Barefoot running shoes or minimalist running shoes can be seen everywhere today. Countless marathoners, ultra-marathoners and regular folks have discovered the many benefits of wearing these shoes or glove-like shoes in some cases.
Since more and more runners want to experience barefoot running, the demand for barefoot and minimalist running shoes have increased. Numerous runners feel that the concrete and asphalt surfaces that exist today require some form of foot protection. These minimalist shoes allow runners to experience the mechanisms of barefoot running while still protecting their feet from glass, stones and debris.
True barefoot running shoes do not interfere with the natural movements of the foot. The essence of barefoot running is to receive instant biofeedback from the feet to which the body responds naturally. These shoes are lightweight and flexible and are designed to strengthen the feet. There is no arch support or cushioning support as the goal is to use our natural arches.
These minimalist shoes will have a thin, unpadded sole and there will be slight or no heel-to-toe differential (known as zero-drop). Your feet should not be restricted by your shoes.
Barefoot running shoes will strengthen the metatarsals, plantar fascia and the ligaments in our feet allowing us to use our natural arches. Our feet can spread out more providing support and a wider base for balance, stability and improved posture. You will be able to feel how your body is impacting with the ground and make adjustments to lessen the stress of impact. You will be forced to pay attention to how you are landing or you will experience pain.
“My research has led me to consider that by encouraging minimal footwear we actually make the foot stronger over time. The human body is a remarkable machine and is engineered to perform without the need for $200 running sneakers.”
-- Dr. Irene Davis, Director of the Spaulding National Running Center in Cambridge
If you are new to barefoot running, you will need to transition to your new barefoot running shoes slowly. Keep in mind when you are making your purchase how quickly you want to transition to running in your new shoes.
The greater the difference (support and heel-to-toe differential) between your old shoes and new shoes, the longer it will take you to transition to barefoot running. It is probably a good idea to try walking in your new shoes for a few weeks and then gradually incorporate short running sessions. Walking barefoot or in flat flip-flops will also help condition your feet and allow for wide toe spread.
Another method of transitioning to barefoot running shoes is to run totally barefoot for very short distances and wearing shoes for the remainder of your run. Running totally barefoot will help you develop a better barefoot running form.
There is a vast selection of barefoot running shoes available from which to choose. The first on the market was the Vibram FiveFingers. They were initially introduced in 2006 for water sports. They quickly became popular with runners who wanted to experience barefoot running while still protecting their feet.The Vibram FiveFingers are now available in a variety of models, styles and colors. They vary in weight but average around 5.7 ozs. The heel sits a mere 7.2 mm high. This is quite low considering the average running shoe is 35 mm high.
These barefoot running shoes have a unique design with 5 toe pods. The toe separation eliminates many foot problems that runners experience including athletes foot, chafing and black toenails from running. As these shoes are quite low, you will need to slowly transition to them.
Choose a model that has a great fit and is comfortable for you. Each style has a different feel. They should be worn loose and many prefer to wear them with socks, but you can wear them without socks. The average retail price is approximately $100 US. Check out the various styles below:
La Sportiva Vertical K is a super light and extremely flexible minimalist trail shoe. It won the Best Debut Award in the October 2012 edition of Runners World magazine. This shoe is getting great reviews with it's snug fit, sticky rubber sole and light-weight of only 7 ozs. A great light-weight racing shoe that can be used as a winter shoe or a trail running shoe. Because of its snug fit, you may want to order 1/2 size larger. La Sportiva Vertical K retails for $115 US.
The lining is washable, absorbs sweat and prevents odors and bacterial and fungal growth. A comfortable shoe that can be worn with or without socks. It retails for $130 to $160 US. Check out Vivobarefoot's video for the EVO:
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