The Truth About Barefoot Running Shoes

by retreadfitness

The term "barefoot" running shoes is a made up word to help running shoe companies sell more shoes. There is no such thing as "barefoot" running shoes.

What Are Barefoot Running Shoes?

Marketing Hype Or Truth?

The honest truth about Barefoot running shoes can be summed in the following sentence.   Barefoot running shoes is a marketing phrase created to make you spend more of your money on running shoes. 

Every year, shoe companies churn out hundreds of new models promising to improve every aspect of your running.  Runners, it's not about the running shoes.  It's about the runner wearing the shoes.  Get back to basics of running including proper form and minimalist running shoes that will cause your feet to land naturally.

If you really want barefoot running shoes, then take off your shoes and socks and run in your own 2  bare-feet.  They work quite well. 

Barefoot running shoes are nothing more than minimalist shoes designed to help your running form.  Most of us still need some cushion on the bottoms of our feet.  If you have been running around bare footed all your life, then you don't need anyone telling you about how to run without shoes.  It comes natural.  Unfortunately, most of us have been walking or running around in heavy shoes for so long that it can be detrimental to your physical well being if you go from super padded shoes to no padding at all.  It's all about proper balance and form.

Correct Running Posture And Form

Vivo Barefoot Training Expert Lee Saxby

Minimalist Running Shoes Reviews

I have been an avid runner for close to 40 years. My running career actually started at approximately the age of 1. My mother used to let me run around both inside and outside in my barefeet. This was perfectly normal back in the 1960s.  We never called it “barefoot running”.  We just called it running around.  It was common for us to go for weeks without ever putting on our shoes.  There was no such things as running shoes in the '60's.  In fact, when I used to watch the Minnetonka track and field team run past my house on Covington Road, none of the team members had running shoes. I do not think that the term was invented yet. Most of them donned ugly Converse low top sneakers.

I purchased my first running shoes in 1977. They were called Nike Waffle Trainers. The shoes were very lightweight with minimal support. If these same shoes were sold today they would be marketed as either barefoot or minimalist running shoes. Brooks quickly entered the market with the Villanova running shoe. I bought a pair of these too. Similar to the Waffle Trainers, they were also minimalist shoes.

Our high school long-distance coach who had no formal training in athletics other than being a long distance runner himself had us running wind-sprints in our bare feet on the grass football field. He said barefoot running is good for you. Maybe he should start suing the running shoe companies and get some royalties for inventing the term “barefoot running”.

Scam Barefoot Running Shoes Reviews

I find this almost comical. How can you review barefoot running shoes? It's all marketing hype. Here is my take on barefoot running shoes-it's all a bunch of phoney baloney!  Take off your running shoes and socks and lock your eyeballs onto your feet. Do they look like shoes? Would you run in them?  I sure would.  The point is there is no such thing as barefoot running shoes. Just like the story “The Emperor's New Clothes”, the Emperor did not have clothes.  He knew that he did not have clothes on.  Everyone around him knew that the he was bare naked.  Call it like it is!  These new barefoot running shoes are nothing more than minimalist running shoes.

Minimalist Running Shoe Reviews

This is more like it. Shoes are shoes and clothes are clothes. So when it comes to calling a lightweight shoe a minimalist shoe, this is a real explanation.

Have some fun with your minimalist running shoe search.  If you buy your shoes from REI, you can always return them if you hate them.  I had to take back 2 Vibram 5 Finger Shoes because I blew the seams out in the toes.  The 5 Finger Shoes did not work for me.  Merrell and Vivobarefoot are more durable.

Vibram 5 Finger Shoes Review

I have run in a half a dozen or so different minimalist shoes in the past year. It took me about a month to blow through a pair of Vibram KSO shoes. To be honest, I really like them because I did feel like I almost had no shoes on at all. I was able to run on sharp rocks and gravel without any pain. There is no way that I could've done that in my bare feet. I have run many times barefooted on pavement, grass, and the trails. It's really a hoot and I enjoy it. But there are times that you really need some protection and the minimalist shoes really do the trick.

KSO Shoe - Men's by Vibram

219897 Features: Release your feet from the constriction of shoes and stimulate your feet muscles and joints Abrasion-resistant polyamide uppers hug your soles and deflect ...

