If you’re a minimalist runner who thrives off being one with the pavement, you need the best barefoot running shoes to help you reach your maximum potential
Advocates say that barefoot running shoes let you run with a more fluid gait. Proper barefoot running form and technique allows your body to naturally absorb the shock while running, instead of being forced to land on your heels like modern shoes. You feel more at one with the road and more alive as you try to awake all 20 or so muscles in the engineering marvel that is your foot.
Here are the 5 best barefoot running shoes on the market.
The Vibram FiveFingers design has become the embodiment of the barefoot running shoe. It made athletes take notice that there is an alternative to the plump, comparatively clumpy styles that we were conditioned to believe are sensible and mandatory. In case you feel that a pair of FiveFingers is just too freaky to wear, Vibram lays out the case for doing so in sharp, scientific language. “The human foot is composed of numerous bones, joints, sensory receptors, tendons and ligaments. To keep feet stimulated, we recommend wearing FiveFingers barefoot footwear for exercise, play and fun,” Vibram says. Fitness critic, Marc Perry, said in his Built Lean Vibram FiveFinger s Review that he went on a journey from hate to love with the shoes. “I ran a marathon in Vibram FiveFingers and had no soreness after the race or even the next day,” he said.
Brooks Pure Cadence
An established leader in the running shoes field, Brooks has crossed the floor and gone for even lighter shoes than it normally designs. Brooks doesn’t define the Pure Cadence line as minimalist, but rather as a lightweight alternative that can help you “float or feel.” Brooks portrays it as just as much of an engineering marvel as the human foot itself. The line boasts, “lean construction and a responsive fit.” Brooks adds, “it rethinks how support technology is engineered.” Features like the internal Progressive Diagonal Roll Bar (PDRB) – a soft density ramp strategically put in the midsole that guides the foot through a smooth and stable transition – deter overpronation without added parts. Additionally, the wide Nav Band “holds your foot like an endless hug. The shoes are widely said to live up to the hype. They certainly look good, but are less hardcore than FiveFingers.
New Balance Minimus
As with the Brooks Pure Cadence, the New Balance Minimus could be mistaken for a regular running shoe at first sight. Again like Brooks, New Balance has its case for wearing its minimalist sneakers beautifully mapped out, saying, “we put all our design know-how to work to create minimal shoes that maximize performance. Because it’s one thing to just call shoes minimal – it’s another thing altogether to lead a running revolution.” The hexagon design and ultra-low weight make this one of the best barefoot running shoes to allow you to feel as if there’s no barrier at all between you and the ground. In a review of a recent model, the Minimus Hi-Rez, analyst Tim Kelley wrote on BirthdayShoes that, at 3.7oz, the shoes are on par with some of Vibram’s lightest offerings. He says, “in practice, the ground feel of the Hi-Rez is absolutely tremendous.”
Nike’s Free line cleverly riffs on the idea of “free running” and Parkour. On their website’s numerics system, Nike states that “a lower number means a lower, more flexible midsole – and a more barefoot-like feel.” Again, these lightweight sneakers boast a fair bit of cushioning compared to the industry benchmark, the Vibram FiveFingers. Some Nike Free versions, however, are great looking. The Guardian’s running blog raves about the 3.0 model, saying, ”they fit like a glove, are light and bouncy and allow easy barefoot-style running. After about 15 miles, they start giving me sore feet, but to be fair, Nike doesn’t recommend them for distances over 10K.” The secret that makes Free line one of the best barefoot running shoes is its deep flex grooves that promote agile, multi-directional movement and flexibility. This is ideal for getting the most out of your workouts, whether it involves strictly distance running or different types of training.
In a daring field, Xero minimalist running shoes might be the lightest range on the market. The company knows that its shoes are radical, stating they are, “the closest thing to barefoot plus the protection you want, a perfect fit, and a style that’s your very own,.” Seriously close to being barefoot, the shoes resemble a pair of flip-flops. Xero shoes, however, take a cue from the huaraches sandals worn by the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico. Despite their extremely skinny form factor, Xero shoes seem convincing for a simple reason: the warranty, which runs to 5,000 miles – roughly the length of South America. A source for the minimalist running blog, Barefoot Beginner, writes, “I have been running in Xero shoes since before their re-branding and I always knew them as Invisible shoes. I love them and usually have them slipped into my pocket when I head out for a longer barefoot run.” That is what barefoot running shoes are all about – hardly knowing they are there as you try to hit your stride.
Do you have any other go-to minimalist kicks that should be in the class of best barefoot running shoes? Let us know in the comments below or @DegreeMen.