Questions & Answers


So, thinking about the directory, what kind of standards should we have regarding what goes in there? This is a tricky question because minimalist footwear can be a lot of different things. Some are stiffer than others (New Balance 101), some have a foam midsole (GoLite), some have a raised heel (Inov-8), etc. I have been wondering if it would be worth coming up with a list of specifications that we use that must be met in order to consider adding something to the directory...

Any thoughts on this?


Answers and Replies


Would it be possible to make different groups. For example have a transitional group of shoes where you include shoes like the Kivara thay are not zero drop with cushioning. You could have another group of true minimalist "barefoot" shoes that are zero drop, flexible with little to no cushioning. Just a thought.


Yes... I was also thinking about attributes. Minimalist has to be have at least one of these attributes

flexibility (measured as the force required to bend 45 degrees?) zero drop (or some measured differential) cushioning (not sure how to quantify) and weight (for an "average" size)

On other thing which doesn't make a sure minimalist per say, would be tread type, though I am not sure what the options would be. But clearly something like the Talon is very different from Vivo Barefoot Aqua.

I could image a directory that by defaults to everything, with filters that lets a user narrow down.



I agree with 'theo' on this. Many of us are still transitioning to a true minimalist shoe and I believe this will be the case for the next year or two even. Shoe companies are going to begin to cater to this transitional shoe market as well in the next couple years. One could argue that 3 or 4 levels of minimialist shoe exist today and there could be more on the horizon.


I am envisioning a "Specs" section for each product that would list various characteristics like: outsole thickness, insole thickness, midsole thickness, heel raise, weight, etc. I think it would also be great to come up with some sort of standard for flexibility so that shoes could be compared on that metric as well. Once we had those metrics in the directory, the software could automatically be designed to categorize shoes as "transitional"...

That being said, we should probably set limits to some of those things. I don't want people entering in shoes with big heels, motion control, etc.


I think the idea of specs is great as long as all the information is available for the criteria you mentioned. Many shoe companies don't provide a lot of "specs" about the shoes they produce unfortunately.


Well, I guess that is where a site like this can really add value then. If we can get some people who have these shoes to measure them, then we can collect a lot of info that isn't available anywhere else.


For me cushioning isn't an attribute of a minimalist shoe.

As I see it, if you can't roll your feet naturally when you walk in the way that you can when you're barefoot, and if you can't put your heel down at your own foot's preferred angle, then I'd say that's not toe salad. If you can, then I'd say that it is.


I mostly agree with you Isha, however, I find that for cold weather, I need something under my feet for insulation from the ground. Usually some form of foam works well because it is such a good insulator. Thus when I am looking at shoes, I think of the cushioning as insulation, as that is pretty much the only situation where I really appreciate it.


"I think of the cushioning as insulation, as that is pretty much the only situation where I really appreciate it"

Perhaps then it could be called "insulation" and perhaps also refer to cold-weather usage, rather than "cushioning"; since cushioning has a wider meaning and some of us think it means something else.


I think the difference between cushion and insulation can be the stiffness. My wool socks provide insulation and are fairly thick, but they crush easily under my weight and don't reduce impact the way a rubber sole of the same thickness does. Even two 100% wool felt liners of equal thickness can be compact and dense or soft and fluffy.

Stiffness can be measured as spring constant (force/distance), but this oversimplifies the matter as foam does not really act like an ideal spring. We would have to specify a specific force and measure the distance it deforms the surface to compare apples to apples.

Personally, I've been listing companies that have available flexible soles with no arch support or cushioning. I've been looking at moccasins, for casual and work wear that is comfortable to the fully transitioned.

I agree though that if we can just have more data collection on properties that make a shoe minimal, and good search tools for getting that data back out, that would be more useful than setting a firm line in the sand for listing or not listing. There are enough small companies out there, if we list them all it will get unwieldy to search through without more differentiating data and search tools.


I think the question comes down to who you want in your community here at Toe Salad. If you want to have a true minimalist exclusive club, then yeah you'd want to exclude a bunch of shoes.

I think that the more shoes you have in your directory, the more likely you will continue to add new members and build a larger community.

There are problems with trying to accept/reject shoes based on a specification. Shoes frequently fall into a continuum more than they do into nice discrete boxes.

