Running World Trends

Barefoot Running and Minimalist Running Shoes

There are currently a couple of interesting trends in the running world. One is running barefoot, while another is using minimalist running shoes, such as Fivefingers shoes, as an ultralight alternative to traditional running shoes. These have been popular with both runners and spirited free thinkers in the corporate world, and Even celebrities like Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum have been known to wear Vibram Fivefingers running shoes.

Fivefingers and other types of ultralight running shoes are part of a larger trend in the running world, which is the preference for using minimalist running shoes. These are lighter than lightweight products, shoes that weigh 9 oz. or less in a men's size 9. But just being that light is not enough to earn the designation of “minimalist running shoe.” To do that, a pair of minimalist running shoes should require the person wearing them to use their own feet to take care of cushioning and stability, and not just rely on the padding of the shoes. For this reason, the previously discussed Vibram fivefingers are a great example of minimalist running shoes, as are the Saucony Hattori shoes, which look a lot more like regular running shoes since they do not separate the toes into separate compartments.

The Benefits of Minimalist Running Shoes

Helping to Prevent Minimalist Running Injuries

Minimalist running shoes have many benefits for improving your running and keeping you healthy while doing it. Minimalist running shoes provide less sensory interference between the sole of the foot and the ground, and have a lower height difference between the heel and forefoot. These design choices, in conjunction with minimalist shoes’ lightweight quality and flexibility, allow runners to better adjust to the impact felt from constantly striking the ground with their feet when running.

Many health professionals have espoused the benefits of barefoot and/or minimalist running. Perhaps one of the most well-known health professionals in America today, Dr. Mehmet Oz has stated that minimalist shoes such as the Five Fingers “were designed to not give too much cushioning, but they allow you to run off the arches of your feet so you bounce." Wearing shoes like this, which allow a greater freedom of movement but do not expose your soles to the ground, strike a good balance for a lot of running enthusiasts today.

Minimalist Running Form and Technique

From Barefoot to Fivefingers to Minimalist Running Shoes

Vibram Fivefingers

Minimal shoes for running in unknown or extreme conditions are useful, but many running perfectionists insist on running absolutely barefoot when trying to improve form. So, a person running a marathon or an ultramarathon might prefer a minimalist running shoe like the Saucony Kinvara or Vibram Fivefingers. This is because people training for a marathon can better control their form on a track by being barefoot.

The Increasing Popularity of Minimalist Running Shoes

More and more people who run are becoming proponents of barefoot running and minimalist running shoes. Barefooters especially know that there are times when the foot needs some minimal protection from the elements and debris on roads and paths. Vibram Fivefingers shoes let runners protect their soles from detritus on the ground, but they are not the only choice for runners looking for minimalist running shoes. Some of the best minimalist running shoes include a variety of choices from companies like Saucony and New Balance. Wearing any of these types of shoes will help protect your soles from rocks, ice, shattered glass and other hazards on the road. And the increased flexibility of these shoes allow you to move with more freedom, almost as if you were not wearing shoes at all. Some people are even winning marathons with brands like Vibram FiveFingers on their feet.

US Soldiers Cannot Wear Fivefingers Shoes

But Vibram Fivefingers are not an acceptable choice for some runners who want a minimalist running shoe, such as soldiers in the US Army. The US Army says soldiers participating in their physical fitness tests have to wear shoes featuring only one compartment for all the toes, so brands like the Fivefingers are right out. But with choices like New Balance’s Minimus shoes or Saucony’s Hattori minimalist running shoes, people who are unable to run barefoot or with the Fivefingers have several choices that are perfect for their running needs.

Buying the Best Minimalist Running Shoe

Saucony Hattori

If you are looking for a good minimalist shoe to start with, a popular choice is the Saucony Hanzo, named after Hattori Hanzo, a 15th century ninja who saved the life of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Purists of barefoot running may not like the Hattori, but it is a good choice if you trying to dip your toes into the world of minimalist and barefoot running. Instead of the more traditional heavy neutral cushioned trainers, the Saucony Hanzo is a really good lightweight neutral trainer. So try out a pair of minimalist  shoes for your next jog and see what improvements to your form and ability you can make.