15 Shoes That Mimic Barefoot Running

In response to all the current interest in barefoot running--spurred on by Chris McDougall's Born to Run book and the recent study published in the journal Nature by Dr. Daniel Lieberman suggesting that barefoot or minimal-shoe running creates less impact on your legs--I've come up with a list of recommended shoes to try if running barefoot is just not what you're drawn to.

The shoes on this list represent only a small smattering of the spectrum of shoes available to those wishing to try running in a low-profile, minimal shoe instead of the basic "high-heeled sneaker" that has been the trend for the past 40 years.

Bear in mind that any switch to either barefoot running or to a more minimal shoe than you're currently wearing will require you to make a gradual transition into the new way of running. If you're going the minimal shoe route, start off by wearing them for brief periods around the house and for only short runs until you see how your body responds to the change. As your body "tells you" that it's OK, you can slowly increase your time or distance accordingly. This isn't macho training, it's sensitivity training; so be smart about it. If you feel the slightest bit of discomfort in your plantar fascia, your ankles or your calves, back off and try it again tomorrow.

As barefoot runner Ken Bob Saxton says, "Don't strike the ground. If you do it'll strike back!"

The idea of running barefoot or running in a minimal shoe is to feel what your feet are telling you about how to create less impact with the ground so that you don't get injured. It just wouldn't make any sense to run in minimal shoes if you didn't listen to what your feet are telling you.

The other thing I'd like to add is that the shoes listed here are only recommendations. Since everyone has different feet and different tastes when it comes to comfort and feel with their shoes, I leave it up to you to do the research at your local running shoe store to see which shoes actually work best for your feet and running needs. If all of the shoes choices are just too overwhelming, keep it simple and go barefoot!!!

Good luck with the journey.

The List

NB-790 (9 oz.) One of the best ever made for all terrains, from running a marathon on pavement to ultra trails. This shoe might be too much for someone really interested in feeling the barefoot feel. (Note: These are discontinued in the men's model.) $60

NB-505 XC Racing Flat (7 oz.) These are very light, flexible and fast on trails or roads. $60

Adidas Adizero Rocket (7.2 oz.) These are very flexible and wicked fast. They are also better for narrow feet. $90

Brooks Mach II Spikeless (7 oz.) This has an ultra-thin, carbon rubber aggressively lugged sole -- $60

FeelMax Niesa Its 1 mm thick sole with Kevlar to protect against sharp objects (Barefoot Ted likes them) Some complain that they're too hot, but they are extremely minimal and give a good sense of the ground against your feet. $80

VivoBarefoot EVO I've tried the Vivo street shoes, and I'm waiting to be sent a pair of their running shoes to test (not available to the public yet). I love my street shoes and they are my favorite traveling shoe. They're wonderful for any kind or any amount of walking.

Vibram FiveFingers KSO's are the most popular model of the VFF's and I can see why. They're thin, flexible, easy to get on and off and the next best thing to running barefoot. I prefer my Treks when I'm trail running because they have more traction in the dirt.

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