Barefoot shoes?

Until a few hours ago I had no idea there was such thing as barefoot shoes, or barefoot running shoes to be precise, sounds like a contradiction, but they turn out to be shoes made to mimic the natural movement of the naked foot.

Why would you want to buy a pair of barefoot running shoes?

We were born barefoot. By walking and running barefoot we allow our body to move how it was initially designed. By wearing shoes, however, we change the natural way we walk and run which can lead to sprains, shin splints, and other common foot injuries.

The human foot is composed of 26 bones, 33 joints (20 of which are actively articulated), and more than a hundred muscles, tendons, and ligaments. All of these components work together to support our body as we stand, walk, and run.  Problems or flaws in the feet often can cause problems in other parts of the body. In addition to providing tremendous support and shock absorption the foot is surprisingly malleable, they tend to conform to the shape which they are bound within.

Shoes do little else but provide an environment that our feet simply won’t fully adapt to no matter how cushioned they are, or how much support they provide.

Running shoes encourage you to run with the wrong form. Your body is designed to run on the ball and forefront of your feet. Try going for a run barefoot and you’ll experience this yourself—your heels will barely touch the ground. In contrast, most running shoes will cause you to land on your heels in a way that won’t only slow you down, but will inevitably lead to knee and back pain.

However, shoes do serve a purpose; they keep your feet cleaner and drier than bare feet, not to mention being useful when there’s a sharp rock or nail under foot (not to mention doggie doo).

That’s where these shoes come into play.

I will be discussing about 3 brands that I think are the closest things to being barefoot.

Vibram FiveFingers

The  Vibram FiveFingers Barefoot Shoe is one of the most innovative products to come out in a couple years.  The Barefoot shoe is based on the age old concept that being barefoot helps your balance, your connection with the earth and energy, and gives you the ability to move in a more natural, healthy way.

The KSO is designed to “Keep Stuff Out” with its abrasion resistant stretch polyamide and breathable stretch mesh that wraps your entire forefoot to keep out gravel, grit, mud and other possible irritants.  A single hook and loop closure helps secure your foot in the shoe giving you the ability to scramble up steep slopes or hop down river cobbles.

By walking in a protective sleeve over your feet, encased in sticky, protective Vibram rubber, the FiveFingers KSO stimulates the muscles in your feet and lower legs to build strength and improve range of motion.  Many people who use these shoes have said they had a better sense of balance, greater agility, and visibly improved posture.

Because of their design they might not be the best idea for everyday wear.

Nike Free Shoes

The Nike Free Shoes were developed by Nike to give the customer more control over the shoe as opposed to having the shoes control the foot.  Like other styles of barefoot running shoes, these shoes are supposed to allow your feet to move more naturally, thereby strengthening the feet and lower body and preventing injuries.  The cuts in the outsole of the shoe makes the Nike Frees extremely flexible, allowing your foot to move with similar easy and flexibility as if it were barefoot.

The Newtons

Run barefoot to discover your optimal running form. You’ll discover immediately that when you run barefoot, you’re not landing on your heels. Instead you are landing on your midfoot/forefoot.

Landing on your midfoot/forefoot is the most natural way to run. It is also the fastest and most efficient way to run. Newton Running shoes are the only shoes that were developed specifically for Natural Running.

When you walk, you land on your heels. When you sprint, you land on your toes. An optimal running gait falls somewhere in-between. Efficient running is about landing on your sweet spot. Not your heel, not your toes. Newton Running encourages running on your midfoot/forefoot. We think of this style of running as a Land, Lever, Lift scenario.

There’s also a book that talks about how barefoot running beats running with shoes, it’s called Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall

Sources: SpotCoolStuffdesign, Barefootrunningshoes, Vibram FiveFingers, Newton Running, and Nike.

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