If you're interested in reading more on ideas presented in the article below, I suggest reading Whole Body Barefoot. If you'd like movement instruction via video, start with Schoolhouse Series Snacks: Toes and Calves.
***This post was updated for Winter 2015-2016, including things I've found in the stores recently and boots-n-shoes we've purchased for our family, and again Winter 2018***
I love wearing my bare feet and I've been wearing minimal footwear for so long, it seems I am unable to wear "regular" shoes without major body-protest. Still, I live in a cold part of the world (well, truly I'm a Californian so it's probably not that cold of a place at all, I am just a huge wuss) and I recognize the need for warm-and-still-minimal shoes.
I've spent hours searching fruitlessly online for heel-free winter boots (and I swear, even the KIDS rain boots had a 1/2 inch heel. Why? WHY?). I've put out a request for reader's favorites. I also search every time I go into a store that has shoes--bending and twisting shoes like a crazy person.
Employee: "Ma'am, would you like me to get you a pair of those to try on?"
KB: "No thanks, I'm just here to mash on your shoes."
What you see below is the "winter" counterpart to Shoes: The List. <----Make sure you read this post first to get a sense of the features of a shoe we are talking about (rise, toe box, sole, upper).
I spotted (read: bent the crap out of) these Merrell Heaven Duos (UPDATE 2018: discontinued, but check out the Merrell Tremblant) and they rock. They're narrow, so they'd work well for not-as-wide feet.
I also found these no-heel Sorels. They're pretty stiff, but they're flat, so at least that's something.
These were the only two styles, out of at least 20 boot-types, that were flat. THE ONLY TWO. Just saying.
And, here's a forum discussion with ideas for minimalist snow boots: http://www.toesalad.com/questions/minimalist-snow-boots/
My husband's splurge this year is a pair of Manitobah Mukluks with a...wait for it...Vibram sole! Update: He bought these in 2016 and is rocking the same pair in 2018.
Minnetonkas I have these in black and I love them. I wear mine in the rain with wool socks, although I don't recommend this if you're overly concerned about dirty shoes. I think of these more as poor-weather foot coverings and less a fashion statement. UPDATE: I now have these in brown and fringe-y. They tend to run on the narrow side. I don't have wide feet, so they work for me, but everyone will require a different shape for their particular foot! UPDATE 2018: They get wet in the rain but my moving sock-clad feet keep me warm. I dry them out the night before I wear them again and they were also my snow gear last year, keeping in mind we rarely get snow and when we do it's usually still in the 30s.
Vivobarefoot Ella The sent me a pair of these to use in the video shoot of my upcoming DVDs. I don't often wear dressy shoes (I don't have a dressy life!), but I'll definitely be taking these to NYC with me next month and I wore them on set! Update: They discontinued these, but you can find other Vivobarefoot boots and winter shoes here.
*Kalso Negative Heel Boots Find some options here. (Note: These Kalso boots have very rigid soles, so they might be a better option for someone wanting to reduce heel height, but not total foot movement. Try a few sizes and styles as I've found the brand is not that consistent with sizing.)
L.L.Bean "Wicked Good" Lodge Boots New to me in 2018 (a friend showed up wearing them), these are such a great option! It's unclear, but I think they're meant to be slippers. But my friend lives in Tahoe and with a bit of waterproofing (beeswax) they're her snow boot and have held up this year. P.S. I'm wearing a pair as I type this.
Kids Boots/Rain Boots
With respect to minimal, my favorite outdoor play boots are MyMayu. Finally, light, flexible, and perfect--paired with a liner and wool socks--for outdoor school! The company notes that these aren't rain boots in the traditional, fully waterproof way. The can get wet all the way through with time.
Vivobarefoot Waterloo Kids (rain boots)
**Stonz Wear Note from a reader: "The Booties and rainboots are minimal. They just added snowboots for older children, but they seem pretty beefy."
Military training boot Note: I looked at these and they don't look minimal so I can't speak to them. But, I know that military dress can be limiting and there are styles that have more mobility and are lighter than the standard fare. So, I'm leaving them because of this testimonial: “Not fashion boots, but for those in the military, these are a life saver!”
(Traditionally) MEN'S Shoes.
(Meaning, I don't believe any of these styles require any particular anatomy or chromosome to activate their technology.)
The following are just more general minimal ideas (Hooray! There are many more options now!)
ADULT- Men’s & Women’s
For more information, check out my books on feet (Simple Steps to Foot Pain Relief: The New Science of Healthy Feet and Whole Body Barefoot: Transitioning Well to Minimal Footwear) because foot health is not ONLY about footwear, it's how you use it. To take yourself from a lifetime of shoe-wearing to minimal shoes, there are tissue adaptations that need to be undone and strength that needs to be restored.