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The Cheap Minimal Shoe / Cheap "Barefoot Shoe" Review Roundup
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November 26, 2013
6:57 pm
celicaxx
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A very good option for minimalist shoes is actually indoor track shoes. I got Saucony Kilkennys for example, for only $20 online with a sale. They have a bit thicker and stiffer sole and heel area (and more arch support) than something like a Vivo Barefoot (owned a pair before, got on sale at Marshalls) but overall they're pretty much the same type of shoe imo. http://www.firsttothefinish.com/ItemMatrix.asp?Cc=fw_foot_CC&GroupCode=20125%2D4C&eq=fw_201254c&MatrixType=1 Something like that. 6.8oz. Mind you I'm not a runner and bought them to wear for plyometrics/vertical jump training in the gym.

I'm pretty glad I discovered indoor track shoes. I personally feel after getting this pair of indoor track shoes, that minimalist shoes are just a scam. They'll sell for anywhere from 50-100% more of the price of a comparable indoor track shoe. Take the Nike Zoom track shoes vs Nike Frees for example. The other big plus with indoor track shoes is new models come out every year or so, and then you can find old models on clearance for very little money (those Kilkennys were $60 MSRP, I got them for $20.)

Anyway, for casual knockabout shoes, generic Converse/Vans/etc aren't bad at all. I actually got a very nice pair of shoes from K-Mart. Everlast Laynes. Weigh 6.5oz! Only problem is the sole isn't all rubberized. But it's a nice comfy minimal shoe just for walking around and whatnot. Cost me only $8 brand new, too.

Anyway, I'm not a runner, so I might be full of crap about all this, but track waffles are where it's at for "minimal" shoes for less money. Increases my vertical jump by at least an inch or so compared to Converses, too.

November 27, 2013
1:35 am
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celicaxx:

Indoor track shoes look like a good solution if you can find them on sale, like you did: regular price appears to be more like $50-75.  (Though you're correct that there are usually plenty on sale.) 

Note for my readers: many retailers classify them as "spikeless cross country spikes".

JS

January 29, 2014
1:15 am
Mel
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For work, kigos have served me. They have maryjane style and covered style that worked great for summer versus winter. I only buy when on sale or clearance, as low as $15. Great traction, the Drive has lacing that makes it fit well enough for hiking. Reminds me of rock climbing shoes.
For eve better ground feel, sockwa are the thinnest rubber sole. Pair w wool socks for most comfortable winter shoe. They do make my feet sweat, but I have yet to try their latest which is more breathable. Got mine for $25 on clearance.

February 3, 2014
1:33 pm
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Mel:

Kigos are usually well out of the "cheap" price range, but they seem to have some cheap ones on clearance, and they look nice.  If I were female I'm sure I'd try a pair.

Note that I originally wrote this article back in 2012, when minimal shoes were in such demand that nothing was ever on sale: VFFs were usually backordered, and there weren't as many options as there are now.  So it's now possible to find actual branded minimal shoes on sale for a reasonable price.

JS

May 10, 2014
3:58 pm
AM
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Thanks so much for this article!! I was starting to go insane looking at "vegan" $100 footwear which consists of a rubber/neoprene sole and fake leather. If they took the fancy name brand off and "vegan", it's like a $20 shoe.

I get why I pay extra for my Paleo food. The rest of the lifestyle seems like it should come in a bit cheaper. 😉

May 12, 2014
11:39 am
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AM:

That's a great point.  Leather is expensive, so most cheap shoes will be "vegan", though they don't actually say it on the label.

And yes, it's ironic that it costs much more money to get...less shoe.  For something mass-produced of cheap materials like (synthetic) rubber, the prime determinant of cost is sales volume, not material cost. 

JS

May 18, 2014
9:48 pm
pam
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Hi, JS,

this is old. but i want to add few data points since last time.

. Merrel barefoot shoes

zero toe drop. but have a big hump (arch support?) which kind of defeats the purpose of "barefoot" it's also uncomfortable.

do NOT recommend.

. Sanuk canvas shoes : inexpensive, comfortable. zero toe drop, no arch support.

. Sanuk sandals : zero toe drop, no arch support.inexpensive. comfortable & airy. toes breath.

. "Unshoes" sandals (Pah Template)

http://www.unshoesusa.com/pahtempe.html

HORRIBLE design despite the size fits OK.

the problem is the 1st strap is too far away from the "bow". & there was too much strap in the "stern"
this creats big gaping (between the bow & toes)

i ended up tripping over stairs, steps, pebbles, every little kinks & unevenness all the time (i mean, indoor floor, side walk) due to gaping.

i gave them to GoodWill.

so far, just for walking, kicking around, i like Sanuk the best.

for ability sport, i have not found anything that beats 5-toe Vibram.

cheers.

