I love being barefoot. I work out barefoot, and in the spring and fall I wear Vibram FiveFingers when I need shoes and flip-flops in the summertime. While being barefoot is free, minimal shoes tend to be really, really expensive, as well as really polarizing in appearance. Fitkicks Shoes handily solves one of these issues!
Fitkicks start at only $19.99, making them significantly more affordable than Vibrams, Vivobarefoot, Lems, Xero, and the other major players in the minimal shoe/sandal space. Unless you’re obsessively stalking sports sites for a flash sale, or willing to make your own huaraches, you can’t find a quality shoe with a minimal sole that lets you feel as close to barefoot as possible for less than $50.
Fitkicks Shoes upend all of that, with comfortable uppers and thin soles that make them perfect for times you don’t really want to wear shoes but need sole protection (or your local stores are real sticklers for “No shirt, no shoes, no service”). They are ridiculously lightweight, and even though the uppers are very thin, I found they kept my feet reasonably warm. I tried both the men’s and women’s styles and found the men’s were perfect with a pair of thick socks even in below freezing weather. I wouldn’t tromp through a foot of snow wearing them, but for cold days and mildly icy sidewalks, they offered warmth, protection, and grip.
Here’s how the company describes them:
On the market for about two years, the Fitkicks line includes women’s, men’s, and kid’s sizes as well as a growing list of accessories. The line fits into an emerging fashion category called Athleisure, and as the name implies they work well for a range of light athletic and leisure activities. The Fitkicks are meant to be an almost barefoot experience. The pvc sole will mold to the foot with wear; rugged enough to cushion from rocks and debris but light enough to feel close to barefoot.
Fitkicks are great for so many everyday uses such as errands and dog walking, every day casual, lounging and family time. We hear from many happy Fitkicks owners about activities such as:
• Travel and days off; the shoes are so light and so small they are easy to take anywhere
• Pool, beach, and other water activities; the elastic high on the foot helps keep out sand and silt
• Backpacking and camping; for in-camp wear they are light and flat enough to easily pack as a change from boots
• Yoga and other exercise; light grip and fashion colors are fun and comfortable
They work great in an athletic context because they allow your foot to expand and move naturally, and their fit is snug enough to keep the shoe from moving but not so snug that it hurts or impedes body movement. Their soles are one continuous piece of rubber, so I would imagine durability isn’t an issue there. I’ve worn them while walking my dog and working in/out of the house hauling junk, and they were great; I felt sure-footed, even in my gravel driveway, but I could still feel the texture of the driveway and sidewalk, and as I said, I had no issues with icy spots. I chalk that up to the minimalism of the sole — it’s a lot easier to walk comfortably across ice if you have better ground-feel. When you have a better connection to the ground you can properly adjust your cadence and balance, making you much more stable.
I never wear shoes while working out inside, but if I were to move my kettlebell practice outdoors I would definitely rock these shoes. I would also imagine they would be fine for the dress code at any commercial gym. It is worth nothing that the company is aware they’re on the barefoot running/hiking/minimal shoe community radar, but they didn’t intend to market the shoes as such, so any running or other activities you do with them are at your own risk (and I highly recommend reading up on how to ease into minimal running if you’re used to regular footwear).
I said Fitkicks Shoes solves one of the cost/fashion issues in minimal shoes, and that leaves the sartorial debate. I think the Fitkicks look fine in solid colors, and blend in like normal shoes, especially if your pants hang down over your shoes slightly. My wife, never one to mince words, said, “Those look like someone sewed soles onto orthopedic socks.” My coworker said “Oh no, no, know”, followed by “See, those shoes shocked me so much I forgot how to spell.” Another friend said, simply, “No. Never.”
However, I did get everyone to admit they’re better than Vibram FiveFingers, and that given the choice they would all rather be seen in public with me wearing Fitkicks over VFFs. The Gear Diary team wasn’t nearly as horrified, so this is a very individual choice.
In all honesty, I think if you’re not studying someone’s feet, you wouldn’t notice the Fitkicks. The brighter colors definitely stand out, but I think you need to measure context here — if you wore them to an outdoor yoga class, or while weight lifting in the gym, I think they’d look fine.
Whether or not you pair them with jeans is up to you, but in my view, they look like slip-ons; maybe not high fashion, but certainly not offensive or inappropriate.
The great thing about Fitkicks Shoes, though, is that they are so light and flexible you don’t need to wear them 24/7 to justify owning them. They’re small enough to fit in a bag easily, and can even be rolled up if they need to be more compact. This makes them ideal for times when you have to wear uncomfortable shoes for an event, but want to ditch them as soon as you can. Or if you’re planning on hiking, skiing, or playing a sport that requires special footwear or cleats; Fitkicks make an excellent backup so you aren’t clomping across a parking lot in soccer cleats or wearing down your cycling shoes wearing them indoors. Since they collapse to basically nothing, it’s super easy to pack them for anything.
I am biased because I am a huge enthusiast for minimal footwear, but I think Fitkicks Shoes are pretty great. They may not be winning fashion awards, but they cost at least 1/3 of what comparable minimal footwear can run, they’re quite comfortable, and they work incredibly well at their main purpose of protecting your feet without interfering with how you walk. If you’re looking to add to your minimal shoe arsenal, want to dip your toe into the world of unstructured shoes, or just want a cheap, lightweight backup shoe, Fitkicks Shoes are an excellent choice; you can find them here.
Source: Manufacturer provided review samples
What I Liked: Comfortable; sole is minimal enough to allow ground-feel but still offers abrasion protection; blends in better than Vibrams; lightweight and easily packable; very affordable
What Needs Improvement: Some of the color combos are a bit garish; design can be polarizing