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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What Would the Perfect Minimalist Shoe Look Like: An open letter to shoe manufacturers

Dear sir or madam:

Thank you for your recent foray into the minimalist shoe market.  I appreciate your attempt at entering this market.  Some of your competitors are begrudgingly digging in their figurative heels despite the growing body of evidence that the modern running shoe may not be appropriate for everyone.  

Your shoe is certainly pretty; aesthetics are clearly a high priority.  Your marketing is flashy.  The use of barefoot runners in your advertisements shows an awareness of your intended market. 

I do have one complaint, however.  Your shoes kinda suck.  The shoe, like it's heavily cushioned, corrective siblings, has a raised heel.  This still forces runners to run in a constant state of plantarflexion. [thanks for catching that, Rob!]

Your shoe also has a narrow toe box.  My foot width is barely a "B."  I have Kate Moss-esque feet.  Despite my freakishly-thin feet, my toes still are not allowed to splay inside the shoe.

You have arch supports.  I'm neither an architect, physicist, engineer, nor a carpenter, but I'm pretty sure I understand the basics of an arch.  if you support it from below, it weakens.  Our feet play by the same rules.

 I know you will argue that these elements of shoes are necessary for protection.  Maybe this is the problem- without a good selection of true minimalist shoes, children are forced to wear large, overly cushioned, supportive shoes that weaken our feet.  Those children grow into adults with weak, injury-prone feet.  I know this perspective is controversial, so I did some research.

I was digging around on the American Podiatric Medical Association's website.  As it turns out, the APMA recommends children go barefoot or walk around in socks because it "... helps the foot grow normally and develop its musculature and strength, as well as the grasping action of the toes."  

Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we lose sight of the concept of our feet needing the stimulation of movement to maintain health.  Perhaps you could begin to play a role in reversing this trend.  Perhaps you could begin producing true minimal shoes.  Your current attempts at producing said shoes is just diluting the lethal injection of atrophy we've come to expect from the rest of your lineup.  

If you would like assistance designing a quality minimalist shoe, follow these simple tips:

1a. The sole must be thin, completely flat, and flexible.  No raised heel.  No cushioning.  Let's save the EVA for headboard padding. 

1b. The sole should not curve upward.  Look at the shape of the foot.  Do toes curve upward?  That's just silly.

2. The toe box must be wider than our toes to allow them to move within the shoe.  If I cannot freely wiggle my toes, the toe box is too narrow.

3. The upper must be flexible.  Heavy materials, plastic, and rhinestones have no place on footwear.

4. The arch cannot be supported.  See comment above.

That's it.  That would be the perfect shoe.  If you need a beta tester (or whatever the equivalent is referred to in the shoe world), I'll volunteer.  I like giving constructive criticism.

Don't worry about alienating the rest of your customers.  You can still continue manufacturing your miniature foot coffins.  Lots of people use them without problems.  An entire generation has grown up under the misguided premise that the human foot is fundamentally flawed... we cannot expect their weak, atrophied feet to make a quick transition.  Keep pumping out your corrective pillows and your gimmicky "shape ups" to keep them blissfully happy.

For the rest of us, give us what we so desperately want... a shoe that makes us forget we're wearing shoes. 


A random humor-challenged blogger with an unhealthy concern for feet


  1. Interesting post Jason. I admire your enthusiasm for all things barefoot and minimalist. Indeed you're quite an inspiration. Just to be picky, does a raised heel not place the foot in a permanent state of plantarflexion, not dorsiflexion as you'd have it?

  2. Thanks Rob! I made the change. I blame my loud, crazy, distracting kids. It had nothing to do with my own ignorance of physiology. :-)

  3. And one more thing . . . please don't start at $85 and go up from there. A minimalist shoe should mean a minimal amount of money (or at least less than running shoes).

  4. LOL: "Signed, Feet."

    Jeff is right on. An expensive minimalist shoe is an oxymoron.

  5. pretty pretty please? maybe someone can write a letter to santa...? "dear santa, all i want for christmas is free toes, lightly protected from the elements. thanks ever so much! i promise to try and be good."

  6. Hi Jason,

    You may be interested in our experience of a couple of days ago in a shoe store (major franchise) specializing in "solutions" for troubled feet. Makes you wonder...all over again. Duncan. (our last posting)

  7. This is perfect. I agree with Jeff, though with adding the price thing too!

  8. I would argue that a raised heel does not put the foot into plantarflexion but into neutral. While sitting in the chair raise your leg and let your foot hang. When it's hanging, or is in neutral, you can see that it is not parallel to the ground. Further, to get it parallel to the ground you actually need to dorsiflex.


  9. Well put. The only thing I'd take issue with is the rhinestones. How can you have a running shoe without rhinestones?

  10. Do you know what would be good - if it was possible? An open toe box. Not a sandal mind you, but a shoe with an open toe box. That would make my feet very, very happy.

  11. Enjoyed your post! Our family of seven would be great beta testers too, especially since Mom and Dad are engineers. =)

  12. I just sent my letter to Santa.