How to Pick a Minimal Gym Trainer: Part Two

As discussed barefoot training can be a good method of strengthening up the musculature around the ankle though it does not mean that you just have to train in one pair of shoes what follows is a review of the main contenders for minimal support based footwear…


The main stay of the lifting community, now perhaps more of a fashionable shoe than a training shoe. The value of converse with a stable base with a flexible mid-foot shows its use for lifting weights as a flat shoe. In more dynamic work the coarser upper material is less than ideal for movement, specifically with the high top version. For those with wide feet it can also be an issue.

Neutral Running Shoes…

Can be useful for those who may need a bit more support. The main issue with any type of running shoe is the issue of an elevated heel lift, as discussed before this can cause increased heel contact time which may not be desirable when looking to encourage a more natural forefoot running pattern with less ground contact time. For those in the gym it can provide a suitable amount of support if your arches/ ankles are weak and is a good transition shoe if you have been training a more heavily supported shoe. Often our clients have orthotics which may be necessary for some individuals especially if they are not going to invest the time in some barefoot training drills. Therefore, I would tend to favour a neutral running shoe with a customized orthotic opposed to a heavily supported running shoe as it will be more personal to the individual’s needs as this will also help preserve knee alignment and give support where necessary. The orthotic can also be adjusted over time if barefoot training drills are undertaken to improve lower body strength. This is often what I recommend for runners- with a more minimal shoe for gym work and occasional runs.

Nike Free…

I have a couple of pairs of Nike Free’s myself and think they are great as any everyday shoe. There are a number of models with varied heel lifts a higher heel lift in the 5.0, 7.0 and “Run” versions so their benefits as a minimal shoe now are not as great in comparison to the 3.0 which has a lower heel lift. I also find the added heel lift with minimal medial support not in line with the ideals of barefoot training in the sense of developing and allowing full range of motion at the ankle. The light weight nature of the show though makes them suitable for gym work especially if you can find some of the earlier models though they make a decent everyday shoe even if they can get beat up pretty quickly.


Perhaps the weirdest looking of the shoes as the illustration suggests these shoes are akin to wearing a more durable glove for your foot. Fundamentally they are very comfortable though their base is pretty thin meaning if you have sensitive feet you may have to build up to using them outside. The Vibrams is a great shoe if you really want to get the feel of being barefoot. The feeling on your feet is akin to grabbing hold of the floor with your feet and therefore when working on a single leg you really feel everything working from the foot upwards. I generally use these every other day for work (indoors) and training. Anecdotally, I have tried a light amount of running in them but believe that there may be better options especially if looking to elevate the amount of training you do. That said as part of your footwear for training they are a really useful addition.


Introduced to me by one of my clients the Merrell barefoot shoe combines the feel of the sole of the Vibram with the appearance of a normal shoe. One of my training clients told me that this was the evolution of shoes and that my Vibrams where now where irrelevant as at least you could wear these outside with “normal” people- the Merell incidentally has a Vibram sole which I didn’t mention to him. The Merrell shoe is a great option for a minimally constructed shoe for those who want a more normal looking covered shoe; it was going to be my favoured selection until….

New Balance Minimus…

I had a preview of this from Eric Cressey’s blog, realizing they were not available in this country… until one of my colleagues managed to get me a pair through a contact in the States! The New Balance shoe has a sole made by Vibram with a full upper like the Merell. It’s very comfortable to wear and has the appearance of a climbing shoe. Some of the other models almost look like more durable versions of the early Nike Free. It just edges the Merell in looks with the upper feeling a bit more flexible on the upper foot and is great for dynamic work in the gym, short distance speed work and occasional short distance running.

Published by ianmellis

Ian Mellis MSc. CSCS is the co-founder of Results FAST ( in Ware, Hertfordshire. Specialising in athletic development, physique improvement and injury rehabilitation he provides personal training, strength and conditioning and nutrition coaching for motivated exercisers and those looking to make a long term change to their health, fitness and performance.

3 thoughts on “How to Pick a Minimal Gym Trainer: Part Two

    1. Get in there and get a pair, they where realesed here on the 1st of July but in limited models! There are more models on the US New Balance site, the set I have (the one’s pictured) are pretty awesome!

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