Running Barefoot (In Shoes!?)

When I was a child growing up in Southern California, I spent my summer vacations barefoot, mostly at the beach. To get to the beach, I could use the streets for about three miles, or I could use aroughtrail down an embankment, across railroad tracks and along a creekbedfor one mile. Being lazy, I chose the shortcut. Walking barefoot over the rugged terrain took a little getting used to when school firstletout each summer, especially thesharprocks they used for the railroad bed. Soon, however, I was running to and from the beach or any place else I went, sharp rocks and all, without injury or evendiscomfort. I laugh when I think back on it because now I wince when Igoto the mail box barefoot.

Anyway, you can learn torunbarefoot if youworkup to it gradually. Unfortunately, unlike when I was a kid, going without shoes all summer as an adult is almost socially unacceptable these days. However, a lot of precedence for barefootrunningexists. For example, Kenya has produced many world class athletes who have run their entire lives barefoot. Many became national champions in Kenya running barefoot. Shoe companies would sometimesoffertosponsorinternationally recognized runners if they agreed towearthe company's shoes. For runners like them or for runners like me who want the benefits of running barefoot but not the pain, a compromise, the minimalist running shoe, is in order.
Fortunately, many companiesprovidetheir own version of minimalist running shoes. What does "minimalist" in a running shoemean? If you could magically attach a lightweight but tough shoe sole to the bottom of your foot, to replace thetoughskin you wouldnaturallygetif you went barefoot, you would have the most minimal of running shoes. The following is a list of six things to look for in minimalist running shoes.

Weight - Your bare feet have noadditionalweighton them. Minimalist running shoes shouldweighas close to that as practical. You can find many minimalist running shoes that are 8 oz. or less, much less.

Heel-to-toe-drop - When standing barefoot on the floor, your heel and the ball of yourfootare the same distance from the floor, 0 inches. There is no heel-to-toe-drop. On the other hand, the ball of your foot could be several millimeters lower than your heel when wearing shoes, depending on their design. This difference in height is calle d heel-to-toe-drop. Since the barefoot example is theideal, minimalist running shoes, should come as close to that as possible. Anyway keep the heel-to-toe-drop in your minimalist running shoes to a minimum i.e. less than 12 mm.

Flexibility - Your bare feet have no constraints. So should be your feet in minimalist running shoes. Our minimalist running shoes should conform to our feet meaning they should be flexible. Instead, manufacturers, attempting tofixperceived foot problems, make shoes thatforceour feet to adapt to the shoes. Minimalist running shoes will have minimal or nonexistent arch support or pronation control devices.

Toe Box - When the balls of your bare feet hit the ground theyspread. The toe boxes in minimalist running shoes should be roomy enough to allow for that expansion.

Upper - The role ofuppermaterial in a minimalist running shoe is to keep the shoe sole in place against the sole of your foot. This should be accomp lished with the minimumamountofuppermaterial that will do the job.

Low Profile - The soles of minimalist running shoes should bethinto increasestabilityandgroundfeel.

The word "Minimalist", has as many meanings as there are models of minimalist shoes. One can find Ultra-minimal shoes that aretrulylike the theoretical shoe described above, or one can find shoes that are much liketraditionalrunning shoes, but with only one or two minimalist characteristics, or one can find anything in between.


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