Jul 24

Choosing Minimalist Running Shoes

by in Fitness

Humans have always ran barefoot. Recreational running as a means of staying in good health wasn’t widely popularized until around the 1950’s. The first brands of shoes made specifically for running were being introduced in the 1960’s. Since then, running shoes have become increasingly more high-tech. Recently, many runners have taken to eschewing their technologically advanced footwear in favor of the back-to-basics simplicity of barefoot running. Advocates of barefoot running tout a variety of claims regarding the activity’s benefits, the biggest of which being that running barefoot is physiologically healthier.

For those interested in reaping some of the hypothesized benefits of running barefoot, but don’t want to subject their feet to constant risk of stepping on something sharp, minimalist footwear is here to save the day. Minimalist running shoes are designed to provide a similar experience to running completely barefoot, while protecting the feet from injury. They’re a somewhat recent innovation, with the barefoot running craze only really having taken off in the last couple of years. So how do you know which kind to buy?

The first, and probably most important, thing to consider is what style of shoe you’re looking for. There are two primary types. There are “barefoot shoes” and “minimalist shoes.”

Barefoot shoes are characterized by the presence of individual toe slots, and almost exclusively rubber construction. They offer the closest experience to running completely barefoot. There’s often little to no cushioning in the heel, and less than 5 mm of rubber between the floor and your feet. What sets them most apart from other shoes is that they have “zero drop.” This means that there is no height difference between the heel and toe. This close (or complete) proximity in height between the heel and toe is what makes barefoot running supposedly so healthful.

Minimalist shoes lie somewhere between the elevated heel of a traditional running shoe, and the “zero-drop” of a barefoot shoe. If you’ve never run barefoot before, you may want to ease your way into things with a pair of these before deciding on running with barefoot shoes, or completely barefoot. Most have a heel-to-toe drop of 5-7 mm, to make your stride still strike mid-foot, while allowing some rolling action too for a more natural feel.

Another thing to consider is where you’ll be running on your new shoes.

If you typically run on roads, you may want to buy shoes with razor-siped soles (much like those on the bottom of boat shoes). While they do little in the way of protecting your feet from uneven or jagged ground, they work well in preventing them from slipping on slick surfaces.

If you typically run on trails, consider purchasing a pair with some form of treads for additional traction. If your run includes any amount of climbing or scrambling over rocks, consider purchasing a pair with rock-plated soles.

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