- Health benefits of wearing barefoot shoes
- Best barefoot shoes 2020: What are barefoot shoes, and which ones should you buy?
- How to choose the best barefoot shoes for you
- Best barefoot shoes to wear from £65
- 1. Vivobarefoot Gobi II Canvas: Stylish, warm and water-resistant
- 2. Freet Chukka: Comfiest casual barefoot shoes
- 3. Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO: Ultra-minimal running shoes
- 4. Vivobarefoot Magna Trail: Best barefoot shoes for hiking
- 5. Vivobarefoot Primus Lite: Best for warm weather
- 6. Vibram Fivefingers V-Run: Classic barefoot running shoes
- 7. Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG: Best barefoot all-rounder
- How to correctly wear barefoot shoes
- These $75 sneakers fold up to the size of a pair of socks and mimic what it’s like to be barefoot
- Barefoot & Minimalist Shoes
- Barefoot and Minimalist Running Shoes
- Barefoot Running
- A foot and ankle surgeon weighs in on barefoot running
- Q: Is barefoot running just a trend, or is it here to stay? Is there evidence that it’s good or bad for you?
- Q: Do you think people should avoid barefoot running, then?
- Q: So how can someone tell what kind of runner they are?
- Anecdotally, my colleagues and I are seeing more patients come in saying “I’ve been running for years. I switched to these barefoot shoes and now, after two months of running, I’ve got a stress fracture.”
- That’s What’s Up
- About That’s What’s Up
- Today’s Minimalist Runners
- What Is a Minimalist Shoe Anyway?
- How We Chose These Shoes
- Other Options to Consider
- Why make the most out of the best Nike low drop shoes?
- What should influence you in getting the best Nike low drop shoes?
- 9 best Nike low drop running shoes
- What’s up with Barefoot Running Shoes?
- Minimalist/Barefoot Running Basics
- How to Transition to Barefoot or Minimalist Running
- Pros And Cons Of Barefoot And Minimalist Shoe Running
Health benefits of wearing barefoot shoes
Barefoot shoes are very different from the traditional form of footwear and have many health benefits, read on to find out more …
Barefoot shoes with wide toe box, flexible sole and leveled from toe to heal
At this day and age, barefoot shoes are one of today’s must-haves. Going barefoot is becoming increasingly popular, particularly due to its health benefits as it offers everything that feet need to be healthy. Some people try barefoot shoes out of pure curiosity and end up not wanting to take them off anymore. No wonder, barefoot shoes are not only good for their feet, they are surprisingly comfortable, too.
Features of barefoot shoes
As barefoot shoes are very different from the traditional form of footwear, it is important to be aware of their key features to make sure you are buying quality barefoot shoes:
The sole of the shoe must be flexible and ultra-thin, max 6 mm. Only sole this thin can make the foot feel the ground
Zero drop is a must – this is the height difference between the heel and the toes, the whole foot must be leveled
Barefoot shoes must have a wide front part to allow enough room for toes. The shoes mirror the natural shape of the foot but do not copy it too tightly.
Barefoot shoes should be lightweight and contain no orthotics/foot inserts.
Here are the 5 main advantages of wearing barefoot shoes:
1. Strong muscles, healthy feet
Barefoot shoes mirror the shape and the natural curve of the feet, allowing them to move as nature intended. Thanks to the wide shape of the shoes (at the front and on the sides) a wider range of muscles is engaged while walking or running (as compared to traditional shoes). Barefoot Shoes not only strengthen all the muscles in the foot, but they also help the foot develop in the correct way to prevent deformities.
2. Barefoot shoes help you to go pain-free
Athletes, particularly runners, prefer barefoot shoes, to make their runs healthier. When walking (and running), the heel-to-toe stride causes an impact on the leg that negatively affects the knee and hip joints. Wearing barefoot shoes can help you to learn how to walk correctly, by landing on the balls of your feet (not the heels as we all think). Walking the right way can help you to avoid possible knee injuries. Numerous runners who had to quit the sport because of the joint pain caused by running on asphalt. Once they switched to barefoot shoes and the pain had disappeared and they could run on the asphalt and other hard surfaces again with no further issues. Going barefoot also has a positive effect on the small of the back as it engages all foot muscles and makes you step on the balls of your foot instead of the hell. Long-term use of barefoot shoes can help your back pain disappear as it encourages good body-posture.
3. Barefoot brings you joy
It may sound crazy but going barefoot can take the stress and tension away, bringing back the joys of everyday life. Hard to believe? Try this easy exercise and make yourself a believer: Walk 10 metres on the pavement in the shoes you normally wear. Now take your shoes off and walk back the same distance barefoot. You can instantly feel the difference. Walking barefoot reminds you of your childhood, it gives you a feeling of freedom and absolute joy. Research has proven going barefoot lowers the blood pressure, overall tension in the body and the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Going barefoot does not limit your feet in any way; the flexible and thin sole allows you to feel the surface, the shoes are comfortable and you almost forget that you are wearing any. Going barefoot is an amazing way to regain with your long lost energy and good mood wherever you go.
4. A whole-body reboot
There are many acupressure points on the feet connecting to different parts of the body. By stimulating these points, one can revitalize various body organs. With the correct amount of pressure is applied to an acupressure point, the connected body organ receives a certain level of electro-stimulation. Imagine going barefoot for your whole life. your feet The ground keeps massaging and activating all of the acupressure points on your feet. Soles of traditional footwear do not allow for such connection, but soles of the barefoot shoes fully support it.
5. Better balance
Did you know that there are more nerve endings in your feet than anywhere else on your body, except for the fingertips and lips? When going barefoot or in barefoot shoes, our brain receives more stimulation and information. By wearing traditional footwear, our brains do not receive detailed information about the surface which can cause us to slip, stumble or even fall. Walking barefoot allows us to be aware of the imperfections of the surface we walk on, which helps us to keep our balance. Wearing barefoot shoes can improve one’s balance.
