Choosing Barefoot & Minimal Running Shoes

If you're looking to buy a minimal shoe you have a few different options. The most minimal of them all fit like a second skin, allow your 10 toes to move independently, but protect your feet from the ground for the completely barefoot experience.

If you're nervous of going that far there are shoes halfway between barefoot and a regular cushioned shoe. They allow to be closer to the ground than in an ordinary running shoe but still have a bit of cushioning and there is less of a drop from the heel to the forefoot which encourages you to land more on the midfoot and forefoot.

Generally the sizing is different to your average running shoe since you want the shoes to be nice and snug. Most people find it important to try on different models from different companies to see what fits them best, when making the transition to barefoot or minimalistic running.

Barefoot running is based on the premise that your foot has the ideal design for running. When all the bones, ligaments and muscles are allowed to function freely and naturally you will have the most efficient gait for your physique, which minimises stress.

The key to barefoot running is to build up your time and distance progressively, and slowly! If a muscle has been damaged by injury or misuse then you gradually build up its strength so it will function and support the skeletal structure again. It is the same with our feet. We often have not used our feet properly since we first wore shoes as children, so a period of adjustment is required to adapt to a different way of landing (you cannot land on your heels in barefoot shoes, it'll cripple you), and total loss of cushioning. We (and barefoot lecturers) recommend an initial 6-week period of walking in barefoot shoes before trying to run, and then building up the running very, very slowly.

There is a great sense of freedom and lightness with running this way. The 200,000 nerves in the feet send impulses to the brain giving you a sense of alertness, awareness and balance (this is proprioception). Barefoot shoes are suitable for wearing occasionally or regularly to strengthen your feet, but also can be seen as a lifestyle choice to increase your environmental awareness and sense of well being.

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