Minimalist Shoes For You?

Barefoot running is enjoying a surge in popularity with a wide choice of minimalist shoes now coming to the market to cater to the demand. The benefits of barefoot over shod running have been widely publicised of late, with the age old method of running showing signs that it is better for the feet and for the body as a whole. Research conducted by Harvard Professor Daniel Lieberman presents a strong case for barefoot movement as the healthier option, with the human body having evolved without the need of footwear to provide the required cushioning and support.

The theory suggests that when running in shoes, the running gait is radically different, with the shod runner exhibiting a much heavier heel strike. The impact force of the full body weight is channelled in a vertical plane, stopping at the heel. Whilst footwear has been designed to cope with the heel strike and cushion well, shod running changes how the body moves. When people run barefoot, the posture changes and there is not a heavy heel strike, instead the ball of the foot makes contact with the ground first. However, rather than the force of impact stopping, it is channelled through the foot with the body converting it to a rotational force, as MD Richard Gundle explains. "When a parachutist lands, they perform a roll to channel the energy to reduce the impact force. Running barefoot has the same effect, with the foot rolling to help absorb the impact force". With the body subjected to lower forces when running barefoot, and runners moving exactly how nature intended, the chances of injury can be greatly reduced.

Whilst the evidence is strong regarding the health benefits of barefoot running, in urban environments and on hard surfaces an extra degree of protection is required, and when running off-road spikes, thorns, grit and stones can injure the feet. Vibram FiveFingers were designed to counter the downside of barefoot running, whilst providing the full health benefits. The Italian performance rubber manufacturer designed Vibram Five Fingers to add a layer of their sticky rubber to the soles of the feet to improve traction and protect from the heat, cold and debris, whilst ensuring the feet move naturally. Vibram Five Fingers shoes do just that, with the five toed shoes fitting the feet like a second skin and adding nothing more than their protective outsoles to ensure the full benefits of barefoot running can be gained.

Vibram Five Fingers have led the field of minimalist shoes since their release, and remain the most popular brand for UK barefoot enthusiasts. The shoes offer the full benefits of barefoot running, with models catering to the full range of outdoor adventure sports and the latest releases even cater to road and track running. The high quality design, the unbeatable natural feel of having the toes free to move, and the extraordinary traction afforded by Vibram rubber have seen the brand dominate the barefoot and minimalist shoes market.

"Vibram Five Fingers are by far the most popular shoes for barefoot running, and have an unbeatable design"

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