Best barefoot shoes 2020: What are barefoot shoes, and which ones should you buy?
There’s a lot of confusion about what ‘barefoot shoes’ means. Contrary to one common misconception, they’re not just shoes you wear without socks. No, barefoot shoes are more like minimalist versions of conventional shoes. They still have a sole, side and upper materials, and use various fastening methods, but they’re much thinner and lighter.
So why should you use them? Barefoot shoes are designed to promote freedom of movement while also strengthening your feet, which grow weak over time due to the excessive cushioning and cramped toe boxes found in most normal shoes. Humans didn’t always wear shoes – for most of evolutionary history we’ve gone barefoot.
If you’re reading this article, the chances are you’re already interested in barefoot shoes and are wondering which ones to buy. Below, you’ll find a guide that explains the benefits and potential pitfalls of barefoot shoes, and after that, you’ll find our pick of the best models you can buy right now.
READ NEXT: Best trainers for men
How to choose the best barefoot shoes for you
What’s different about barefoot shoes?
Barefoot shoes’ main purpose is functionality. That’s not to say that style is irrelevant, but first and foremost they’re designed to let your feet to move as naturally as possible. This means their build usually varies from conventional shoes in several key ways:
- No elevated heel: Standard shoes have a raised heel section, or ‘heel drop’, which forces us to adjust our balance while wearing them. The body has to lean back to compensate for the elevated angle, which disrupts posture and gait.
- Minimal padding: When wearing shoes with padded heels and soles, people tend to develop a habit of exaggerated heel-striking when they walk and run. This is not how humans evolved to walk, and if done barefoot would quickly result in heel injury.
- Ultra-thin sole: Barefoot shoes have extremely slim soles, which allows for greater sensory feedback. The feet are just as biomechanically complex as the hands, but a thick sole prevents our feet from accurately sensing the surfaces beneath us.
- Flexible material: Conventional shoes – especially hard dress shoes and high heels – do not allow our feet to bend with each step as they normally would, preventing natural walking and running movement.
- Wide toe box: Toe boxes on regular shoes cram the toes into a tight space that does not match the actual shape of our feet. As we get older, our naturally splayed toes become cramped and curled by the mechanical forces being applied to them (by shoes). Over time, barefoot shoes may be able to restore your toe splay.
- Minimal arch support: A healthy foot does not need a thick protective pad between the arch and the ground. The natural function of the longitudinal arches is to act as a spring that loads and unloads with each step.
What are the benefits of wearing barefoot shoes?
Do you breathe a sigh of relief when you kick off your clogs at the end of the day? If so, it might be time to make a change. Of course, if you’ve never had any foot pain or injuries, you may not see as much benefit from barefoot shoes as someone who has.
So what are those benefits? Regaining a natural gait is the main one, but this can also correct posture and spine alignment when you move. Improved proprioception – that’s the awareness of our body’s positioning and movement – is another big one, and is easily dulled by wearing thick-soled shoes.
From a personal perspective, I’ve found comfort to be another major plus. Prior to switching to barefoot shoes, I always wanted to take off my shoes at work and stroll around in my socks. That’s no longer a problem; I am as comfortable in barefoot shoes as I am wearing no shoes at all.
Is it safe to wear barefoot shoes?
For the vast majority of people, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be safe to wear barefoot shoes, but it’s important to take the transition one step at a time. If you’ve been wearing regular heeled shoes for your entire life, you won’t be able to pop on a pair of minimalist shoes and do a marathon straight away – the risk for injury is highest at the beginning, and barefoot shoe manufacturers advise that you learn to walk before you run.
Once your body and brain adjust to barefoot movement, you can start stepping things up a bit. And there’s no need to worry about getting a bit of glass in your foot, as barefoot shoe companies ensure that the minimalist soles are puncture-resistant.
Naturally, if you have a medically diagnosed foot condition, such as flat-foot or a fallen arch, or have had any kind of foot surgery, then you should consult a medical professional before proceeding with the transition to wearing barefoot shoes.
How long does it take to transition to barefoot shoes?
The duration of the transitional period depends on a number of factors, including your activity level, weight, gait and the terrain you walk and run on. Some individuals naturally walk with good form, landing on the midfoot (as opposed to heel striking) even with conventional shoes, and it will take them less time to adjust to the movement. For the majority, walking outdoors with barefoot shoes can feel a bit like learning to walk all over again – it certainly did for me.
Running is a different story entirely. While walking on concrete with barefoot shoes can feel normal within a few weeks (provided you walk enough) running will take a lot longer. Standard advice is to start running on softer ground for a while before you transition to pounding the pavement of your local town or city. Landing on the midfoot, as opposed to heel-first, is the key to running barefoot without injury.
And remember to keep the runs short at first, then build them up slowly, so that the nerves, muscles, tendons and bones of your feet have enough time to adjust to the new and unfamiliar forces that will be passing through them.
Are barefoot shoes just for fitness enthusiasts?
Certainly not. And not all barefoot shoes look like foot-gloves either, although that style of shoe features on this list. Anyone can benefit from wearing barefoot shoes, and there are many styles geared towards city living as well as outdoor fitness pursuits.
How does sizing work for barefoot shoes?
As with any sort of shoes, sizing varies by manufacturer, but obviously barefoot shoes don’t have the same snug feel as standard shoes due to the minimal materials and wide toe box. Unlike regular footwear, barefoot shoemakers want your toes to be free to splay as they would if you weren’t wearing shoes at all.
Each manufacturer’s website has a section specifically dedicated to sizing that can help you decide which size to choose. You may also find that, over months and years, your foot size increases as your toes return to their natural splayed state and the arch grows firmer and stronger.
Most of the shoes listed below are available in both male and female sizes.
