What are barefoot shoes?

How barefoot or minimalist shoes can help in you running and workouts

For many athletes it is very important to get the maximum amount of benefit out of each and every exercise. As a result of this mindset, there has been an explosion of interest in barefoot or minimalist shoes for running and workouts like CrossFit over the last few years.

Here is a great graphic from the XRayTechniciansSchool that argues the case for barefoot running.

Research Infographic to support barefoot shoesIn the same way runners can benefit from the body being able to work the way it was designed, CrossFitters can also benefit. While everyone agrees that exercise can promote healthier living, some say traditional running shoes can cause quite a bit of damage.

Need more evidence? Check out these images of feet from 1905 – an adult who has never worn shoes and a boy who wore shoe for just a few weeks.

Unfortunately, companies which produce and market running shoes do not feel obligated to inform their consumers of the damage to their feet and legs that their shoes will cause. Typical running shoes throw off the natural movement of your body leading to issues such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis, knee issues and more.

Enter barefoot running in flat shoes…by engaging in running barefoot, not only is your body in its natural alignment, it actually helps correct issues with form as well as reduce further injury to the feet, shin and muscles.
For CrossFit (which often involves running too) the top CrossFit shoes are often designed to allow the barefoot and body to become stronger at the same time.

But caution is required

Transitioning from a traditional shoe to barefoot running or CrossFit shoe can take quite awhile, depending on the individual, it can range from weeks to several months. Your body will be using muscles in a way it is designed for but not accustomed to. In the long run, however, your body will benefit greatly from this transition.
Many are interested in this but do not wish to make the change to actually running barefoot or not wearing shoes to the gym. For those individuals there is an ever growing market of barefoot shoes. With companies such as Vibram leading the way, many others are now jumping on this bandwagon and producing barefoot or minimalist shoes of their own.

What exactly is a barefoot shoe you ask?

Quite simply it’s a shoe designed to offer some amount of minimal protection between your foot and the ground while not altering your form and allowing you to walk or run in the same manner as you would while barefoot. These shoes offer the closest possible feel to running completely barefoot that is achievable without actually being barefoot. Most of these have little (if any) cushion in the heel, fit like a glove and have only 3-4mm of tread between you and the ground. The most important feature, however, is that they all have a zero drop from heel to toe allowing for a natural forward foot strike while running. You can see the major difference here between barefoot running shoes and traditional as traditional running shoes typically sport a 10-12mm drop.
I recently discovered Fit4eBody.com that recommends the FiveFinger barefoot CrossFit shoes as a top choice. The author makes a great point I thought, he say that many people look to buy expensive CrossFit gear but all they really need is some suitable shoes and their bodyweight. :-)
There are a few other things to take into consideration when using, or choosing, a barefoot shoe. They typically come with a rip-and-stick (or Velcro) type enclosure with some models featuring a quick lace system which allows easier access to the toe pockets as well as allowing for those with higher arches. You may also purchase socks to wear with them which provide a bit of extra warmth as well as odor deterrence and protection from possible blistering. The FiveFinger type of shoe requires one to wear toe socks like those offered from Injinji. Most brands and models are machine washable allowing for the easy care of your shoes.
All in all, for those wishing to experience the benefit of barefoot running while still having some minimal protection from the terrain upon which they run, barefoot or CrossFit shoes may be just the answer you are searching for.
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