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 feedback 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.
Click here for: Waterproof Minimalist Running Shoes
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 for water sports, but 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 $130 US. Check out the styles below:
Vivobarefoot Primus running shoes are designed for the ultimate barefoot experience. The Primus Lite and Trail were the first in the line but it has since expanded to include a wider range to support the barefoot lifestyle. These shoes have a distinctive big toe flex point and a wide lower lace gusset to allow for easy movement in lightweight, breathable material.
All materials are 100% vegan. There is zero heel to toe differential and some shoes in this range include a removable sock liner for versatility and quick drying.
The Primus Trail Shoes are great for rough terrain while maintaining a lightweight, comfortable and breathable design with a sticky sole providing superior grip.
New Balance has a great minimal running shoe called New Balance Minimus Trail Runner. It has been around for a while but it is still very popular among minimalist runners. It is lightweight at about 7 ozs, has a 4 mm drop and it is comfortable with or without socks.
The Nike Free Running shoes have become quite popular as minimal and racing shoes as they provide a good fit and are very flexible and lightweight. The latest model is the Nike Free RN 5.0 2020 and it is a huge leap towards a more barefoot feel as it is lighter and closer to the ground than previous versions.
These shoes look more like regular running shoes but because of their flexible sole, they can be used to strengthen the foot and provide a more natural running experience.
Merrell has an extensive line of minimal shoes in its Glove Line. These are great looking shoes with a thin Vibram sole. The Vapor Glove and Trail Glove are popular choices for a minimalist and natural feel.
Barefoot runners have a greater requirement for keeping their feet warm and dry as most minimalist running shoes provide very little protection in cold and wet conditions. This is especially challenging as we do not want to compromise minimalist standards. We want to wear shoes that keep us dry and warm and still allow our feet to feel free to move as nature intended. Fortunately, more and more options are becoming available that support the barefoot style in cold and wet climates.
Vibram now have a water repellent version of the FiveFingers shoe which is great for trail running. The V-Trail 2.0 offers freedom on the trails during cold, wet weather. With the added protection of 3D Cocoon mesh technology on the upper and the Megagrip rubber outsole, you will feel comfortable and confident on rugged surfaces.
Another option from Vibram is the V-Trek Insulated trail running shoe, which also offers water resistant protection with zero drop heel-to-toe ratio. The fleece lining combined with the wool and synthetic blend exterior upper will keep you warm and comfortable in all conditions. It also has a Megagrip rubber outsole for superior grip in both wet and dry conditions.
If you want to continue to run in barefoot running shoes during the winter when it is cold and wet, the Merrell Vapor Glove Luna Leather is a good choice. It is not promoted as a waterproof running shoe but many barefoot runners say that it really helps to keep feet warm and dry in wet conditions. It has a soft, full grain leather upper and breathable mesh lining for a comfortable sock-like feel.
Another option from Merrell is the Merrell Trail Glove. It is also not promoted as a waterproof shoe but is a popular choice for barefoot runners in slippery, wet conditions. The Vibram outsole and trail protect pad offers underfoot protection and water resistance and with zero heel to toe ratio, it maintains minimalist standards.
A waterproof option for the minimalist runner who likes a thicker outsole (25mm) is the Altra Lone Peak Low RSM. It has 0 mm heel to toe drop and a roomy toe box for a more natural running feel. It is lightweight, provides breathability, and has great traction over rough terrain. The RSM collection provides protection against rain, snow and mud!
Vivobarefoot have another option for keeping your feet warm and dry during wet weather. It is the Vivobarefoot Primus Trail Winter FG. These vegan shoes are water resistant with a firm ground outsole and low-profile lugs designed for great traction on trails and slippery terrains. Get all the essential barefoot principles and allow your feet to move as nature intended with the best possible outdoor barefoot experience while keeping you dry and comfortable.
If you want to try a cheaper option, the Cheap Barefoot Running Shoes that are now available have removable insoles and provide good water drainage. They will help keep your feet warmer while winter barefoot running.
For more minimalist running shoes, check out:
Minimalist Running Shoes for Women
Minimalist Running Shoes for Men
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