What Are Minimalist Running Shoes?
Minimalist shoes (aka barefoot running shoes or natural running shoes) come in a variety of styles. However, the major benefit of the minimalist shoe is to mimic natural barefoot running. Experts have studied the way various people run barefoot in their environment, with some concluding that runners who run barefoot expend 4% less energy. This information has helped scientists develop shoes that are more akin to the way that we run naturally. Barefoot running shoes have a minimal midsole to help deliver a more natural running experience that involves shorter and quicker steps to provide more effective propulsion and promote better natural shock absorption. The shoes also encourage runners to land on the forefoot and mid-foot as opposed to the heel–the correct form recommended by trainers and doctors. This method of running involves a more efficient transfer of energy to reduce impact on the joints in the feet, ankles and knees. Use of minimal running shoes will also strengthen the muscles in the feet. The below guide will help you choose the best minimalist running shoes for you.
Who Are Barefoot Running Shoes Best Suited For?
Minimalist running shoes are for those that want to feel as close to barefoot or a natural running stance as possible. The shoes make runners feel as though they have little on their feet. With some of the shoes, runners can feel every aspect of the terrain from rocks to sticks, a connection that some runners feel provides a more natural experience that one might have if they were without technology. Many runners try the shoes to test claims of injury prevention, while others wear them only for walking in order to slowly add strength to the feet and ankles.
Who Should Avoid Barefoot Running Types of Shoes?
The shoes are not for everyone. People with back problems, arch problems or any other problems that require significant support from a running shoe should not consider this type of shoe. Although barefoot running shoes are often based on a theory that use over time will lessen injury or strain on joints, some conditions of the foot may require more support. The shoes also take a good amount of getting used to and can actually cause injury if used too much, too fast.
How To Break In Minimalist Shoes
Experts urge runners to slowly transition to a minimalist shoe, using the shoes initially for just a mile or so at a time and slowing increasing the use. Calf soreness is especially common in the early days of transitioning to a minimal running shoe.
What Are the Most Coveted Features Of The Natural Running Shoe Type?
Natural shoes typically have the following characteristics: Low weight, minimal upper, low sole, small heel-toe drop and less support. The shoe may also have a spacious toe box and minimal toe spring. A runner that learns the proper running method may prevent injuries over time.
Four Best Minimalist Running Shoes
Below are four popular minimalist running shoes. Each varies in the level of barefoot running feel. For example, for a true barefoot feel, the Vibram Five Fingers are ideal, while for something closer to a lightweight traditional shoe, the Nike Free is often a top choice.
Vibram Five Fingers
The Vibram Five Fingers shoe was at the forefront of the barefoot running shoes revolution. The Five Fingers shoe is akin to running barefoot in a natural environment. Of the barefoot running shoes, this shoe is most like an actual barefoot running experience. The shoe is comprised of a thin stretch nylon fabric that fits low on the foot. The shoes are known for their flexibility and slip resistance over the entire terrain. The slip resistance and flexibility is accredited to the non-marking 3.5mm Vibram TC1 performance rubber soles. Each toe has its own compartment to allow for gripping on rocks and other types of terrain. The shoes have also become somewhat of a fad, with various celebrities wearing them for daily wear.
Nike’s Free Run design helps traditional runners transition to a barefoot running style. The feet are more protected from the elements and injury when running. The sock liner molds to the curve of the foot. Socks are not necessary with this type of shoe (editors note: but I do prefer to wear socks with this type of shoe). The shoe is constructed more like a slipper and it is easy to slide on and off the feet. The outsole is comprised of BRS-100 blown carbon rubber that provides the necessary traction and protection needed. Unlike lightweight racing types of shoes, the Nike Free is designed to last the runner several 100 miles. Because of its more “normal” appearance, and because it comes in and comes in a variety of colors, the shoe is one of the most popular of its type. It also is a favorite for those who want this type of shoe for daily use or walking over running.
The Saucony Progrid Kinvara is a minimalist shoe that has won awards such as “Best Debut” from Runner’s World and 2011’s “Best Gear of the Year” from Outside Magazine. In addition, the shoe has also won Gear Junkie’s award for “Top Ten Gear Picks” in 2010. This shoe only weighs approximately 7.7 ounces. The shoe provides incredible grip, durability and flexibility. The shock absorption is also superior with this particular shoe. The lightweight upper mesh allows the shoe to breath. The weight is further reduced by the minimally padded tongue and collar. The bold color schemes are also appealing to consumers. It is often a favorite among runners who want a lightweight shoe without quite the total barefoot feel.
NB Minimus Cross Trainer
The New Balance Minimus features a wider forefoot to allow for the expansion of the forefront arches. The New Balance shoe materials are made of light weight mesh that is breathable and reduces irritation and chaffing. The New Balance Minimus weighs approximately 8.2 ounces and has a 4 mm drop. The shoe is odor resistant and flexible. The injection-molded EVA (IMEVA) foam in the midsole allows for the flexible cushioning. This allows the runner more agility and support for lateral movements. Certain areas have more cushioning for shock support. The heel is supportive, and the shoes have extra traction and durability. According to minimalist running shoes reviews, the shoe is good for distance runners who want an ultra light shoe.