Minimalist Shoes

minimalist shoesOne trend that I’ve seen become pretty popular is barefoot training, or people wearing shoes that are as close to barefoot as you can get.  A lot of people argue that we were meant to run/walk in just our bare feet, so putting shoes on that alter that movement is counterproductive and not the best way to train.  I can understand that idea and think it does make sense.  So when I started P90X3, I decided to give it a try for myself.  Tony always says to wear court shoes with good lateral support, but I wanted to see if using a minimalist shoe would be a good way to tackle the workouts.

Types of Minimalist Shoes

Before I get into my experience, I wanted to cover just a couple types of minimalist shoes because they’re not all the same.  I’ll just talk about the ones I’ve looked at and tried on.

1. VibramVibrams seem like the most popular barefoot/minimalist shoes.  They’re the shoes where your toes all have an individual slot.  They’re basically gloves for your feet.  I personally think they look ridiculous, but I workout at home so it doesn’t really matter what I look like.  These are the closest you’re going to get to barefoot while actually wearing any type of shoe.  So I can see the appeal and it’s probably why they’re so popular.  I did try a pair on, but I have a bit of a problem here.  My left foot is at least a half size smaller than my right foot.  In a normal shoe, it’s not a huge deal, but when they are suppose to fit like a glove that doesn’t work so hot.  So I really can’t wear them without buying two different sized pairs, which isn’t going to happen.

2. MerrellMerrell has several different lines of shoes and look more like a traditional shoe that Vibrams do.  But they are very flat and very light.  I actually went with this pair and was surprised to see that they have a Vibram sole.  I haven’t looked into it too much, but it must be the same company or they must have some sort of an agreement there.  So the sole on my pair looks a lot like what you’d find on a Vibram sole.  It’s rubbery and has good grip.  I have the Bare Access line and the shoe is fairly wide, which is good for me because I have wide feet.  So for me, this shoe is a good fit.

3. Nike FreeNike has also been going this route with their Nike Free, Free Trainer and Bionic lines.  I am a huge Nike shoe fan, so I thought it was cool that they offer this kind of line as well.  Out of all the minimalist shoes, their shoes are the most like traditional shoes in my opinion.  It’s still fairly flat but it has more cushion than the other two.  So for someone looking to transition to barefoot training, this would probably be a good option.

My Experience with Minimalist Shoes

As I mentioned, I own the Merrel Bare Access shoes.  I’ve been using them for roughly the last 3 months doing P90X3, so I think I’ve had a good amount of experience in them.  P90X3 has a lot of plyometric, lateral, explosive movements in it, so it’s a great program to test the shoes out.  If it was all lifting, it wouldn’t really be a big deal what shoes I had on, but P90X3 definitely puts your shoes to the test.  One disclaimer I’ll make is that I’ve never really rolled an ankle.  That could probably be a concern for some people when moving laterally and doing a lot of jumping.  It’s not really a worry for me, but something you might have to think about.

I’ll say that I definitely noticed a difference wearing the minimalist shoes.  I think in a lot of instances, it forced me to use small muscles in my legs to stabilize myself, rather than relying on my shoe to do that.  It also forced me to think about how I landed on my feet as well.  Without the big heel and without all the cushion, you really want to focus on landing/taking off from the balls of your feet.  So that’s what I focused on while training.  At first, it did feel a little goofy, and I felt off balance.   I think it was just my body getting used to having to do more work.  But after a couple weeks, that all became more natural and I didn’t have to focus on it as much.

Where I think the minimalist shoes have helped me is in strengthening my legs.  Not so much for power, but for balance.  I noticed my legs get sore in new places during the first few weeks, which I took as a good sign.  And one thing that I’ve seen improvement in is my balance when I’m doing any kind of plyometric move.  I’m able to land easier and maintain my balance, which I partially attribute to the shoes.  They have forced my body to work those small muscle groups and improve my balance without relying on the shoe.

So my experience has been very good!  I have likes the Merrell’s, but right now I’m working with their customer service because the soles on my pair are breaking away from the shoe.  So far their support has been awesome to work with, but in the meantime I picked up a pair of Nike Free Trainers and am excited to give them a try!  If you’ve been looking into minimalist shoes at all hopefully this review was helpful!

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