Mind and Body

8 Best Minimalist Boots

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by Laura Osborne and Scarlett James

According to a recent scientific study headed by Yale researchers, the transverse tarsal arch evolution is what enables humans to walk upright. Therefor, it behooves you to keep yours protected. Working all day in an uncomfortable shoe, especially when you have a labor-intensive job, can really do a number on your feet. Whether you’re looking for a zero-drop shoe with barefoot feel or a solid work pair that doesn’t look industrial, the best minimalist boots shield your feet from the daily grind without relying on a ton of technical specs.

If your job requires sharp yet protective footwear, you'll want work boots that aren’t too heavy while providing plenty of insurance. Water resistance, reinforced toes, and anti-slip grip are all things you might check in a sleek boot. Truly minimalist zero-drop boots fall completely flat from heel to toe — ideally with a wide fit for the most natural gait. A flexible rubber sole and thin cushioning ensure a barefoot feel, but you’ll also find a flat industrial boot that works surprisingly well.

Luckily, it’s totally possible to meet those requirements with a few bonus features, too. Ahead, minimalistic boots for every kind of transverse tarsal.

1. An iconic pair of work boots in rugged leather

It doesn’t get any more classic than a Timberland-style work boot. Although these shoes are often purchased more for their aesthetics than their function, it should be noted that they are actually great boots to work in. These boots are designed for tough-as-nails comfort, offering padding and support wherever they can in thick leather with reinforced stitching and a rubber lug sole, all at a wallet-friendly price. Amazon shoppers took note: they have a glowing 4.4 stars from more than 11,000 reviewers. “Most comfortable boots right out of the box I've ever worn and half the price of the Wolverines I'd been wearing,” one fan wrote. “I've had these for almost two months, but I ordered another pair about a week ago so I can trade off.”

  • Available colors: 2
  • Available sizes: 6 — 14

2. A near-zero drop work boot with heat-resistant soles

If you can’t skimp on protection but still want the benefits of a zero-drop boot, these Dr. Martens toe the line. They insurance against accidents with steel toes and a nonslip sole that not only discharge static electricity (ensuring technical safety) but also withstand temperatures over 500 degrees Fahrenheit for a full minute. Despite these heavy-hitting features, they’re softly lined and wick sweat away for comfort that works overtime when you’re on your feet. Multiple shoppers noted they had a near-zero drop that felt flat underfoot, and the classic Dr. Martens styling was an added plus.

  • Available colors: 2
  • Available sizes: 6 — 13

3. A sharp-looking chukka that seamlessly transitions to happy hour

Claiming to have the comfort of a sneaker with the durability of a work boot, these shoes can easily transition from on-site to happy hour while still looking stylish. They’re insulated against cold weather and the insoles feature multiple layers of EVA foam cushioning you can wear all day. Don’t let the comfort fool you, though. “They look like dress boots but function like snow boots,” as one reviewer noted. They’re totally waterproof in full-grain leather with sealed seams and a rubber lug sole to keep the wearer dry and comfortable in all types of weather.

  • Available colors: 6
  • Available sizes: 7 — 15

4. Some barefoot boots built for cold weather

When the forecast gets rough, reach for these cold-weather minimalist boots. Their water-resistant canvas uppers are insulated with warm flannel, and the insoles actually reflect your body heat to help fight the chill. They’re totally flat — as the brand name implies, they’re zero drop — with a wide toe box so your feet can spread. The brand’s proprietary rubber sole provides just enough protection against the elements without compromising on the barefoot sensation you want. Warm, rugged, ergonomic, they’re backed by a 5,000-mile warranty for the open road.

  • Available colors: 2
  • Available sizes: 8 — 15

5. These steel-toed Chelsea work boots for wide feet

Slip on these bad boys and go. Made of thick leather that is resistant to wear and tear, these Chelsea work boots for wide feet have a 180-day warranty. The lightweight boot has a shock-absorbing footbed to keep feet comfortable, and also features moisture-wicking fabric to keep them cool and dry. Even though the toes are steel, they are soft for maximum comfort and protection. Plus, they’re pretty slick if you want to clean up and wear them on a non-work day.

  • Available colors and styles: 6
  • Available sizes: 6 Wide — 14 X-Wide

6. This lightweight minimalist boot with arch support

If you don’t want industrial protection but still prefer the coverage that comes with a boot, these minimalist high-top sneakers might fit the bill. They’re zero drop with a wide fit and plenty of room through the toe box while offering a bit more cushioning thanks to a layer of memory foam and built-in arch support. (The insoles are removable if you’re a purist.) With faux leather uppers and flexible rubber soles, they’re a smart-looking pick that won’t weigh you down. “Super lightweight, very supple (bend easily/not stiff), and the grip on the soles is ridiculous — like tires on your feet,” one shopper wrote. “These are simple, low-maintenance shoes, that no one will notice for good or bad reasons. I wear them to business-casual work daily.”

  • Available colors: 26
  • Available sizes: 7 — 13

7. The moc-stitched work boots with light and cushy soles

This good-looking work boot was made for maximum durability and comfort. Filled with a soft lining and made with an oil-resistant “shell” they offer everything one could hope for in a work boot. The sole features a specialty blend of Croc-like EVA foam with sturdy rubber for a light yet waterproof tread and excellent shock absorption. The cognac leather shown here is a classic choice, but it is also offered in black leather with contrast stitching if this one doesn’t tickle your fancy.

  • Available colors: 2
  • Available sizes: 7 — 13 (regular and wide)

8. Some relaxed-fitting work boots with memory foam

With more of a chill fit, these Skechers work boots have a memory foam insert to keep feet at their comfiest. The shoe is made out of 100% leather so its look is premium and the ability to hold up is top notch. It’s a relaxed construction, too, so you won’t feel super constricted in these shoes. “Comfortable and seriously waterproof,” one reviewer confirmed. “They can stand up to a whole day out in the rain, you can walk through puddles in them, and the sole is extremely grippy on all kinds of surfaces--even the back of a truck bed. Also, no more sore feet at the end of the day because the support is great. It's like wearing a running shoe.”

  • Available colors: 3
  • Available sizes: 7 — 15
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