Note: Changing to a minimal shoe requires a bit of awareness about foot mechanics and will make your arch work as nature intends, so this transition should be a gradual process. Just like other muscles in the body, the arch has to gradually build up strength and adjust to a change in footwear, so prepare to keep your old shoes for a month or so to gradually work in your minimal shoes into your training.
Now which functional fitness shoes to buy!?!
The differential or drop typically identifies minimal shoes. This indicates the difference from the heel to toe in height. 6mm is the ideal drop for someone who is transitioning from a cushy running shoe.
Typically you want to get a shoe that is a midpoint from the standard running shoe to the completely barefoot style of shoe that will allow your feet to adjust to the change. This drop is also good for mid-foot strikers. Inov8 identifies their 6mm shoes with a dual arrow imprinted into the back of the heel.
This is one of the preferred standards for most cross-training, including Crossfit. Inov8 makes a 3mm with a single shock zone, and Reebok Nano 3.0 shoes feature a 4mm drop. A bare shoe will always be a zero drop as it is essentially an outer rubber sole to protect the feet from the elements simply. These shoes are perfect for deadlifts, kettlebell swings or for those truly committed to barefoot running.
Just for a visual, a typical running shoe has a 16mm differential or the equivalent of a fat sharpie Marker, 6mm is about the thickness of a pencil, and 3mm is about the thickness of a pencil lead.
What’s going on the outside?
Other than the drop, take a look at how the rest of the shoe is constructed. The Nano by Reebok is all about structure. They have a Toe Cap, side wall lugs, and heel cap to provide grip for rope climbing, bumpers for box jumps and overall, are built to last. They are solid shoes and built for cross-training that is heavy on lifting and not best for running. Inov8 is all about performance and comfort in a super lightweight package. FYI, model # indicates the weight of the shoe in grams (for a size 9). They feature the fascia band system that envelopes the top midfoot for support around the arch with an open toe box area for toe spread that provides a better support base. The built-in RopeTec in some models provides grip and durability during rope climbs. Inov8s are great for cross-training, including running.
Because the optimal shoe is different for each person and with many models & colours to choose from, the best thing to do is come into one of our stores to get fitted on a shoe that gets your feet moving.