Toe shoes are presently the best compromise between a shoe that protects and a shoe that lets a foot be a foot. And it’s because toe shoes have a pocket for every toe.
Why Toe Shoes Work.
A pocket for every toe as with shoes with articulated toes is the hybrid love-child of the 5-in-1, typical shoe solution:
The sole is locked in place at the ball of the foot.
The shoe ends just past the end of the toes.
Toe shoes move dynamically, in concert with the foot by design and minimize extraneous materials around the foot which helps maintain the proprioceptive (“place in space”) of the foot.
But are Toe Shoes Perfect? Not So Fast!
I’m not arguing that toe shoes are the end all be all of minimalist footwear. They aren’t. First off, if you glue a rubber sole onto your foot, there are some important additional considerations:
You’ve got to have a flexible sole. Quite flexible rubber soles that minimize resistance against your foot when it flexes.
For barefoot feel, the sole must also not be too thick or cushy. For feet to function naturally they must feel the ground! Don’t forget it!
To the extent that toe shoes aren’t flexible and compromise ground feel, they begin to lose that which makes them great shoes in the first place: they let feet be feet!
To date, the design concept behind toe shoes is the best solution for functional, barefoot-friendly footwear. Matched with a flexible rubber sole, you get a great deal of ground feel while wrapping the foot in some protection and still maintaining the dynamic flexibility of the foot and proprioceptive sense of the foot.
In short, it is my opinion that toe shoes are the present best solution (Which is still a compromise of the full functionality of the bare foot) for optimizing the natural function of the bare foot while still being shod — toe shod as it were.