This is a topic I've written about a few times, and one that people who know me will laugh about a little. See, I'm somewhat of a "shoe whore". I've currently got 14 pairs of shoes (not counting my weightlifting shoes or basketball sneakers) that I rotate through on a nearly daily basis. Yup, you heard me correctly.
Let me start off by saying that I would prefer to be barefoot 100% of the time. I'm very comfortable that way and my body feels better when I don't have to wear shoes. However, that's not feasible for me. The gym I work at won't let us do any barefoot training (they say it's dangerous and unsanitary, even though women walk around barefoot all the time heading to yoga or Pilates class) and walking around the city barefoot certainly doesn't appeal to me. We have to wear shoes, so why not wear great shoes?
Because of this, I've found it necessary to find shoes that I feel good in. I spend the majority of my time in a gym on my feet and moving around; if my feet are uncomfortable then I'm going to be grumpy. And you wouldn't like me when I'm grumpy.
The reason I have so many shoes is because I think it's gross to work out in a pair of shoes, take a shower and then put them back on. I also think that since I am able to rotate through sneakers so consistently that each pair of sneakers will last quite a bit longer than they would if I were to just wear one pair all of the time.
So, let's take a look at my collection and see if I can't help you make some decisions about sneakers.
There it is, in all it's glory. Starting in the top left we have: Inov-8 Bare-X Lite 150, New Balance Minimus Life, New Balance Minimus Trail, New Balance Minimus Cross Trainer (in two colors). The left side of the second row is the Nike Free 3.0v2, Nike Free Run+ (in two colors), the Nike Free TR, and the Reebok CrossFit Nano. The last row, on the left, we have 3 pairs of Converse Chuck Taylors and then the original Saucony Kinvara.
Let's start to break these suckers down.
These are my most minimalist shoes.
These Inov-8's are my most minimal sneaker; they are zero drop with a 3mm thick sole. With the insole taken out, you can feel absolutely everything (which I deem is a plus). They are super comfy and I choose to wear them sans socks; as a result, I haven't worked out in them. I wear them to work all the time and love them. The roomy toe-box gives me plenty of room to wiggle, and my feet never get tired. The Inov-8 brand has been very popular with CrossFit athletes for quite a while now.
The New Balance Minimus Life, in the middle, are super comfy shoes. The sole is much thicker at 11-15mm with a 4mm heel-to-toe drop but is very light still at about 6oz. Again, I've never worked out in these shoes because I wear them sock-less, but I have a client that wears them constantly (wore a hole into a pair!) and loves to train in them. They are a bit more casual and actually look really good with a pair of jeans. The comfort level of these is astounding.
The red shoes are my New Balance Minimus Trails; the shoe that was sort of the industry shoe d'jour for the past year or so. This wasn't without good reason, though: this shoe is awesomazing. With a sole that is 10-14mm thick with a 4mm heel-to-toe drop, this shoe is pretty low profile. The only way you'll notice that the sole is thick is if you spend all of your time barefoot or in Jesus sandals. I wear these shoes for everything; hiking, lifting, walking...I've even run 2.8 miles in them. Not that I was counting or anything. They are marketed as having an odor resistant footbed, and it's mostly true. I wear them without socks all the time and they don't smell bad at all. These are worn by hikers, runners, CrossFitters and powerlifters. It's a great shoe.
This next section of shoes are actually my favorite.
In the middle and the right are New Balance Minimus Cross-Trainers. I would be so bold as to say that these are my favorite all-around sneakers. I've done everything in them (the dark blue ones): hill sprints, sled pushes, squats, deadlifts, met-cons, jumping, volleyball. You name it, I've done it in them. They have a pretty thick sole, but keep the 4mm heel-to-toe drop from the other Minimus shoes. Barefoot traditionalists do not like this shoe much because of the thick heel; that's why I like it, however. When I'm training hard, I really don't want to worry about anything. The sole is thick enough to protect me, while still flexible and flat enough to let me feet do most of the work. I would certainly classify this as a transitional shoe, and suggest it to many clients on that exact basis. It gets people into flat flexible shoes without making them think too much.
