Wear This, Not That – The Timberland Look Minus the Bunions

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I’m a sucker for style. I’ve got my favorite bloggers, an outfit inspo Pinterest board, I’ve even taken those free style courses. What can I say? I heart cute outfits! and especially the shoes.

But for most of my life I found it difficult to actually wear them, because those cute shoes I loved were SO DAMN UNCOMFORTABLE. Things only got worse after I developed a chronic foot issue, until I couldn’t wear anything but one pair of ugly-ass sneakers. I can’t work with that! Style isn’t everything, we know, but I was depressed. Why do shoes that are good for your feet have to be so ugly??

Little did I know there was an entire market of healthy footwear that didn’t squish your toes, and still looked like normal shoes. Cute shoes, trendy shoes even. Mind. Blown. It turns out beauty ISN’T pain. In fact I feel more like a queen than ever, despite wearing nothing but flat, spacious, and comfortable shoes. I have been on a mission ever since to bring together ideas we might think are diametrically opposed.

Sexy + Comfy.
Trendy + Healthy.
Good Looking + Good For You.

In this new series we’re going to take a popular (but hurty) shoe style and find an alternative that won’t make your toes OR your sense of style cry. So without further adieu, welcome to Episode 1 of Wear This, Not That!

Episode 1 – The Rugged Work Boot

Timberland Boots

In Episode 1 of “Wear This, Not That” we’re taking a look at the rugged work boot. Nothing quite captures it like the classic Timberland, which has been an iconic style for men and women for decades now. In a previous life I would have suffered through the inevitable foot pain in order to wear them, cursing my feet for being so difficult. But today I know that it was never my feet that were the problem! Nowadays I look for shoes that are quite different from what you normally see, because most shoes are not made with feet in mind. I’m talking about barefoot or minimalist shoes that mimic the effect of being barefoot but still provide protection for your feet.

So let’s take a closer look at the Timberland next to a barefoot alternative to figure out why your feet might be screaming at you at the end of the day. Enter the Groundies Liverpool.

Groundies Liverpool

Groundies Liverpool Vs. Timberland

Timberland boots are hard wearing, waterproof boots with great style. BUT, a big heel, tapered toe box and rigid sole make it more like a cast than a shoe. Stylish? Yes. Durable? Yes. Does it move with your foot and complement its natural motion? No. I think we can do better than that for our feet.

In this post we’re going to break down exactly which features of the Timberland can cause foot problems, and how the barefoot boot alternative addresses all of them while still delivering that classic look.

Heel Lift

Groundies (Left), Timberland (Right)

When virtually every shoe you encounter at the store has a heel on it, it’s easy to let your definition of “flat” become warped. If it’s not a high heel, it’s a flat, right? Not really. Check out the massive heel lift on the Timberland compared to the actually flat Groundies. The heel lift on a shoe is an important feature to pay attention to, because it affects the functioning of our ENTIRE body.

Let’s examine this in a little more detail.

  1. In Stance #1 I’m wearing the flat Groundies. With my heels on the same plane as my toes I can align my head, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles all in a straight line.
  2. If we move to Stance #2 you’ll see me trying to maintain that straight line with the heeled Timberlands on my feet. Straight, yes. Stacked, no. Good alignment is up and down, not going out at an angle. That is putting incredible strain on ALL my joints and takes a lot of energy to maintain.
  3. In Stance #3 you see another option: To bend backward at the lower back. This allows my head and shoulder to be over my heels, but my low back is under a lot of stress. Ouch. This compensation is an example of how heeled shoes can cause back pain.
  4. And finally, in Stance #4, you can put a bend in your knees. This also brings the top of my body back over my heels, but concentrates all my weight right on the knees. If I didn’t have knee pain before, well, I do now.

Regardless of how you compensate, compensate you must if you are standing on heels. There is just no way to have your body in alignment from head to toe in a heeled shoe. So don’t underestimate how your shoes can make you feel. TRULY flat is what’s best for your body, especially in the shoes you wear all day long.

Shoe Shape – Got Bunions?

For some reason, the majority of shoes today are more like a sausage casing than a foot covering. Last I checked, feet don’t end in a point. So why do these Timberland boots? Not only can it cause pain, but it can also exacerbate and even cause foot deformities like bunions.

By contrast, the Groundies Liverpool is actually shaped like a natural foot. My toes can spread and lay flat inside the shoe, just like they do outside of it. This is gold! A shoe that doesn’t interfere with the natural movements of your feet is vital if you want pain-free feet your whole life.

In a society where bunions and foot issues are raging, it might be time to consider how those tiny pointy shoes are affecting our toesies. Choosing shoes with a foot-shaped toe box will help prevent them from getting in the way of your life. Got bunions? The Groundies boots are going to feel better on your feet than the Timberlands.

