After some requests, we’ve gone ahead and developed a zero drop shoe last for making minimalist and barefoot shoes.
The thinking behind minimalist and barefoot shoes is that humans evolved to ambulate unshod, and messing with our already optimized biomechanics is unwise. But kinematics aside, no one can argue against the benefits of some barrier to prevent cuts and resist the cold of our modern environments. Hence the trend towards protective yet minimal footwear.
Such footwear is easy to come by these days, as it is cranked out in high volume overseas. But this runs against another movement currently underway, and that is the local manufacturing of highly differentiated footwear in small scale. And unfortunately, shoe lasts for making minimalist and barefoot shoes are hard to come by for small scale shoemakers. And if you want a custom or bespoke such shoe last, you can pretty much forget it–up until now, that is. Ours can be customized just like all of our other shoe lasts for sale. We’ve name these new lasts Sparta and Athens, as a tribute to Pheidippides of Ancient Greece, the first marathoner who was believed to have run barefoot between the two city’s in under 36 hours.
There are really two key elements to a shoe last for making minimalist and barefoot shoes. First, it should be zero drop, meaning no heel height, where the heel and ball lie in the same plane. This is contrary to most footwear, which elevate the wearer for social reasons. Second, the toe box is plenty wide so as to allow the toes to spread as they naturally do unshod. Once again, this is contrary to the majority of footwear which have toe box shapes influenced largely by aesthetics. In general, shoe lasts for making barefoot and minimalist shoes prioritize function over form.
Our own zero drop shoe lasts for making minimalist and barefoot shoes took inspiration from Altra’s Lone Peak shoes. While these aren’t strictly considered minimalist nor barefoot shoes (given the substantial tread), the shoe lasts they are built on share the key elements. We liked the shape of the toe box Altra achieved, and so borrowed from that. Rather than becoming bulky by just widening the toe box, material is added only where necessary, resulting in an accommodating shape yet crisp look.
In addition to better mimicking unshod ambulation, I think this trend for wider toe boxes and zero heel height is inadvertently helping out people who simply need a wider toe box given the foot shape. It is such an accommodating shape that some call it a foot shaped shoe last. Me personally, I really appreciate the shape given I have a very long and slightly adducted first toe. And being tall, I also appreciated not having unnecessary heel height. My vested interest makes me even more excited to add these shoe lasts to our collection.
Please let us know if you have any other thoughts on this shoe last or any requests for other additions to our library!