READ NEXT: Best fitness trackers
Best barefoot shoes to wear from £65
1. Vivobarefoot Gobi II Canvas: Stylish, warm and water-resistant
Price: £130 | Buy now from Vivobarefoot
The Gobi II Canvas are the perfect barefoot boots to see you through the cold, wet months of autumn and winter. These vegan-friendly shoes have been reimagined since their first all-black release, and now come in a fetching dark grey with a white sole and blue lining. Their water-resistant canvas upper keeps rain at bay far better than most trainers, although they aren’t 100% waterproof – stand in a puddle for long enough and your toes will still get damp. Inside there are thermal insoles to keep your feet from getting too cold, but when the weather gets warmer you can pop them out and enjoy an even more minimalist walking experience.
Like most Vivobarefoot shoes, the Gobi II Canvas are extremely lightweight and can be curled up and stuffed into a bag without taking up much room. Their elastic fastening toggles make them super-easy to pull on and off, plus you can wear them as loose-fitting or snug as you’d like.
Buy now from Vivobarefoot
2. Freet Chukka: Comfiest casual barefoot shoes
Price: £70 | Buy now from eBay
The Freet Chukka are extremely versatile shoes, as at home on a city pavement as a long country trek. Above all, though, they’re just incredibly comfortable. Walking around London on a wet winter’s day, I felt as though I was wearing slippers, not shoes.
Despite that warm, cosy feeling, the Chukka has some proper outdoor credentials, including a stretchy water-resistant microfiber upper and Freet’s durable MultiGrip2 outsole, which provides traction on wet and muddy surfaces. Apart from the toe rand (part of the sole which extends over the toebox) the Chukkas also look like relatively normal shoes, so they won’t draw too much notice from the non-barefoot crowd. At only £70, they’re a barefoot bargain.
Buy now from eBay
3. Vibram FiveFingers KSO EVO: Ultra-minimal running shoes
Price: £65 | Buy now from Amazon
Vibram’s best-selling shoes, the KSO EVO, are the ultimate in minimalist running. They’re one step away from being completely barefoot – feet get the maximum amount of sensory feedback from the ground while remaining protected from debris thanks to the flexible yet durable sole. The 3mm Vibram XS Trek outsole is zig-zag patterned for enhanced traction and performs brilliantly in both wet and dry conditions.
Due to the extremely minimalist design of the KSO EVO, they’re not recommended for beginners and are best suited for mid-distance running and gym training. If you’re new to barefoot running, I’d strongly suggest opting for a shoe that offers more protection for running.
4. Vivobarefoot Magna Trail: Best barefoot shoes for hiking
Price: £160 | Buy now from Vivobarefoot
Being stylish and practical in equal measure, the lace-up Magna Trail from Vivobarefoot are the essential hiking boots for barefoot enthusiasts. The one-piece nylon upper is waterproof – I tested these credentials by dunking my foot in a stream for a whole minute, and my socks stayed bone dry – and the neoprene ankle sock adds further protection from the elements without limiting flexibility. There’s a layer of thermal insulation in the upper, and a thermal insole is included too.
Having worn these for several days on end while hiking up and down the trails of Isle Royale in Michigan, I can safely say they are the best hiking boots I’ve worn. Everyone else’s feet were riddled with blisters by the end, while I only suffered a couple of minor hotspots during the four-day hike. The Magna Trail are expensive, yes, but more than worth it.
Buy now from Vivobarefoot
5. Vivobarefoot Primus Lite: Best for warm weather
Price: £110 | Buy now from Vivobarefoot
Vivobarefoot designed the Primus Lite to be as lightweight and breathable as possible. They’re remarkably flexible – they can practically roll up into a ball – and offer plenty of room for the toes to spread out wide, so you hardly feel as though you’re wearing any shoes at all. The mesh that runs across the toe box, ankle and heel sections keeps your feet from getting sweaty, meaning the Primus Lite won’t end up stuffy and smelly in the summer, unlike the majority of trainers.
The Primus Lite are actually made in large part from recycled plastic waste, making them an ethical and sustainable barefoot option. Don’t take that to mean that they aren’t durable, though, because the ultra-minimal sole is rated “5x” as puncture-resistance as a normal sole “of the same thickness”. As with many of Vivo’s barefoot shoes, the Primus Lite also happen to be vegan-friendly.
Buy now from Vivobarefoot
6. Vibram Fivefingers V-Run: Classic barefoot running shoes
Price: £94 | Buy now from Amazon
You’ve probably seen the Vibram V-Run before. They’re the most well-known and well-loved barefoot running shoes around. Their five-pronged glove-like design allows your toes to slot right in for the snuggest possible fit, while allowing each toe to keep its normal range of movement. Getting the correct size is critical with Vibram FiveFingers, much more so than with other barefoot shoes, and some people complain that the toe slots are either too short or too long.
When running with the Vibram V-Run, it feels as though your feet have just grown an extra layer of super-tough skin. Lightweight as they are, they have a thicker sole than other Vibram options. This is because they’re aimed at long-distance running, but that extra few mm of protection also means they’re ideally suited for transitioning to barefoot running.
7. Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG: Best barefoot all-rounder
Price: £110 | Buy now from Vivobarefoot
If you had to pick just one pair of barefoot shoes to start off with, Vivobarefoot’s Primus Trail FG would be a perfect choice. They were the first barefoot shoes I ever owned and a brilliant way to re-introduce my feet to barefoot walking. I still wear mine regularly and recently rescued them from the bed of Lake Superior after a wave snatched them out of my kayak.
The ‘Firm Ground’ sole is more rugged and thick than other shoes on this list because it’s intended for serious off-road use and therefore needs that extra bit of padding and traction. The sole’s lugs also add a layer of protection against trail debris. Even though they offer a decent amount of protection against the elements, the Primus Trail FG are remarkably light and can be squished into a backpack with ease. They’re brilliant for trail runs, city jogging, gym workouts and all manner of indoor and outdoor adventures.
