There are a few charateristics to look for in a minimalist shoe. For me, the most important thing is a wide toe box and forefoot area. Your toesies need plenty of room to splay for natural movement of the foot during running and walking.
Secondly, “Zero Drop” it like it’s hot. “Zero Drop” means that the height at the heel of the shoe is the same as the height at the forefoot and toe of the shoe. Most traditional running shoes have at least a 12mm “drop” meaning that you are wearing high heeled shoes when you run, which creates the perfect opportunity for you to heel strike and overstride, which will likely lead to injury.
Third, get low, get low. Choose a shoe with less material and more flexibility underneath your feet, so that you can get as close to the ground as you can. This way, you can reap the benefits of being connected to the Earth and its energizing frequency.
Lastly, stay away from toe spring. Once you work your way into minimalist running or walking, you’ll realize that your feet and legs are like little springs, you really don’t need any help from the shape of the shoe. All the toe spring will do for you is shorten your extensors on top of your feet and facilitate pushing off your toes, which may make you more prone to injury. Specifically, top of the foot or Achilles pain, common injuries for overly ambitious new barefoot and minimalist runners.
Luna Sandals: I love my Luna Sandals. I have a pair of the Venados for road running and a pair of Leadville Pacers for trail running. I regularly alternate between my Vibram Spyridons and the Leadville Pacers on the trail. There’s nothing like freeing your feet. http://www.lunasandals.com
Merrell Trail Gloves: I’ve been loving these for the trails, they’ve been great for a little longer distance as they have a little more underneath the foot than the VFFs, and for me they stay put a little better than my Luna Sandals in more technical terrain. I’ve had great luck with these, although I honestly wish the tread was a little more hearty and maybe another millimeter or two of material between me and the ground would help with the longer races.
Vibram Five Fingers: With a little pocket for each toe, this shoe really is my favorite “barefoot style” shoe. I have tried nearly every style. My current favorite is the See Ya, which I believe is their lightest shoe weighing in at a whopping 3.75 oz each. I also just purchased their Spyridon, which I intend to use for winter trail running. These shoes are light, flexible, and allows your toes to splay and form over rocks and roots, improving your balance and intrinsic strength. Here’s a few pictures of my VFF’s:
Please visit the VFF website for more information: Vibram Five Fingers
Altras: If I was going to wear an actual shoe to run in, it would probably be this one. They also don’t have the toe spring, allowing for foot lift instead of pushing off the toes during running. Here is a link to the Altra Website.
Sanuks: These are my favorite casual wear shoes, with a nice wide toe box, thin, flexible sole and fun surfer vibe. I don’t surf, but my husband does, so that makes it ok for me to wear them right? I’ve had a pair for years now, and they truly are the next best thing to being barefoot on a day to day basis. Here’s a link to the Sanuk Website.
Invisible Shoes/Xeros: These are my first pair of huaraches, or running sandals. If you feel like pretending to be a caped member of the Tarahumara as in Born to Run, here’s your chance. These shoes are wonderful and the least expensive out of this whole bunch. You can buy your own kit for 29.95 or a custom pair for 39.95. See my review of them here: http://vegetarianbarefootrunner.com/2012/11/03/initial-review-of-my-new-huaraches-from-invisibleshoe-com/
The above shoes are my favorites, but if you have a specific question about a particular shoe, I’d be happy to give my opinon as I’ve tried on just about every minimalist running shoe on the market. Happy shopping!