Minimalist shoes are a type of specialized lightweight footwear made to mimic barefoot walking and running. Minimalist shoes usually have very thin soles, reduced cushioning and a much lighter weight than other shoes so that the wearer feels as if he or she is walking or running barefoot. The design of the shoes allows the feet to have sensory contact with the ground while providing protection against potentially dangerous things like bacteria, sharp stones and animal fecal matter.
There are two types of minimalist shoes: barefoot running shoes and minimalist running shoes. The barefoot style allows the toes and heels to be at the same level, while the traditional minimalist style is somewhere in between barefoot shoes and regular running shoes with a heel height of about 6mm.
Experts disagree on whether or not minimalist shoes are good for your health. Some podiatrists and other health specialists argue that minimalist shoes increase foot flexibility, reduce the risk of injury, lower impact forces and allow the wearer to walk, jog and run more closely to his or her natural stride. However, others argue the opposite, claiming minimalist shoes are dangerous and do not provide enough shock absorption and stability.
Popular minimalist shoes include Vibram FiveFingers, Vivobarefoot, Merrell Barefoot, ZEMgear, Altra Zero Drop, New Balance Minimus, and Nike Free.