Vibram  / Only $109.95

Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove Running Shoes Review

Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove

As you have probably figured out that I do not like calling these shoes “barefoot”. Let's put aside their false advertising and take a look at the shoes. I bought Trail Glove last spring and have been using them 6 days a week and they are still going strong. I not only run on the trails but I do an intense Beach Body Insanity workouts in them. The shoes have similar bottoms to the Vibram 5 Fingers shoes. The noticeable difference is that your toes are open inside the shoe and are not constricted by the shoe glove. I happen to like this version much better than the Vibram 5 Finger models. The average weight is a mere 6.2 ounces per shoe. This is light. The soles are constructed with a very durable 4 mm Vibram material. My shoes show very little wear. The Trail Glove has 0 drop between the heel and the toes for a more natural feel. The 4 mm sole is beefy enough to handle sharp rocks, sticks, and gravel while running. It appears to me that Merrell has really responded well to the folks demanding minimalist shoes.

Merrell Men's Barefoot Trail Glove

Less is definitely more exploring with our Vibram®-soled Trail Glove natural adventure shoe. All the protection your feet need from rocks and roots, and an ultra-lightweight ...

Only $109.95

Terra Plana Vivobarefoot Evo Review

Terra Plana really has got it right when it comes to building a minimalist shoe. The Evo is the 2nd minimalist shoes that I purchased. Both shoes average approximately 8.2 ounces. That is only 4.1 ounces per shoe! Unlike the Merrell Trail Glove, the soles of the Evos offer little protection from rocks and sticks. I would not consider this a negative because Vivo Barefoot tries to make this shoe as close to running barefoot as possible. I found it even more naked than the Vibram 5 Fingers shoes. These are my favorite shoes for running on the road when I'm not running barefoot.

VIVOBAREFOOT Neo Running Shoe - Men's

Run on the road or the trail with the minimalist-style Terra Plana Men's Neo Running Shoes on your feet. Thin soles and flexible uppers allow your feet to roll through each ...

VIVOBAREFOOT  / Only $120.00

Huarache Invisible Shoes Review

These are easy sandals to love.  At least with these sandals, you can see your bare-feet! I made a pair of them last February.  It's as close to barefoot running as you can get without going barefoot.  It's like running on calloused feet.  The Taramuhara Indians of the Copper Canyon Region of Mexico wear these sandals to run hundreds of miles across rugged mountainous terrain.  These sandals remind me of the Biblical Roman sandals.  I have the 3mm Vibram soles laced up with a some colorful rope.  They cannot weigh much more than a few ounces each.  My feet get cold in them if the temperature is below 40 degrees F.   You can make your own for less than $30 and they will last you for years.

If you are truly interested in starting barefoot running or need more information, then Vivo Barefoot has some of the greatest training videos and research available for free. The community is excellent and their customer service is 1st rate. I have made several calls to their customer service center in New York and I always get a live operator during regular business hours. Additionally, they have a great return policy if you do not like their shoes. I returned a few pairs of street shoes made by them because they were not my style. I have yet return any of their minimalists running shoes.

Updated: 02/04/2012, retreadfitness
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


kajohu on 06/09/2012

I'm not a runner, but I've been curious about the 5 toed shoes and if they work well. When I did run, years and years ago, I remember that my first running shoes were light weight Adidas. It's interesting that more people are getting back to lighter weight, more flexible running shoes rather than the heavy over-constructed shoes.

retreadfitness on 01/12/2012

@james, do you have issues with these shoes ripping in the seams? I like them but they not last for me. The Merrell and the Vivobarefoot Evo's are the winners for me.

James on 01/11/2012

I like VIbram Five Fingers than any of barefoot running shoes in the market. In fact, I even customize it by adding some colors and designs just look somewhat personal or signature shoes.

optimist on 01/11/2012

What a great review! I run off and on, and I don't use these "five finger" shoes because they're so expensive. But shoes are definitely an important part of running and I'm tempted to try a pair of these.

retreadfitness on 01/10/2012

I agree that the price of 5 Finger Shoes are too expensive. My longest lasting pair was 5 weeks. At that rate, I would be spending about $1000 a year to replace them. On the other hand, The Invisible Shoes will last a life time. My Merrell Trail gloves are 7 months old and are still going strong with daily use. If and when other companies start promoting Spyderman Shoes like the 5 Fingers, maybe we will see a price drop. I have seen some Chinese knock-offs. Not worth even a glance.

Lissie on 01/10/2012

I'm not much of a runner - but I walk around barefoot all the time - and will generally try to walk/hike in teva style sandals rather than walking shoes/boots - unless its going to be very rough going. I've seen the 5-finger (toes surely) shoes before - and I'm kinda tempted - though they are bloody expensive

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