Buy now from Vivobarefoot
How to correctly wear barefoot shoes
Many customers ask us: How do you actually wear barefoot shoes? Does it mean you’re walking barefoot? Or do you wear socks? You can wear barefoot shoes with socks or without socks. We wear our Senmotics shoes barefoot in summer, with regular socks in spring and fall and with thick stockings in winter. You may have imagined your Senmotics more flexible than when you first take them out of the box. Wear your barefoot shoes for 3-4 days, and they will feel completely different. The reason is that our soles are made of natural rubber. This flexible material is only activated when used, and after a few days your shoes will feel much more flexible and soft. The leather will also fit snugly to your feet.
It’s best to wear your barefoot shoes every day; the more and the longer, the better. But you should keep a second pair at home. Genuine leather shoes should get a break every two days, so they can breathe. Wearing our barefoot shoes trains your sense of balance and your coordination. You also train muscles throughout your body, from tip to toe. It might happen that you experience a slight muscle ache during the first days of wearing our shoes. Especially in muscles which you wouldn’t normally associate with walking.
These $75 sneakers fold up to the size of a pair of socks and mimic what it’s like to be barefoot
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- Vivobarefoot shoes mimic the natural shape of your foot and provide minimal cushioning for maximum sensory feedback.
- The pair I tried, the Kanna ($75) are the most useful and versatile shoes I’ve added to my closet in a long time.
- The Kanna is stylish, comfortable, breathable, and roll up to the size of a pair of socks so I can carry them in my purse or crowded carry-on.
- You can find them at Vivobarefoot.com or Zappos.
Let me begin by saying that I have never been one to proselytize shoes that look like gloves for your feet. I am no convert. And while I do prefer going barefoot, the surprise-ridden sidewalks of NYC have completely tampered the impulse.
Having said that, clunky sneakers and boots make walking in the city a tiring, sweaty affair. So when Vivobarefoot sent a pair of their new sneakers — the vegan Kannas, ($125)— to try out, I was excited by the prospect to potentially discover the same fervor those glove-shoe missionaries seem to have.
After a month of using them multiple times a week, I can honestly say I rely on these shoes more than any other pair in my closet. Their versatility is unprecedented for me. I’ll get into the nitty gritty below, but they deliver on packability, versatility, style, comfort, and a lightweight construction I am consistently impressed by. They are extremely minimal (meaning minimal cushioning), but the trade-off is worth it.
How your foot sits in the minimalist Vivobarefoot design versus a padded shoe. Vivobarefoot Vivobarefoot is a pretty recognizable name in minimalist, almost-barefoot footwear. According to the company, the human foot is a biomechanical masterpiece that can cope with more than we ask it to nowadays: “by cramming it into a modern shoe, you negate its natural function.” Your feet have 200,000 nerves in them — the same as your hands. By loading up on padding, you muffle the sensory feedback your brain would otherwise receive, resulting in clumsier, less skillful movement.
It reminds me of the logic oft-repeated in my sports of choice — kickboxing and yoga. Participants are asked not to wear shoes so that they can more actively and fluidly engage all parts of their body — through sensory feedback, and by more literally building flexibility and strength in every muscle group — all the way down to your toes.
Vivobarefoot shoes are made from thin, puncture-resistant soles with no heel or support. In theory, they allow your 200,000 nerves to better provide your brain with the sensory feedback that enables you to move with greater agility and skill. Or, if you aren’t planning to use them for added agility, it’s as close in weight and breathability to wearing nothing as you can get without being poked by sidewalk glass.
Vivo shoes are also purposefully wide. Wide shoes allow your toes (especially your big toes) to provide a stable base of support. This “foot shaped” design enables your feet to move closer to how nature intended — whether you’re clambering over rocks or pirouetting. This wide shape, though, may come with an adjustment period. I order my typical size 9, but I may have thought they were too big if I hadn’t known what to expect.
I’m not sure what my nana would say about arch support looking at these, but at the moment I’m too happy with the product to care.
If you’re looking for cushion, you have come to the wrong place. Vivo shoes truly don’t have a heel or sole — which is why they can roll up into a ball to be stuffed in your bag. However, I don’t find them uncomfortable. There was some sensitivity — though nothing drastic by any means —when I ran six miles in them on the treadmill, and after spending a long day of walking around the hard concrete of the city, though. And since we learn “bad” (or, unnatural) posture and gait habits as we grow up, Vivobarefoot recommends ‘walking before you can run’ in their shoes — getting used to the flexibility and unusual muscle engagement before stretching yourself too far.
In fact, the company says that if you plan to stick to jogging (characterized by “long sticky heel-striking strides”) the more cushioning the better — and you should stick to what you know and enjoy.
When I did some preliminary research online, I found that there were a decent amount of negative reviews (mostly pertaining to poor customer service, which I myself did not experience) — which surprised me. If you want to mitigate that concern, you might want to do your shopping on Zappos (though the newest iteration, the women’s Kanna, is only available at Vivobarefoot so far).
Packable down to the size of a pair of socks, Vivo’s adventure shoes are also a great hack for traveling or packing a small gym bag. Vivobarefoot
As I’ve mentioned, I love these shoes. I did not expect to love them, and yet here we are. The black Kanna is stylish and goes with a pair of jean shorts as well as workout leggings, the construction is impressively lightweight and exceedingly breathable, and they pack down to almost nothing (really) — making them ideal for a packed work purse, carry-on, or gym bag on long days.
All in all, if you value breathability, versatility, and packability in your shoes, this is one of your best options. In my experience, Vivobarefoot’s Kanna is impressively versatile and delivers on its claims of comfort, breathability, and lightweight construction. The fact that it can be folded up into the size of a pair of socks makes it my go-to for most days that require multiple activities, and even if you don’t use them for the added agility they promise, the Vivobarefoot shoes deliver on everyday usefulness like few other pairs in my closet. For $125, they’re a great buy if you think you’ll use them.
