Barefoot Running: Not just for bums and hippies.

It’s All So Confusing!

The world of run­ning, and espe­cially run­ning shoes, can be a con­fus­ing one. And now that many of us are con­sid­er­ing run­ning with min­i­mal shoes (shoes that are close to run­ning bare­foot), it can become over­whelm­ing. I’ve done a fair amount of research over the past month or so and want to pro­vide you with what I’ve learned. Hope­fully this will bring some clar­ity to you as well.

My aim with this post is twofold. First, I want to clearly out­line the ben­e­fits of run­ning bare­foot, or at least with min­i­mal shoes. Sec­ond, I want to pro­vide you with a list of min­i­mal shoes that are cur­rently on the mar­ket. I hope this will help you save some time, or at least amuse you while you’re here. As always, please pro­vide feed­back and addi­tional con­tent you feel I should include on the page in the Com­ment sec­tion below.

Pile of Running Shoes Cropped1 212x128 custom Barefoot Running: Not just for bums and hippies.

A Run­ning Reframe

As many of you are aware, I’ve been on a quest to be a run­ner for a num­ber of years now. I run for a few months, then suf­fer a major set­back, the lat­est of which is a large disc her­ni­a­tion (L5-S1). The near con­stant pain with this last injury has kept me at home for a few months now, and obvi­ously off the trails. With­out the abil­ity to run (for a lot of the time it was quite dif­fi­cult to even walk), I began doing the only thing I could: read­ing about run­ning and watch­ing run­ning movies. Oh, and liv­ing vic­ar­i­ously through all of you, who are out there doing awe­some running.

Lying in bed, dream­ing of the day I could once again run (hope­fully pain free this time!), I learned a lot. Then, as any­one who’s been in con­tact with me will know, I dis­cov­ered the book Born to Run by Christo­pher McDougall, and devoured it. To say the book changed my life is no over­state­ment. It altered the way I think of run­ning and eat­ing. Heck, it even changed the way I think about the mean­ing of life! Chris describes how we, as humans, are intri­cately designed for endurance run­ning, like no other ani­mal on the planet. This not only gives me solid hope that I will run again, it also makes me con­fi­dent that I will be able to reach my ulti­mate goal, to be able to run long dis­tances (ultra­ma­rathons). Instead of being gripped by fear and loathing when I think of run­ning, brought on by years of over-doing it and suf­fer­ing injuries (both phys­i­cal and emo­tional), I now feel a sense of joy. I visu­al­ize the human body doing what it’s meant to do: flu­idly mov­ing across the plains and up moun­tains, hair blow­ing in the wind, sun danc­ing off of the leaves and petals, eagles soar­ing over­head… (ok, maybe some of this euphoric vision is induced by nar­cotic pain killers , but not all of it). I now get that run­ning is a part of liv­ing, and liv­ing is a part of running.

Less Is More

This pro­found real­iza­tion, that all of us are born to run, is cou­pled with the biggest reframe I have expe­ri­enced in my life: When it comes to run­ning shoes, less is more. I was incred­i­bly skep­ti­cal at first when I encoun­tered the notion of run­ning close to bare­foot. I first heard of Nike’s Free run­ning shoes a cou­ple of years ago. I instantly dis­missed the prod­uct, clas­si­fy­ing them as cor­po­rate America’s lame attempt to cap­i­tal­ize on a small, niche group of hip­pies. Well, if you’ve read Born to Run or my pre­vi­ous post, The Sole of the Prob­lem, you will real­ize that I wasn’t com­pletely wrong. Nike and other shoe com­pa­nies are try­ing to make money from foot prob­lems they mostly cre­ated with thick, cush­ioned soles. If you look back at recent his­tory, peo­ple didn’t suf­fer much, if any, plan­tar fasci­itis before Nike cre­ated what we now know and wear as run­ning shoes.