Take heel lift...

If heel lift exceeds the standard by 0.5 mm, will it be excluded? Is this by company specification or measurement by independent third party via calipers or other method? And as someone else mentioned, what if the specs are not available? What if a measurement can only be taken by cutting open a shoe?

I think "loose" standards are a good idea for lumping shoes into various groups... but things get complicated quickly if the criteria are too specific or there are too many types.

Also I see many shoes that fail only one minimalist criteria... maybe that's ok. Maybe the criteria ought to be weighted. Maybe heel lift is more important than flexibility or weight (I think this actually depends on the person).

But Maybe a points-based system would work better than hard cut-offs based on measurements. A shoe earns points for every minimalist feature it includes (or maybe loses points for every anti-minimalist feature). I'll have to think about this idea some more.

Here are some ideas about categories. Notice that there are 4 categories total, in my world only the 4th category would be excluded from the toesalad site.

  1. Extreme Minimalist - Meets 95% of the criteria for minimalist shoes (zero drop, weight, flexibility, toe box / foot shaped, ground feel...).

VFF ... huaraches ... Terra Plana EVO ... Merrell Trail Glove Altra Adam/Eve most moccasins Feelmax others ...

  1. Intermediate minimalist - meets half/some/most (?) of the criteria for minimalist shoes.

New Balance Minimus ... aqua socks Mizuno Wave Universe 3 (MWU3) and other exceptional racing flats Altra Instinct / Lone Peak others ...

  1. Reduced shoes - What some would call "Transitional". Transitional implies movement from one thing to another, so another term would be better. I plucked the term "Reduced shoes" from Jason Robillard's site, but I would merge some of his categories. These may meet only one or two criteria for minimalist shoes, but are definitely "less shoe" than "over-engineered and actually prevent you from running naturally" shoes. Lightweight Trainers or road racers labeled "neutral" support might fall here if they didn't have other failings.

Nike Free ... Saucony Kinvara Inov-8 Talon, F Lite, ... New Balance MT101 most Newtons ... Most XC racing flats Some shoes from Puma, Brooks, Adidas, GoLite, others....

  1. Un-natural shoes - over-engineered shoes with motion control / stability features that are unapologetic about their supportive features. Trying to think of a better therm than "marshmallow shoes" or "foot casts".

I would be happy if the "Un-natural shoes" were excluded but I see value in keeping the other categories.


As far as a points based system goes, different people have different preferences, but a search tool could allow the user to set those point values.

A dress shoe might be low-cushion, no arch support, with some heel rise, but maybe when searching for a running shoe it's more important to have no heel rise and have a roomy toebox?


I am currently working on a rating system. The system would allow for varying degrees of minimalism, it will be a continuous scale based on points. I want people to be able to tell, at a glance, how minimal a shoe is. I also want people to know that there is a significant difference between a Nike Free and an Altra Adam. This site isn't a general shoe site, it is a site dedicated to minimalist footwear, with barefoot set as the ideal. I don't want people thinking that all shoes are created equal, because they are not.

As I have things more nailed down I will let you guys know what I am thinking.


I would find a rating system to be very helpful. It would help me put my money in the shoes that are going to best meet my needs. I look forward to see what is developed.


I have it almost complete, just putting the finishing touches on. Should be done in a couple of weeks... if anyone is interested in seeing the draft version in order to provide feedback, send me a private message.


I haven't seen Damien's draft yet and I don't mean to torpedo that effort, but I just realized I never posted the scoring system that was bouncing around in my own head. Here is just copying and pasting my brainstorming notes...

A shoe's minimalist potential starts with 10 points.

Subtract from the base score by criteria in each category. A perfect shoe with no negatives will score a 10.