Barefoot & Minimalist Shoes
Barefoot and Minimalist Running Shoes
When it comes to running, whether it is on pavement or a trail, you want your trail running shoes to be durable enough to handle your running style and the rigors of the terrain. You don’t want a bulky shoe that is going to slow you down and inhibit your ability to be flexible and agile on your run. That is why barefoot shoes from Merrell are an invaluable tool when it comes to minimalist running. Don’t let the name fool you, because your feet will still be protected with these durable shoes. The goal with barefoot running shoes is to create a natural, zero-drop experience, so that you can have full foot contact in a lightweight, but sturdy design. Running is about the freedom to engage with the outdoors, which is why the equipment is so crucial. No matter what type of runner you are, taking care of your feet is essential. That is why casual joggers and more serious trail runners really enjoy the minimalist approach to running shoes. As you prepare for the next phase of your running experience, think about going barefoot with Merrell. Don’t let the wrong shoes be a deterrent to a great running experience.
A foot and ankle surgeon weighs in on barefoot running
Some runners swear by minimalist, or “barefoot,” running shoes, saying they are more comfortable or enable faster runs. But can going without the padding and support offered by traditional running shoes do more harm than good?
George Holmes, Jr., MD, a foot and ankle surgeon at Rush University Medical Center, weighs in on the phenomenon — and its impact on runners’ feet.
Q: Is barefoot running just a trend, or is it here to stay? Is there evidence that it’s good or bad for you?
Holmes: I don’t think it’s something that will hold up over the long run. There’s not hard proof that it’s good or bad for you.
But looking at the science of it, I think that if I were to measure the amount of pressure you put on your foot running in barefoot shoes versus running in cushioned shoes, you’re going to see more pressure transmitted to your foot with the barefoot shoes.
Anecdotally, my colleagues and I are seeing more patients come in saying “I’ve been running for years. I switched to these barefoot shoes and now, after two months of running, I’ve got a stress fracture.”
Q: Do you think people should avoid barefoot running, then?
Holmes: Everyone is different. I was watching a marathon race once where the analysts were doing slow-motion analysis of the elite runners in the front, and then of everyone else. There was a stark difference. The elite runners spent most of their time in the air; their feet spent very little time on the ground. After the heel strike they were quickly back on the forefoot, or front half of the foot.
But everyone else, the plodders like you and me, spent a lot more time with their heels on the ground. It was a good illustration of why someone who’s running like the average person is probably going to need more of a cushion — because they’re pounding — whereas someone running like the ultra-elite person might not.
Q: So how can someone tell what kind of runner they are?
Holmes: In most cases, a trained observer such as an orthopedic surgeon, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist or a physiatrist can look at your shoes, look at your body alignment and tell you if you’re overpronating, heel striking or if you’re a toe runner, someone who spends less time on the heel.
They can give you advice about how to choose the proper footwear and, if necessary, alter your gait to prevent or reduce injuries.
For example, if your heel strikes with a lot of force, you might want a shoe with extra cushioning in the heel. If you overpronate, which means your ankle rolls in too much with each step, one might recommend a cross-training shoe, which will be stiffer and offer more structured support than your average jogging shoe.
In complicated cases, if you are a person who does marathons or triathlons and you’re having a recurrent problem like iliotibial band syndrome or shin splints, you might benefit from orthotics or gait analysis.
Holmes: It’s true that a surface you’ve been running on in the spring or summer that felt fairly cushiony, maybe a dirt or mud surface, might freeze and become as hard as concrete or asphalt in the winter. But even though a treadmill might be a softer option in the winter, I generally like to advise my patients to run outside or on an indoor track if they can.
Every time your foot strikes a treadmill, it’s striking exactly in the same position. There’s no variation. But if you run outside, there’s a little unevenness. You have to turn corners, go up and down hills. Even on a track, you’re making turns around the track.
Compared with constant pounding in the same position, which can put a lot of stress on your feet, that variability gives you a little more protection from injuries like stress fractures or shin splints.
So in general, if the surface is safe and the environment is safe, I would rather have people run on a surface that will provide more variability than a treadmill.
That’s What’s Up
About That’s What’s Up
What’s up with all these food trucks lately? Each a carbon copy of one that came before, offering the same old in food truck fare, especially when it comes to all American classics. But fear not, one food truck stands out amongst the crowd, offering unique twists on your favorite food. That’s What’s Up. No really. That’s What’s Up is serving up Syracuse with a wholly original menu of comfort foods to tantalize your tastebuds with new sensations.
Because at That’s What’s Up, they’re fusing together international flavors with those American staples, elevating each to a whole new level of delicious. Take for example the Banh Mi sliders. With exotic spices imported from the streets of Vietnam and infused into the bite size slider, you’re getting a world of flavor in every savory bite. That’s What’s Up tackles on south of the border flavor, too, with specialty breaded shrimp tacos, marinated chicken quesadilla, and a spanish-style paella. So don’t just ask what’s up. Live it by visiting That’s What’s Up on the streets of Syracuse, NY and beyond.
Minimalism was born from the simple “less shoe, more you” premise. The idea is that less cushioning and support from your kicks means you’ll engage your feet more, and strengthen the muscle fibers that get neglected when you’re all laced up. With stronger accessory muscles in the foot, injury rates were expected to drop and running efficiency would improve. (After all, the practice seemed to work for the impressive Tarahumara tribes that covered hundreds of injury-free miles in wafer-thin sandals.) Minimalism sought to reconnect runners to that organic barefoot experience—one that would ultimately improve our form with the hope that the PRs would soon follow.
Iconic Midsole Free Run 5.0 Nike $100.00
Excellent for building foot strength, says Swoosh.
