Mama Goes Minimalist (or Maybe Not)

When we moved, I did what all the minimalist/downsize your life gurus suggest to do with your clothes. Get rid of them.

Not all of them of course. I tried to keep only those pieces of clothing that were either useful or beautiful - from that oft quoted William Morris advice to "have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."

Beautiful, comfortable and useful - that is the perfect, but elusive, clothing combination for me.

a favorite sweater
not beautiful but very comfy and cute

Downsizing my wardrobe was all fine and dandy but when July hit (and I started rummaging through my stash for hot weather clothes) I discovered I didn't own a pair of shorts. Not a one.

We remedied the shorts situation on our trip out west, turns out I actually enjoy shopping when I'm on vacation. And I was able to add a couple more beautiful, and functional, pieces to my wardrobe this summer with hand-me-downs from my mom.

My clothes for the summer, and much of my fall wardrobe as well, fit into a locker sized cupboard in the trailer where Damien and I are sleeping while staying with my parents. All I really need are a few basic clothing pieces, with a touch of whimsy - a flowered dress, a batik shirt, a colorful hat - to express my free spirited side.

The shoe situation when we arrived this spring in Nova Scotia was somewhat discouraging, totally devoid of whimsy, color, or personality. It was blah.

These are the shoes I moved from Maine:

  1. rubber boots for farm and garden work
  2. old sneakers for more farm and garden work
  3. open toed black leather mules, my summer dress shoes (haven't worn once this summer)
  4. black leather, very conservative, dress Rockport's with a 1 inch heel, my winter dress shoes that I've owned since before Celine was born
  5. winter hiking boots

Notice there were no flip flops, casual sandals, crocs, or even hiking shoes in this list. I got rid of all my worn-out shoes before moving which was basically my summer shoes.

Lucky for me I'm married to mister minimalist shoe man and he knew how to remedy that situation.

You see, Damien knows shoes. But not just any shoes - minimalist shoes. What is that you ask? You can read all about minimalist footwear at our family's site Toe Salad - a community for all things minimalist footwear.

This is not a fad for us, like wearing those funny five fingered shoes (I started wearing those four years ago when they were the only minimalist shoe we could find for me). Going barefoot and wearing "barefoot" shoes has transformed our health. Really.

All this hiking we do would not be possible without having made the discovery years ago that less is really more when it comes to shoes. Knee issues, back pain, joint problems... health issues that had stopped us in our twenties from hiking don't exist for us now.

That's my little blurb to get you investigating this in case you have body pain issues that are keeping you from being active.

This is where I share one of the funny ironies in our simple living journey. We believe in downsizing and love reducing the amount we own (ie: my clothing philosophy) but my husband owns more shoes that anyone I know!

To fair, he doesn't keep them for ever and ever but as a shoe reviewer he gets sent a lot of minimalist shoes. It's one of the things he does - tests, reviews, and writes about minimalist shoes.  And here I am, earlier this summer, with no summer shoes! Oh the injustice (wink).

The good thing though is that Damien has connections and knew who to sweet talk to solve my summer shoe problem.

So I started the summer with the VIVOBAREFOOT Ultras (purple shoes earlier in post). If you click that link you can read my review of them. I really like them. They replaced my crocs and I even hiked and backpacked in them.

When we went out west I quickly discovered that hiking in smooth soled shoes was not going to work on the loose rocky terrain of the western mountains so Damien bought me a pair of New Balance Minimus Trail shoes.

These are now my spring, summer and fall hiking shoes. I was happy to replace my once-weird-now-trendy, four year old, falling apart Five Fingers. 

And then Damien scored me these gorgeous brown leather VIVOBAREFOOT Miles. They are so fun on my feet but definitely weren't suited for summer. By August I was starting to feel like a girl going back-to-school shopping (without having to actually shop - how awesome is that!?)

I was all set. Scruffy, old shoes for dirty work (boots in case it's really mucky), purple lightweight sandals for everything else, sneakers for hiking/backpacking, a dressier pair of shoes for fall and spring. What more does a girl need?

A girl needs beauty, every day. At least, this girl does.

And so when I saw these Kigo shoes I knew they were the shoes for me. Not for hiking and not for gardening (though you could do those activities in these shoes). But shoes for me to slip on and look pretty.

Shoes for going to town or the market with one of my colorful skirts. Shoes to wear with shorts, shoes to wear with my bathing suit when taking the kids to the beach.

Shoes for everyday activity that are also pretty!

Not only that, Kigo shoes are a perfect fit for the "barefoot lifestyle". Which is basically the premise that barefoot is best but that shoes are often needed for many modern life situations. And that to give our feet and bodies the best health our shoes should be as close to mimimalist as possible.

Which is basically our family's shoe philosophy. I know, we have philosophies about everything!