Heel-to-forefoot drop 0...... 4 mm , 9 oz , < 12 oz (moderate weight) 3...... 12 oz and up (excessive weight)

Flexibility 0...... (extremely flexible, rollable into a ball) 1...... (very flexible) 2...... (somewhat flexible) 3...... (inflexible)

Foot-Shaped 0...... (Foot-shaped, naturally wide toe box with sufficient height for toes) 1...... (slight impingement on toes) 2...... (narrow) 3...... (extremely narrow)

Ground Feel 0...... (Excellent ground feel) 1...... (moderate ground feel) 2...... (slight ground feel) 3...... (no ground feel)


10 point scale classification

< 0 = foot casts 0 - 3 = reduced shoes 4 - 7 = intermediate minimalist 8 - 10 = true minimalist

Samples: Nike Free Run+ 3 points = reduced shoe MWU3 4 points = intermediate minimalist VFF 8 points = true minimalist Asics Evolution -4 points = foot cast


@verber, for the force to bend 90 degrees there would also need to be a standard on where the bending is taking place. Some shoes are more flexible at different points in the sole.


Using danstoner's method, I thought I would score out 1 set of shoes. By the way, I have (and use) several racing flats, original Nike Free 5.0, Nike Trail Free, VFF Sprint, NB 790, NB 100, NB 101, NB Minimus Life, Road, & Trail.

So I thought I would score out all 3 Minimus styles. I have tentatively scored each one as an "8" putting them at "True Minimalist" Starting with 10 points: As they are 4mm drop, they lose 1 point, down to 9. Weight, all 3 are between 5oz-9oz, they lose 1 point, down to 8. Flexibility, the "Life" and "Trail" models are easily "extremely Flexible" rollable into a ball. The "Road" model is iffy between "Very" and "Extremely", OK, I've now decided to grade the "Road" at just "Very Flexible". So Life & Trail remain at 8 points, Road loses a point and is down to 7. Others may decide it's still "extrememly" and not dock any points, I'd be ok with this. All 3 are foot shaped with extra room in toe box to accomodate toe splay. 8, 8, & 7 Ground feel. OK, this is the toughest to grade out in my opinion. Ground Feel can be very much in the foot of the beholder. I like their ground feel, with the road maybe being at just Moderate, but the trail and life at excellent.

Final Scores: Life = 8 points, = "True Minimalist" Road = 6 points, = "Intermediate Minimalist" Trail = 8 points, = "True Minimalist"

These scores would be pending people agreeing on flexibility of the road model. and also on the ground feel scores.


I think all of the NB Minimus models would lose at least 1 point for toe box width (or toe area shape), at least according to feedback and pictures I've seen, moving each of them into "Intermediate Minimalist".

But what I wrote above is all subjective and easily arguable. It would be better to have hard numbers / measurements. Same for ground feel.

Also, as the rating system is "tuned" with real world shoe examples, some of the categories might be more heavily weighted. "Sole thickness" aka ground feel might be weighted more heavily and look more like 0,2,4,5 instead of 0,1,2,3.


My issue with danstoner's (and most other) classification system is that it rates a perfect shoe as an arbitrary fixed number. For example, a pair of VFFs might get rated as high as a pair of socks, but the socks are certainly not what I would consider perfect footwear. I don't think there is such a thing as a perfect shoe, it really all depends on what you want it for.

I think there are a range of shoe types with varying degrees of weight, flexibility, cushioning, durability etc. The classification system I am working on would rate a horrible shoe as a zero and bare feet as infinity. The higher the number, the closer the shoe is to barefoot.


Yes, perhaps a rating system that starts at -0- and awards points for high marks might be better than a system that starts at a fixed number with points deducted. If a shoe has no redeeming qualities, it stays stuck at -0-. While a shoe with exceptionally high marks across the board could really get up there in number.

Then again, maybe we don't need a system that rates a shoe as 87 vs. 83, but just a system that tells us what group a shoe falls into.

In "traditional" shoes, we don't rate shoes on a numeric scale, but rather "Neutral/cushion", "Stability", "Lightweight/Performance", "Motion Control" etc... But nowhere is the ASICS Nimbus rated as a 23 vs. the Nike Vomero as a 24, just both "cushioned". Hmm....maybe they ought to though.....

This is still in it's infancy. We can do whatever we want or feel is helpful. We (the minimalistic movement) don't have to take a single cue from "traditional" if we don't feel it's best. But I do agree that something needs to be done for classification purposes, otherwise what's to stop Nike from saying the Pegasus, or Saucony from saying the Hurricane is minimalistic? Already I'm seeing shoes that really should be "Lightweight/Performance" trainers trying to get passed off as "minimalist" (ASICS DS-Trainer and Speedstar) I call this "minimalist creep".


