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 running shoes 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 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.
What barefoot running shoes are available?
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 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
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 Nike Free has become quite popular as a racing shoe as it provides a good fit and is very flexible and lightweight. The latest model is the Nike Free 3.0 and it weights only 6-7 ozs. It looks like a regular running shoe but because of its design, it can be used to strengthen the foot.
There are a number of other models available and the price ranges between $85 to $100. Check out the selection of Nike Free here and the following displays the Nike Free 3.0 model:
The Vivobarefoot Evo by Terra Plana is a great shoe to use all year around and for minimalist trail running with its high quality, water-resistant and eco-friendly materials. Its durable construction and puncture resistant sole provides excellent protection for the feet. These zero drop shoes are flexible and lightweight weighing only 8 ozs.
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:
The Vivobarefoot Ultra is another great minimalist shoe from Terra Plana. The shoe or cage is made from the same material as Crocs and comes with a removable sock liner and tongue. All materials are 100% vegan.
There is zero heel to toe differential and only 6 mm high. The removable sock liner is puncture proof and can be worn on its own similar to the ZemGear minimal shoes. The Vivobarefoot Ultra can also be used for water sports when the liner and tongue are removed. Retails for $80-$90 US.
Stem Primal Origins
Stem Primal Origins are fully collapsible and packable as they can be completely rolled up and weigh only 6 ozs. The sole is very thin and flexible and provides great ground feel. The heel is 8mm high and there is zero differential between heel and toe. With a breathable upper mesh, these shoes are very comfortable without socks. Available for about $85 US.
The Saucony Kinvara
is a great lightweight trainer. It is a good transitioning shoe as its heel is 28 mm high -- higher than most minimalist shoes. It has a nice fit and weighs only 7.7 ozs. Average retail price is $90 US.
The Saucony Hattori is a great barefoot running shoe. It weights only 4.4 ozs, has a heel height of 12 mm and has zero drop from heel to forefoot. There is no insole or shoe laces. There is a Velcro closure to hold the shoe securely in place.
Merrell Glove Line
Merrell has an extensive line of minimal shoes in its Glove Line. With the latest model, the Road Glove, to be available in Spring 2012.
Newton Running Shoes
The entire line of Newton Running shoes are designed to help you find your natural running form.
One of their most popular racing shoes is the MV2 Racing Flat. It is slightly cushioned but weighs only 6 ozs. It is a light and thin racing shoe with zero drop heel to toe differential. These shoes have a firm top plate to cushion feet on landing. Retails for about $125 US.
Brooks has a new line of barefoot running shoes called the Brooks Running PureProject Collection. Check out the "Feel More with Less" experience! This shoe is the lightest for Brooks at only: 7.2 ozs. It has a 14 mm heel height with a drop of only 4mm.
New Balance Minimus
New Balance has designed a minimal shoe for the trails -- the Minimus Trail Runner. It is light weight at about 7 ozs, has a 4 mm drop and it is comfortable with or without socks.
Mizuno Wave Universe
The Mizuno Wave Universe
is a minimalist shoe that fits like a running shoe. It has a 16 mm heel height and weighs only 3.8 ozs. It retails at about $120 US.
Zoot Ultra Speed
The Zoot Ultra Speed
is an open-design minimalist shoe without laces. It weighs only 6.7 ozs and its heel height is 24 mm. This performance shoe is also great on the trails and is designed to be worn without socks. Average retail price is $110 US.
Inov-8 Bare Line
Inov-8 Bare Grip 200
provides a minimalist experience as there is no midsole. It is flexible and lightweight at 7.0 ozs. This minimalist shoe retails at $110 US.
Brooks Green Silence
is an eco-friendly shoe. It uses recycled materials and earth-friendly materials. It is a lightweight performance running flat weighting only 7.4 ozs. It has a heel height of 14 mm. Average retail price is $100 US.
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