Flexibility Test

Feet are flexible. In fact, much of the functioning of our body stems from supple feet that can bend and flex while we walk. If we’re binding our feet in stiff, rigid shoes they cannot support us effectively. The Timberland boots have a durable, hard wearing sole, but it’s so thick and rigid it barely moves when you flex it.

A close up of a woman trying to flex the Timberland boots in her hands. It is very stiff and hardly moves.

By contrast, the Groundies boots can be rolled up into a ball and squished with one hand. In these boots my feet are connected to the ground, where I can activate my arch muscles and walk like a human.

A close up of a woman rolling up the Groundies Barefootwear liverpool boot into a ball easily.

There is one trade off though. The ultra thick soles can last FOREVER. Minimalist shoe brands have begun using innovative technology to develop soles that are thin but still durable. This is helpful, but if you are looking for heavy duty work boots, there’s a good chance the minimalist shoes will wear out faster. Personally, I would rather keep my feet feeling great than stuff them into a rigid shoe that won’t wear out.

I want my feet to last forever. Not my shoes.

Still not convinced?

Watch these videos of me walking in both shoes. When you combine a thick, rigid sole with an elevated heel the result is clunky uncoordinated movement. While walking in the Timberland boots my heel strikes the ground with a jolt and then the whole foot clomps down at once.

A Gif of a person walking across the screen in the TImberland Boots

But when I walk in the Groundies boots my heel comes in contact with the ground lightly and fluidly comes down. My foot can roll through the gait cycle and you can see the shoe bending when I’m getting ready to push off with my big toe. My balance and gait are instantly improved when I am in thin, flexible soles.

A Gif of a person walking across the screen in the Groundies Liverpool Boots


The Groundies Liverprool is one heck of a boot. You can style them exactly the way you would a Timberland boot (same goes for men), and it’s my opinion they look just as awesome! It might be hard for some people to lose the extra inches of height that traditional shoes give them. But when you consider the neck and back pain that might be stemming from them, choosing flat shoes sounds a little more appealing. Check out these side by side comparisons of the Timberlands and Groundies to see how comparable they are in style.

Groundies (Left) || Timberland (Right)

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I continue to be inspired by popular styles, but I’ve learned that pain is just not worth it. It takes a little more digging, but there is no reason you can’t have your style and foot health too. If you want to hear about other great barefoot shoe options, be sure to follow me on Instagram, and then subscribe below for all future reviews. Keep your piggies happy so you can do what you love, like rock that awesome new outfit!

Got another popular shoe style you love for their looks, but not how they feel? Drop a comment below with your requests! This is a series, so we’ll be back with more.

More Barefoot Alternatives to Timberlands

Want to see a few more Timberland #ButMakeItBarefoot options? The following are all tried and true barefoot boot options that look and feel very similar to Timberlands, but minus all the icky stuff.

Now read on if you’d like to get to know the barefoot shoe brand Groundies a little more.

Get to Know Groundies

Groundies Barefootwear is on my All-Time Best Minimalist Shoe Brands list because they have high quality, excellent style, and are actually good for your feet. They are a German brand, with options for men and women, in vegan, leather, dressy, and casual styles. We like this brand so much we started carrying some at Anya’s Shop, located in the US!


European customers will get their shoes quickly at minimal cost. For the rest of the world, shipping can take a little longer. Standard shipping can take awhile to get to you, so I recommend upgrading to expedited shipping. If you order doesn’t work out, you can return hassle free to a US address, or skip the overseas shipping and find select styles at Anya’s Shop!


The Liverpool costs 155 Euros ($182 USD). It has a leather upper and microfiber interior. The whole shoe is lightweight and flexible, but still obviously well made and sturdy. I love that it has all the components necessary for optimal foot function, but still maintains great style. They don’t look floppy or frumpy, and can be dressed up or down depending on your look.


Sizing has been consistent for me in all 3 of the Groundies styles I’ve tried. I wear a size US 6.5 or EU 37 in sneakers and boots, and that is what I get in my Groundies. They are slightly wider than brands like Vivobarefoot and Xero Shoes, and are roughly the same width as Feelgrounds (All brands that I have reviewed).

Stay-tuned for a full in-depth review of the Groundies brand!

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18 thoughts on “Wear This, Not That – The Timberland Look Minus the Bunions”

  1. Great Post! I love boots so i’m always looking for cute barefoot boots.
    I’m really excited for this series you created!!! You have so many helpful resources on your website but as someone who is barely transitioning to barefoot shoes this series is GOLD. I can’t wait to see what other shoes you bring up next :).

