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Fashion, Life & Style

ad | I Tried Minimal Shoes – Here’s How I Got On

Paid for content with Wildling minimal shoes

Have you ever tried wearing minimal shoes before? I hadn’t until recently. However, I’ve been wearing minimal shoes for the last month and wanted to share how I’ve been getting on with them. I will also share where you can buy ethically produced minimal shoes.

What are Minimal Shoes?

minimal shoes from Wildling Shoes
The Rubus Vegan Winter Minimal Shoes from Wildling Shoes – other shoes in their winter range aren’t vegan, and instead, use carefully selected wool from a landscape conservation project

First off, you might be wondering what minimal shoes are. Minimal shoes are shoes that are designed to closely approximate walking barefoot, in comparison to traditional shoes. With a sole thickness between 1mm and 4.5mm, minimal shoes allow the wearer to experience more sensory contact with the ground. Simultaneously they provide the feet with protection from the ground.

Another key feature of minimal shoes is that the soles are flexible, and the shoes are very light.

Why Wear Minimal Shoes?

wildling minimal shoes

Wildling Shoes, a German ethical producer of minimal shoes for kids and adults, says that “98% of all children are born with healthy feet. Unfortunately, only 20% can maintain this foot health into adulthood”. 

Wildling says that if your feet can develop and move freely, your feet will develop strong muscles. However, thick, stiff soles and footbeds prevent the foot muscles from being strengthened, leaving feet weakened. Whilst many shoes taper at the point where feet widen – putting pressure on your feet.

To rectify this, the Wildling lasts – the basic models for Wildling Shoes – are based on an anatomical foot shape with a natural width. This is designed to mirror the shape of a strong, healthy foot. This gives feet the space they need to develop in a healthy way, whether your feet are narrow or wide.

And to strengthen feet, Wildling says that over the long term walking in minimal shoes demands more of the muscles. Through repeated wear, feet can regain strength, and become more flexible. Wildling also says that minimal soled shoes can lead to better balance and stability, as the increased sensory contact with the ground makes wearers more reactive to underfoot conditions.

How I Got On With Wildling’s Shoes

When Wildling asked me if I wanted to try a pair of their shoes, I’ll admit, I thought I was an unlikely candidate for wearing minimal shoes. I have a condition called hyper-mobility – it’s traditionally known as double-jointedness.

When I was young, I thought it was pretty cool being hyper-mobile. But as I’ve gotten older it’s been less of a joy. Of the many problems it brings, I’m pretty prone to going over on my ankles. This makes footwear a huge problem for me. I can’t wear high heels, and I veer towards shoes with firm support or supplement with prescribed orthotic insoles. Minimal shoes did not come into my footwear equation.

I explained to Wildling that whilst their shoes were very lovely, I wouldn’t be a very good candidate for their shoes because of my condition.

Minimal Shoes & Hypermobility

Wildling quickly got back to me and shared a link to this Facebook post. The post is in German, I had to use the translate button. But here I found that many people in the comments shared that since switching to minimal shoes they are less prone to going over their ankles.

I also read this blog post on the Wildlings site. It featured testimonials from customers with a range of health issues. These ranged from rheumatism to back and foot pain, to diabetes sufferers. All claimed that minimal soled shoes had helped with some of their conditions.

It all really got me thinking. Could a pair of shoes really help with my hypermobility problems? Over the years I’ve seen countless podiatrists, with little success. Let’s just say I was a little skeptical. Wanting more than just anecdotal evidence, I then did my own research. I came across this article on a scientific peer-reviewed study, which found that, in runners, minimal soled running shoes did actually strengthen their feet.

Whilst Wildling Shoes aren’t specifically minimal running shoes, I took the plunge. Soon a pair of Wildling Shoes were winging their way to me, shipped completely plastic-free. The day my Wombat Shoes arrived was an exciting one. I popped them on immediately and tried them out around the house.

Whilst it’s really early days to tell if the shoes will help with my hypermobility problems in my ankles, and I can’t offer any anecdotal evidence at this stage of my minimal sole journey, I have very much been enjoying the feeling of wearing minimal shoes.