These and other insights based in data and intro­duced to me in Born to Run com­pletely flipped upside down what I thought were run­ning truths. I’ve come to real­ize that bare­foot run­ning and run­ning in min­i­mal shoes is not just some­thing that hip­pies do as a stand against the way most of the world views life. Indeed, many of the top endurance run­ners and col­lege run­ning coaches have been prac­tic­ing and espous­ing the virtues of bare­foot train­ing rou­tines for years (Anton Krupicka is per­haps the most suc­cess­ful barefoot/minimal run­ner today – he just broke what many thought was an unbreak­able record at the White River 50 mile race). They espouse bare­foot run­ning because research and per­sonal expe­ri­ence has proven to them that feet and legs work best when they are in con­tact with the ground, unim­peded by large, clunky, and heavy run­ning shoes.

A grow­ing body of sci­en­tific research shows that run­ners expe­ri­ence less injuries and faster times when they run bare­foot or with min­i­mal padding. In fact, research pub­lished in Sports Sci­ence in 2001 by Michael War­burtin points out that, “Lab­o­ra­tory stud­ies show that the energy cost of run­ning is reduced by about 4% when the feet are not shod.” Trans­late the energy saved into time over a run and you are going to expe­ri­ence a per­sonal record. Add the reduced chance you’ll suf­fer an injury and it’s a big win for us runners.

Barefoot on Grass 147x162 custom Barefoot Running: Not just for bums and hippies.

The Ben­e­fits of Run­ning Barefoot

Based on what I’ve read so far, there are three key ben­e­fits to run­ning bare­foot at least some of the time, and avoid­ing thick run­ning shoes at all times. They are:

  1. Shock Absorb­tion: Thick, heavily-padded run­ning shoes that we have come to rely on allow you to land on the heels of your feet, so you do. This causes all sorts of shock dam­age to the foot, leg, and even the rest of the body on up. To under­stand the dan­ger in this, imag­ine you’re on the roof of your house. Now jump off and land on the heels of your feet. Ouch, right?! It’s no dif­fer­ent land­ing on your heel thou­sands of time every run. In con­trast, land­ing on your fore­foot soft­ens your whole land­ing. Your feet and legs flex like a car’s shock absorber and nat­u­rally absorb much of the impact.
  2. Lighter Strike: It’s hard to wrap our brains around this next rea­son for run­ning bare­foot, yet research (some of which was con­ducted by Nike) shows that our bod­ies, inher­ently seek­ing feedback,strike the ground harder the more padding we have on our feet. The foot has over seven thou­sand nerve end­ings in it, and each one needs to feel the body strike the ground. If you are bare­foot, those nerve end­ings get the feed­back they need with a light strike. How­ever, if you are wear­ing a thick shoe, your body needs to strike harder in order to feel the ground through the padding. It’s the oppo­site of what we’ve been taught, but the more padding you wear under your feet, the harder your foot pounds the ground. If you run bare­foot, you will nat­u­rally run light like a cat. And that’s bet­ter for your whole body.
  3. Mus­cle Strength: There are lit­er­ally thou­sands of mus­cles in each foot, yet most of them aren’t used when we’re wear­ing arch-supporting shoes. The best exam­ple I’ve heard to explain why sup­port­ing the foot is bad, is that of wear­ing a cast. I remem­ber when I broke my arms and wore a solid cast for six weeks. Besides the smell, what I remem­ber most is how small and limp my arm was when they cut the cast off. I could barely lift a pen with my arm! While not as extreme a sit­u­a­tion, when your feet are con­stantly held in place by shoes, the mus­cles atro­phy. It’s quite sim­ple, when your foot mus­cles are strong from use, you run more pow­er­fully and swiftly. And when you run bare­foot, all of your mus­cles get a chance to do what they are designed to do.

Other rea­sons for run­ning bare­foot include run­ning with a shorter, more healthy gait, lit­er­ally being in bet­ter touch with your sur­round­ings, and not depriv­ing your­self of the phys­i­cal plea­sures that come with being bare­foot (is there any­one who doesn’t enjoy walk­ing bare­foot on grass?). The fact is that the foot’s an incred­i­ble sys­tem, capa­ble of doing any­thing that we need it to. I think Ted McDon­ald (a.k.a. Bare­foot Ted) said it best: Our feet, eyes, and mind are an incred­i­ble set of tools, if we just use them.

