Weird shoes and barefoot running

Last week my one of my daughter’s classmates told her that “your Dad has weird shoes” after seeing me at the school pick-up. My daughter didn’t want to say anything to us because she was worried I would be offended. The thing is, I do have weird shoes - here’s why...

For the past year and a half I’ve been exclusively1 wearing what is commonly referred to as minimal or ‘barefoot’ footwear. Barefoot shoes are generally defined has having a thin, flexible sole with little to no cushioning and no ‘drop’ across the length of the foot (i.e. the heel and ball of the foot are equally close to the ground). They are also generally much wider at the toes (the ‘toe box’).

The general concept of barefoot shoes is that they allow your foot to flex and move more naturally, tapping into the way our feet have evolved and giving greater sensory connection to the ground. The theory is that over time cushioned shoes (especially running shoes) have made us ‘forget’ how to use the naturally shock-absorbing and spring characteristics of our feet, causing us to have much heavier footfalls and become more injury prone.

I actually got my first pair of barefoot shoes over ten years ago - a pair of Merrell Sonic Glove trail running shoes. At the time I just thought the looked neat (bright orange with a bit of a quirky design) and didn’t pay much attention to the reasoning behind it. Fast forward nine years or so and barefoot training shoes started to crop up in books and blog posts I was reading. Intrigued by the potential benefits, I figured I’d give them a go.

Unlike when I bought my original Sonic Gloves and wore them occasionally as more of a fashion statement I wanted to go all-in and attempt to only wear barefoot shoes to try and reap the maximum benefits (if any were indeed to be had).

So after 18 months of only wearing barefoot shoes here is what I have found:

It’s not necessary all roses, through. There have been some downsides:

If you’re interested in dipping your toe in the waters of barefoot footwear I can highly recommend Vivobarefoot. Whilst they are at the slightly pricier end of the scale, they do specialise in barefoot shoes and have probably the widest range (I personally own pairs of three different styles for different use-cases). If you’re looking for something a little more affordable, you can do a lot worse than the Vapor Glove (or Trail Glove if you want a little bit more protection and support) from Merrell. The current Vapor Glove (series 6 at the time of writing) is one of my daily drivers.

Whilst there is some skepticism around the effectiveness of barefoot shoes, I can speak from experience that it has definitely worked for me.

  1. Apart from when I’m wearing cycling shoes, and for about 12 hours at my sister’s wedding where I had to wear dress shoes to match the rest of the bridal party. 

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