What I Liked

Owing to the thin soles – of all the minimal shoes on the market, Wildlings have the thinnest soles available – I feel like I notice more when the ground I’m walking on is uneven. As such, when I’m wearing them more likely to take care on uneven ground. I went on a walk last week wearing welly boots, as it was wet and muddy underfoot. I fell over on some uneven ground, splitting my knee open. I’m convinced this wouldn’t have happened if I’d been wearing my Wildlings shoes.

Something else I’ve noticed is that after walking, my feet and calves feel tired, like they’ve had a workout, in very much a good way. Hopefully, this is a sign that the muscles are strengthening, but I will update this post next year with how I get on.

Warmth wise, I am wearing my Wildlings with the Felty insoles for extra warmth in winter. I was worried that with the thin soles I’d have cold feet. But I have to say that my feet have been very warm and cosy in my Wildlings. I really shouldn’t be surprised – my Wombat boots are made of sustainably sourced wool. As a material, wool has natural temperature regulating characteristics. And because of the muscle stimulation while walking in minimal shoes, this, in turn, means your blood circulation is also stimulated, warming your toes too.

Comfort wise, the thin soles are not uncomfortable. In fact, I feel like I’m wearing slippers and I hate having to take them off when I get home!

What I Didn’t Like

The only criticism of my shoes is that on wet days when I’ve walked to my car, I’ve found the soles of the shoes to be quite slippy on the pedals of my car. There is definitely less grip on them. Once or twice when I’ve been manoeuvring my foot has slipped off the clutch, causing me to stall. To counteract this, I’ve been making sure to wipe my feet thoroughly on the car mat before driving.

Why Choose Wildling Shoes

There are quite a few manufacturers of minimal shoes, but what I really like about Wildling Shoes is their commitment to ethics and the environment.

From the very beginning, Wildling was clear that their shoes should be produced with as minimal impact as possible, both environmentally and socially. After exploring various locations, and taking into consideration the need to keep delivery routes short to minimise carbon emissions, and to keep the shoes themself affordable – Portugal was chosen as Wildling’s production site. Now each and every pair of Wildling shoes are handmade in Portugal by skilled sewers paid a fair wage. Transparency is also key, so you can also find out more about the production process here.

The materials of the shoes are carefully considered too. Their entire range is made from natural and renewable materials such as organic cotton, sustainably sourced wool, hemp, and linen.

I’m definitely a convert, and I really look forward to updating you on my minimal shoe journey! Do check back and I’ll share my experiences here.

If you’d like to try out Wildling shoes for yourself or your little ones use the code MORALFIBRES20 at the checkout to enjoy free UK delivery (valid until 31st March 2021). Your first return is also free. Please note, the minimum purchase amount when using this code is €50, and the code can only be used once per customer.

Find the Wildling Shoes website here, and follow them along on Instagram and Facebook.

Fashion, Life & Style

AD | Eco-Friendly Activewear

Paid for content which contains affiliate links

Let’s chat eco-friendly activewear.

With campaigns such as secondhand September, and the rise of secondhand shopping sites such as Depop, more and more people are opting to buy clothes second-hand.

Whilst a pair of secondhand jeans or a top is one thing, for many people, there are a few things that they may be less inclined to buy secondhand. In conversations I’ve had in the past with people, items that people are generally less inclined to buy secondhand mainly include underwear, shoes, and activewear.

I’ve covered underwear and shoes on the blog before, but what about the options for eco-friendly activewear?

eco-friendly activewear
Image from BAM

What’s Wrong With Traditional Activewear?

You might be wondering what’s wrong with traditional activewear. Traditionally, activewear has been manufactured from synthetic fabrics such as polyester, nylon, and spandex. These stretchy, lightweight, and fast-drying fabrics might be good for your workout. However, these types of fabrics are non-renewable, and their production is both energy and water-intensive.

What’s more, these synthetic fabrics shed microplastics every time we wash them. These microplastic particles drain out of our washing machines, through our wastewater, and ultimately into the sea, damaging marine life, and entering the food chain.

