Options Abound For Minimalist Running

Barefoot Choices For Runners Who Are Not Willing to Bare All

FiveFingersKSOsideCredit: chneelockeIn part 1, we looked at the Genesis of Barefoot running. Part 2 explored the pros and cons of the technique. If you are ready to move on to equipment, we will explor the various shoe options available on the market.

Barefoot running, or the Minimalist Running Movement calls for runners to cast off their traditional, highly cushioned running shoes in favor of no cushioning between their feet and the ground. But for runners who fear injuries due to rocks or glass, the shoe industry has produced a few minimalist shoes to help protect feet and keep them clean. These shoes are typically flat soled, with little or no cushioning. Here are the most popular current choices on the market.

Vibram Five Fingers
Vibram is the first shoe company to recognize the growth of barefoot running from a fringe moment to a mainstream one and to cater to that market. The Vibram Five Fingers is a shoe that resembles a glove with five individual toe slots. The shoe was originally manufactured for sailors or paddlers as an alternative to wearing no shoes. The shoes simulate being barefoot to allow the natural biomechanics of the foot to work.

Nike Free
Nike is the second major shoe company to attempt to capitalize on the barefoot trend with the Nike Free. The Free resembles a traditional shoe, but with a flat, segmented sole. Nike states that on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being a traditional shoe and 1 being barefoot, the Free would rank at about a 5. Reviews of the more recent additions to the free line have been mixed. Minimalist running enthusiasts report that the free has more padding than they would like.

Saucony Kinvara
Saucony is not a well-known line to the average consumer, but for enthusiasts of premium athletic apparel, Saucony is known for high-performance running shoes. The Saucony entry into the minimalist line is the Kinvara, which features a small heel-to-toe drop that is designed to force the foot into a more natural gait. Some runner reviews state that minimalist runners are unhappy with the Kinvara because it has a thicker sole than most minimalist shoes.

Merrell Barefoot
Merrell, a shoe company known for making well-cushioned, comfortable shoes has perhaps gone against their own company grain with their minimalist shoe. The Merrell barefoot shoes have no padding, a wide mitten-style toe box, a narrower heel and treads that mimic the natural contours of the foot. Reviews state that the Merrell is very much like the Vibram Five Fingered shoe, but without separating the toes. Runner reviews state that – like the Vibram shoe, the Merrell’s thin sole does allow them to feel more of the ground when they run.

With the popularity of the Vibram five finger shoe, many companies  including New Balance and Fila have recently added a glove-style or minimalist shoe to their offerings. A complete guide to minimalist running shoes, including reviews many be found through the United States Barefoot Runner’s Society.