Minimalist Sandals: 4 Things to Look For

The objective of minimalist sandals is to offer an experience that closely resembles moving barefoot. Thus, the ideal minimalist sandal has thin, zero-drop soles (soles that are the same thickness from the toes to the heel) that maximize proprioception, while offering a wide toe box that allows the toes to splay out naturally. As runners around the world have liberated their feet from conventional “foot-coffins,” they have developed superior lower body strength with an increased resilience to fatigue and injury.

minmalist running sandals

Why Choose Minimalist Footwear?

When considering minimalist sandals it’s important to understand the remarkable physiology of the human foot and its role as the link between our body and the Earth. The sophisticated mechanics of our foot can be best understood by looking to the keystone of its design, the arch. In architecture, the arch is considered a marvel of engineering that has yet to be improved upon.

The arch is the greatest weight bearing structure ever created. The beauty of the arch is that it becomes stronger when loaded from above as the tighter its parts mesh. However, whether an architectural arch or the arch on our foot, an arch supported from below compromises the integral distribution of the load (equally amongst its parts), causing an inevitable collapse. The ubiquity of weak flat feet has been caused by modern-day footwear, arch support, and orthotics. [1] [2]

minimalist sandals healthy natural arch support

Naturally Strong Feet via Minimalist Sandals

To build one’s inherent foundational strength, the best thing to do is go barefoot, with the next best option being minimalist sandals. Through rigorous testing we have found that a thin, zero-drop, self-molding sole offers the best alternative to going barefoot. This provides enough protection to expand one’s barefoot horizons while still allowing the feet and legs to move with a graceful, natural gait.

Minimalist sandals render many subsequent benefits by providing less shock absorption, and a more responsive interface between the body and the ground. A stable platform underfoot provides accurate biofeedback from the terrain resulting in precise and predictable bio-mechanics. When wearing cushioned shoes, your feet are pushing through the soles in search of a hard, stable platform to react to, in the effort to achieve an accurate response to the terrain–at the loss of energy and bio-mechanical fluidity. The precision and accuracy of locomotive patterns facilitated by minimalist footwear improve core strength, bone density, balance, and even posture. [3

minimalist sandals dense sole

Minimalist Sandals vs Minimalist Shoes

The main difference between minimalist sandals and minimalist shoes is the upper enclosure (or lack thereof). The main benefits of an open-toed shoe (sandal) are the effects that it has on the mechanics of the foot and breathability. Open-toed sandals that feature a thong lacing style allow for full range of motion of the toes and splaying of the forefoot, which is ideal for natural footwear that mimics being barefoot.

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Putting your feet into shoes is like planting a tree in a box. The roots don’t have the space they need to grow, and the health issues of the roots affect the entire tree. Wearing minimalist sandals is like planting a tree in the ground so that it has the space it needs to grow big and strong. Minimalist sandals allow your feet the freedom they need to splay out, engage your arches, and allow for full range of movement. This all travels upstream, resulting in better balance, posture, hip and joint movement, and more. [4]

minimalist footwear more healthy like tree roots

4 Things to Look For in Minimalist Sandals

best earthing adventure minimalist sandals components

1. Footbed: The Right Footbed For You

When choosing a pair of minimalist sandals, it's important to determine your priorities: Do you want them to dry fast? Are you looking for extra traction? If your feet are prone to getting sweaty, maybe you want superior wicking capabilities.

If your goal is a fast-drying sandal, we suggest opting for a synthetic sole. Our Elemental sandals feature Vibram® Gumlite Outsoles with zero absorptive properties, making them light-weight and quick-drying.

For sweat-wicking and foot traction properties, look for a canvas (textile) footbed, which will offer the most traction. Good foot traction is a function of friction properties effectively adhering the foot to the sandal bedding when wet and dry.

Why we avoid leather footbeds: 
  • Poor traction: the foot will not grip to wet leather
  • Toxic dyes: pervade the leather industry
  • More waste: from obscure hide-shaped material
  • Not eco-friendly: ~70% of cow leather comes from factory farms
  • Shorter lifespan: than our 1.4mm thick high-abrasion cotton canvas footbed

      We find canvas to be a much better option than leather for performance, durability, and environmental reasons. Our cotton footbeds are 100% heavy-duty cotton canvas. The footbed is dyed in small batches using GOTS certified organic dye in Los Angeles California. The farmers in India who grow our cotton use traditional practices that have been in place for over 100 years—long before non-organic fertilizers were introduced!