May 25, 2014
1:36 pm
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pam:

I do my best to keep this post up to date: I'll have to make another big-box trip soon, as the water shoes are all in stock for the year.

The Merrells work very well for some people and not at all for others: I think it depends on whether your arch is shaped like the one in the shoe or not.  Same with VFFs: though many love them, my toes simply aren't shaped like VFF toes.

Thank you for sharing your experiences!  I encourage all my readers to leave their own reviews, experiences, etc. in the comments.

JS

July 27, 2014
5:09 pm
Zahra K
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I started wearing the Lumina shoes from Call it Spring. They're like Tom's Shoes but with thinner soles and rounded toes.

On sale can usually get them for $15 to $20.

http://m.callitspring.com/mt/www.callitspring.com/us/clearance/womens-shoes/flats/90911755-lumina/15

July 28, 2014
2:51 pm
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Zahra:

Those look like a very usable option for women...who seem to have many more options when it comes to cheap, flat slip-ons than men!

JS

July 29, 2014
1:20 am
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Gnoll
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My three year old Vibram Trek Sports are now kippered and the soles have given up. They must have done perhaps 600 miles. I saw a pair of Vivo Barefoot Breatho Trail shoes on huge reduction, so snapped them up (online).

Upon arrival, I thought they were too small. I picked my regular size. Home, I tried again, tried again without the insoles and tried yet again without socks. Perfect! Larger shoes would have been slopping around, but without insoles (which is advised on the box for barefooters) and without socks (duh! barefoot) they're just perfect!

Here's to several hundred miles in them ...

http://www.vivobarefoot.com/uk/clearance/breatho-trail-mens?colour=Lime ... look around for an online retailer in your area who might be carrying them at a dramatically reduced price.

Living in the Ice Age
http://livingintheiceage.pjgh.co.uk

August 2, 2014
9:40 am
Greg Pulier
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I've been a barefoot runner for over 10 years. I've recently invented the most minimal running footwear in the world called BarePadz.
I've started a Kickstarter Campaign for them here:

The Kickstarter Campaign is focused on getting people to try them and give feedback so that I can really perfect them.

August 3, 2014
1:30 pm
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Greg:

Ordinarily I delete blatant self-promotion, but your Kickstarter is asking for a sane amount of money, the product will actually be inexpensive, and it looks like a cool idea, so it stays. Best of luck to you!

JS

August 3, 2014
1:49 pm
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Gnoll
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That is a seriously cool idea! Great idea and great marketing.

Take minimalist footwear and make it yet more minimal ... in fact, the true definition of minimal, which is the smallest amount of protection required for folks to get out there and enjoy as unshod as possible on modern surfaces.

Good call! Best of luck. I'll jump in with a sensible investment when I've read through all the options. Sweet! I really want to try some of these, so let's hit that investment requirement!

Living in the Ice Age
http://livingintheiceage.pjgh.co.uk

December 23, 2014
12:59 pm
Alan Sanderson
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I read this article in June 2014 and bought a pair of the OP Menhatens at my local Wal-Mart. They were about $10 if I recall correctly. I agree that they are a good entry-level minimalist shoe with a nice wide sole and good ground feel. I took the insoles out of them after a couple of weeks, because they were slipping around anyway and the cloth lining was separating from the rubber of the insole. My one complaint is that they are fairly heavy, about the same weight as my C9 running shoes from Target. I use them for running errands, helping people move, doing yard work, etc.

I have since upgraded to a pair of VFF SeeYa LS, which I found on sale for $50. The VFFs are much lighter weight than the OPs, and don't get as sweaty on the inside. I find running in the VFFs to be more fun, although I agree that the ground feel isn't quite as precise.

I also made myself a pair of huaraches out of a baler belt from a tractor supply store. I also made a pair for all of my kids, and the cost per shoe for all of the raw materials was well under $10/sandal. They are fun to run in, but I like the VFFs better so far. Maybe during the summer time I will like the huaraches better.

Thanks for your review, and for the good discussion below in the comments!

December 25, 2014
1:44 am
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Alan:

Yes, I think of this article, and the Menhatens and Athletecs in particular, as a sort of "gateway drug." Also, as you point out, they're a great option for when you don't want to wear out your nice VFFs, Vivos, or other expensive shoes doing dirty work. I'm glad this article is of use to you...I'll continue to keep it up to date, so feel free to point others here if they have questions.

Thank you for the support, and for the real-world data!

JS

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