Buying minimal shoes for children – not easy, but doable

As a parent it can be a challenge to find what I would consider ‘good’ shoes for children.

I am an advocate of wearing barefoot/minimalist shoes, and do so pretty much exclusively and it would be hypocritical to not apply the same to my children. Unfortunately most children’s shoes are hard, inflexible and like bricks. What’s more, we are told this is a good thing as children’s feet are weak and need protection while they grow.

It’s an easy sell for shoe companies as we naturally want to protect our children but I would argue that the exact opposite is needed – these shoes give no reason for the muscles in the foot to get stronger, which is what makes them weak.

Good, minimal shoes for kids are few and far between. Not to mention that buying children’s shoes is an expensive business – their feet grow very quickly!

This cost is a massive barrier. No designed, minimal shoe can compete with a £1.50 pair of shoes from Primark. That said, there are still ways to follow a more minimal shoe philosophy with your kids and manage the cost at the same time.

It’s never going to be as cheap as non-minimal shoes but this is the approach we’ve taken with our daughter, I plan to repeat it with the new baby that’s on the way – although she’ll probably end up wearing P’s hand me downs!

Where did we start?
The first shoes we bought were minimal by accident.

We went to Clarks for P’s first pair of shoes (it seems inbuilt in British DNA to do so). She has such tiny feet that their ‘walking’ shoes wouldn’t fit and the only ones that went down to her size were designed for babies to wear when they are crawling and cruising around furniture. Fortunately these shoes were amazing in terms of a minimal shoe, the sole was 2mm at most and very flexible – in my view they were pretty close to an ideal first shoe.

I’m sure other retailers do similar style shoes which, although say are not for outside use, have full soles and are completely fine. It’s a real shame they are promoted for crawling only and not as a first walking shoe.

The cost
We had to pay full price for the first pair. We had held off buying shoes until she walked (shoes for crawling make no sense btw!), but once she started walking we needed them right away.

Luckily at that same trip to the shop we found almost exactly the same shoes, but a larger size, in the sale bin for £6 – bargain.

This is my major tip for keeping the cost down when buying kids shoes – check the sales and plan ahead. Your children’s feet are only going to get bigger so buy a bargain when you see it. They WILL grow into them.

What next?
Obviously, even with tiny feet, shoes designed for pre-walkers are not going to last for long but there are other options. P wears Vivo Barefoot shoes now most days. They cost more than £6 but were bought in a sale for much less than RRP.

We also found that you can buy slightly big and they still fit well, with the added bonus of lasting longer.

There are also other brands out there that we’ve yet to try like Bobux. I also have friends that can’t say enough good things about Crocs.

So good shoes are out there but are expensive. The main thing is to keep an eye on the sales, sign up to the manufacturer’s newletters, get onto the bargains early and buy new shoes before you need them.

What to do at a minimum
Ideally you would have at least the shoes they wear the most (probably school) in a minimal style.

If that is still an issue, then try to follow these shoe principles as best you can (in order of preference):

  • Thin, flexible sole
  • Zero drop heel-toe
  • No/minimal arch support
  • Wide forefoot to allow toes to splay

Something more along the lines of plimsol, is way better than a big, blocky shoe.

This is all easy for me to say, I have toddler who wears what she’s told and doesn’t even know what Nike is yet!

Maybe check back once my children are both in their teens. I may have a different story 😉


New shoes – Vivo Barefoot Ra

Vivo Barefoot have recently (although it might have been last season??) released a shoe that’s suitable for wearing with a suit/trousers.

Excellent, now I can be barefoot-ish everyday.

The stylings of the Ra will look familiar anyone that knows the Vivo range fairly well. They look kinda like a leather Dharma with laces.

I’ve only had them for a short while but initial impressions are very good. They have all of the features I would expect from a minimal shoe:

  • Zero drop heel-toe
  • Thin flexible sole
  • Wide toe box (it is massive!)
  • No arch support

My only complaint is that they rub and cause a blister just below my left ankle. I epxect this will pass as the materials softens.

Also, it may be unique to me as my left ankle is still slightly larger them the right following a nasty sprain earlier this year.

In summary, I’m very pleased so far.

I wear my work shoes more than any others and will update on how they wear over time. That said, I’ve never had any problems with other Vivo shoes – between me, my wife and daughter we now have nine pairs!

New running shoes – Vivo Barefoot Neo

I picked up a new pair of running shoes this week. It’s been long overdue as the aqua shoes I had been running were well past they’re best – and they were never that good.

They have a few plus points – they are cheap and the ground feel is very good but they also often caused blisters and were falling apart.

My old shoes


Enter the neo

There are a ton of minimalist shoes on offer at the moment and after hours of research I eventually came back to a company I know well – Vivo Barefoot. I’ve got a few pairs of their casual shoes and am a big fan.

I ended up going for the Neo. I’d read very good things about this shoe and haven’t been disappointed.

They have all of the main features I expect from a minimalist shoe:

  • Thin, flexible sole
  • Zero drop heel to toe
  • Minimal cushioning
  • No/minimal arch support
  • Wide forefoot to allow toes to splay
  • Comfortable to wear without socks

My new shoes


    I’ve only been out for a couple of runs in them but they’ve performed very well so far. I like how fast the shoes feel, I find it very hard to run slowly in them.

    They are also nice and grippy, I took them on an easy trail after some rain and ran it hard with no slipping.

    I also managed my first kong vault in them, although that may not be soley down to the shoes…..

    All in all, if you are in the market for a minimalist running shoe then I recommend them highly. You can also fine some great deals on them on t’internet (thanks Barefoot Athlete!)