Thursday, July 4, 2013

Barefoot Style Running Shoes vs. Traditional Trainers

Ever since the idea of running and training barefoot burst into the running community with the release of Chris McDougall’s best-selling book, Born to Run - which advocated running barefoot after a study of the amazing Tarahumara tribe, a reclusive Mexican Indian group who often run ultra-long distances in no shoes at all, or very thin sandals - it has become all the rage.

The idea is that running barefoot naturally improves your running form, encouraging you to land on the balls of your feet rather than on your heel, leading to fewer injuries.

While running totally barefoot is an option for the Tarahumara, as well as many African runners, it is rather perilous in the western world, where most of us run on concrete covered streets, with the constant risk of the odd piece of broken glass or rusty nail lying around.

Never ones to miss out on an opportunity, with the advent of this new craze, running companies have developed a whole range of ‘barefoot’ running shoes. We thought we’d check them out for ourselves and weigh in whether you should believe the hype about barefoot running:


Traditional Trainers:
While this varies largely depending on the style, the whole point of traditional trainers is to cushion and support your feet, offering a chunky barrier between your feet and the ground.

Barefoot Style Shoes: Most barefoot style running shoes, particularly the five ‘fingered’ kind offer almost zero padding.  Steer clear of these until you’re a barefoot pro.

WINNER: Traditional trainers!

For ultimate comfort, go for a super supportive style such as those pictured, available alongside other Adidas shoes for men and women from online stockists, Brantano.


Traditional Trainers:
It is argued, at least by the advocates of barefoot style training shoes, that traditional padded trainers encourage runners to land on their heels, thus increasing the chance of high impact related injuries. However…

Barefoot Style Shoes:
A report by scientists in Taiwan earlier this year found that the way you run is far more important than whether or not you wear shoes and that runners who are used to wearing shoes may actually be more susceptible to injury if they start running barefoot, but maintain their previous form.



Traditional Trainers: Even if you do everything you can to prevent foot problems, such as keeping feet clean and dry as well as wearing properly fitted shoes and socks, running in traditional trainers still take its toll on your foot health, and long runs can lead to nasty blisters.

Barefoot Style Shoes:
Not only do barefoot style shoes let the toes splay out more naturally, they’re often made of more malleable materials, so the risk of blisters and friction burns is far reduced. What’s more, as runners begin to adapt to wearing a foot glove or barefoot style of training shoe, they will begin to see increased flexibility and elasticity in the sole of the foot as well as the Achilles heel, due to increased movement.

WINNER: Barefoot Style Shoes!

The ultimate shoes for foot health are a five toe style in a breathable fabric such as these Seeya Trainers, available from Primal Lifestyle.

OVERALL: Traditional trainers!

While both styles have some serious pros and cons, our overall winner are traditional trainers. This might just be a case of loving what you know, but comfort and support still get our vote and it seems that when it comes to injuring yourself, it is how you run, and not what you wear that really counts!

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Mark Dilworth, BA, PES

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