I decided that the best thing for me is to run bare­foot some of the time, and the rest of the time to run in min­i­mal footwear. I chose a pair of black Vibram Five Fin­ger KSOs. I am sure, after ample prac­tice, feet can han­dle any sur­face. How­ever, I want to give my feet a lit­tle stronger pro­tec­tion against punc­ture wounds. I will post a review of my Vibram Five Fin­gers a lit­tle later on, once I am able to run again. I have to say, though, that walk­ing in them is very enjoyable.

Min­i­mal Shoes

There are numer­ous run­ning shoes out there, and a grow­ing num­ber of shoes that claim to be like run­ning barefeet. Many com­pa­nies, includ­ing Nike, are try­ing to jump on the bare­foot band­wagon. Be wary of mar­ket­ing spin. Don’t pur­chase any shoes with­out doing your research and ide­ally giv­ing them a test run first.

Before we look at some spe­cific shoes, let’s review a cou­ple of def­i­n­i­tions. First, bare­foot run­ning is just that, run­ning with noth­ing on the feet, even socks. Run­ning in min­i­mal shoes means wear­ing some­thing on your feet yet still allow­ing them to flex as they would if they were com­pletely sod-free (no sig­nif­i­cant padding or arch support).

Here are some shoes I con­sider to be minimal:

Vibram Five Fingers KSA Black 109x57 custom Barefoot Running: Not just for bums and hippies.

Vibram Five Fin­gers
KSO model shown, 5.7 oz

You either love the way they look, or you think they’re the nas­ti­est things to hit the footwear world since plan­tar warts. If you get past their look, though, you real­ize they are damn close to going bare­foot. The reviews from all sorts of folks are quite pos­i­tive. I love how I can feel the warmth on the side­walk in the sun, then the cool­ness of the grass in the shade. I also like that peo­ple look at me in a pecu­liar way (though I don’t get many stares as I am in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, after all).
> Birth­day Shoes is a blog by Justin Owens. An advo­cate of Vibram Five Fin­gers him­self, the site cov­ers all things Vibram five fin­gers. There are numer­ous reviews on his site of all of VFFs.
> Bare­foot Ted has recently reviewed the new Vibram Five Fin­ger Treks which are made of kan­ga­roo skin which pro­vides a lit­tle more insulation.

Feelmax Panka1 115x72 custom Barefoot Running: Not just for bums and hippies.

Panka model shown, 4.2 oz
Feel­max, a Finnish com­pany, makes a full range of min­i­mal shoes. Of all the min­i­mal shoes I’ve seen, the Feel­max are likely to be the best for colder tem­per­a­tures (exclud­ing the Vibram Five Fin­ger Treks, due out in Sep­tem­ber 2009). And since they come in a vari­ety of browns and blacks, they likely pro­vide the best chance to get away with wear­ing min­i­mal shoes in casual busi­ness set­tings.
> Bare­foot Run­ner has a review posted of the Planka.

Vivo Barefoot White and Blue1 123x55 custom Barefoot Running: Not just for bums and hippies.

Vivo Bare­foot by Terra Plana
Root Sport Leather model shown.
These are arguably the most beau­ti­ful min­i­mal shoes out there. They are at once fash­ion­able and func­tional (though I have not tried a pair on). Of all of the min­i­mal shoes I’ve seen, these win hands down for aes­thet­ics (I drool over the key­board every time I see them). The Root Sport Leather model also comes in white and green. An added bonus is that the shoes are made of much recy­cled mate­r­ial. Their run­ning spe­cific shoe which will be called E V O comes out later this year and will surely be a strong con­tender.
> Liv­ing Bare­foot took the Acqua’s for a spin and wrote up a review.

Asics Budokan WhiteBlue1 111x63 custom Barefoot Running: Not just for bums and hippies.

Asics Run­ning Flats
Budokan model shown
Asics cre­ates some run­ning flats and min­i­mal shoes for mar­tial artists that could also be used for run­ning. You will have to take each shoe case by case and try them on to deter­mine if there is too much padding or arch sup­port. Note that many of the big run­ning shoe com­pa­nies also cre­ate their own ver­sion of a rac­ing flat.

Feiyue1 114x50 custom Barefoot Running: Not just for bums and hippies.