  2. I’ve know barefoot shoes for few months now and it makes so much sense. I came across your blog and I’ve eaten all of the content haha. So helpfull! I was looking for a new pair of waterproof boots for winter and I was really ecxited to get the Vivo Barefoot Gobi Hi II, but they were all sold out. Did some more digging on your blog and came across the Zaqq brand. I orderd a pair from them and I can’t wait for them to arrive!
    I live in Ireland and as I travelled to Austria I had to quarantine coming back. So I am trying to stay barefoot all the time at home. Today I had to bring my bins down, so I put on my sneakers and oh boy, how annoying is that arch support haha.
    The thing is, I work on a shoe shop and have to wear them as uniform. So, my idea is to remove the insoles at least. Let’s see if this will help.
    Thanks again for the posts! I would love to get my hands on this Groundies boots, they look even better than the Timberland ones, in my opinion.

    1. Hi there! So glad you’re enjoying the content. I hope you love your Zaqqs! It’s hard when certain shoes are required as dress code, I hope you can find a good fix for that!

  3. Hey Anya! Thanks for your easy-to-read and comprehensive reviews.

    I’ve been really impressed by the durability of Vivobarefoot’s soles (particularly the Primus leather, for some reason my Gobi II hemp’s seemed to have worn out faster).

    In your experience, have any other brands produced soles as durable (or more durable than) Vivo’s? Durability is important to me since I shop on a budget, and I need my shoes to last!


    1. I also have had good experience with the soles being super durable. Be Lenka shoes have proven really durable for me. I haven’t had them for very long yet, but the soles on Joe Nimble shoes seem to also be really great and sturdy.

      1. I have a number of pairs of Joe Nimble shoes. In particular, the hightop which, I think, is no longer available. It’s my favourite barefoot shoe ever, but the sole of my first pair did wear out after a year of steady wear. I wrote the company and they told me that like tires on a car, soles of a shoe wear out. I pointed out that they offered a three year guarantee but they responded that the guarantee was only for the uppers not the sole. Be advised.

        1. Thank you for this info! I did not realize Joe Nimble had a 3 year warranty on their uppers. It is a real shame they can’t be resoled, what a waste of a good shoe to have to throw it out after only a year!

  4. This is great! I’m only 20 and I got bunions from my Timberlands… and it sucks because I love them soooo much! πŸ™
    But, I work outside so need to wear boots. Groundies like the ones you mention here wouldn’t be protective enough.
    Do have any recommendations for some bunion-friendly work boots? Something like Timbs but with a wider toe end? I’ve been scouring the internet but its so hard to find something because of all the conflicting opinions!

  5. Hi! I’d be curious to hear your take on people with hypermobility/lax joints. When wearing shoes that don’t offer high levels of support I supinate and end up with tendonitis or possibly sprains/strains.

    1. Hi Jodi. I am actually hypermobile myself, and it has factored heavily in my journey. I had tendonitis as a kid from my flat feet and have sprained/strained/subluxed so many joints for no apparent reason. For me this made the strengthening component very important – I transitioned to barefoot shoes slowly and did lots of exercises over time. But the flat soles in barefoot shoes were a godsend, because I am particularly susceptible to the issues caused by having my center of gravity pushed forward. I do believe it’s an individual process, but being hypermobile doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t wear minimalist shoes.

      You might like this article with some easy foot exercises: https://anyasreviews.com/foot-exercises-transitioning-barefoot-shoes/

  6. Thank you for this! I just want to have healthy feet nowadays, it’s very important. But if I can also look stylish, I’m all for it.

  7. I don’t know if this will help anyone, but perhaps buying the Timberland boot a half-size or full-size bigger can alleviate any concerns of bunions since this will provide your toes with more wiggle room and a rounded shape than the pointed end of the boot. Mine are half a size bigger and they wear pretty comfortably. Just my sharing thoughts.

  8. Unfortunately, there are no steel toe (or composite) that meet OSHA regulations and are minimalist. I have the Redwing King Toe work boots and they are better, but still not quite wide enough. Maybe I need to size up 1/2 to 1 size with that particular boot. I wear size 11.

  9. Hello! Do you know why Groundies is no longer carrying this boot? I really want a pair but I’m not having any luck finding one!

    1. I’m not sure! It is a good one. The closest one from Groundies is now the Williamsburg. But if you like the color combo of this boot then I would look at the Be Lenka Nevada or the Feelgrounds Patrol.

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Picture of Hi. I'm Anya.

Hi. I'm Anya.

I first discovered barefoot shoes after a long history of foot issues. By changing my footwear and strengthening my body I was able to completely transform my life. Anya’s Reviews is my way of sharing with the world that healthy feet are happy feet!

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