Barefoot running shoes - yes or no?

i’m considering investing in some barefoot running shoes to help try and build my foot strength and help with overpronation and injury prevention.

I’m curious as to people’s thoughts and own experiences - has anyone found them to be of benefit?

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I’m not a fan. Barefoot running is a graveyard of failed experiments - chief of which being the Vibram Five Fingers, which were subject to a class action lawsuit: Vibram in $3.75m settlement over false health claims - BBC News

That being said, I think you’re onto something about wanting to strengthen your feet. I like to run in traditional running shoes, race in supershoes, and then do some foot exercises once a week to keep my arches from dropping.


Im more of a fan than @AlexCyr is, though caution is warranted.

It’s basically part of running mythology now that after Born To Run came out, thousands of people ran out and got FiveFingers, tried switching to them overnight, and got injured.

The whole movement, which kicked off around 2009, had a near cult-like feel—people were either skeptics or converts—100% or nothing at all, which is IMO why the pendulum then swung so far the other way.

I think nowadays you’ll find nearly everyone who uses minimalist footwear rotates their minimalist shoes with other ‘regular’ runners. I personally use minimalist shoes for most of my day-to-day routine like taking the kids to school, and will occasionally go on a trail run with them. I notice my calves and ankles feel well-worked after a decent trail run in minimalist shoes (I like Xero Mesa Trails).

Established runners balk at barefoot shoes because…well, they’ve already got something that works, and they don’t want to do something that makes them slower, changes how they run, and potentially leads to issues.

My left-field take on all of this is to look at it through the lens of iatrogenics - which is, to say, unintended and hidden consequences of intervening in an existing process. (i.e. adding more and more foam and carbon between the bottom of your foot and the ground).

I’m on contentious ground but the nuance here is: Im not saying modern shoes will inevitably lead to injury, but I think the exclusive use of thick-soled (and especially carbon-plated) shoes are more likely to make your running fragile to injury; the more you rely on these as tools the less capable you are without them.

The occasional slow run (or hike) in minimalist shoes could help counter potential negative effects.

So I’d say treat them like another tool in your toolbox.

And please don’t start referring to yourself as Barefoot Felix.

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nice discussion here:

Hmm - interesting.

Do you think there is any merit at all to the barefoot shoe claims, or are you of the opinion that it’s just an unnecessary fad? As in, do you personally think it would be a waste of money for someone to buy barefoot shoes and that they wouldn’t get much benefit from them?

I was certainly lacking on the strength training a bit. I guess barefoot shoes or not - you have to keep those foot muscles strong.

This is all very interesting and lots of new info for my ears.

After a bit of research, I’ve just ordered myself a pair of the Xero Mesa Trails. It seems like they are best suited for my needs. I’ll trial them mostly day to day use before doing any serious long runs in them. I’m quite excited to see if they work for me or not.

I’ve struggled with knee and ankle injuries on and off when running, which may be related to a lack of strength training, although I do wonder if running in shoes with an unnecessarily high toe to heel height difference and too much springy foam has done more harm than good.

I’ll report back here in the near future once I’ve trialed them a bit.

Your point about iatrogenics is interesting and definitely resonates with me. If our feet evolved a certain way - why interfere so much with that? Although as they mention in the video you shared - perhaps some padding can be of benefit when running lots on hard, unnatural urban surfaces.

A slight digression - but I feel the same with regard to super soft springy mattresses - having a surface that just moulds to the shape of my body rather than providing proper support I feel has done me more harm than good.