Minimal Footwear 101

Why Minimalist Shoes?

Less is more.

For decades, it was commonly believed that adding more cushioning and rigid “motion control technology” to shoes made them safer, healthier and kept foot pain at bay. In recent years, however, many doctors have spoken up to disagree with this view. New studies continually emerge that suggest less cushioning and more flexibility in shoes may not only be healthier, but may also relieve foot pain and treat or even cure foot ailments that were previously thought to require orthotics or surgery (scroll down for a list of these studies).

The idea is simple: shoes that force your feet into tight spaces and fixed positions can cause pain and gradually deform the shape of your feet and toes. Adding a plush pad of orthotic cushioning under your feet may feel great at first, but it may also prevent you from using and exercising all of your foot muscles as nature intended. Over time, this may cause those muscles to weaken and possibly atrophy. The result? More foot pain, which is often treated with thicker orthotics, which leads to more pain, which leads to thicker orthotics, and so on and so on.

It’s time to stop the cycle! Countless Softstar customers have told us they were able to throw away their orthotics completely and walk pain free after a careful transition to minimalist barefoot shoes… or even better, going barefoot.

We believe that going barefoot is often the best path to strong and healthy feet. Unfortunately, we live in a world where shoes are usually required, and that’s where Softstar comes in. Our minimalist barefoot shoes are designed to mimic barefoot movement as closely as possible while keeping your feet protected from the elements. Unlike conventional footwear, which often uses thick and rigid designs that force your foot into the shape of a shoe, all Softstar minimalist barefoot shoes are designed to be thin and flexible with leather that stretches naturally. The more you wear our minimal footwear, the more they take the shape of your feet.

By allowing feet to move freely we believe we allow them to develop and strengthen naturally. And since your feet are the foundation of your whole body, healthy feet are the first steps to an active and healthy lifestyle... strong from the ground up!

Need more evidence of why you should wear minimalist barefoot shoes? Check out the articles and studies below, or read the customer reviews and testimonials on our product pages—they speak for themselves!

A word of caution: if you are new to minimalist barefoot shoes then we strongly recommend a slow and careful transition from your old shoes. Since minimalist barefoot shoes activate muscles, tendons and ligaments that may have grown weak after years of wearing conventional shoes, it is often necessary to build up foot strength gradually to prevent injury. For more info, read our tips for safe transition:

Features of Minimalist Barefoot Shoes

All Softstar shoes are designed with the following features. Expand these topics for more information:

Treating Foot Problems Naturally


Just a reminder: we're shoemakers, not doctors, and we cannot prescribe medical advice. We do, however, have access to many articles on foot health written by doctors who believe it is best to treat foot problems by restoring natural function with minimalist barefoot shoes, rather than resorting to orthotics or surgery. We have posted many of these articles on our blog and are happy to share the most popular posts below, though any treatment plan you undertake is done at your own risk and we make no promises about results.

One of our favorite tools for treating foot pain naturally is Correct Toes. Invented by podiatrist Dr. Ray McClanahan DPM, these simple silicon toe spacers have proven to be effective in helping many people treat foot problems such as bunions, plantar fasciitis, hammertoes, neuromas, capsulitis, knee pain and more. We are proud to sell Correct Toes on our website, as they are mentioned often in the articles below.

Not finding the information you need? The Correct Toes website has a comprehensive directory of foot ailments with suggestions for natural, non-invasive treatment:

Need a Professional Opinion?

Of course, we always recommend seeking the opinion of a trained medical professional. Unfortunately, it may be difficult to find a doctor in your area who supports the idea of treating foot pain by restoring natural foot function, instead of simply prescribing orthotics or surgery. If you have trouble finding a pro-barefoot doctor in your town then you may benefit from a remote online consultation with Dr. Ray McClanahan's clinic in Portland, Oregon. Click here for more info.



We are always on the lookout for articles and studies on the benefits of minimalist shoes. You can find a collection of informative articles provided on Correct Toes' website discussing the following topics:

  • Fashion and Foot Deformation, by Dr. William A. Rossi
  • Footwear: The Primary Cause of Foot Disorders, by Dr. William A. Rossi
  • Toe Spring, by Dr. Ray McClanahan, D.P.M.
  • Heel Elevation, by Dr. Ray McClanahan, D.P.M.
  • Arch Support, by Dr. Ray McClanahan, D.P.M.
  • Tapering Toeboxes, by Dr. Ray McClanahan, D.P.M.
  • Think About Your Knees, by Dr. William E. Garret, MD
  • Athletic Footwear: Unsafe Due to Perceptual Illusion, by Steven Robbins and Gerard J. Gouw
  • Paleopathological Study of Hallux Valgus, by S.A. Mays
  • Hallux Valgus in a historical French Population, by Bertrand Mafart
  • Running-Related Injury Prevention Through Barefoot Adaptations, by Steven Robbins and Adel M. Hanna
  • The Influence of Footwear on the Prevalence of Flat Foot, by V. Sachithanandam and Benjamin Joseph
  • Hazard of Deceptive Advertising of Athletic Footwear, by Steven Robbins and Edward Waked
  • Is Your Prescription fo Distance Running Shoes Evidence Based? by Dr. Craig Richards, et al
  • Trail Walking, by Glann Ingram, Jr., ND and Dr. Ray McClanahan, D.P.M
  • Foot Strengthening, by Dr. Ray McClanahan, D.P.M.
  • Walkers Bare All, by Dr. Ray McClanahan, D.P.M.
  • Running Injuries Between Shod and Barefoot Runners, by Dr. Irene S. Davis and Dr. Allison R. Altman

Here is a list of additional resources we found insightful: