I can distinctly remember being around five years old and telling my mother I would “buy my daughter all of the my little ponies she wants”. 25 years on, and guess what? I may not have a daughter (yet) but there is no way in this universe she is getting all the anythings unless perhasp they come gifted second-hand. Sigh. My 5-year old self is having a tantrum right now.
Then there’s shoes. My mum was obsessed with “healthy shoes” and with me wearing them. Bear in mind that this was Germany in the 90s where even unhealthy shoes had a certain clod-hopper-ness about them (trust me, you can always spot the German tourists by their bad shoes), but neverthelss, mine always had to be worse. Sensible. No heel. Ugly. I remember my mum at one point critisizing my Converse all-stars because they were not “proper walking shoes for going around town”. ARGH, MUUUUUM! There goes my inner teenager slamming a door.
And now I’m treading (haha) right in her footsteps (hahaha!). See, I’m just slightly obsessed about shoes. Mine and baby boy’s, and my husband’s insofar as he will let me. And the only redeeming feature is that, according to my exacting standards, even my mum’s “healthy” shoes were anything but. Practically every shoe me and my son wear is what is known as “minimal”.
What do you mean, “minimal”??
I mean our shoes have:
- absolutely no heel: zero rise from toe to ankle
- super flexbile thin soles
- a wide toe box
- good attachment to the foot
1. Even the slightest elevated heel tilts your body as if you were permanently walking down hill (and if you don’t believe the slightest heel makes a difference, try sticking a 1 cm lego block under the side of a bookshelf and watch everything tilt – that is happening to your BONES when you wear your healthy running trainers).
2. The flexible sole allows all the 27 joints in your foot to do their thing, rather than just relying on the ankle joint to flex and turn. Imagine doing everything in your life with big skiing gloves on your hands and think how quickly your wrists would start aching – that is what shoes have been doing to your ankles every day!
3. The wide toebox ensure your little piggies can spread out as you walk. Think your shoes are wide enough? Step on a piece of paper and trace around your foot, then do the same with your favourite pair of shoes. Get a shock and buy your first pair of minimal shoes.
4. The good attachment to the foot (meaning, in our hosehould flipflops and crocs are out) ensure you don’t need to scrunch your toes up every time you make a step.
The reason I’m so obsessed with shoes this is something that is so EASY to change. You generally need to wear shoes anyway, so why not make those the shoes that make your feet happiest? Conversely, imagine the effect of hours and hours and hours (up to 12 a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, every year of your life) of squishing your toes, tilting your body, scrunching your muscles and deadening your joints?
Yup you’re right: hammer toes, bunions, plantar fascitis, back pain and so on and so forth.
I don’t even care if you tell me you love your high heels. I don’t think anybody is arguing that high heels are good for your feet or body. It’s like eating a burger at McDonalds – I don’t need to tell you it’s full of transfats and othe industrialised wonders. What irritates me are all the so-called healthy shoes (that had my mum dooped just like everybody else) with insoles and cushioning and rounded soles and what-not that are, if worn every day, cumutatively about as bad as a night out in heels (and therefore like all the junkfood mascerading as health food – I’m looking at you, yoghurt!).
But, the absolutely BEST kept secret about minimal shoes is that they are absolutely addictive. Once you start wearing them, your feet go “aaah” and you can’t stop. One of the main reasons I have so far refused to buy a pair of vibram 5-finger frog feet is that I KNOW my feet will love them and then all my attempts at getting more fashionable will go out the window as I will never want to wear anything else.
Ideally, pick a pair of minimal shoes for your every day “walking through town” escapades (and don’t worry, there are some great styles out there) and then, if you must, hit the town or the office in your 5-inch stiletos. I promise that after a week of barefoot feeling, you’ll find the stilettos moving to the back of the cupboard.
Where to get your minimal shoes?
Here are some of my favourite minimal shoe companies. I’m only featuring companies that are easy to purchase from within Europe, but for a very very complete list (featuring mainly North American companies), head over to Katy Bowman’s website.
Vivobarefoot (kids, mums and dads). I have a love-hate relationship with this company. I LOVE that they make a massive range of minimal shoes from trecking boots to ballerinas. I love that they ship all over Europe. I’m kind of miffed about their prices and quality. There’s just something about them that seems slightly cheap, as if corners had to be cut somewhere along the production line. They’re sizing can also be inconsistent. However, they have awesome sales and you can trail through all the regional stores to find some amazing bargains, which is probably why MOST of my and baby boy’s shoes are Vivobarefoot.
Wildling (mainly kids, but also mums and dads). A German company making shoes in Portugal who recently sent me a free pair of shoes for baby boy in return for a couple of measly Instagram picks. What’s not to love about them?! Seriously though, the shoes are BEAUTIFULLY made and I can’t wait to buy my own pair for autumn. Downside, there is only one style/model.
Vibram (mums and dads only). Also known as five-fingers or frog shoes. I have two friends who are converts and will rarely wear anything else. I’m totally sold on the rationale but not on the design (especially on my BIG feet – everything can look cute in size 35, not so much in size 41). Again, sizing can be tricky, so one of my friends ordered a couple of different sizes/styles online and then sent back all but the one pair that fit perfectly.
The Drifter Leather. A little family shoe-making business from Greece. I haven’t got round to ordering a pair from them and mainly just drool over the photos. Not all their shoes tick all the minimal boxes so be careful when making your selection. If I ever go back to a life that requires more formal shoes, I’d probably empty my bank account into their pockets.
Cheap options: if you’re still not sold on the minimalist shoe thing, a good cheap option are swim shoes (both for mamas, papas and little ones). For very littles leather shoes with soft soles are also great (unless there be puddles).