        2. Outsole: Traction and Thickness

        A sole that is too thin and flimsy will flop around on your foot and can actually fold under! Ensure your sole compound has thermal molding properties to allow it to mold to the shape of your foot over time, which will strengthen its structural integrity. This is why we use Vibram soles; because they offer superior traction, flexibility, moldability, and durability.

        Make sure to choose the right traction for both your activities and capabilities. If you aren’t used to minimalist footwear, slowly progress into a thinner and thinner sole so that the transition to minimalism is not so harsh. 

        best minimalist footwear transition comparison

        Minimalist sandals with responsive soles promote proprioceptive skills, proper biomechanics, and healthy running form. 

        Responsive Soles
            ✔ Equal amount of sole underneath heel and forefoot
            ✔ Perfectly weighted balance, front to back
            ✔ Naturally aligned feet, back, and body posture
            ✔ Encourages better technique to reduce initial impact by 3-5x

        minimalist sandals responsive soles better running form

          3. Lace: Anchors and Comfort

          To ensure your sandals are comfortable, the lacing material needs to be the perfect thickness to evenly distribute pressure, especially between the toes! Laces that are too skinny can slice into the foot and varied terrain.

          The more triangular and hugging the anchor points on the sides of the sandal, the more secure your heel will be. This helps to minimize lateral and longitudinal heel motion, which is critical on varied terrain.

            minimalist sandals heel stability

            4. Sturdy Hardware: Prevent Laces from Loosening

            Minimalist sandals have minimal lace holding the foot in place, making the performance of the lacing materials critical. Look for:

            • High density lace construction to ensure max security and lace longevity.
            • Polyester laces are more hydrophobic allowing them to maintain their security when wet.
            • High-quality locking hardware to maintain the proper amount of tension.

              Minimalist Sandals for Men and Women

              Our minimalist design is inspired by ancient huarache running sandals with a long proven track record. Simplicity in the design makes for the ultimate minimalist footwear experience. The lacing system allows for maximum freedom while offering adequate security for nearly any application.

                green elemental lightweight minimalist water sandal
              • Elemental Sandal
              • Weight: 5.5 oz
              • Thickness: 6.5mm base + 1.5mm tread = 8mm
              • Sole: Vibram® Gumlite Outsole
              • Footbed: None
              circadian lightweight running minimalist sandal
              • Circadian Sandal
              • Weight: 5.9 oz
              • Thickness: 9mm = 7.5mm base + 1.5mm tread
              • Sole: Vibram® Gumlite Outsole
              • Footbed: Earth Grip
              alpha grip traction minimalist sandal
              • Alpha Sandal
              • Weight: 5.2 oz
              • Thickness: 12mm = 10mm base + 2mm tread
              • Sole: Vibram® Morflex Outsole
              • Footbed: Earth Grip

              And Children's Sandals!

              We are excited to offer minimalist sandals for children that allow their young impressionable feet to create and maintain all the inherent functions they need for optimal foot health.

              children minimalist sandals

              Our children's minimalist sandals are:

              • Easy to slip on and off
              • Flexible and zero-drop

              Q: Why don't you make toddler sizes?

              A: We have been contemplating making smaller sandals for a while now, but there are some key reasons that we decided not to. Among them, when the foot gets too small, a lot of the dimensions of the toddler's foot start to cause issues for our sandals. For example, the lace is too thick to fit between their toes and there is very little room to anchor the lace on the sides of the sandal causing discomfort for these small feet.

              Why Merge Minimalist Sandals with Earthing Sandals?

              The design philosophy of these two sandals types are very much the same, to offer the closest thing to barefoot. Minimalist sandals offer the physical sensation of being barefoot, while earthing sandals provide the ancient primordial component of being connected to the earth, same as all life has evolved on this planet throughout time. The earthing capabilities of Earth Runners make our sandals more minimalist, in the natural sense, by reducing interference between your foot and the Earth.

              minimalist earthing sandals

              References 

              [1] http://www.unshod.org/pfbc/pfrossi.html
              [2] https://www.ncbi.gov/articles/695560985
              [3] https://www.ncbi.gov/articles/845123544
              [4] https://www.ncbi.gov/articles/684123154