The hot yellow shoes on the left are the Reebok RealFlex CrossFit Nano's. These are the newest addition to my collection, and very easily one of my favorites. They are super comfy, but again, not traditionally minimalist. They were purpose built by Reebok for CrossFit athletes. They have a very flat sole and a very wide toe-box; both of which are super comfy. Because they are so new, I still haven't worked out in them. But the legions of CrossFitters who train in these every day can attest to how good they feel (or maybe just what a good job Reebok did of marketing them).
Ah, how the mighty have fallen from grace. Two years ago I was telling everybody and their mother to buy Nike Free's; today I sell everyone on the New Balance shoes. The Nike's are just not very minimal in any way; but they are a big step up from the cinder blocks that people used to wear.
The middle two shoes are Nike Free Run+, which is now a discontinued model. Nike uses a 0-10 scale for its minimalist shoes with 0 being barefoot and 10 being a conventional sneaker; these are about a 5. They are very light and very comfortable, but still have quite the heel lift in the back. They are also not very comfortable to wear without the insoles in them. They are great for walking around, but don't take abuse quite as well as the NB Trails or Cross-Trainers.
On the right we have the Nike Free 3.0v2. This shoe is, for all intents and purposes, the same as the Free Run+, with the exception that the sole is a little flatter (not much) and a little more flexible (doesn't matter). I've seen people train in both versions of this shoe, and the big problem I've found is the ability to roll over the outside of the sole. That is, if you go to squat in these and "spread the floor", you're going to be pushing over the edge of the sole, which is not a good thing. I like these shoes, just not for anything serious.
The last shoes, on the left, are the Nike Free TR (trainers). I actually liked this shoe a lot when I first got them. It's flexible and feels very stable. I trained a lot in these and always felt great; I even played volleyball in them for a while. The only problem, as with the other Nike's, is that it feels like a lot of sneaker. They feel great, just not very minimal.
Oh, Chucks. What's not to love about Chuck's? They are OG minimalist shoes. The flat rubber sole is zero drop (but, honestly, is pretty thick). Once you break them in they are super flexible, and there is zero support of any fashion. They were actually used as basketball shoes, and as such have become popular amongst the CrossFit crowd. For years, though, they've been popular with powerlifters as squat and deadlift shoes. The provide a great base from which to "spread the floor" while squatting, and the flat sole allows you a great position to pull from even if your gym won't allow you to lift in socks. On top of all that, they come in dozens of colors, can be high-top or low-top and usually cost about $40. Sold!
Last but not least, the red-headed step-child of my shoe collection: The Saucony Kinvara. When this shoe was first being sold, it was being heralded as the second coming of Christ. I had to have it.
I finally got them, only to find out that it was a regular fucking running shoe. It's not flexible, it's not light, it's not low to the ground. It's a regular fucking shoe. I haven't worn them in a long time, and don't plan on it. Maybe if it's raining and I'm going to walk the dog. They have since made new Kinvara's and have fixed some of the problems (read: everything) from the original shoe, but I doubt I'd every take a foray into the Saucony minimalist world again.
Lastly, I recently bought a pair of VivoBarefoot Evo II's from the website The Clymb. This shoe was sick: 3mm thick sole, zero drop, uber lightweight. I loved it....for 10 minutes. I wore them around the house and then outside to take out the trash. When I came back in I noticed that on the tip of the toe on one shoe the upper was coming apart from the sole. I had to return them, and I'm waiting on my next chance to buy another pair. It was a great shoe.
For more info and reviews on minimalist footwear, check out these great sites!
- Birthday Shoes
- Minimalist Running Shoes
Thank you for sitting through this long-ass post; if anyone has any questions please feel free to ask away! Have a great day, and go lift something heavy!