A Minimalist Classic Minimus Trail 10v1 New Balance $115.00
A midfoot band and Vibram rubber add stability.
Odor-Controlling Upper Trail Glove 5 Merrell $100.00
Probiotic, machine-washable mesh lets you run sans socks.
Paper-Thin Mesh Norvan SL Arc’teryx $150.00
One of the lightest trail shoes we have tested—ever.
The Original “Toe Shoe” V-Trail 2.0 Vibram $120.00
Each toe gets an individual water-repellant sleeve.
Today’s Minimalist Runners
The minimalist running movement had some mixed results. While strengthening muscles in the feet can be very beneficial to runners, logging high barefoot mileage proved a risky way to do it. Overzealous new minimalists jumped into the craze quickly—ditching their supportive shoes—and many actually saw their injuries (and aches and pains) increase. That said, many runners have also benefitted immensely from the barefoot approach and have found its methods revitalizing, both physically and mentally. Like many experiences we have on the run, it is highly individual.
Minimalism has died out mostly from its boom nearly a decade ago, but there are still runners out there who do find that it works well for them. If you’re curious and think it’s something you’d want to try, a very gradual transition to a minimalist shoe is your safest bet. Alternating runs between your usual trainers—and easing in at rock-bottom mileage—will help keep you injury-free. But before you take the minimalist leap, you might want to test out something less extreme with a lightweight shoe instead.
What Is a Minimalist Shoe Anyway?
Answering this question has sparked both debate and confusion, since some shoes are “more minimal” than others. The Journal of Foot and Ankle Research helped bring some clarity to the field with this official definition of a minimalist shoe:
“Footwear providing minimal interference with the natural movement of the foot due to its high flexibility, low heel to toe drop, weight and stack height, and the absence of motion control and stability devices.”
Shoes are evaluated on a scale of 0 to 100 to determine a “Minimalist Index” in which a shoe garners points across five distinct categories (flexibility, drop, weight, stack height, and motion control/ stability devices). In essence, these shoes operate on a continuum of support, rather than an exact cut off—the higher the score, the more minimalist the shoe is. It’s up to you how low (or rather, how high) you want to go in selecting your next pair.
Nike’s Free RN 5.0 incorporates deep midsole grooves for exceptional flexibility. Trevor Raab
How We Chose These Shoes
Every shoe on this list has been selected by one of our editors here at Runner’s World. In making these decisions, we research the market, survey user reviews, speak with product managers and engineers, and use our own experience with these shoes to determine the best options. We’ve handpicked each pair based on value, test impressions, expert recommendations, and how the shoe performs overall. (You can check out full reviews and images for those shoes that have undergone our strenuous testing cycle.) Here are just a few of our favorite picks to consider if you’re making a move on minimalism—just be sure to ease them into your running routine gradually.
Arc’teryx Norvan SL
Arc’teryx Arc’teryx Norvan SL $149.95 amazon.com
Leave it to rock climbers to inspire the lightest trail shoe we’ve ever tested. The Norvan SL (Arc’teryx code for “superlight”) was designed for rock climbers as a compact and lightweight shoe to quickly traverse between climbing routes. The SL fits snugly. It’s narrow underfoot, especially below the arch, while the forefoot widens to provide more ground contact and better traction when toeing off on steep inclines. With no rock plate, minimal cushion, and paper-thin TPU mesh upper, the Norvan SL remains extremely breathable and sheds water quickly.
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Merrell Bare Access XTR
Merrell Bare Access XTR Sweeper $109.95 $74.99 (32% off) amazon.com
The Sweeper is more about giving you immediate ground connection than loading up on cushioning. (The on-foot sensation is nearly identical to the standard model; the only difference is that one tenth of its zero-drop platform is now made from sustainable algae-based foam called “BLOOM.”) If you like a light and flexible shoe that can still take the sting out of hard landings, the Sweeper will serve you well, as it did for one tester who wore it on runs up to 12 miles. However, if feeling a few rocks underfoot is a hard “no,” you’ll stand with our runners who delegated the Sweeper for racing, runs less than five miles, and stints on the treadmill.
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Altra Altra Vanish-R $99.95 amazon.com
True to its name, Altra’s Vanish-R is so light that it “gives the sensation of running barefoot,” as one of our testers said. Altra’s purpose in launching the Vanish-R was to create an honest-to-goodness racing flat that provides a “snappy” feel. With a thin upper that’s like a second skin and a zero-drop outsole that encourages your natural gait, this shoe is for the runner who desires to run as close to shoeless as possible.
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Topo Athletic ST-3
Topo Athletic Topo Athletic ST-3 $99.95 amazon.com
The ST-3 has just a thin layer of foam separating your foot from the road. As a result, some testers likened it to running barefoot, but they gave it high marks for flexibility and overall comfort. All were unanimous in loving the fit of the upper. A stretchy mesh is soft against your skin—whether you wear socks or not. Plus there’s no rigid heel counter, so you can pack the shoe flat in a bag if you’re traveling.
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Nike Free RN 5.0
Nike Nike Free RN 5.0 $99.95 $79.93 (20% off) amazon.com
When showing us early samples of the new Free RN 5.0, Nike’s product team said the shoe is really intended for foot strengthening—it can be used for runs up to 3 miles. It has a new groove system, with lots of cuts through the foam across the foot and just two running the length of the shoe. But each slice is curved and angled to maximize the shoe’s flexibility. To deliver some structure and stability, however, the sole has a pod-like, bulbous design—it’s thicker and more stable in areas where you’re prone to wobble.
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Merrell Trail Glove 5
Merrell Merrell Trail Glove 5 $99.70 amazon.com
Since the fourth version of the shoe was released back in 2017, Merrell has spent two years tweaking and refining the shoe’s midsole to better mimic the foot in motion. The result is the brand’s Barefoot 2 technology, which expertly balances an anatomical fit and zero-drop with enough stability and underfoot protection. Merrell does it by carving out a support zone in the midsole, which cradles the arch while still allowing the foot to flex freely and adapt to quick changes in movement. This makes the shoe a standout for bombing down twisty single-track, shuffling along a narrow creek crossing, or even just doing workouts at the gym.