Lo model shown
This Chi­nese brand with it’s ori­gins in 1920s Bei­jing became pop­u­lar with park­our enthu­si­asts (an adven­tur­ous form of urban run­ning and jump­ing first pop­u­lar­ized in France) in France in 2006. The shoes are loved for their func­tion­al­ity and her­itage, and of late, as a fash­ion state­ment. They have lit­tle to no padding, much like a clas­sic Converse.

Skora 89x55 custom Barefoot Running: Not just for bums and hippies.

Skora Footwear
While this com­pany hasn’t launched a prod­uct yet (web­site says they will in 2010), it’s sure to be a very com­pelling one. Being devel­oped by the folks behind Bare­foot Run­ning, the “shoe” will cer­tainly be extremely min­i­mal, and quite likely like noth­ing we’ve ever seen before. Can’t wait to learn more!

Other Shoes

Other shoes that claim to be all about the bare foot, but I’m not sure whether they would actu­ally be good or not, due to too much padding and support:

Nike Free1 106x62 custom Barefoot Running: Not just for bums and hippies.

Nike Free
The story of how Nike tried to make money off of the foot prob­lems they helped cre­ate in the first place is well doc­u­mented in Born to Run. It’s incred­i­ble to me that they call these shoes bare­foot, since they are very thick in the heel. Even on their blog, the header photo shoes a per­son strik­ing heel first. It just seems like mar­ket­ing fluff, to me.

Newton Running1 99x46 custom Barefoot Running: Not just for bums and hippies.

New­ton Run­ning
The com­pany talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk when it comes to min­i­mal­ist shoes. As you can see, the heels are far too thick.

Ecco Biom 96x67 custom Barefoot Running: Not just for bums and hippies.

Ecco Biom
Ecco, a Dan­ish com­pany best known for their com­fort­able shoes, have teamed up with triath­lete Tor­b­jorn Sind­balle to cre­ate the Biom. While the shoe looks inter­est­ing, you can quickly tell that it still pro­vides too much sup­port. While all of the mar­ket­ing talks about the foot’s nat­ural move­ment, they say that the shoe is a “replica of the human foot.” Too bad you have to pay $170 to get a replica of some­thing you already have.

Inov8 Racing Flats1 Barefoot Running: Not just for bums and hippies.

inov8 Rac­ing Flats
f-lite 250 Rac­ing Flat shown
inov8 is an Eng­lish com­pany founded on the phi­los­o­phy that the bare foot is an incred­i­ble sys­tem to begin with. They claim that the inov8 shoes allow the foot to flex like it does bare­foot. It’s hard to believe, though, that you would receive full flex in these shoes, but maybe I’m wrong. It weighs just under 9 ounces (or 250 grams, hence the name).

Teva X 1 Evolution 104x74 custom Barefoot Running: Not just for bums and hippies.

Teva Ultra­lites
X-1 Evo­lu­tion model shown, 10 oz
Teva, of course, began by mak­ing san­dals for active use, includ­ing water activ­i­ties. They now carry a full line of shoes for out­door activ­i­ties. Their heel is still quite large to be good for you.

New Bal­ance
New Balance MR790 102x53 custom Barefoot Running: Not just for bums and hippies. .

New Bal­ance Trail Run­ners
MR790 model shown, 5 oz
Own­ers of these trail run­ning shoes are very enthu­si­as­tic about them, talk­ing about how light and thin they are. How­ever, you can see they still have quite a lot of height in the heals, and per the New Bal­ance web­site, the shoe still con­tains a log of cush­ion­ing.

What Do You Think?

Have you tried any of these shoes? Would you sug­gest any shoes not included here?
Have you inte­grated bare­foot run­ning into your train­ing at all? Do you want to?
What other ben­e­fits of bare­foot run­ning would you include?

» Know any­one who would find this infor­ma­tion help­ful? Let them know!

Cover photo by itspaulkelly
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  • Clyn­ton

    Thanks for stop­ping by and for the link, Fer­ris. Have you tried any of these shoes or others?

  • Clyn­ton

    Thanks for the com­ment, JK. There is a range from more min­i­mal at one end to more full at the other, and it’s good that Nike puts a num­ber on their shoes to indi­cate this. If you watch the head designer, Tin­ker Hat­field, describe the shoe and read the Free web­site (, you will still hear and see a lot of talk about “sup­port and cush­ion­ing.” In no way do I see even the 3.0 Free being min­i­mal. I would clas­sify it as “Reduced”.

