One of the biggest issues facing a barefoot runner has nothing to do with running. Ironically, the issue stems from trying to find the perfect shoe.
When you begin to run barefoot your body adapts and as a result balks at shoes you see every day. The heel in the typical shoes you find — especially for women — causes a shortening of the muscles and tendons in your calf, which makes the transition back to barefoot running particularly uncomfortable. As you run barefoot, your feet widen, meaning the size of the toe-box in a standard shoe is too constricting. Increased stack height makes you feel unstable. Normal shoes hurt!
Many minimalist shoe manufacturers are seeing this issue and have started to address it, with the growing trend to ‘lifestyle’ shoes; shoes that would not look out of place in an office environment. For women, these shoes are so feminine; they wouldn’t look out of place at a party.
Below is a list of the most widely available shoes in the ‘minimal lifestyle’ category.
VIVOBarefoot has one of the widest selections of ‘lifestyle’ shoes. VIVOBarefoot only manufacturers minimal shoes, so you are guaranteed that they aren’t going to cause you any transition issues. For the men, the Dharma, Oak and Ra, all come in various leather finishes that wouldn’t look out of place in an office. For the women, their Mary-Jane’s and Kali’s would make a good smarter alternative. They also do a selection of boots that would look good during the winter months.
Along with VIVOBarefoot, Merrell has a huge range of “lifestyle” minimal shoes and their range is growing with every season. For the Men, the Edge and the Slant wouldn’t look out of place in a more formal setting. The women’s shoes have multiple colour options. The Delight, Spirit and the Wonder Glove are great casual alternatives. The Pure Glove is a fantastic ‘Mary-Jane’ shoe that can handle pretty much anything you throw at it. My two-year old pair of Pure Gloves are still my ‘casual-smart’ go-to shoe. They handle surprisingly well on trail; I have a very adventurous boy who loves to surprise me by going off the beaten track – quickly!
New Balance has extended its Minimus range into Walking/Lifestyle shoes. For the women is a range of ‘Mary-Jane’ style shoes and there is a range of more retro-styled runners for the guys. It’s probably a push for these to be acceptable for a strict office environment, but for casual Friday’s these would work out well.
Ecco’s “Biom Lite” range has been around for a little while, however they have introduced a lifestyle selection. Unfortunately the choices are more restricted to the women – sorry, Guys. The ‘Mary-Janes’, ballerina pumps and funky zipper style shoes in various colours that wouldn’t look out of place in the office or school-run.
This is a company that probably would cater to the ‘casual-code’ office worker. With Suede-style uppers in muted colours and a lace-up design, these shoes wouldn’t look out of place in your typical office.
Huaraches make great casual summer shoes. With a number of manufacturers now coming in the market – Luna, Xero (Invisible Shoe), Bedrock, Unshoe – there are lots of styles to chose from. The webbing and buckle fastenings wouldn’t look out of place as the guys play on the beach and the leather lacing can look pretty classy as you sit on the patio on a girls night out.
The styling is similar to a conventional runner, the Leather/Goatskin Form (now in Womens’ and Mens’ styling) could prove a smart alternative in a more casual office environment. Regardless, the cross-foot lacing and more exclusivity of this newer performer in the minimalist camp will turn heads as you head into the casual meeting with Pizza and beer.
There are a few companies that produce minimal shoes, that would just about make the office standards of clothing, however, you may still get a few strange looks if you head into a boardroom meeting.
It’s fair to say that you’ll likely get tossed for wearing Vibram Five Fingers in a work environment. But if you work in a very casual office, and can stand the second glances by your co-workers, then the Trek LS for the men and the Jaya LR for the women could be worth investigating.
It might be difficult to imagine wearing a shoe that is made by self-styled “Elves” in the office, however, the Run Amoc leather shoe has been a staple of the minimalist crowd, desperate to wear something a little smarter.
Now, you can be minimal and smart.