About Tabi Footwear and Minimal Shoes

What Is Minimal?

Minimal footwear is footwear that allows you to move as if you were barefoot, but with the protection of a shoe. We have a few qualifications that help us determine what is a minimal shoe, boot, or sandal.

Flat and Flexible Sole

  • Also known as zero drop, a flat sole that does not elevate your heel- nor your toes- must be present to consider a shoe minimal.
  • The sole must be flexible to allow for the greatest variety of natural, functional movement. Various models are more or less flexible.
  • With the minimum of support and other shoe technology, your feet will gain the opportunity to do the work to become strong and skilled!

Foot-Shaped Design

  • We look for a wide toebox so that you have room to spread out and use your toes. This also helps accommodate tools like Correct Toes.
  • Feet come in a huge variety of shapes, both naturally occurring and those occurring from decades of “regular shoe” use. Some brands are more or less wide or tall in different areas.

Fits Securely

  • If your shoes don’t stay on your feet by themselves, you’ll end up changing the way you move to keep them on. Flip-flops are a great example of a shoe that doesn’t stay on by itself that might otherwise qualify.
  • We look for shoes that will stay securely on your feet until you choose to take them off.

Feel the Ground

  • Ground feel is a term we use to describe how much feedback you get from your environment, literally the feeling of the ground underfoot. Some minimal shoes have more groundfeel than others, and you may want a variety of options for various uses.
  • Ground feel can be influenced by how thick the sole of a shoe is and what it is made out of as well.

When you begin to wear minimal shoes (also known as minimalist or barefoot shoes), there is a period of transition when you are adjusting to new inputs and the new challenges they offer you. See our helpful blog for more on the transition.

Tabi and East Asian Inspired Footwear

We also carry a variety of East Asian inspired movement-friendly footwear such as Tai Chi slippers and Japanese Tabi socks and shoes.

Tabi is a Japanese style that is often described as split-toe: there is a separate area for the big toe, and the smaller four toes share the other area. You can think of them as the mittens of the sock world.

Originating in the 15th century as a sock, Tabi could be worn with thong-style sandals like Geta and Zori sandals. Traditionally they are made of non-stretch materials and fasten with metal tabs which tuck into threading up the ankle. They are often associated with ninjas, but their use was and is widespread.

As new materials like rubber became available, the “Outdoor Tabi” or Jikatabi boot with a rubber sole became popular, especially for labourers in Japan. 

Now there are all kinds of Tabi: Jikatabi, traditional non-stretch Tabi socks, matt training Tabi for martial arts, Tabi nylon stockings, modern stretchy Tabi socks, Tabi sneakers, steel-toe Tabi boots, and more.

Tabi are popular with our customers for martial arts, Taiko drumming, Japanese festival attire, traditional Japanese dance and performance, fashion shows, film and television, and of course just for fun!

Some of our East Asian inspired footwear is not totally minimal, though we do try to find the most minimal options available, especially when that aligns with the origins of their designs.