  • Het­hir

    I have to agree about the Nike Free. I got a pair and kind of like them. I am not in love and am still look­ing for the best shoe for me. I will have to check out some of the oth­ers that you have listed. I have vibrams but use those for short runs at the moment.

  • Clyn­ton

    Let us know how your shoe explo­ration and trial goes!

  • Clyn­ton

    Thanks for stop­ping by and for the link, Fer­ris. Have you tried any of these shoes or others?

  • Clyn­ton

    Thanks for the com­ment, JK. There is a range from more min­i­mal at one end to more full at the other, and it’s good that Nike puts a num­ber on their shoes to indi­cate this. If you watch the head designer, Tin­ker Hat­field, describe the shoe and read the Free web­site (, you will still hear and see a lot of talk about “sup­port and cush­ion­ing.” In no way do I see even the 3.0 Free being min­i­mal. I would clas­sify it as “Reduced”.

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  • moc­casin

    How about moc­casins for bare­foot run­ning? Native Amer­i­cans have used them for years. Google “moc­casins barefoot”

  • moc­casin

    Some good ques­tions and answers for the begin­ner.
    The Bare­foot FAQ 1999

  • Clyn­ton

    Great. Thanks for sharing.

  • Clyn­ton

    Absolutely. While I per­son­ally haven’t tried them, I think they’d work quite well, depend­ing on the qual­ity of the stitching.

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  • Kim

    The revised shoe cat­e­gories and sub­se­quent review/summaries are excel­lent! Per­haps you could include river shoes/aqua socks in the min­i­mal­ist cat­e­gory. Thanks for all the good information.

  • Kim

    Aqua shoes are a good, inex­pen­sive alter­na­tive to rotate into your per­sonal run­ning shoe col­lec­tion. I run in both VFF and aqua shoes. It is too cold in Idaho to wear the VFFs for any­thing below about 48 degrees. Even when the air is warm, the ground is still cold in the late fall, win­ter (snow), and early spring. The aqua shoes can be worn more com­fort­ably with socks for cold weather run­ning. It seems best to fit them snug, as they can be a bit sloppy and don’t have the same toe spread/gripping capa­bil­i­ties as the VFF. Some aqua shoes are very nar­row in the fore­foot, so look around for a wider, rounder toe area. I just picked up an inex­pen­sive pair at Joe’s Sport­ing ($6) and they work quite well. I still pre­fer the VFFs as my go-to min­i­mal­ist shoe.

  • rogerin­syd­ney

    it’s a bit mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tive to say that bare­foot = 4% more energy effi­cient there­fore total impact 4% faster. totally inter­est­ing, nice write-up, all that — but it doesn’t just work out. For exam­ple, tak­ing a mas­sive hit of codeine might mean you can move faster with an injury, but at some point that injury is going to make itself heard, and if you haven’t been lis­ten­ing it’s going to be ugly, and no mat­ter how fast you’ve been run­ning, it’ll impact on your times and train­ing, not to men­tion how your run feels. So too, tak­ing 300g and asso­ci­ated addi­tional lever­age require­ments off each leg will be part of an over­all equa­tion that can be writ­ten to scream out “ben­e­fit, ben­e­fit, ben­e­fit” but if that ben­e­fit is short-lived because of nat­ural things like feet meet­ing unnat­ural things like hot flat bitu­men, glass shards, and used nee­dles (not exag­ger­at­ing, went right by one in the mid­dle of the road at the 32k mark in Syd­ney Marathon last year) then the trade-off is too much. And mis­rep­re­sent­ing it doesn’t so much do readers/runners a big favour as set up a polar­is­ing debate where peo­ple argue about the few things they dis­agree on rather than share a bunch of stuff they feel pretty sim­i­lar about, like just frickin’ run­ning what­ever way works for you. And I don’t see Sammy Wan­jiru doing a bare­foot 2 hour marathon any time this cen­tury, re 4% bit.

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  • Greg Ander­son

    Hav­ing just dis­cov­ered your site, I am enjoy­ing catch­ing up on your pre­vi­ous posts. Thanks for this great site, Clynton!

