As the popularity of barefoot running shoes (shoes that mimic the foot while running or walking barefoot) increases inevitably the more manufacturers will enter the market with their own barefoot shoe offering. This makes choosing an appropriate barefoot running shoe for the consumer increasingly difficult.
Rather than make bold claims that XYZ barefoot running shoe is the best running shoe, period. What we want to do today is highlight some of our favorite barefoot shoes (and some of our least favorite shoes). We’ll list these shoes in degree of shoes that give you the most barefoot running benefits to the least. Of course you might be thinking to yourself, “uh, isn’t actually running barefoot the best barefoot running shoe?” And you are of course, right, but for most of us (or me in particular) running around barefoot just isn’t that practical (I tried just walking in the mall barefoot and I got in trouble).
Without further ado here is Barefoot Running Shoes’ list of Best Barefoot Running Shoes.
No list of best barefoot running shoes would be complete without mentioning Vibram and their FiveFinger’s shoes. Considered the market leader in this field they were the first company to pioneer the use of their five separated toes design. By adopting this strange looking design the FiveFingers shoes allow for independent toe movement which gives additional foot stability (by allowing your toes to naturally fan out and allowing you to sense the ground better). The end result is a product which people have raved about for not only the comfort they give, but also in the reduction of running injuries like shin splints and plantar fasciitis.
While Vibram makes a variety of different models like the Classic or the newly released Performa the clear people’s favorite is the FiveFingers KSO for it’s comfort and it’s ability to really “keep stuff out.”
The Free shoe line from Nike is Nike’s response to the barefoot running shoe movement. What makes the Nike Free different from other running shoes? The key difference are the deep grooves Nike put in the sole which allow the shoe to have extreme flexibility. This allows the runner to have a more “natural” running movement by allow the foot to bend and flex like it would if you weren’t wearing shoes.
While Nike does have a variety of Free shoes, our favorite is still the Nike Free 5.0 V4. It fits like a glove and feels like you are walking on air. The shoes are lightweight and good looking. It’s a good alternative to less attractive barefoot shoe offerings (sorry Vibram).
New Balance MR800 (Men)
Wait!? Even New Balance has a barefoot running shoe? That’s absolutely right. New Balance, known for their excellent traditional running shoes, has released the New Balance MR800. While it’s debatable if this is truly a “barefoot shoe” since it looks like a regular padded shoe what makes the MR800 unique is how it’s one of the few shoes that was designed from the ground up for Pose or Chi running techniques. These are the techniques advocated in the popular barefoot bible, Born to Run. By allowing you to run using a mid-foot strike the MR800 minimizes the stress and impact on the legs which can then lower the severity and frequency of injuries.
Newton Running is the new kid on the running shoe block. Even though the company has only been around for a few years their running technology has been in development for over 12 years and it’s starting to take notice. Why is it getting noticed? They claim “Newton shoes help runners go faster.” What’s unique about their technology and shoes is that all of them feature a design which facilitates mid-foot strike (similar to the New Balance MR800). In addition, in the mid-foot area there is an actuator which creates a trampoline effect that can speed up your foot motion and hence make you run faster.
One of the most popular models is the Newton Running Sir Issac (yes, named after the famous physicist). It features the fancy trampoline technology as well as pronation support all in a fashionable package.
So there you have it. Some of our favorite Barefoot Running Shoes for 2009. Hopefully 2010 brings us cooler and better barefoot shoe technology.