My Favorite Minimal Shoes: Vivo Barefoot

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Vivo Barefoot Stealth II Men’s Running Shoe

Yesterday I wrote about the solution to my plantar faciitis problems: going barefoot around the house and, when not at home, wearing minimal shoes. I’d like to focus in this post on the minimal shoes I chose: Vivo Barefoot.

This post might seem like a shoe ad but I want to emphasize that I’m not being paid to say this, nor have I received any free shoes. I’m just a fan of Vivo Barefoot. Unlike those strange Vibram shoes, Vivo shoes look like normal shoes.

As I noted in yesterday’s post I was guided by the advice of physical therapist James Speck. He suggests four considerations when choosing shoes:

  • Flexible Sole
  • Little or No Support
  • Minimal Toe Spring
  • Flat or Low Heel Height

img_7359By flexible sole he means that you can roll the shoe up into a little cigar. Minimal toe spring means that the shoe does not turn up towards the toe (look at your feet–they don’t turn up so why should your shoe?). Arch support weakens your arches. And heels? Why should fashion trump health?

Vivo Barefoot sells running, hiking, casual an even semi-formal shoes. With just one click I can order a new pair of shoes and never have to set foot in a mall ever again.

They also make the only decent looking running shoe I’ve ever found. As I’ve said before, the design of most running shoes look like what would happen if a dog ate and then barfed up a bunch of florescent pool toys. This is not even to touch the issue of the evidence-free cushioning and stability control the big shoe companies think we need.

Please don’t get me going about the running shoe industry and the horrible magazines that support them. I’ve noticed, in the past year, that the powers that be have deemed that the minimal shoe trend is “over” and that we now need “maximal” shoes like this atrocity:

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I guarantee that if you run or walk in a maximal shoe like this for any length of time you will end up with knee and foot problems. This is due to the principle of risk compensation. Make a shoe soft and you will land harder with each step. Wear a minimal shoe and you will tread lightly and, with each step, your foot will grow stronger.

On Speck’s suggestion I took a “cold turkey” approach to the barefoot/minimal shoe lifestyle. It felt strange and was painful at first, but gradually the plantar faciitis that I was suffering from has greatly dissipated.

Vivo Barefoot isn’t the only minimal shoe company. Kelly is fond of her Lems.

Do you have a favorite minimal shoe? Leave a comment!

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16 Comments

  1. How wide are both of your feet? I have very wide feet, which is why VFFs have been more comfortable for me than other minimalist shoes for working out. I’m not thrilled with the look, but my feet are happy. For a work shoe, I’ve been wearing these in a wide: http://www.clarksusa.com/us/womens/womens-unstructured/un-loop-black/p/26085071

    The sole might not be quite as flexible, but it also isn’t stiff. They’ve been a great all purpose shoe for lots and lots and lots of walking on concrete.

  2. I have a pair of Soft Star ballet flats and I love love love them!! Bonus points: they’re made in the US.

  3. I race 100 mile trail races and big stage races, and, I happily wear the very Hoka you’ve pictured because they SAVE my feet and knees. I also just tru hiked Oregon wearing Hokas which worked beautifully. Minimalist fans tend to be a bit evangical in their beliefs particularly after Born to run came out, but me thinks you might be wise to not judge so harshly. I train barefoot once a week to keep my plantar fascia healthy, but would never do a tough trail race in a minimalist shoe. Very few runners can without getting beat up. I’m glad you’ve solved your PF problem. But if you’re going to condemn the running shoe industry for maximalist shoes, you’ve got to laugh that they’ve created a “barefoot” running shoe. Only in America.

  4. Agree completely with John. I ran my first marathon last year at age 65 in Hokas, and couldn’t be happier with how my legs, hips and feet feel. Tried a minimal running shoe and felt like I was taking a terrible beating. Great to hear about your PF relief, but that doesn’t mean that “maximalist” shoes aren’t equally effective for many others. And I have to point out, my neighbor who suffered for two years with PF, finally got relief by wearing Hokas. I’ll grant you that they do come in hideous colors, at least for us old guys!

  5. I really like my Walmart’s “AND1 Men’s Fundamental Low Cut Canvas Sneaker” – $15. They meet all four of the physical therapist’s criteria too.

    I haven’t run any marathons in them but they’ve held up through a fair amount of construction and farm work.