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Other Options to Consider
New Balance Minimus Trail 10v1
New Balance New Balance Minimus 10v1 Trail $104.95 Amazon
The Minimus Trail 10 was a trendsetter in the minimal footwear movement when it debuted, and longtime fans of that shoe will be happy to know that it’s back again. After discontinuing the 10v2, New Balance reverted to the original model’s outsole, which features round Vibram rubber pads for increased durability. The upper benefits from a softer treatment; a thin foam layer is sandwiched between two mesh fabrics, while the midfoot band keeps you locked in place.
Inov-8 F-Lite 195 V2
Inov-8 Inov-8 F-Lite 195 v2 $124.39 amazon.com
Inov-8’s F-Lite series may be minimal in design, but it hits the maximum in versatility. These kicks work for running, agility training, weight lifting, and more with an outsole that even features a specialized rubber for rope climbs. While still supremely light at 6.8 ounces for the men’s version, the shoe does offer a bit more support at the midsole, which Inov-8 touts for its 10% improved shock absorption and 15% better energy return than standard EVA. Plus, the 195 provides ultimate flexibility throughout the entire footbed for a truly natural feel.
Xero Shoes Prio
Xero Shoes Xero Shoes Prio $94.99 amazon.com
With its name straight from a physiology textbook, the Prio (from the term “proprioception”) is just the shoe you’ll want for better “awareness of body movement.” The shoe uses the same 5mm rubber sole as the brand’s super minimal sandals, so there’s not much to cloud a truly barefoot experience. A wide toe box, zero-drop offset, and fully adjustable instep strap give freedom to fine tune your fit, so you can focus on your stride and let nature do the rest. Feel free to don the Prio sans socks—they’re barefoot-friendly.
Vibram V-Trail 2.0
Vibram Vibram V-Trail 2.0 $119.95 amazon.com
The V-Trail 2.0 delivers once again in true five-finger style—outfitting each toe in its own flexible, water-repellant sleeve. The updated 2019 version brings a sturdier 3D-printed mesh for protection against rocks when you’re carving out gnarly single track, but still maintains the agility you expect from the beloved “toe shoes.” The same quick-cinch closure system means you won’t waste time fiddling with soggy, muddy laces.
Luna Sandals Mono 2.0
Luna Sandals Luna Sandals Mono 2.0 amazon.com
Last (and certainly least) is the most minimalist option out there—the running sandal. The Mono 2.0 from Luna Sandals is about as close to barefoot as you can get without hitting the road in your socks. Needless to say, these guys are lightweight and flexible, and have just enough thickness so your feet don’t get chewed up on rocks and gravel. If you really want to know what it feels to run like the Raramuri, just strap on the Mono.
Nike has been on the cover of the most popular health magazines and even on the cover of Times Magazine. These are no small feats that are reserved only for the best of the best. Splashed on the covers and reviewed by no less than 100,000 runners the world over, Nike consistently upholds the trademark of cool and awesome designs with incredible footwear performance.
Why make the most out of the best Nike low drop shoes?
Best Nike low drop running shoes – November 2019
- Nike varies its low drop approach to address the needs of various runners. It has several low drop shoes that offer the least amount of cushioning to replicate the feel of true barefoot running while there are those low drop shoes in its fold that still offers sufficient cushioning on the heel and forefoot areas.
- Another variety that the best Nike low drop uses is the freedom of movement that is allowed for the arches and the tendons. This type of shoe makes full use of the natural movements of the foot and allows them to develop and strengthen on their own. It also lets the foot do the majority of the cushioning on its own.
- The other type of Nike low drop shoes offers less arch or tendon movements and is fitted with a significant amount of cushioning that the foot does not have to work on active cushioning. This is a type that is built for runners with slight overpronation tendencies. It limits to a point the mild rolling inwards of the foot after impact for a more stable and safer ride.
- Regardless of the difference in variance and in how Nike maximizes the use of the drop, all Nike low drop shoes have one thing in common. Excellent ground perception is the main thing found among all these low drop shoes. The low drop allows the shoes to stay relatively close to the ground to get the best sensory feedback possible.
- Runners who love the trail but are hooked to low drop shoes should look for a pair that offers a thicker midsole. The relatively thick midsole would be an excellent shield from the uneven and often rugged terrain of the outdoors.
- For the superior trail performance of a low drop shoe, do go for a pair that has deeper tread patterns than low-drop shoes used mainly for tracks or road. The deep tread patterns or aggressive lug formation would be optimal for the much needed grip in mud, snow, and technical aspects of trail running.
- Low drop shoes are also great alternatives for the transition to barefoot running. It provides exceptional underfoot sensory feel and allows a more developed leg and foot mechanics to successfully handle running without any shoes at all.
What should influence you in getting the best Nike low drop shoes?
- Heel to Toe Differential. Nike provides options for runners with heel differentials of 0-8mm. The range of this drop is exceptional for natural foot articulation.
- Cushioning. Air units in the forefoot or on the heel or the use of its responsive midsole foams are the main cushioning features utilized by Nike in their low drop shoes.
- Underfoot Protection. BRS 1000 carbon rubber is utilized underfoot for optimal grip and durability as well as the environmentally preferred blown rubber which is excellent for traction in almost all surface.
