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Have you ever tried wearing minimal shoes before? I hadn’t until recently, but I’ve been wearing minimal shoes for the last month and wanted to share how I’ve been getting on with them. And if your interest is piqued, then I’m also sharing where you can buy ethically produced minimal shoes.

What are Minimal Shoes?

minimal shoes from Wildling Shoes
The Rubus Vegan Winter Minimal Shoes from Wildling Shoes – other shoes in their winter range aren’t vegan, and instead, use carefully selected wool from a landscape conservation project

First off, you might be wondering what minimal shoes are. Minimal shoes are shoes that are designed to closely approximate walking barefoot, in comparison to traditional shoes. With a sole thickness between 1mm and 4.5mm, minimal shoes allow the wearer to experience more sensory contact with the ground, while simultaneously providing the feet with protection from the ground.

Another key feature of minimal shoes is that the soles are flexible, and the shoes are very light.

Why Wear Minimal Shoes?

wildling minimal shoes

Wildling Shoes, a German ethical producer of minimal shoes for kids and adults, says that “98% of all children are born with healthy feet. Unfortunately, only 20% can maintain this foot health into adulthood”. 

Wilding says that if your feet can develop and move freely, your feet will develop strong muscles. However, thick, stiff soles and footbeds prevent the foot muscles from being strengthened, leaving feet weakened. Whilst many shoes taper at the point where feet widen – putting pressure on your feet.

To rectify this, the Wildling lasts – the basic models for Wildling Shoes – are based on an anatomical foot shape with a natural width, designed to mirror the shape of a strong, healthy foot. This gives feet the space they need to develop in a healthy way, whether your feet are narrow or wide.

And to strengthen feet, Wildling says that over the long term walking in minimal shoes demands more of the muscles. Through repeated wear, feet can regain strength, and become more flexible. They also say that minimal soled shoes can lead to better balance and stability, as the increased sensory contact with the ground makes wearers more reactive to underfoot conditions.

How I Got On With Wildling’s Shoes

When Wildling asked me if I wanted to try a pair of their shoes, I’ll admit, I thought I was an unlikely candidate for wearing minimal shoes. I have a condition called hyper-mobility – it’s traditionally known as double-jointedness.

When I was young, I thought it was pretty cool being hyper-mobile. But as I’ve gotten older it’s been less of a joy. Of the many problems it brings, I’m pretty prone to going over on my ankles. This makes footwear a huge problem for me. I can’t wear high heels, and I veer towards shoes with firm support or supplement with prescribed orthotic insoles. Minimal shoes did not come into my footwear equation.

I explained to Wildling that whilst their shoes were very lovely, I wouldn’t be a very good candidate for their shoes because of my condition.

Wildling quickly got back to me and shared a link to this Facebook post (it’s all in German, I had to use the translate button!). Here many people in the comments shared that since switching to minimal shoes they are less prone to going over their ankles.

I also read this blog post on the Wildlings site, with testimonials from customers with a range of health issues – from rheumatism to back and foot pain, to diabetes sufferers – all claiming that minimal soled shoes had helped with some of their conditions.

It all really got me thinking. Could a pair of shoes really help with my hypermobility problems? Over the years I’ve seen countless podiatrists, with little success, and let’s just say I was a little skeptical. Wanting more than just anecdotal evidence, I then did my own research. I came across this article on a scientific peer-reviewed study, which found that, in runners, minimal soled running shoes did actually strengthen their feet.

Whilst Wildling Shoes aren’t specifically minimal running shoes, I took the plunge. Soon a pair of Wildling Shoes were winging their way to me, shipped completely plastic-free. The day my Wombat Shoes arrived was an exciting one – I popped them on immediately and tried them out around the house.

Whilst it’s really early days to tell if the shoes will help with my hypermobility problems in my ankles, and I can’t offer any anecdotal evidence at this stage of my minimal sole journey, I have very much been enjoying the feeling of wearing minimal shoes.

What I Liked

Owing to the thin soles – of all the minimal shoes on the market, Wildlings have the thinnest soles available – I feel like I notice more when the ground I’m walking on is uneven. As such, when I’m wearing them more likely to take care on uneven ground. I went on a walk last week wearing welly boots, as it was wet and muddy underfoot. I fell over on some uneven ground, splitting my knee open. I’m convinced this wouldn’t have happened if I’d been wearing my Wildlings shoes.

Something else I’ve noticed is that after walking, my feet and calves feel tired, like they’ve had a workout, in very much a good way. Hopefully, this is a sign that the muscles are strengthening, but I will update this post next year with how I get on.

Warmth wise, I am wearing my Wildlings with the Felty insoles for extra warmth in winter. I was worried that with the thin soles I’d have cold feet. But I have to say that my feet have been very warm and cosy in my Wildlings. I really shouldn’t be surprised – my Wombat boots are made of sustainably sourced wool. As a material, wool has natural temperature regulating characteristics. And because of the muscle stimulation while walking in minimal shoes, this, in turn, means your blood circulation is also stimulated, warming your toes too.

Comfort wise, the thin soles are not uncomfortable. In fact, I feel like I’m wearing slippers and I hate having to take them off when I get home!

What I Didn’t Like

The only criticism of my shoes is that on wet days when I’ve walked to my car, I’ve found the soles of the shoes to be quite slippy on the pedals of my car. There is definitely less grip on them. Once or twice when I’ve been manoeuvring my foot has slipped off the clutch, causing me to stall. To counteract this, I’ve been making sure to wipe my feet thoroughly on the car mat before driving.

Why Choose Wildling Shoes

There are quite a few manufacturers of minimal shoes, but what I really like about Wilding Shoes is their commitment to ethics and the environment.

From the very beginning, Wildling was clear that their shoes should be produced with as minimal impact as possible, both environmentally and socially. After exploring various locations, and taking into consideration the need to keep delivery routes short to minimise carbon emissions, and to keep the shoes themself affordable – Portugal was chosen as Wildling’s production site. Now each and every pair of Wildling shoes are handmade in Portugal by skilled sewers paid a fair wage. Transparency is also key, so you can also find out more about the production process here.

The materials of the shoes are carefully considered too. Their entire range is made from natural and renewable materials such as organic cotton, sustainably sourced wool, hemp, and linen.

I’m definitely a convert, and I really look forward to updating you on my minimal shoe journey! Do check back and I’ll share my experiences here.

Find Wildling Shoes website here, and follow them along on Instagram and Facebook.

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