I agree with you on the minimalist creep, that is something I am finding as well, which was the original motivation for this thread in the first place.

I don't like to think of the numbers as points, which indicates higher is better. I like to think of them as a tool for classification. The numbers need to be meaningful, like temperature and pressure: a higher temperature isn't necessarily bad or good, it just is-what-it-is.

When it comes to minimalist shoes, we need put them on a scale according to a baseline. The best baseline I can think of is bare feet. Maybe we make bare feet a zero, and then add points on from there. 1 point for every mm of cushioning, 1 point for every mm of heel lift, etc. Then what you end up with is a system that shows how close/far from barefoot a shoe really is. The higher the number, the further it is away. Then, we could create classifications based on a range of numbers.



For example, a pair of VFFs might get rated as high as a pair of socks, but the socks are certainly not what I would consider perfect footwear.


Socks would rate pretty high on any minimalist scale I've seen proposed. They meet all the qualifications of "minimalist" but not "shoe". You might add a couple items like warmth, waterproofness, sharps protection, cleanability and durability. Some of these items are opposing other positive qualities like flexibility, breathability, lack of cushion, but if we're having a multiple factor "what is" rating system rather than a calculated final score, they might be worth including.

That said, when shoveling snow last weekend I wore 3 pairs of socks (1 liner and two wool) and no shoes. On unsalted, well-frozen snow, durability, cleanability, and waterproofness are not significant factors.


Hi all! I don't want to be the new guy that irritates everyone, but I am convinced that hard soles should be a higher priority than flexible soles when evaluating minimalist footwear. Let me explain.

The following is opinion not fact.

When introducing anything underfoot, the minimalist should be examining a shoe sole's impact in two key areas:

1) Joint Articulation (JA). Is the sole changing the ability to move at any of the joints in the foot? Ideally there is no change in the ability for movement at any joint. 2) Force Transmission (FT). Upon foot impact, is the sole changing the transmission of force? Ideally there is no change in the accuracy of the transmission of force.

I don't want to downplay the importance of joint articulation. Full usage and participation of all foot joints, muscles, movements is critical. BUT, I think the accuracy of force transmission is equally important, and is often left out of the barefoot/minimal discussion.

Hard Sole: Thin 2mm - Excellent at FT and JA Medium 6mm - Excellent at FT, Excellent for rearfoot/midfoot at JA, Very Good for forefoot at JA Thick 10mm- Excellent at FT, Excellent for rearfoot/midfoot at JA, Good for forefoot at JA

Flexible Sole Thin - Very Good at FT, Excellent at JA Medium - Poor at FT, Excellent at JA Thick - Very Poor at FT, Excellent at JA rearfoot/midfoot, Very Good at JA for forefoot.

With the thin soled shoe, hard or flexible soles make little difference. I suppose you could say that it's personal preference, but I would say, why sacrifice even a little bit of force transmission.

With medium thickness soled shoes, I gladly give up a bit of forefoot movement for a big advantage in accuracy of force transmission.

With thick soled shoes, I gladly give up a moderate amount of forefoot movement for a huge advantage in the accuracy of force transmission.

What do you think? Anyone interested in this topic? Would love to hear your thoughts.


I don't think that hard sole and flexible sole are really opposites - I think that soft sole doesn't always mean flexible, and thin hard soles can be nicely flexible, as you point out.

So perhaps we should be looking at hard sole vs. soft sole, or inflexible sole vs. flexible sole.

Since my feet and hips are severely damaged from wearing hard inflexible soles that prevent proper articulation of the feet, I wouldn't be supporting a general move to be putting hard soles high up in minimalist ratings. However, when a hard sole is very thin and flexible, I agree that it can be a good feel for barefooters.

Ghost and Damien: lol, when I first spotted the words "minimalist creep" jumpin out at me I had a double-take. I hope my friends don't start calling me a "minimalist creep" :-D


ha, yes. I'd worried about that just a little when I wrote it; 'creep' vs. 'creap'. I'll be honest and admit that I had to look them both up to make sure I used the correct spelling for the 'creep' I wanted to use, so I wouldn't come off as a 'creap'.

You have omitted the greatest of all Appalachian Trail books: Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods.. PLEASE add to your list.

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