I’ll put the picture up first to pique your interest. Yes, I know these are weird shoes and you look weird when you wear them.
There’s a lot of budding research into the benefits of running barefoot. Big names are getting in the game, like Harvard, MIT, and Oxford. The initial results seem to indicate that the natural gait of a barefoot runner is far easier on your body due to the differences in how your foot strikes the ground. Shod runners are inclined to strike with the heel, sending an extreme amount of force up the leg, whereas the barefoot runners naturally strike with the mid-section of the foot, allowing the foot to act like a spring and dampen the force on the rest of the leg. The research suggests that running with shoes protects your feet but destroys the rest of your body, while barefoot running does the opposite.
My initial results have been positive. I’ve only run about a dozen times, each between 2 and 4 miles, but my joints feel great. The change from shod running means that different muscles are being exercised — specifically the calves. If you decide to try these out, expect your calves to be in some major pain until your body adjusts. Which reminds me — if you’re going to make the switch, do it gently. Don’t run 10 miles your first day running barefoot. Take it easy and you’ll find the transition much more enjoyable. Also, stretch your calves a lot.
That said, I’m really enjoying them. My gait has definitely changed from my previous heel-striking days, and I’m now taking much shorter and quicker strides. I’m eager to try some longer runs in them — we’ll see how it goes after 45 minutes or an hour. I hope to have good news to report! The rubber sole provides enough protection to keep your feet from hazards on the roads but it’s still thin enough to feel like you’re barefoot.
I don’t have anything to report yet for durability, but I expect them to last at least as long as your average $100 pair of running shoes. These cost me $80, which is more than I wanted to pay, but certainly not outrageous considering what you’d pay for a pair of Asics Cumulus 10 (the shoes that carried me through the Marine Corps Marathon).
I heartily recommend these, especially if you can get past the embarrassment factor. Happy running!