Why About Natural Fibre Activewear?

When it comes to buying activewear, gym wear, and swimwear, it currently isn’t possible to buy 100% natural fibre clothing. Even if you could, you would sacrifice the properties that make activewear what it is. You would lose the stretchiness that allows for freedom of movement, the lightweight fabrics, the sweat-absorbing properties, and all the other elements that go into technical clothing.

What Are The Alternatives?

Over the last few years, we have seen an array of different options when it comes to eco-friendly activewear. Some of which, I think, are better than others.

You can get activewear made from recycled plastic bottles, for example. This initially sounds like a great idea to reduce plastic waste, but these fabrics still shed microplastics when they are washed. This turns a visible plastic pollution problem into an invisible plastic pollution problem on a much larger scale, in a form that’s even more likely to cause problems.

I also feel uneasy about the practice of turning plastic bottles into clothing – it doesn’t solve the plastic problem, or bring about meaningful change.

What About Bamboo?

Other manufacturers, such as BAM, use bamboo to make their activewear.

When it comes to fabric, bamboo is pretty contested as a sustainable fabric choice. On the upside, bamboo is renewable and grows quickly without the use of pesticides or herbicides. It’s strong root system stores carbon, improve soil health, and supports biodiversity. And, it only requires rainwater to grow, making it a less water-intensive crop than cotton.

On the other hand, turning something like bamboo into a soft and stretchy fabric requires the bamboo to go through a chemical-heavy, industrial process to convert it into a semi-synthetic fibre known as viscose or rayon. This process can be very polluting and harmful to workers’ health.

The scientific community is also in the relatively early stages of research into microplastic release from clothing. So far there is little known about the release of microplastics from semi-synthetic fibres such as bamboo-based viscose or rayon. Whilst there is doubt, using a laundry bag or ball designed to catch any potential microplastics would be a good call.

Introducing BAM

Whilst no option is perfect when it comes to eco-friendly activewear, I think it’s important, if you are able to, to shop from a company that is investing in greening their supply chain and treating their workers fairly, such as BAM. In the last two years, BAM says they have “traced our suppliers’ suppliers’ suppliers’ suppliers’ supplier to systematically identify all our growers, factories, plants, and manufacturers“.

By understanding and knowing their entire supply chain, this has allowed BAM to green their operations so that they only work with responsible producers. For example, they only work with bamboo fibre producers who use safe and responsible chemistry and waste treatment practices, and who are committed to investing in the technology needed to further improve their practices, processes, and chemistry where necessary.

By knowing all of their suppliers, they are also able to ensure that their suppliers are paying their staff above the national minimum wage and offering good working conditions throughout the entire supply chain.

You can read more about BAM’s work on sustainability in their 2020 sustainability report, which sets their current impact, their immediate plans, and their ultimate goals for the next ten years.

But What About the Clothes?

The good news is you don’t have to compromise your style credentials if you are after more eco-friendly activewear. BAM have you covered, with their range of stylish prints and flattering and supportive cuts for both men (size S – L) and women (size 8 – 18).

Here are some of my favourites from their women’s range:

eco-friendly activewear
BAM’s Endura Leggings in Fragment Print
BAM’s Challenge Bamboo Crop Top
ethical sportswear
BAM’s Endura Leggings in Aqueous Print
Bamboo Joggers

What I also really like is that all of BAM’s products are shipped plastic-free, right down to the protective poly bags. These are either home compostable and can be placed in your kerbside bin, or can be composted in your kerbside bin only. Don’t worry – the bag tells you exactly how to dispose of it.

plastic free packaging

Something I would like to see next is for BAM to work towards more inclusive sizing in both their men’s and women’s range, as I feel the size range is limited.

Apart from that, I think that BAM is making some really big environmental steps in the activewear market, a market that is especially prone to greenwashing. So if you are in the market for activewear then do check them out on their website – you get 10% off your first order when you sign up to their mailing list – and follow along on Instagram and Facebook.