9 best Nike low drop running shoes
- Nike Free RN CMTR
- Nike Free RN Motion Flyknit 2017
- Nike Free RN Distance
- Nike Free RN Motion Flyknit 2018
- Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 5
- Nike Zoom Strike
- Nike Air Zoom Streak LT 4
- Nike Zoom Rotational 6
- Nike Free RN Flyknit 3.0
AuthorJens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob is a fan of short distances with a 5K PR at 15:58 minutes. Based on 35 million race results, he’s among the fastest 0.2% runners. Jens Jakob previously owned a running store, when he was also a competitive runner. His work is regularly featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC and the likes as well as peer-reviewed journals. Finally, he has been a guest on +30 podcasts on running.
What’s up with Barefoot Running Shoes?
Wearing these wispier kicks has certainly worked for me because I put in serious miles with virtually no aches or pains. I used to lose toe nails on a regular basis but since switching to minimalists, I almost always have a full set when I go for a pedicure.
I think minimalists can work for you too, especially if you’re on the lighter side of 150 pounds, have decent running form and are already largely injury-free. If that describes you, I cautiously yet enthusiastically suggest you give them a try. Wear them for short runs to start and gradually increase your distance; they can be a bit of a shock to your feet at the onset.
What do you think about barefoot running shoes? Tell us in the comments section or tweet me your thoughts.
Liz Neporent is the best selling writer of 15 health books including The Winner’s Brain and Fitness for Dummies, 4th edition. Follow her on twitter @lizzyfit and ask her anything you want to know about getting in shape and losing weight.
- By Liz Neporent
Minimalist/Barefoot Running Basics
To learn more, read How to Choose Trail Running Shoes and How to Choose Running Shoes.
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How to Transition to Barefoot or Minimalist Running
Many runners incorporate barefoot or minimalist running into their training—say, as a workout once or twice a week, or as a warmup drill before a run in more cushioned or supportive footwear. This can be a great way to reap some of the benefits—an opportunity to strengthen your arches and improve your running form—without giving up your traditional running shoes.
The key to the barefoot/minimalist transition is to start gradually. For example, if you’ve always run in stability or motion-control shoes, first try switching to a neutral shoe for a while before going more minimalist. Or, if you’ve already been running in neutral shoes and want to try running barefoot, let your feet adapt gradually by first transitioning to minimalist shoes.
1. First, acclimate your feet.
- Practice walking barefoot or in your new minimalist shoes before you attempt to run.
- Gently stretch your calf and arch muscles.
- If you are going truly barefoot (no shoes at all), start by just standing on gravel. You need to build up toughness on the soles of your feet.
- Try running a short distance on a soft surface such as wet sand, grass or rubberized track.
2. Practice your running mechanics.
- Practice landing on your midfoot versus your heel. Don’t be afraid to let the heel contact the ground—but concentrate on striking with the midfoot first.
- Don’t overstride. Use short strides and a quick cadence with your midfoot strike. Run with a metronome app and aim for 180 strides per minute; it is very difficult to heel strike at that stride rate.
- Your landings should feel gentle, relaxed and quiet. Avoid letting the soles of your feet slap against the ground.
3. Gradually increase distance.
- Start slowly and don’t do too much too soon.
- Try using the 10 percent rule—don’t increase your weekly mileage (in barefoot/minimalist footwear) by more than 10 percent each week.
4. Use caution.
- The lower the heel-to-toe drop on your shoes, the harder your Achilles tendon will need to work. Be especially careful with easing into longer miles in zero-drop shoes.
- Listen to your body. If you feel any pain, stop.
How to Choose Running Shoes
Trail-Running Shoes: How to Choose
Trail Running Basics
Insoles: How to Choose
Pros And Cons Of Barefoot And Minimalist Shoe Running
The barefoot and minimalist running shoe movement has gained momentum over the last few years but whether it’s best to go shoed or shoeless still remains one of the most hotly contested topics in running circles. Let’s look at the pros and cons:
The barefoot and minimalist running shoe movement has gained momentum over the last few years but whether it’s best to go shoed or shoeless still remains one of the most hotly contested topics in running circles. Let’s look at the pros and cons:
- One of the main arguments for barefoot and minimalist shoe running is that the support and cushioning that modern running shoes provide have caused our feet to become lazy. Running with little or no support can therefore help to strengthen the intrinsic muscles, tendons and ligaments of the foot.
- Running barefoot or in minimalist shoes generally encourages a mid-foot or forefoot landing rather than heel striking. A mid-foot strike is thought to be optimal for distance runners as it’s the most biomechanically efficient. Heel striking is the result of your feet landing in front of your hips and causes an unnecessary braking action on every stride so you’re not making the most of that forward momentum.
- Without or with very limited cushioning and support in a shoe the intrinsic muscles in the feet as well as those in the ankles and lower legs are activated. This results in better balance and proprioception – your body’s ability to sense movement and the position of your joints and limbs.
- When running, the impact that your body has to absorb with every stride is huge; up to eight times your bodyweight. Clearly the cushioning offered by running shoes helps to absorb some of this shock and therefore going barefoot or using a minimalist shoe requires the soft tissues and bones in the feet, ankles, legs, hips and even spine to absorb this impact. This can lead to overuse injuries such as Achilles tendonitis, shin splints and stress fractures.
- The stiff soles of running shoes help to protect and support the plantar fascia, which is the strong band of connective tissue that lines the bottom of the foot. By going barefoot or wearing a minimalist shoe, there is a risk that your plantar fascia will become over-worked or strained, leading to troublesome plantar fasciitis.
- If you’ve historically worn running shoes then the likelihood is that the skin on the soles of your feet is relatively soft. Running barefoot or in minimalist shoes will requires this skin to harden up so you can probably expect some blisters initially.
- As a result of the injury risks associated with running barefoot or in minimalist shoes it requires a gradual adaptation. If you make the switch and start doing all of your mileage with little or no cushioning or support, you’ll be asking for trouble. A successful switch could take weeks or even months, which not all runners have the patience for!
- It sounds obvious but running shoes will protect your feet from nasties on the pavement and trails such as sharp stones and glass. They also provide additional grip in wet and icy conditions.