Here's what's so great about these Kigo shoes, in addition to their minimalist design:

  • This pair of Kigo shoes I own (the flit model) is made from recycled materials and are 100% recyclable when they are worn out and I can't wear them anymore. Seriously, I have an address to mail them to. I hope it still exists in x number of years when I'm ready to part with them.
  • Kigo footwear works towards a minimal environmental footprint. They seem to walk the talk of the minimalist philosophy, and not just in their shoe design.
  • Kigo is a small company run by thoughtful, conscientious folks. I've met them. I realized when we went to OR that behind businesses and products are people. Kigo is not just shoes, they are people. And having met them I know they are the kind of people I like to support.

That's the spiel about the company but I have to say I just love the shoes. Since getting them last month, I wear them as often as I leave the house. And I feel pretty when I put them on.  And that counts for something.

Beautiful, useful and very comfortable.

The utilitarian in me is happy. The inner-barefootist in me is happy. And the girl just wanting pretty is happy. A perfect fit.

I now own nine pairs of shoes, including my winter and rubber boots. Hum... doesn't seem all that minimalist. I think I'll get rid of the open toed black mules that I didn't wear all summer. I don't need them now that I have the Kigos.

Eight pairs of shoes. In my defense, Brienne owns more than I do. She's a shoe fashionista.

Care to share how many pairs of shoes you have? Are you a shoe minimalist? Either in terms of actual shoe design or in number of pairs you own?

{And yes, I do take a lot of photos of our family wearing shoes. It's part of my job description as photographer-wife to the minimalist shoe man.}

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  • Michelle

    Michelle on Sept. 15, 2011, 7:14 p.m.

    Wow, I guess I am a shoe minimalist too and I didn't even know it. In fact, I have never heard about this before today! I am almost always in bare feet around the house or knit slippers in winter. I HATE getting new shoes and once I have a pair I like I wear them out. I wear Earth Shoes sandals in summer, Earth shoes Mary Janes in fall and spring and my Sorrel Winter boots for outside in the winter. Thats it. Barefoot is best. Funny, I do not have any sort of knee or back issues (I'm 46) but I thought it was because of yoga. My husband has all sorts of issues but he is in dress shoes or clunky hikers all day every day. Hmmmm. I'll have to look into this. Thanks Renee/


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 15, 2011, 8:16 p.m.

      You only own 3 pairs of shoes? Wow, you rock. Are you sure you don't have a pair shoved in the back of your closet somewhere?  I finally goodwilled my wedding shoes before we moved. I never, never wore them (Brienne did) but they had that sentimental wedding attachment. I decided I could keep the keep the man and give the shoes (smile). You'd be amazed at how many people who like to hike and/or run have problems with their joints from being active. A lot of it has to do with their shoes. 


  • Heather

    Heather on Sept. 15, 2011, 7:25 p.m.

    I love all the feet photo's! I have the vibram KSO's and love them. They work wonderful for hiking and canoeing! I need to re-vamp my foot wardrobe now that a new season has come and gone. It's hard to remember to always review the "stuff" but it's so easy to let the "stuff" take over if I don't. :)


  • Heather

    Heather on Sept. 15, 2011, 8:19 p.m.

    I used to love being barefooted as a child, and still always have my shoes off when I get the chance. I love taking my shoes off when I'm at church and especially at people's houses! I just got vibrams at an REI garage sale earlier this year, I love them but I don't wear them very often. I'm always sore after wearing them! I know that's because I don't use those muscles the rest of the time. Minimalist foot wear feels amazing and I definitely know that this will become more of a trend for me.


  • Ellen

    Ellen on Sept. 15, 2011, 8:45 p.m.

    I have shoes much like yours for everyday. They are crocs, but they look like Mary Jane's. I've had them for 2 years so far (replaced my old crocs) and so far, so good! And they're pretty - they're blue Mary Jane's. I also have a pair of running shoes (Newton's) and a pair of water/hiking/whatever outside shoes from LLBean (I got those shoes in 2005 and am so sad they don't make them anymore. They're great!) I also have winter boots, but I seldom wear them because I hate boots. One more pair - red Keens that I inherited from a friend about 10 years ago. They are great winter shoes. So that is 6 pairs of shoes, including the winter boots. My 6 yo daughter has 12 pairs of shoes. Geesh!


  • Natalia

    Natalia on Sept. 15, 2011, 9:34 p.m.

    I used to run in Vibrams KSOs but now they are my hiking/walking shoes and I run in Vibram Bikilas.Unfortunately I am too vain to wear them for general wear, but it is so hard to find cute vegan everyday shoes, so glad to find the Kigo shoes! Will have to contact them and see if they send to the UK for a reasonable cost.


    • Rachelle

      Rachelle on Oct. 3, 2011, 4:32 p.m.

      Natalia, If you haven't yet spoken with our customer service rep about getting shoes to you in the UK, please feel free to email me directly at We ship internationally via USPS, and it's never that pricey to get shoes to the UK. We sell our older lines via LoveThoseShoes and Chelston Direct in the UK as well, so that might be worth a look!

