Barefoot Running. The title alone is exciting and something that we all have done at some time, even if only as children. The world of minimal and Vibram Five Fingers shoes has generated a lot of interest. Many people have run in racing flats for years, so it is not a totally new idea. Anyone who has read Born to Run will be inspired to kick off their shoes altogether and head out of the door. The concept is that the closer you are to the ground, the more the sensors in your feet can work and send their messages to your body, helping you to be more efficient: not just in running, but also in balance.
If we look at the feet of people who have worn shoes all their lives, the feet themselves have almost become more shoe-shaped. People who spend their lives with bare feet tend to have more splayed feet, with even gaps between the toes. There are many factors to take in if considering barefoot running, as our bodies are used to cushioned shoes, and many people over-pronate. That does not mean it is not possible, it is a question of re-training. The body is very capable of adapting, but we are all very unique.
With barefoot running creating such a stir and with so many different styles on the market, where to begin? The shoe that has held its own for some time now is the Nike Free. Not much importance was given to this shoe when it first came onto the market, but as a transition shoe before going to barefoot, it is perfect: light, minimal and very flexible. The split cross sections in the soles allows the natural flex of the foot and also strengthen the muscles in the feet and legs. The fanning out on either side of the sole also helps with balance, making it a really stable shoe. The soft, light, glove-like upper is breathable and stretchy, making it very comfortable to wear – almost like having nothing on your feet. Most people who try the Free are really comfortable in it and all feedback has been very positive.
There are two versions of Nike Free: Free 3 is the lower profile of the two, super light, close to the ground and the flex grooves are deep. The Free Run provides more cushioning throughout, and is slightly higher in profile, it still has the flex grooves but it’s a little more substantial a shoe than the Free 3, usually people start with the Free Run and then swap down to the Free 3 as they adjust to the extra flex and reduced cushioning.
If you heavily over-pronate, the Nike Free will allow this motion, so it would be best to take advice from us before purchasing. Whatever your footstrike, if barefoot running inspires you, do visit one of our stores – we carry a great range, and can help you with choosing a model, as well as how to make the transition. Like all changes it is important to take your time and allow your body to be the guide. Have fun in the meantime and enjoy the experience!