Barefoot vs Minimalist Shoes

February 16, 2012 by Jessica at VIVOBAREFOOT


What’s the difference between barefoot and minimalist shoes? There is often confusion around what distinguishes the two. Many people recognise that there is a difference between traditional and non-traditional footwear however, when it comes to identifying a barefoot shoe from a minimalist shoe most people are often left a little baffled. We believe there's a big difference between barefoot and minimalist shoes.

Minimalist Shoes = Heel Strike + Motion Control
Minimalist shoes take all the hallmarks of traditional running shoes; motion control, air, gel etcetera and make them less. The danger with minimalist shoes is they do all the things traditional trainers do: affect your posture, restrict the amount of sensory feedback (proprioception) and constrict natural foot movement.


  • 8mm+ sole thickness

  • Quite often minimalist shoe manufacturers give a heel elevation, between 4-8mm.

  • Some cushioning, which compromises both proprioception and flexibility.

  • Narrow toe box


Barefoot Shoes = Maximum Protection + Proprioception
I know what you are all thinking: barefoot shoes – there’s an oxymoron if I ever saw one. Our take on barefoot shoes: they allow your feet to be as close to barefoot as possible while being protected from different environmental elements. Keeping that in mind, let’s look at some of the characteristics of barefoot shoes:

  • A puncture-resistant sole; less than 7mm thick.

  • Absolutely no heel elevation, which means there is zero-drop from heel to toe.

  • Nearly no cushioning so that the person wearing the shoes can get maximum sensory feedback from his/her feet. No cushioning also permits the sole to be flexible, which allows the joints in the foot to stretch and reach a full range of motion.

  • An anatomic toe box giving the toes a chance to splay naturally.




A Sole for Every Terrain
There are many harsh terrains and climates around the world, which would make it impractical to go barefoot all the time so it’s important to allow the maximum sensory feedback (proprioception) that you get from being barefoot while protecting your feet from the environment. All VIVOBAREFOOT shoes feature the puncture-resistant sole that provides protection, but the sole construction differs based on the product.  From an off road sole made with multi-directional lugs to maximize grip, to a ultra-thin indoor and on road long lasting sole, and even a fully moulded upper-outsole combination perfect for beach and waterside adventures, we have the largest and most complete suite of barefoot products on the market. Read more on our different barefoot soles.
Here at VIVOBAREFOOT we have a clear idea of the differences between barefoot and minimalist shoes. And we believe barefoot is best. But, what’s your opinion? Do you think there's a difference?

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