A couple of weeks ago we talked about going barefoot and becoming one with the earth. Perhaps a few of you have since tried going barefoot more than usual, but most of you have probably gone about your lives like normal. So let’s talk about a less extreme step we can take: barefoot running shoes.
In the past few years, the fad of barefoot and minimalist running shoes has exploded. In 2010, Nature magazine published a study that looked at the foot strikes of different runners as compared to their footwear. Barefoot runners or those wearing minimalist running shoes were more likely to land on their toes or the ball of their foot while runners in bulky, traditional running shoes landed more on their heel. Landing on your heel can cause larger shocks to your legs and knees and tire you out more easily.
Traditional running shoes, as we know them today, weren’t actually created until the 1960’s. Back then you had about 5 different styles to choose from. Today, there are over 3,500 styles to choose from. Some of these styles are now following the barefoot running trend. So what makes a running shoe “minimalist” or “barefoot”?
One feature of a barefoot running shoe is a minimal sole between your foot and the ground including very little to no cushioning in the heel. This is called a zero drop, meaning your heel and toes are on the exact same level, encouraging a mid-foot strike. More traditional running shoes feature a 10-12mm drop from the heel to the toes. The soles of barefoot running shoes are generally flexible, allowing themto move with your feet instead of forcing them in a certain direction. This also means that there is very little arch support, so for heavy pronators it may take some additional time for your foot to adjust to the new feeling.
Just like actually running barefoot, barefoot running shoes are not for everyone, “for instance, if you have plantar fasciitis, tendonitis, flat feet, bunions, or hammertoes, it may not be for you” (http://goo.gl/n3VD7Z). You should always check with your podiatrist before trying a new running shoe.