Barefoot Running Shoes - Shoes Designed To Let Feet Work As Nature Intended

Technically speaking, there is no such thing as barefoot running shoes. Running barefoot means you don’t put anything on your feet. However, there are shoes that are designed to let your feet work as nature intended, like running barefoot, but they provide protection against sharp objects on the ground.

The human foot wasn’t designed to wear restrictive shoes all day. Your feet have numerous muscles, tendons and joints that actually weaken when they are bottled up. A “barefoot running shoe” only provides puncture resistant protection. There is no cushioning or ankle support from this type of shoe. The benefit from a shoe like this is that the muscles, tendons, and ligaments will grow stronger when running correctly in shoes like this.

A word of warning before you begin. Don’t expect to put them on and run a regular distance run right away. You need to slowly build up your mileage with shoes like this. Also, you really have to work on your running form. You can’t run by striking the ground with your heal first in barefoot running shoes.

The most popular option by far is called Vibram Five Fingers or VFFs. The term “Five Fingers” refers to this shoe having a slot for each one of your five toes. It’s like a glove for the foot. This shoe is similar to running barefoot because there is no padding, and you definitely feel like you are nearly barefoot. It allows you to run on many different surfaces and protects you against different terrain.

Another barefoot running shoe is the Vivo Barefoot Evo Running Shoe. This shoe has a puncture resistant sole, but it doesn’t have the slots for each toe. The sole protection is strong enough for you to run either on road or trails. The shoe weighs about eight ounces which is much lighter than a typical trainer running shoe.

As the number of people trying barefoot running increases, or going towards minimalist running, there will be an increase in your footwear options. Right now, I have only tried the Vibram Five Fingers KSO (stands for Keep Stuff Out). I really enjoy wearing my Vibram Five Fingers for running the trails. The reason I don’t go totally barefoot on the trails is there are many parts that I run with woodchips. The last thing I want to get is a nasty sliver as I run through the woods. Also, parts of the trail are grassy. Sometimes thistles grow in the grass and without protection, I would get many thistle needles in my feet.

For more information on wearing shoes like the Vibram Five Fingers, watch the video of me below putting them on and going out for a run.

There are more and more shoe options coming out every day. You can look into shoes that have a much lower heel drop now. Traditional running shoes have a higher heel because of increased cushioning. This is okay if you slam your heel down every step, but you really should work on striking the ground with the front of your foot or whole foot. Minimalist shoes reduce the amount of cushioning in the heel so you don't strike the ground heel first as you stride.

If you have a history of foot related injuries, barefoot, Vibram Five Fingers, or minimalist running shoes could be the solution you are looking for. No matter what level of runner you are at, view barefoot running shoes as a new tool that you could incorporate into your routine. I love my VFF’s and recommend anyone who likes running to give these types of shoes a try.

- Written by David Tiefenthaler

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