A recent poll conducted by Footwear News named “Barefoot/minimalism” the Most Popular Trend of 2011. The same poll also gives credence to the notion that the minimalist movement is here to stay, as readers voted that “Barefoot/minimalism” would also be the Hot Trend of 2012. It’s very exciting to see how much the minimalist footwear movement has taken off in the past year and to see people’s enthusiasm continuing into the new year. To me, and to many others who have already adopted the minimalist shoe, I would say that it comes as no real surprise to see so many people gung-ho about going minimalist. I think that many people, myself included, would not hesitate to say that wearing minimalist shoes changed their life, whether it be in a big way (e.g. allowing a long-time runner to finally run pain-free) or in a small way (e.g. finally appreciating the interaction of your feet with the ground beneath them).
What the Footwear News poll also means is that we will very likely see several new and existing companies jump into the minimalist footwear game in the coming year. This got me thinking, “What companies would I like to see make a minimalist shoe in 2012?” So, without further ado, I present to you a list of 6 companies the TR Crew would like to see go minimalist and why.
1. Keen Footwear. This was the first company that came to my mind when making this list. As it turns out, they actually already make a minimalist (or transition) trail-running shoe, called the A86 TR. However, I decided to keep them on the list anyway because I’d also like to see them release a casual minimalist shoe this year. Keen shoes have a very unique look that I think would translate well into a minimalist shoe and would likely be popular with both the already-minimalist crowd and those looking to get their first pair. The Keens I’ve owned in the past, both casual and performance styles, have been attractive, very well-made, and durable, three characteristics that they would no doubt carry into a minimalist shoe.
2. TOMS. Toms are practically a minimalist shoe already, but it would be great to see them release a pair with a wider toe box to seal the deal. Doing this would likely not compromise the original look of the shoe too much, and, because the shoes are so popular, it would serve as a way to ease a whole new group of people into minimalist footwear. In addition, it would give minimalist fans a pair of shoes to wear that supports a good cause! FYI, for those of you looking to support a good cause now, Invisible Shoes already donates 10% of its profits to the The Tarahumara Childrens Hospital Fund (TCHF) to support the indigenous people of the Copper Canyon.
3. Keds. A minimalist shoe from Keds is my suggestion for a more affordable, casual option. In truth, as with Toms, current Keds are not too far off from being minimalist already. If you stripped away a few millimeters on the sole to increase flexibility, as well as any arch support, and gave them a wider toe box, you’d be looking at a casual minimalist shoe similar to the Jazz offered by VIVOBAREFOOT. We’ve had several people ask about more affordable options for casual minimalist shoes, so these might just be the answer!
4. A Designer Shoe Company. Several celebrities, from Kate Hudson to Matthew McConaughey have been spotted sporting Vibram FiveFingers as of late. Shailene Woodley recently made waves for wearing her FiveFingers to the Golden Globes after party. While the world of fashion more often holds to the old adage, “Beauty is pain”, I can only hope that the increased interest of celebrities in keeping their feet healthy means that some designer will decide to make a dressier minimalist shoe. This would hopefully trickle down and encourage more affordable dress-shoe companies to provide their clients with a healthy-foot option.
5. Puma. Puma already makes several relatively small and light athletic shoes, so a minimalist version of one of their sneakers seems like a natural step for them to take. Make the toe box wider and remove the arch support on a shoe like the Soleil FS, and I think you’d have a perfectly nice minimalist shoe. Puma is also a big competitor of Adidas, so their introduction of a minimalist shoe might prompt Adidas to come out with a better minimalist option than the Adipure, which feels and looks like a cheap FiveFinger knock-off.
6. Nike. I know that Nike technically already makes a “minimalist” shoe, but let’s be real. The Nike Frees are more of a transitional, or as I like to say, “minimal-ish“, shoe than they are minimalist. I’d like to see Nike really commit and release a true minimalist shoe that is zero-drop and offers a thinner sole for better ground-feel. I also feel that an increased commitment to the minimalist movement from Nike would help to ensure its popularity over the coming years.
Are there any companies that you feel were left off of this list and deserve to be mentioned? Sound off in the comments!