2012

    Done, and done 🙂

  9. emily
    January 17, 2012

    I’m is a state of flux right now. Yesterday I went to our local running store to see what they have (Merrell’s & New Balance). The guy seemed to think I had to use the shoes to ease into barefoot running. I didn’t tell him that I already had been running barefoot, both on the TM and actually outside three times when we had the weather to do it). The only reason I’d want a pair is so I can run outside and keep my toes warm. I have Raynaud’s which adds another level of complicated to me running outside.

    When I find my size for barefoot/minimalist shoes, is there some sort of rule? My regular shoes are a 6 wide. My running shoes are 9 1/2 wide! My first pair was 8 1/2 wide but after my first 5+ run in the TM, my 2nd to littlest toes on both feet bruised, so when I went for my next pair, they upped me another size. I guess I ought to just try them on and see how they feel.

    Thanks for letting me ramble.

    • Erik
      January 18, 2012

      If you want really minimal minimalist shoes, I would recommend the Soft Star Moc3s. That’s what I use when it gets too cold to barefoot. The sole is only 2mm. Unfortunately you can only order online, so no guarantee you’ll get the size right the first time off, but I found their sizes to be true to the standard.

      • emily
        January 18, 2012


  10. Jimmy
    January 17, 2012

    Having an educated sales staff is crucial. There are two retail stores in my area that carry VFF’s and the sales staff at both are completely clueless. It’s not their fault, the barefoot shoe movement goes against everything they’ve been taught previously, but we’re at a point now where the general public is starting to notice barefoot/minimalist shoes and wants to try them out. Without adequate information they will end up injuring themselves and then blaming the shoes and giving up.

  11. Adam
    January 17, 2012

    You should have had another question:

    Would you be more likely to buy from a local independent retailer if they actually had a variety of minimalist shoes to try?

    My problem with local stores is that each store that I have found that carries at most 2 different styles of minimalist shoes, so it is hard to get a better feel for what is out there. And in total I have only found 3 brands in my local market: Vibram FiveFingers, Merrell Barefoot line, and New Balance Minimus line. If I had a store like Two Rivers Treads I would definitely be more likely to buy locally.

  12. Wiglaf
    January 17, 2012

    Don’t underestimate the need for minimalist shoes for other activities! Having dress casual minimalist shoes for work does a couple things for me:
    1. helps keep my feet stretched out because of flexible sole (they can get sore and stiff otherwise)
    2. helps keep the achilles and soleus used to non heel walking, sitting etc. (stretched out)
    3. keeps my feet from getting hot. Unless it’s below 10, or cold and I’m spending a lot of time standing out of doors, I don’t need insulation.