    Boo! It’s Walmart. Bad labor practices, etc. Until the revolution, I’ll be in my cheap sneaks.

  6. I sympathize a lot with the ‘less shoe’ point of view. After breaking an ankle 3 times over the course of many years, I was prescribed massive shoes with heavy arch support. I suspect my feet are considerably flatter as a result. The shoes certainly did not make my feet feel better.

    I’ve always had wide feet, especially at the toes, and have struggled to find shoes which don’t pinch them and make the toe joints hurt.

    My knees began to complain, and an orthopedist determined that all my joint problems would be fixed by redeveloping an arch in my flattest foot. I was sent home with insoles which were supposed to cause me to develop arches by pressure on the inside of my arch, stimulating muscle development.

    Didn’t work, and my feet felt ever more miserable. After months of this, I went out and bought shoes which let me walk around without foot pain.

    These had a wide toe box, a flexible sole, almost no rise towards the heel, and a soft upper that gives if I stretch my toes.

    Yes, my flatter foot is still flat, but now the arch muscles get some exercise, and my toe joints longer hurt. Walking for miles feels fine.

    Sadly shoes are victims of fashion, and I doubt I’ll be able to buy a 3rd pair of what I’ve got. (Ecco biom lite)

  7. My favs:

    I’ll second the motion above for Soft Star shoes. Those are now my dh’s choice for casual and walk/hike shoes.

    I have several pairs from nativearth shoes in Northern California. Multiple generation of family shoemakers. Shoes are incredibly comfy, can be made to order, and wear like iron. They do the Ren Faire circuit, but also have a physical shop in Mariposa, Ca, or you can order online. Worth every penny I’ve ever paid for them.

    Many makers now on etsy that do shoes similar to the above as well.

    For kids specifically (if they’re like mine and beat the hell out of their shoes on the playground):
    1) good old chuck taylors – lo or hi top. A little stiff side to side, but otherwise great due to wide toe box, minimal cushioning, flat soles, and front to back curlability. Tie on shoes are better for kids, imo, to accommodate changing shoe sizes and easy transition from no sock/thin sock/thick sock, depending on the weather. Machine washable is a bonus, and you can find them online or irl in tons of colors.
    2) The “tramper” lace up moccasin boot from minnetonka. Enough of a rubber sole to keep out pokey things, heat, and soggy soil. Wear like iron, and can be handed down once your kid outgrows them.
    3) For nature hikes where your kid might be doing some stream crossing or puddle jumping etc – those slip on water shoes that you can get at nearly any sporting goods store.
    and lastly
    4) If you want to DIY, the “Simple Shoemaking” books/kits/tutorials by Sharon Raymond. She got into it precisely because she got tired of paying $$$$$ for crappy shoes for her kids. Nice that she focuses on using recycled/upcycled materials as well.

    ps – do try using felted wool or alpaca fiber inserts/insoles for your shoes. lots of sellers of these on etsy or localharvest.org if you don’t want to diy. just enough squish, sweat and odor absorbing, and heavenly comfy.

  8. Toe Spring–I never knew it had a name and I hate it. I was assured they would be okay. No, I could not get them off fast enough.

    I would prefer to go barefoot, but that is not something I can do in this world.

    Anyone who prefers to run when there is not danger at their heels…well, I just don’t get it.

    I have not worn a lace up shoe since I was eleven and never intend to again. Well, if I am in a nursing home and I am forced to wear them, I suppose I will fight.

    I cannot remember at this moment what my favorite shoe was as it was discontinued 30 years ago. It was a Mary Jane style with a nice bumpy toe. Foot Hell is having shoes touch the top of my toes.

    When I played tennis, I sat on the court and put my white tennis shoes on and sat down the moment I was through playing and took my tennis shoes off. That is how much I hate shoes that tie or close up on the top of my foot.

    Those huge heavy shoes are too heavy for me to even walk correctly!

    I will wear sandals for another six weeks, but am currently searching for a shoe for winter. These suggestions give me a starting place.

  9. I’ll stick with my Birks (and occasionally Clarks). They cured my chronic PF immediately, are low and firm, and have plenty of room for my toes to spread out.

  10. I love my Vibram Five Fingers shoes, the socks and shoes are a bit of a hassle to put on in a hurry, but they are as close to barefoot with good protection and traction, my favorite walking/hiking shoes, I don’t run! (=

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