Also called Barefoot Shoes, minimalist shoes are a special category of minimalism because they have a different meaning than what we usually mean by minimalism.
With minimalism the goal is to have fewer material things. Minimalist footwear could mean owning fewer pairs of shoes, or owning shoes that were as small as possible.
But in this case, minimalist shoes means minimal interference with the natural function of the feet. It refers to footwear that allows as much free movement of your natural, unshod foot as possible, while offering protection from injury (stepping on sharp things and having something heavy dropped on your foot) as well as protection from extreme heat and cold.
Minimal footwear allows your feet to behave as feet while still offering a buffer between the unnatural detritus found in the modern world that can cause injury.
Katy Bowman, Whole Body Barefoot: Transitioning Well to Minimal Footwear.
There are 4 main components of minimalist shoes: the sole, the heel, the toe box and the upper.
1. The Sole
Regular shoes are generally rigid and, sometimes, thick. Minimalist shoes have flexible soles and are usually thin enough to feel the contours of the ground through them and allows the foot to respond to the terrain. Ideally the soles are flexible so you can fold it.
2. The Heel
The next important thing about minimalist shoes is that the heel is non-existent. Just calling them ‘flats’ is misleading because many ‘flats’ have a very small rise. Minimalist shoes have a zero drop or a neutral heel. This is important because it allows your body to initiate movements from neutral, or an aligned position. A heel, even a small one, pitches the body weight forward and small adjustments are made in the joints to counteract it. These compensations have a physiological cost.
3. The Toe Box
Minimalist Shoes also have a larger toe box than traditional shoes, because toes are meant to move in all directions while moving, but most traditional shoes shape the toes into some fashionable shape that is considered attractive.
4. The Upper
The upper part of the shoe is why flip flops and slip-ons do not make good minimalist shoes. The upper must secure the shoe to the foot without requiring the wearer to grip their toes or tense the shin to keep the shoe on while walking.
3 More Reasons to Wear Minimalists Shoes.
To regain foot mobility. The greater the mobility in your feet, the less likely you are to have knee, hip, lower back, pelvic floor, and psoas pain/problems.
To regain lost calf and hamstring length. Your muscles adapt to whatever position you put them in most often. Wearing a positive heeled shoe (and also prolonged sitting) shortens the sarcomeres in the hamstrings and calves. There are a number of reasons why a person might want to reverse this, such as performing better on the ‘sit and rise test’ (how easily can you get to the floor or even touch your toes?), you want to squat, you have urinary incontinence or pelvic floor pain.
To get a better booty. When you don’t use the back of your legs much there usually a corresponding lack of development in the gluteal muscles, and you end up with a flat butt.
Transitioning to Minimalist
If you’ve worn rigid soled shoes with a narrow toe box and a heel (even a small one) all your life, make your transition slowly.
1. Begin by lowering the height of your heel a bit and get used to that.
2. Don’t trade in your shoes for flip flops (or any other shoe that requires toe grip to keep them on your feet, because you are just trading in one problem for another.
3. Be aware that your walking gait pattern will probably change so be mindful of doing hard hiking, pounding on city pavement or running while wearing minimal shoes until you build up more mobility (and strength) in your feet.
Well into our second year of living in a much smaller space, we’ve decided that our ‘this will do for now’ approach needed to be reviewed.
Even though we have scaled back several times, the furniture we kept was re-purposed, too big for the space and encouraged our hoarding tendencies. I also realized that we do not have things which go together, stored together.
For example our TV is sitting on an oak chest (making it very difficult to get anything out of the chest, by the way) while our movies are in a bed-side table re-purposed as an end table. So we don’t watch our movies and probably we do not need anything that is being stored in the oak chest. Right now it is just a place for things to be put away and forgotten about. We also ended up with these two pieces which kept some office supplies and books, but contained, frankly, too much junk.
Although the goal of minimalism is to have less stuff, I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with replacing things with those that are more functional and beautiful. We gave away the larger dresser on the right, and the smaller dresser is (temporarily) in the bedroom.
We replaced it all with this sleek setup from Ikea (Hemnes) that holds our greatly reduced office supplies in the cabinet with the solid door, while more decorative things are in the glass upper portion. I really wanted a lighter feel and this is white stained pine.
All the movies, music and a considerable number of work-related CDs and DVDs are in the drawers below the television. The best part of this is that I don’t have any other hidden stashes. What we have is out on display, and we can better appreciate the fewer treasures we choose to keep without going through the stress of trying to find things when nothing is edited and organized.
Shoe organizers in our entryway set a peaceful, streamlined mood.
When you live in a small space, what you see when you come home is important. We are doing a long overdue apartment overhaul (more on that next week) and I’ve been working on sorting and organizing for a couple of weeks.