      Cheers! Rachelle


  • Catherine Forest

    Catherine Forest on Sept. 16, 2011, 1:42 a.m.

    What a great post, Renee! Thanks so much for the information. My partner is a trail runner and also swears by minimalistic shoes! I've got to try those 5 fingers even if I have no pains anywhere...


  • Spalva

    Spalva on Sept. 16, 2011, 6:18 a.m.

    I own one pair of sandals for summer, one pair of canvas hiking shoes, one pair of autumn desert boots, one pair of winter boots and one pair of running shoes, which I haven't put on in three years because I found running with a breast prosthesis somewhat disturbing -- but I guess I'll have to put them on tomorrow to go to b-ball practice with my girl.

    My 6 year-old has one brown, one blue for school and a pair of hiking shoes. My 11 year-old girl has one pair of high tops and one pair of skate shoes and one pair of shoes-she'll-never-wear-except-to-school-functions.


  • Beth Wagenius

    Beth Wagenius on Sept. 16, 2011, 7:27 p.m.

    Lol, I guess I just have shoe envy!! I loved all your shoes Renee. How fun. I'm so glad to hear the New Balance Minimus work well for hiking. I've been looking at them....a lot. I really like the Vivo Barefoot Miles too. They look just like what I could wear to town and such. oh, and the Vivo barefoot ultras look like great gardening yard wook kind of shoes. Just hose them off and you're good to go! I think I loved them all! Someday.....At least now I have my shopping list. Fun post. :)


  • steadymom

    steadymom on Sept. 16, 2011, 8:13 p.m.

    Question for you, Renee:

    A few years ago my feet started to really hurt (it was painful to even go for short walks, etc) and the doctor said I needed orthotics b/c of my arch. So I got those, at a very expensive price. As a result I can never go barefoot w/o it hurting my feet (at least not for very long). I can only wear my sneakers (or 95% of the time) so that I can have the orthotics inside.

    Just wondering if you've come across that at all in your barefoot shoe research/experience.

    I think you and I have similar shoe tastes!


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 16, 2011, 8:30 p.m.

      Sorry to say hon but I think orthotics are mostly a sham (my totally unprofessional opinion). We purchased expensive orthotics years ago for Damien which didn't heal him. That's really the question here, do orthotics help heal your body, making your foot muscles stronger or are they a crutch (or rather arch support)? I'm not the one who has done all the reseach on this. Damien has done significant research on footwear and health.  D. recommends this site and this article to get you started on your research (if you want to investigate). He also says to hang out at Toe Salad a bit (smile). The science and theory behind all of this is that our natural body design is not defective. Our feet do not need correcting (unless we have some serious leg length differential), they simply need protection from the elements. Our bodies were made for some serious physicality and our bodies will grow the muscles we need if we let it (and do the work - smile). As far as not being able to go barefoot (I am NOT a doctor) your feet have probably just lost the muscle they need to truly support your body. They are relying on the shoe. So what you feel are sore muscles. Just like when you work out or something. Your muscles feel sore after unfamiliar exercise. When I started going more minimalist in my shoes my feet would hurt after hiking. But not joint hurt, sore muscle hurt (or where I stepped carelessly on a root or rock and bruised my foot). There's a difference. Hope that helps some. And probably goes without saying I distrust most of what the medical profession recommends for health and wellness. 


  • Shelley R.

    Shelley R. on Sept. 16, 2011, 8:13 p.m.

    I have 5 pairs of older shoes... a pair of teva sandals that are 8 years old, were accidentally dried in a dryer and shrunk, warped, but I still wear them almost everyday come spring and summer; a 5 year old pair of keen shoes that I wear for fall/spring; a pair of REI hiking boots that my (now) husband purchased for me as his first gift to me; a pair of running shoes for yard work; and last year I remembered a pair of sorrel winter boots that were in my mom's garage that I've had since ninth grade. (okay, okay, that would be almost 20 years!) Plus, an indoor wool slipper for our wood floors, so six pairs. And would you count nordic ski gear? +1 for those, but I think that's it...

    A few years ago, after many comments from my practical husband of "Why do you have those shoes?" I gave away all my dressy, flip-floppy, chunky-heeled boots and shoes. They hurt my feet, they weren't functional for the activities we did, and rarely worn when exploring with kiddos. Even my wedding shoes went in the box (but, I do still have the wedding gown).

    If we had the means, I'd upgrade my small selection with lighter fare and better treads... the Kigo line caught my eye!


  • Naomi

    Naomi on Sept. 18, 2011, 9:05 p.m.

    Ah, yes, downsizing. An all-familiar activity! Actually, I plan to be writing a post soon about how we organized our small living space, and a big part of that is clothes and shoes. Reducing belongings makes it easier on the laundry budget and time spent cleaning!


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