Barefoot Shoes - Natural Running Extreme

For a few years now, a running shoe trend has been making the rounds that divides opinions - natural running. Lighter, flatter, more flexible is the motto of these purist running shoes, which aim to convey the feeling of barefoot running through their extremely reduced design. A particularly minimalist pioneer of the Natural Running trend is the Vibram brand, which takes the principle of "less is more" to the extreme with its FiveFingers toe shoes. Back to nature - many runners are excited about this paradigm shift in running, but despite all the euphoria, the Natural Running concept is not entirely without controversy. How does the barefoot shoe principle work and what are the benefits? For whom are these extremely minimalist running shoes suitable? And what do you have to watch out for when switching to barefoot shoes? We answer all the important questions about natural running, barefoot or toe shoes, Vibram FiveFingers and Co.

The running shoe that doesn't want to be one

In recent decades, running shoes have been equipped with ever new, more complex technologies - more cushioning, more stability, less natural running feel. Modern running shoes have now taken over many tasks that our feet are actually responsible for - as a result, natural movement patterns are unlearned, muscles atrophy, and the risk of injury increases. Natural running and barefoot shoes are a counter-concept to fully cushioned running shoes and reflect on the most natural of all forms of movement: barefoot running. A flat sole with very little cushioning and a low heel strike is intended to promote the athlete's natural running style and characterizes the lightweight minimal shoes. As a pioneer of the natural running movement, Italian brand Vibram first developed a toe shoe in 2006 that combines the liberating feeling of barefoot running with the protective function of a traditional shoe.

"A flat sole with very little cushioning and low heel drop is designed to promote the athlete's natural running style."

The Vibram Fivefingers, which in purely visual terms are more reminiscent of a glove for the feet than a classic running shoe, have separate chambers for each individual toe and a flexible, thin sole that adapts optimally to the respective surface. The individual control of the toes and the good contact with the ground are intended to re-sensitize the nerve endings on the soles of the feet and improve blood circulation in the feet and legs. The foot again learns to compensate for the various unevenness of the ground, which in turn promotes body coordination, stability and the runner's natural sense of balance. Muscles, ligaments and tendons that are at risk of atrophying when running with cushioning shoes are again put to greater use by barefoot shoes. Toe shoes are therefore a good training tool to strengthen the foot and calf muscles in a targeted manner. Due to the lack of cushioning and the drop, Natural Running shoes stimulate forefoot running and can thus effectively contribute to a better running style. However, the lightweight minimal-tread shoes are not equally suitable for every type of runner and carry a certain risk of injury, especially for inexperienced runners.

Who benefits from a barefoot shoe?

Barefoot shoes are especially recommended for experienced, sufficiently trained runners without major foot malpositions. However, recreational runners with a neutral running style can also benefit from the advantages of a barefoot shoe if they have a little patience to get used to it. However, absolute running beginners and runners with a pronounced heel running style or orthopedic deformities should better avoid Natural Running shoes. Heavily overweight runners are also better off with a cushioned running shoe. In case of doubt, a running analysis and advice in a specialist store can help with the decision.

Running training with barefoot shoes - What should you look out for?

Those who want to switch to barefoot or toe shoes should generally take it slow, otherwise overtiredness and muscle pain can be the result. Runners without barefoot experience should start with a beginner's model and increase slowly: For the beginning, it is sufficient to use the barefoot shoes once or twice a week, mainly as second shoes. If you want to be on the safe side, wear your barefoot shoes first in everyday life, and only then during running training. Soft surfaces such as forest paths, which yield slightly when running, are well suited. Caution is advised, however, for longer runs on extremely hard surfaces such as asphalt and extremely irregular terrain, where sharp stones and roots can become a problem.

To the delight of all natural running fans, the company Vibram now offers a wide range of FiveFingers toe shoes for diverse uses - be it trail running, indoor training or classic running training - and thus meets the increasing demand for specific barefoot shoes.