    Just one bit to add about the New­tons you men­tion above. The pic­ture is a bit deceiv­ing. While it appears to have a thick heel, the heel of the foot actu­ally sits down inside all that rub­ber. The New­tons actu­ally have a neg­a­tive heel.

    I’ve been test­ing out a pair for about a month, and while they’re nowhere near a “bare­foot” shoe, one ben­e­fit they offer is that it is nearly impos­si­ble to heel strike in them. The only way you can com­fort­ably run in these shoes is to do a fore­foot or mid­foot strike. Hav­ing already been work­ing on my mid­foot strike in a pair of tra­di­tional thick-heeled shoes for a cou­ple of years, I found the New­tons to be a wel­come relief — I no longer had to fight that thick chunk of rub­ber under my heel.

    A few days ago I picked up a pair of KSOs, and I’ve done a lit­tle tread­mill run­ning in them, as well as about 1/2 a mile out­doors yes­ter­day. I wasn’t very sur­prised to find that the sore­ness I feel in my calves today is in the exact spot that the New­tons caused sore­ness. I inter­pret this to mean that, while the New­tons aren’t “bare­foot” shoes, they do force you to adopt a sim­i­lar foot strike.

    That said, I would only use the New­tons as a tran­si­tion shoe from a tra­di­tional thick-heeled run­ning shoe. They wouldn’t be my ulti­mate shoe.

  • Clyn­ton

    So glad you’re find­ing the site inter­est­ing! Appre­ci­ate the feedback.

    And thanks for tak­ing the time to share more info from your per­sonal expe­ri­ence with the Newton’s — that’s very help­ful, since I have not tried them myself, only read a dozen or so reviews. I’m glad they helped you tran­si­tion to a mid­foot strike.

    Great that you’re giv­ing the KSOs a try. Just remem­ber that since they often feel so good to run in — quite lib­er­at­ing — it’s very easy to overdo it. This can result in severe calf pain as well as plan­tar fasci­tis and other issues. You should fare pretty well, hav­ing done some mid­foot run­ning already. I’ve just seen too many good run­ners get hurt by not tak­ing time to ramp up slowly to not pass that info on to every­one try­ing bare­foot or VFF running.

    Look­ing for­ward to learn­ing how it goes for you!

    Thanks again for stop­ping by.

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  • Mona

    Wow!! What a com­pre­hen­sive col­lec­tion of bare­foot shoes. I’m so grate­ful you posted it! I’ll be keep­ing an eye on skora this upcom­ing year. Thank you.

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  • Clyn­ton

    Thanks! Yeah, I hope he can pull off Skora.

  • Rod­er­ick

    Real­iz­ing that the dis­cus­sion here is not exactly “recent” any­more, I fig­ured I’d leave a com­ment nev­er­the­less, hav­ing just dis­cov­ered your site (and have been enjoy­ing dig­ging in).

    I’m nor­mally an exclu­sively Vibram and bare­foot run­ner, but an injury and an almost unbear­ably long recov­ery had me seek out shoes that could pro­vide a bit of sup­port while my ten­don heals — my “crutch”, if you will.

    Thank­fully I had a phe­nom­e­nal expe­ri­ence at Fleet Feet Sports and they put me into a rac­ing flat, the Saucony Fast­witch 4. I cover the whole story here:–

    While I wouldn’t say it approx­i­mates bare­foot­ing, I would men­tion that even though it does have a bit more heel than I’d like, the light weight and gen­eral over­all lack of exten­sive cush­ion­ing does allow me to retain most of my bare­foot form and strike — some­thing I’ve always been com­pletely unable to do in any other style of run­ning shoe.

    The les­son here is this — even if a rac­ing flat has a bit more heel than seems rea­son­able, flats in gen­eral *will* encour­age bet­ter form than most shoes, you likely won’t heel strike despite a mod­er­ate heel (if you’re *nor­mally* a min­i­mal­ist, that is) and if for one rea­son or another you’re unable to run in *truly* min­i­mal footwear (e.g. injury), they are a decent (if tem­po­rary) approximation.

    Great site! Lov­ing it!