I started at the front door with this set of shoe organizers I got at Ikea. They are called Trone and come in a set of three (a third one, tucked in a closet holds my husband’s shoes.) They are also available in black, red and blue. Although I didn’t stack them, I liked the idea that I could, and I also liked the little shelf on top. Tucked just inside our front door this ‘relax’ sign, and my hand carved loon are now the first thing I see when I come home.
It is heaps better than the cluttered and jumbled mess I had before. (I am not going to give before and after photos because some things are best forgotten.)
In one bin I have my minimal shoe collection (get my list here) and the other holds umbrellas, hats, gloves and bags. It is tidy, organized and convenient (no more scrambling in the morning to get ready to go out.) Minimal shoes are fantastic because they take up so little space.
Best of all it creates a peaceful and welcoming entrance which will set the tone for our apartment re-do. I want to create a feeling of calm space that is highly functional with a place for everything and everything in its place. The next few weeks are going to be a bit chaotic but I keep looking at that Relax message and take a deep breath!
Whenever I clean, I pull out a few items that I haven’t used in a while and set them aside to dispose of. Usually I take them to my local thrift shop that supports Seniors.
When I do a bigger clean (like my wardrobe) I always find things to part with – even when I think I am done. It is because I (still) after all these years, convince myself that I need to keep it.
I think it is quite reasonable to keep outfits that are dressier – that you perhaps only wear a few times a year, but it is also reasonable to keep them to a minimum.
Among things I am parting with is a full length paisley silk skirt with velvet underskirt. It is gorgeous but after a couple of winters without finding exactly the right thing to wear with it, I’m done and I’m passing it on for someone else to enjoy.
Part of clearing clutter is also getting to know your own style. It seems every season I get caught up in something – it might be advertising or even the latest ‘must have’ lists – that I know isn’t me. I prefer solid colours that I can change with scarves or jewellery. Whether I’ve paid a lot, or a little, I get huge mileage out of those garments, while the patterned things I buy end up taking space until I admit I made a mistake.
Have you noticed a pattern with the clothing you rarely wear? Do you give away the same time of clothes every season? Perhaps it is a message that you aren’t listening to what you feel the most comfortable and natural in.
Last week I did a guest interview at Wendy Auman Wellness. Wendy is a Restorative Exercise™ colleague and Health Coach. In our half-hour conversation we talked about why we feel an urge to clean and clear in the Spring, how feng shui helps us keep up with changes in our lives, why removing clutter from your home reduces stress and gives you energy, and more. Listen below.
It must be in the air! Clearing out closets, I mean. Last week I went through all my drawers and hangers to see what I was ready to part with, and yesterday I read Reading My Tea Leaves blog about owner Erin Boyle’s closet clear-out. Erin’s post inspired me to write about my experience.
When I was finished cleaning my closet I had three shopping bags to give away containing clothing purchases over the past few years that were mistakes: things that never fit quite right and things that I always felt frumpy in.
‘Jean’ styling knit ‘pants. I liked the idea and I really wanted them to work but the fabric was too heavy and unforgiving. I held on to them for 2 winters and now they are gone.
A cashmere sweater I’ve had for at least a decade that has seen better days.
My red coat which has seen a half a dozen winters, which I am tired of — and is becoming a bit too defining. I am passing it on to someone who will enjoy it for another few more years.
Lest you think my closet is bare, a return to the corporate world (even if it is a pretty relaxed environment) meant shopping. I mean, I’ve been living in yoga pants for the past five years.
I bought 3 new cardigans (since I find jackets uncomfortable) in cream, blue-grey and white and some higher necked tops to go with them, (two black, one red) one pair of pants, one skirt and a black jersey tunic.
There are a lot of good reasons for reviewing your clothes and discarding things that you aren’t wearing:
Wearing the same clothes, colours and styles when you are in a transition can make it difficult to move on to a new phase of your life.
If you are going through change, a well curated closet (read: organized) is one less thing to think about.
It saves time and money.
Being fashionable is not important most of the time, but finding your personal style is.
Feeling good in what you are wearing is a worthy goal.
Feeling frumpy should be discouraged at all costs.
My minimal wardrobe ideal is this:
I met a woman (she was the spa manager on a cruise ship) who wore a simple dress (almost always black, though I did see her in white one day) and a different shawl every day. That’s my goal! I already have the scarves/shawls – it is one of my weaknesses and I’ve been collecting them for years. I have been on the lookout for 1 or 2 dresses so that can become my work uniform.You wouldn’t think finding the perfect LBD would be difficult, but it is.
I was born at the peak of the baby boom and got to experience being a flower child only because my very small hometown caught up to the rest of the world so slowly. I have been a lifelong writer and reader, with aspirations of being a renaissance woman.