Over the past year I’ve tested many “barefoot” options for training, casual and business casual use. Here are the ones that I recommend for training and outdoor activities. Tune in next week for the third installment – Casual/Dress Casual Minimalist Shoes.
Left to Right - Nike Free 7.0, Terra Plana Evo II, Merrell Trail Glove
My first move toward barefoot training was the Nike Free shoe. While not a truly minimalist shoe, I believe that it’s a great transition shoe. It pitches the foot forward encouraging landing on the forefoot instead of the heal. It allows the foot to move freely both in the toe box and with a platform that you can literally wring like a sponge. I recommend this if you are looking to make the transition….but know that your feet will want to move on to a more minimalist shoe in a month or two.
Vibram Five Fingers
Five Finger by Vibram
I tried the KSO model and like many people, it simply didn’t fit my foot. I think that it’s a brilliant idea and the toe separation allows you grip the ground like your foot was designed to do. My 14 year old has a pair and uses them for Crossfit. He like them for metcons and weight work but not for running.
My good friend has put several models through their paces. Here’s what he had to say -
“I love my KSO’s and for Martial Arts training indoor or out they are one of the most comfortable and usable shoes I have ever used. However in under 5 months I separated the sole from the big toe area and split the rubber on the sole just under the ball of my foot. I have not tried to contact Vibram to see if they will replace them but I have to say long term I am not sure they will ever take to torch of rigorous training.
These babies seem to be a bit more rugged and more likely will handle the type of training I use them for. That being said the improvements also come with some downside. The new sole is more rugged and therefore also not as giving, I am less likely to wear them on expensive matted surfaces and am more hesitant to contact the bottom of my foot to my training partners. Not that it would injure them, but more looking out of them. If training becomes a constant state or hurting then people tend to give up on the training. Now as far as my 3 to 5 mile runs, these bad boys are leaps and bounds more satisfying than my original KSO’s.”
- Matthew Lesko, Chief Instructor - CQC Unlimited
Terra Plana -Evo II
These shoes came very highly rated by several internet barefoot sites. They are expensive (US $160.00/pair) but made by strict ethical and environmental standards. I’d had two previous pair of their shoes for casual wear and they had served me well for years. I took the plunge. These shoes are very comfortable but lack traction in grass and mud to make up for independent toe grip. I ran the Warrior Dash in them and ate it several times. Granted that it was pouring down rain, making the course more extreme than originally intended. They will remain a great option to throw on with jeans but will not be crossfitting or movnating with me.
New Balance - Minimus
New Balance Minimus
I tried this shoe on and liked everything about it except the band that runs across the top of the foot. I found that it doesn’t let the foot spread naturally and this was a deal breaker for me.
Merrell Trail Glove
My intentions were to only try these on. I bought them. These are by far the best minimalist shoe for training that I have put on my feet. They feature a Vibram sole that is much like the soles on the new Five Fingers, however the toes are not separated. The grip under the toes allows you to grip the ground as you move, providing great traction. The wide toe box allows the foot to move naturally and the mesh allows your feet to breathe. I’ve put these through sprints, heavy lifting, box jumps and martial arts training. They’ve not disappointed me yet. I highly recommend these shoes, as they are the best I’ve tries so far.
Although I have not yet tried these, many of my fellow crossfitters at Crossfit Lafayette swear by them as a great all around shoe to train in. Inov8 has several more minimalist options that just came out.
The economy option is to grab a pair of aqua socks. I paid under $10 for these and use them when playing with my dogs. They work fine. That being said, they may not hold up under intense training.
For more information on Barefoot and Minimalist Shoes Check out these resources -
Posted by Mike Norris on March 24, 2011