Advice on minimal shoes

Hi Everyone,

I've just started running again and am having problems making my mind up regarding running shoes. The internet and reviews has just made it worse (information overload).

I used to be a County, Cross Country runner a long time ago and only ran in those flat black plimsoles with the elastic top. Ok, it was quite a while ago if I'm honest.

Anyway I'd like to start again, I've been out in my everyday shoes, flexible flats, no heel at all. (I should say that I've worn flat shoes for many years now and at home I'm always barefoot) I like to feel my feet on the ground when I run and I've a mid/forefoot style. 

Maybe I should give a bit more info:  Weight about 180ibs, My left foot lands on the ball of my foot with very minimal roll, if any, to my big toe, but my right foot lands on the outside edge with a late roll to my big toe, just before push off.

My main concern though is the strength of my legs, tendens etc.. They are not conditioned for running and if I choose a low drop shoe, they may not be up to it.

So, after waffling, my question is; Should I be careful and find a light shoe with maybe a bit more cushioning than say a 4mm drop shoe . I really don't like the heavy cushioned trainers, I tried a few and I feel no conection with the ground and they are right out as a shoe for me.

At the moment I'm walk/jogging. 15mins with 30sec - 1min jogs between brisk walking.  So mainly walking at the moment.

Many thanks 


  • Hi Laurence

    It sounds to me as though you're the perfect person to wear minimal shoes.

    The people who have most trouble with them are heel strikers who have spent years in high-heeled, padded shoes. As you're a mid/forefoot-striker and you're used to walking barefoot, you're already more than halfway towards adapting to these shoes. Plus you learned to run in minimal shoes, so you'll probably have that 'muscle memory' still.

    I'd strongly advise against trying any other type of shoe - I think you're more likely to develop bad form and increase your risk of injury.

    The ground swell of opinion is moving away from high-heeled, padded shoes - most experts now tend to say you should continue using them if they already work for you, but otherwise it's worth making the transition to minimal. 

    For you, I'd suggest it's much better to try some minimal shoes and build up your distance and speed very gradually. Or even try running completely barefoot, as you're already accustomed to walking around without shoes. There are quite a lot of barefoot runners who say that's the best way to acquire the right form. Plus you'll naturally limit yourself to safe distances, as your tender soles will get sore if you go too far before you've built up your strength!

    There's a fair bit of info about how to build up barefoot (or minimal) running on the Vivobarefoot and Merrell sites. Also check out Jason Robillard's site:

    Personally I'd highly recommend Vivobarefoot shoes. I have the Evo II for road running and the Neo Trail for country tracks.

    Hope this helps!


  • Thanks for the advice,

    I'll read the two links you mention.

    I'm glad you think it's best to stick with flat shoes, I've never likes custioned shoes, I like the feel of the ground around my toes, (sounds daft) the're like little senors, when your foot lands.

    Not sure if I'm ready for barefoot yet, but I'll give it a go in the garden.

     Thanks again for the help. 

  • Hi AnneV,

    Could you tell me what the size fittings are like on Viviobarefoot's? I do like the look of their shoes.

    I'm a size 9 in normal shoes.  So should I be looking for 9.5 or 10?

    There's a sale on the sportsdirect website.  There's no one local who sells them or stocks those shoes you mention. It will have to be an online purchase.


  • On the whole I'd say the sizing is on the small side, so I'd go a size up from normal. Your feet tend to expand when running in any case, and you'll need room for 'toe wiggle'.

    I know exactly what you mean about sensing the ground with your feet - I feel just the same. Thick soles make you feel detached from your environment, and I find they make me feel unstable.

    I hesitate to recommend them, but yesterday I went for this year's first run in my Inov8 Evoskin shoes.  These are almost like running barefoot, but with the advantage that you get some protection from sharp objects etc. I bought them last year, but decided they were a bit chilly for the winter. The great thing yesterday was running in the mud - I felt like a child, feeling it squidging between my toes!

    I do like the Evoskins, but they can get quite moist inside and your feet tend to slide around. I also suspect they won't be very robust, as the soles are showing signs of wear after very few miles. And, of course, they look pretty freaky! Worth considering if you want to try the barefoot experience without going the whole way, though.

  • Nice to hear from you again,

    Yes, I think the evoskins would be a bit extreme for me.

    I still haven't decided on what shoes to get, which is just as well as I've pick up an injury. Not from running, but walking with the dogs on the sands dunes, it was a long walk mind (2 hours +) and I've a pain just under my knee. 

    I've been enjoying jog/walking for three weeks without any problems. Oh well, I'll rest it for a week and start again slowly.

  • Bad luck - hope it feels better soon. Sand is hard work for walking and running, although fun for running barefoot (apart from the occasional sharp shell or stone!).

  • Hi Laurence,

    The Vivos are quite small: I'd say it's best to try them on in person, but you may want to go for a whole size up from what you usually wear. I use these and VFF Bikilas. The Bikilas feel more like being actually barefoot, because of the more flexible mid-sole and the toe-spaces, but the Vivos are actually less padded on the sole. The trouble with the VFFs is that you have to measure your feet very carefully and then jump through various arithmetic hoops to make sure you get precisely the right size. I had to choose a womens' pair in order to get the right fit. 

    The VFFs feel more protected than you might think. However, depends on whether you like to get attention or not. I also suspect the Vivos will last longer, and you can get cheap prices on them occasionally. 

    The only thing that would make me suggest that you take it extra-slow with minimalist shoes is the manner of pronation on your right foot. Build up slowly, and listen to your body. Personally, I'd just experiment with short distances and not presume there will be a problem, rather than visiting a podiatrist or having your gait analysed.

    Do you have any flat sandy areas nearby where you could try out barefoot running?  

  • Thanks for posting.

    Personally, I don't think I can see myself in the Bikilas shoe and you're spot on about the attention, I'm not keen of it.

    I thank you for the sound advice on the pronation of my right foot and 'Yes' I live on the coast, with a nice long beach (about 4 miles). I take the dogs there, so next time I'll give barefoot a try.

    I still have the issue of buying a shoe, (would still be running in my wet shoes it not for the slight knee problem I have) I've read that the Vivos wear out quickly and if I'm spending around £80 I really need them to last, I realise that minimalist shoes don't have as much sole, so they may not last as long as a regular shoe.

    I getting fed up with resting, and wonder if there's a shoe out there that would give me a forefoot strike with a bit of cushion, while my knee heals up.  Newton maybe.  Then I'll switch back to a good flat shoe.  

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