Interest in “barefoot running” and “minimalist running shoes” has exploded in recent years. While a few hardy folks truly run barefoot, most “barefoot runners” wear minimalist footwear.

This article will help you to find the right minimalist shoes.

Note: Remember to always ease into barefoot running to reduce the potential for injury.

Barefoot Running Shoes

Soles provide the bare minimum in protection from potential hazards on the ground. Many have no cushion in the heel pad and a thin layer (as little as 3-4mm) of shoe between your skin and the ground. Others offer a bit more cushioning.

All feature a “zero drop” from heel to toe. (“Drop” is the difference between the height of the heel and the height of the toe.) This encourages a midfoot or forefoot strike. Traditional running shoes, by contrast, feature a 10–12mm drop from the heel to the toe.

With any barefoot running shoe, people with high arches tend to have the shortest break-in time and fewest problems. Heavily pronating runners — those whose feet flatten during weight-bearing exercise — may struggle to adjust to the lack of arch support.

Minimalist Running Shoes

These are a hybrid of barefoot shoes and traditional running shoes — an excellent way for most runners to ease into barefoot running. They feature lightweight construction, little to no arch support and a heel drop of about 4–8mm to encourage a midfoot or forefoot strike, yet still offer cushioning and flex.

Some minimalist styles may offer stability posting to help the overpronating runner transition to a barefoot running motion.

The toebox is generally roomy to allow toes to splay inside the shoes, enhancing grip and balance.

Barefoot / Minimalist Shoe Tips

Fit: Unlike with traditional shoes, you do not want any extra space in the toes of barefoot shoes. Heels and toes should “fit like a glove.”

Socks: Minimalist shoes can be worn with or without socks. The benefits of wearing socks include extra warmth, odor deterrence and blister protection.

Closures: While some styles feature strap closures, others offer a quick-lace system. Typically, this system offers better access to the toe pockets for easy on and off, and it does a better job accommodating high arches.

Care: Many barefoot shoes are machine-washable for easy care; see specific product information pages for details.

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