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Minimalist Running Shoes For When Barefoot Running Is Impossible

By Edited May 30, 2016 8 12

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.



Jun 30, 2012 3:27am
Strange how you discover the right article at the right time. I haven;t run for five years after breaking my foot. Just started hitting the trails again last week. Hate traditional running shoes...make my foot feel like it's encased in a brick. Yesterday I started researching toe shoes as another option. Leaning towards the Vibram Fivefingers, but I will check out the rest of your suggestions.

Jun 30, 2012 10:33am
Back in 2008, I went on a four day backpacking trip in Oregon. I remember two of the participants wearing the Vibram Fivefingers as their only shoes during the trip. I was impressed with the wear ability and effective of this show, and have since worn them. They are very comfortable.
Jun 30, 2012 10:34am
Back in 2008, I went on a four day backpacking trip in Oregon. I remember two of the participants wearing the Vibram Fivefingers as their only shoes during the trip. I was impressed with the wear ability and effective of this shoe, and have since worn them. They are very comfortable.
Jun 30, 2012 3:12pm
Very interesting article!
I always wondered about the comfort of the fivefinger shoes.

Thumbs Up!
Jul 1, 2012 8:07am
Now, what about folks who don't run (like me) because of knee problems? I would love to run but my knees don't. Very interesting article. Congratz on the feature. Thumbs up.
Jul 1, 2012 11:51am
I have knee problems too and have found that minimalist shoes ease the pain. If I wear flip-flops my knee will be in pain after a few hours of walking as well as some normal shoes. I wear Nike Free Runs which are a lightweight running shoe and will never go back to normal shoes. Plus, feeling the surface you are running on just feels cool.
Jul 1, 2012 10:46pm
Some of the shoes you can feel everything so I have heard people say no hiking. I was surprised to hear they are commonly used for this. People are always searching for a "supportive" shoe, it is very interesting they are headed in the opposite direction. I will recommend these to my brother he loves to run!!
Jul 5, 2012 2:31am
good read. Check out my article for a bit of science behind it.
Jul 18, 2012 1:54am
I highly recommend minimalist running shoes for those who intend to take up running seriously. I ran my fastest marathon a couple years ago in a pair of Vibram fivefingers. However, be sure to make a slow transition from the traditional running shoe to a minimalist shoe or even barefoot to help prevent injury. It will take time for your feet to adjust and strengthen to the different force and impact of running with minimalist footwear.
Jul 21, 2012 12:02am
I love walking barefoot, but hate stepping on rocks! I've had Vibram FiveFingers Sprint shoes for over a year and I love the barefoot feel without the stabbing pains! I wear them when walking/running my dog.
Aug 9, 2012 2:55pm
I'd stay away from the vibram's shoes. They stink to high heaven. Even if the ladies have the prettiest pedicure and the softest feet in the world..stinky feet are not cool. Stay away from the Vibram shoes.
Nov 15, 2012 1:01pm
Fantastic article, I own Vibram Five Fingers and was looking for a less funny looking pair. Preferably ones that retain many of the benefits without sacrificing comfort or functionality. I bought a pair of the Saucony Hattori and really like how they make me feel.

Thank you for the suggestion!
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