Choosing healthy shoes + shoe brand list

What to look for in a shoe

Here are some guidelines for choosing healthy shoes. These principles apply to both child and adult shoes, but adults need more time than children to adapt to less structured footwear. Don't neglect the transition!

Look for these qualities …

  • Wide toe box
  • Flat, flexible sole
  • No (or very little) heel rise
  • Foot fits on sock liner without much spillover
  • Shoe attaches firmly to foot (no mules or flip-flops)
  • Shoe upper is made of breathable, flexible material

Avoid these …      

  • Shoes that aren’t foot shaped
  • Narrow toe box
  • Elevated heel
  • Super squishy foam sole
  • Rigid sole
  • Toe spring (when the toe of the shoe curls upward)

Shoe brands (adult)

These shoe brands make at least one model that meets the healthy shoe criteria. You can find sales on many of these brands on discount sites and at the end of the season. Be aware that many of the shoes here won't fit your needs exactly. Some may be too narrow or too minimal or even too cushy. It's worth the effort to find shoes that are perfect for your feet.

Altra (Good for transitioning to flat shoes)
Camper (the Peu line)
Chronology
Columbia Minx boots with insole removed (it has a big heel drop)
The Drifter Leather
Earth Runners
Into the Wild Way
Lems
Luna Sandals
Merrell (Vapor Glove, Pace Glove, Bare Access models are ok for narrow feet)
Minnetonka boots - These run narrow, so they're not so great for average-wider feet.
Otz (without their stiff cork insoles)
Shamma Sandals
Sanuk
Softstar
Unshoes
Vibram FiveFingers
Vivobarefoot
Xero shoes

Shoe brands (child)

Bobux (soft-soled shoes)
Some (but certainly not all) Cat & Jack brand shoes at Target are minimal. These boots are pretty great. 
Etsy - tons of options for soft-sole kid shoes
Into the Wild Way
Livie & Luca - Some styles are nice and flexible, others not so much. 
Luna Sandals
Minnetonka - Some styles run a bit narrow
Momo Baby (soft-soled shoes)
MyMayu (rain boots)
Plae (the Ty style minus the insole)
Robeez
Skidders
Softstar
Starry Knight Design on Etsy makes great moccasins for babies/toddlers
Stonz (rain boots)
Unshoes
Vivobarefoot
Wildings

Want more guidance?

If you want help transitioning to minimal shoes, check out Katy Bowman's book, Whole Body Barefoot: Transitioning Well to Minimal Footwear.*

*affiliate link