  • Clyn­ton

    Thanks for shar­ing your expe­ri­ence. Sorry to hear about your trou­bles. Great that you’re able to keep your fore­foot strike in the Saucony, though. That’s a really big deal and one of the rea­sons I run bare­foot or in my Vivo Bare­foot EVOs or Vibram Five Fin­gers — I can be sure I won’t start heal strik­ing or land­ing with an unbent knee. BTW, I updated the list of shoes in a more recent post here:

    Good luck!

  • Clyn­ton

    Thanks for shar­ing your expe­ri­ence. Sorry to hear about your trou­bles. Great that you’re able to keep your fore­foot strike in the Saucony, though. That’s a really big deal and one of the rea­sons I run bare­foot or in my Vivo Bare­foot EVOs or Vibram Five Fin­gers — I can be sure I won’t start heal strik­ing or land­ing with an unbent knee. BTW, I updated the list of shoes in a more recent post here:

    Good luck!

  • Lucyruns2

    Cur­rently run­ning short distances(>6) in Nike Frees. I have a neu­tral foot. As I have not run bare­foot, I prob­a­bly am not a good per­son to review. I will say when I put my reg­u­lar Nikes back on, they sure feel clunky.

    My one com­plaint is that the toe box could be roomier. Oth­er­wise they are alright for short trail runs or walks.

  • Guest

    Most of these shoes listed above focus on a heel-to-toe ratio or drop, not just a small look­ing heel. Do your read­ing on the New­tons before just look­ing at them. They don’t have a model with a heel-to-toe drop over 5mm and the Dis­tance Racer shown only has a drop of 2mm, where VFFs have about 1.5 mm of a drop. They’re min­i­mal, you just have to know your stuff, which by say­ing, “Look at a shoe, its not min­i­mal­ist,” proves you don’t

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  • Los­ing Stom­ach Fat

    I find run­ning bare­foot can be quite lib­er­at­ing, it feels great and I always feel like I am run­ning faster?

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  • Sarah

    Hi — Like Clyton, I have recently been diag­nosed with disc prob­lem (annu­alar tear in my L4/L5 discs) which has left me with bad sci­at­ica par­tic­u­larly when run­ning.. So much so, I had to stop marathon train­ing and now told not to run any­more as it will just aggra­vate the discs even more. Not happy!
    Have tried bare­foot run­ning a few times in a pair of Merrell’s but really want to know if bare­foot run­ning is ok, any­one in the med­ical pro­fes­sion imme­di­ately tells me no, so I want to know if any­one has had pos­i­tive expe­ri­ences with bare­foot run­ning with a disc com­plaint.
    Thanks in advance,

    • Clyn­ton

      Hi Sarah,

      I just saw I hadn’t responded yet. I feel your pain. L4/5 is exactly where I had a her­ni­a­tion which stran­gled the sci­at­ica. Ter­ri­ble pain that darn nerve can cause. I am cer­tain it was poor run­ning form from very large (and expen­sive) run­ning shoes that caused my disc to get par­tic­u­larly bad. And it was bare­foot run­ning that enabled me to run again. Now, mind you, I had surgery to extract the disc mat­ter and give my nerve room to “breathe” again. I am cer­tain with­out that I couldn’t have done any­thing with­out severe pain. I am no doc­tor and don’t know exactly what a tear means. I would fol­low your body and start off by walk­ing com­pletely bare­foot. Even with Mer­rells you are miss­ing impor­tant pro­pri­o­cep­tive infor­ma­tion that is vital to help you dis­cover a good form. Make sure you land fore­foot before your heel. It’ll soften your land­ing. Test the dif­fer­ence out by stick­ing your fin­gers in your ears and lis­ten­ing to what it sounds like to land heel first. Then switch to fore­foot first. You can lit­er­ally hear the dif­fer­ence. Believe me, your back will feel the dif­fer­ence, as any shock will go straight up to the L4/5 disc region.

      If you feel you can walk no prob­lem, with­out aggra­va­tion, try a very short (10 feet at first) run­ning. Take it incred­i­bly slowly and lis­ten to your back. Con­tinue to ramp up slowly if you feel com­fort­able with it. Going bare­foot will ensure you also have bent knees which help you land even more softly.

      Again, this is what I would do, not advice, as I really have no idea what will work for you.

      Let me know how it goes.

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