Several years ago, when the minimalist shoe trend was really gearing up, I bought some purple Vibram Five Fingers shoes. They were hideous. But I loved them. And I walked in them for YEARS until the sole was falling apart. (I did not run in them, but that’s for another post.)
Since then, I’ve done most of my walking in my (expensive) running shoes. This has put extra miles on my running shoes, wearing them out faster. Also, my running shoes have a heel drop of 10.1 mm, meaning that I’m racking up a ton of miles (between running and walking) in a non-neutral heel.
I’d have loved to buy a new pair of Vibrams, but my husband would not be caught dead with me wearing those shoes. And I’ll even admit it: they drew more attention that I’d like, and I was a tiny bit embarrassed when I ran into certain people in the city and was caught in my purple toe shoes. So, I decided to look for an alternative.
- less expensive than my $180 running shoes;
- more attractive than Vibram Five Fingers;
- well-attached (i.e., not a flip flop or slide, or even a looser flat like Toms, all of which aggravate plantar fasciitis for me);
I tried to find a good post to link to clearly and concisely explaining the benefits of walking in zero drop shoes, but unfortunately I couldn’t find one. So, a quick summary:
When our heels are elevated, our natural balance is thrown off, changing our alignment. Most notably, it can cause the pelvis to tilt and the back to arch, with ribs thrusting out and up (sound familiar?). This mis-alignment can cause issues with the lower back and pelvic floor, and it lengthens/shortens/engages/disengages certain core muscles in abnormal ways. A higher heel (or a positive heel) also shortens the achilles tendon and the calves, while a zero drop shoe allows the muscles and tendons to lengthen. We all know that three or four inch heels can cause pain through our whole bodies, but even the 9-12 mm heel lift of most conventional running shoes can cause mis-alignment. Personally, when I am barefoot or wearing a zero drop shoe, I feel my hips and core relaxing and my pelvis coming into alignment under my shoulders. I also feel like I sink into my lower back less.
(For a warning about making the switch to zero drop shoes, check out the Gait Guys. I’ll also throw in one of my own: 10 mm might not sound like much, but anatomically, it is. Moving in zero drop shoes is different, and your body needs time to adjust. And even though this post isn’t about running, I’ll also say that picking up zero drop running shoes and immediately heading out for a run is a recipe for disaster.)
OK, with my criteria in hand, I checked out the long list of suggestions over at the Nutritious Movement site. Many of the suggestions are sandals, which might be great for summer but aren’t going to cut it in March. Some of the suggestions were also, well, ugly. I’m willing to compromise fashion for my health, but I do have some standards. Way down near the bottom of the list, I found the Vivobarefoot brand. I went to the site and immediately thought, These are attractive! Unfortunately, some of the more attractive models are those made from suede and leather, which I’m trying to avoid. Which brought me to the Evo Pure. These sneakers are zero-drop and have a wide toe box to let the toes get to work. They are $110 on the Vivobarefoot site but were available for a bit less and with free Prime shipping through Amazon. I wear a size 7 or 7.5 street shoe, and a size 8 running shoe, so I went with European size 38 for my Evo Pures.
The shoes arrived quickly and fit well. They are very lightweight and would be easy to pack. They looked pretty cool, even if the wide toe box gave them a little bit of a Ronald McDonald feel. I can definitely feel the ground more in these shoes, which are not very cushioned. Although your feet are protected, stubbing a toe, standing for long periods, or walking over a rock will hurt a little more than in regular shoes. And because the soles are so thin, your feet will likely get wet if you are walking through puddles. Also, I walked for about five miles in these the day before the Asheville Marathon and my achilles got really irritated, to the point where I needed to stop walking and ice my ankle. This is a growing pain of switching to zero-drop shoes, which is why everyone says to transition slowly (and maybe not the day before a marathon). I have hustled to cross the street a few times in these shoes and just cannot imagine running in them at this point because they feel so different than my cushioned running shoes. But that’s OK because I really do just want to walk in them. And for that, they seem to be working well.
If you are looking for a more fashionable zero-drop shoe to wear around, I’d also suggest Vans. They look totally normal, are inexpensive, and come in a million colors. The sole is thicker and the toe box is not a wide as Vivobarefoot, but are still a good option. I just bought some for my sister for her birthday.
What do y’all think? Have you tried Vivobarefoot shoes? I’d love to hear others’ experiences with them or other zero-drop shoes for walking or running. Any other suggestions for good walking shoes with zero drop?