The first actual pair of running shoes did not hit the market until 1970. Before then, people ran in flats, thin sandals, moccasins or barefoot. Research shows that when a person runs this way, their forefoot or midfoot strikes the ground first. This reduces the impact of your foot on the ground. Researchers are blaming more injuries on the new cushioned running shoes that have become so popular in the last 30 years.
The benefits of barefoot running
There is evidence though that barefoot running will:
- Strengthen the muscles, ligaments and tendons of your foot.
- Allow the Achilles tendon and calf muscle to stretch as the heel lift is removed.
- Give you better balance
What are the differences in barefoot running shoes vs regular shoes
If you want the feel of running barefoot, but the protection of a shoe, then you may want to consider wearing minimalist running shoes. There are two basic types of these shoes, one that gives the closest feel to running barefoot and the hybrid, which is more like a traditional shoe.
The barefoot running shoe:
- Provides minimum protection from the environment
- Does not have a heel cushion
- Gives you 3-4mm layer of material between your foot and the ground
The barefoot shoe encourages the midfoot strike. Runners with high arches will adjust more quickly to this and suffer fewer problems. Those will heavy pronation or flat feet will struggle to adjust without the arch support.
The minimalist or hybrid shoe:
- Allows the transition to barefoot running go smoother
- Is constructed of extremely lightweight materials and provides no arch support
- Encourages a midfoot strike with some cushioning and flex
- Has a toe area is roomy enough to allow your toes to splay
One of latest studies states the minimalist shoe may reduce injury to the knee; but could increase risk to the Achilles tendon.
Then there are toe shoes to consider
Toe shoe manufacturers claim their shoes provide less impact on hips, knees and lower back when wearing. Among the benefits they claim, toe shoes provide increased range of motion and sensory reception. However, the toe shoe’s disadvantages include some discomfort with toe separation and a poor fit for people with longer toes.
A few popular brands on the market are:
Which is better... Barefoot or Minimalist shoes?
So maybe barefoot or minimalist shoes are not your thing. If you are a runner who prefers a more cushioned shoe, one of the latest trends is the “maximalist shoe.” One of the newest shoes to hit the market is the Hoka One One, which gives you more shoe than what the barefoot running market has been producing.
The One One consists of rebounding foam and is two thirds thicker than the traditional running shoe. Another notable difference is the curve on the heel and toe. This curve has been designed to create a fulcrum effect and encourage a guided foot cycle.
So with all the studies that have been conducted, the results have been mixed when it comes to whether running barefoot or with a minimalist shoe is better than running with a traditionally padded running shoe. Our advice is that you should choose the type of shoe that feels most comfortable for you regardless of whatever the latest trend may be.