I've tried Merrell's, Altra's, various light sandals, and Softstar moccasins. Sandals have always cause too many hot spots, and since I work in steel toes, I could never get my feet acclimated.
Of the shoes the Softstar's are my favorite. I have a pair of perforated leather Runamocs that have held up to thousands of miles of running and outdoor activities, I rotate them with a solid leather version during the winter. The leather on the perforated pair has started to wear down and I plan to replace them, I have had that pair since 2011 and did an Ironman in them.
Really, it's infuriating -- I have 4E, maybe 6E feet, and can't find truly flat shoes. So far I go with New Balance since they have models with only a 4mm heel elevation. I don't think my feet are wide -- they're developed! Average feet are really geisha feet.
But it's the same with clothes. You can't dress if you stand up straight, have glutes, aren't fat, and belly breathe.
I have wide-ish feet and have always found Sambas very comfortable. The thin leather upper molds to your foot very fast, and I've used them for all types of activity from PL competition to swinging a KB to running around with my kids. Durable too, and they have a style that has endured so you can wear them out and about and look sharp.
For KB work, I go barefoot on grass. To run on roads or trails, I wear Sketcher GoRuns. They've got a flexible sole and zero heel rise. I like them because they encourage a mid-foot strike, but don't tear my feet up.
If you want a good gateway drug to barefoot running, then hit the beach. Doing 50 meter sprints in deep beach sand is a no-joke workout.
Barefoot until the garage is below about 40F, then I throw on an old pair of Vans. Not because I necessarily think they're better than anything else, but they're what I have around that's flat and easy to throw on. Seem to work pretty well though. And they stop my feet from going numb when its 30-something and drafty in the garage.
I have a pair of Vibram ten-toes but I usually don't bother dragging them out for working out- they mostly get used for windsurfing in the summer, although I do a "barefoot" run in them occasionally just to reset form an make sure I'm not depending too heavily on the cushion and support in my running shoes and using what would be an otherwise dysfunctional gait (not that I've been doing many runs since I've been focused on S&S has been a daily appointment for me).
Obvious and inherent superiority of barefoot training aside, I have thought about whether the transferability of capabilities developed using GPP like S&S to tasks demands in real life where one is inevitably going to have to perform in footwear is enhanced, at least in terms of psychological comfort, by training in some sort of shoes at least occasionally.
I heard the argument made back when I was training at a Chinese martial arts school for a few years, where some of the students would wear footwear for forms and light-contact sparring (not for "real" sparring, of course), and some wouldn't. One of the arguments made for using shoes at least occasionally, is that, if you should need to defend yourself in real life, you're probably going to be wearing shoes. And if all of your practice doing anything remotely athletic, much less explicitly martial skills, is in bare feet, you're going to feel clumsy in shoes when you least need to.
I've since switched shoes since I posted a year ago (though, I actually prefer to lift barefoot). I now wear Vivobarefoot's Freud model. I loved them so much, I bought a "fancier" leather pair that I wear to work.
And to answer Steve's question about wide shoes, these are it. I've had fat / flat feet my entire life, and these are a perfect fit. Switching to barefoot-style shoes has even started to correct my flat feet and I now have small arch.
@greg - It's funny you mention the shoes for martial arts...
My instructor requires that we wear shoes (and actually loathes flip flops) because if we do need to fight, it's probably when we're out in public. So, now I wear shoes all the time just to be "ready", unless I'm walking my dog around the 'hood or on the park trails, then I'm barefoot.
Inov-8 f-lites are the best low profile running shoe I have worn. I use them, when not barefoot, for the barbell, kb's and have run up to 50 miles in the Sierra Nevada mountains in them. The uppers are a bit flimsy but all my shoes eventually give out in the little toe area because feet yearn to be free. And that is what grass and sand are for.
Steve Freides, I have wide feet and have the same problems with my Chucks as you do. Inov-8, Feiyue and Adidas Sambas should all be to your liking.
Addidas Sambas indoor soccer shoes are a good flat sole all around shoe that are pretty durable.The leather will eventual stretch out and make a very nice fit on the foot.I use these for KB work(when not bare foot) and the power lifts.
Tried Lems - said they were wide toe box but not wide enough for me, had to return.
Considering my next move. BTW, I have figured out where my foot is wide after talking to my podiatrist and looking on the Internet - it's at the side of the base of the pinkie toe, a place called the Tuberosity of the Fifth Metatarsal.
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