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The Problem With Barefoot Shoes

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  • The Problem With Barefoot Shoes

    Hi Everyone,
    As a fairly recent member of the Primal community I have been spending my time reading and digesting as much information as I can. This is my first post so please be gentle with me.
    I've noticed that the shoe companies are not slow in capitalising on the upsurge of interest in barefoot running. Even the less popular companies are marketing and selling what is supposed to be a minimalist shoe for astranomical prices. I find this quite obscene, but not surprising.I personally use a couple of pairs of pumps ( sneakers ) for my walks and treadmill runs ( which are short in duration ).The cheapest pair only cost me 4! My outside walks sometimes break into trots/ jogs on occasion even though they are mainly on concrete.
    My questions are; does anyone see a problem with my use of such footwear? They fit the barefoot criteria, no heel drop, minimalist and very flexible. Also, what are other people's opinions on what I feel is an inflated pricing policy for what is supposed to be an attempt at being the closest thing to wearing no shoes at all?
    Thank you in advance for your input.

  • #2
    Welcome, and I hope you're finding success with the new lifestyle. From a marketing standpoint on minimalist footwear, I suppose it seems counterintuitive to be paying so much money for so much less actual material, when compared to high-end athletic shoes. Some would say why pay to go almost barefoot when you can just go barefoot. But protection from glass and being able to walk into places of business helps of course.

    From an injury and foot health perspective, cheap, flat, thin-soled, and flexible sneakers/sandals could be just as effective. It's my understanding from reading "Born to Run" by Chris McDougal that before the boom in running popularity, Western marathoners were wearing sneakers to that description. And the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico has been running ultramarathon distances in thin sandals for untold generations.

    That said, I love my VFFs and the price tag doesn't bother me. I'm not a doctor or scientist... just my opinion.
    Makin moves. Makin money. Makin bacon.


    • #3
      ... you mean plimsoles? Perfectly good - thin sole, no heel, good grip and laced around to secure it to your foot.

      As above, I like huaraches in the summertime. Fun and easy to make, surprisingly comfortable to wear. I also have VFF Treksports for muddy fun out on the moors where the bog would just rip off most shoes. British company Inov-8 have a growing line of more conventional and more minimalist footwear - one to keep an eye on. Prices tend to be around the 40 - 50 mark.

      For now, your plimsoles will do just fine.

      Welcome aboard, BTW. I'm a Brit, too ... a northerner

      "... needs more fish!"


      • #4
        Thank you both for your input. Yes pjgh, I do mean plimsoles. That's why I was so keen to get into barefoot running. I thought why spend upwards of 70 on running footwear when I can spend under a tenner and probably have less risk of injury if I utilise correct technique.
        As an aside your responses have highlighted why I decided to post.Unlike some other boards I have read ( but never posted on ) it's nice to belong to a community where by and large the members offer relevant and useful opinions on the matter being discussed without descending into personal affronts.Once again I thank you both for your comments.
        ( By the way pjgh..I'm a northerner too )


        • #5
          I use water shoes. Cost around 15.00 a pair and last at least three or four months. Perfectly flat, flexible and come in black so I can wear them at work while I walk the hospital all day. I learned not to heel-strike in about fifteen minutes. Proper form will generally come naturally. Feel a small nagging pain? Watch your step form in a large mirror and trouble-shoot.
          Crohn's, doing SCD


          • #6
            Thank you Knifegill....but what are water shoes?


            • #7
              Good course of action - if you're more used to padded trainers, do take it easy.

              No more than a mile, initially, and some breaks in between while you strengthen your arches and get used to it. Find some uphills, or a treadmill with a slope, to practice. It's not necessarily a case of being on your toes, more the ball of your foot. The ball comes down first, the foot flattens and then rolls forward so you can push off with your toes. This is where most of the initial pain comes from - really working you big toe and the tendons behind it.

              There are loads of videos online - check You Tube for some technique videos.

              It can look a little odd when you're out running, but it also looks pretty cool. I clocked a minimalist runner the other day while sitting in traffic and thought his stance was upright, strong and confident, like he could go for miles without tiring. I'm more a walker, but take in sections of running where it looks fun or challenging. As my stamina and endurance increases, I'd like to go for longer runs - I love the freedom.

              Originally posted by UK Guy View Post
              By the way pjgh..I'm a northerner too
              Good lad! I'm up here on the Bradford/Halifax border.

              "... needs more fish!"


              • #8
                Originally posted by UK Guy View Post
                Thank you Knifegill....but what are water shoes?
                ... like plimsoles, but usually have a single lace that pulls up around the ankle.
                Quick example: Water Shoe Aqua: Sports & Leisure

                Sports Direct sell them, and they're everywhere ... if you wanted to try some on.

                "... needs more fish!"


                • #9
                  Shoes like that:

                  Hang Ten water shoes size 9

                  Don't worry, they come in solid black in most cases!

                  But you've got to visit local stores and actually put them on and walk in them. Some have tangible tread and some are nice and flat, and sometimes you'll even find sole defects. They usually go to at least size 13 for us big-footers (I'm an 11 to 12). You'll find that some models last longer than others, but they are affordable enough to make a few mistakes in the quest for a shoe that can stand up to what you dish out.
                  Crohn's, doing SCD


                  • #10
                    Thanks pjgh. Very helpful and some of the most concise and clear advice I've read on barefoot technique.
                    I've been working in Halifax this past week...but I'm just from the right side of the Pennines in


                    • #11
                      Thanks Knifegill...they actually look like an interesting option.


                      • #12
                        VFFs are obviously overpriced, especially in Europe. There is however something unique about how a well fit pair feels, which I think comes down to the feeling of your toes spreading without the shoe feeling to big. That's why I run in them when I'm not running completely barefoot. They are also great for indoor activities and my old classics have a fairly good grip on various gymnastic floors.

                        I must also point out that going completely barefoot is the single most important thing you can do to find your running form.


                        • #13
                          Than you for your input.....when I get chance I'll give that a try but I don't think it'll be any time in the next few months. Winter months in the north of England aren't too


                          • #14
                            UK Guy, I agree with you completely regarding the price issue. It's really frustrating that products which are supposed to be minimal cost so much. There's no high-tech cushioning system, no gel pads or air pockets, no motion control features, no support features, no extra comforts or anything, so you'd expect them to cost about $30 at most. Instead they're right up there with "normal" sneakers. It's supply and demand. Right now minimalist styles are all the hype, and the manufacturers are charging what they know they can get.

                            For what it's worth though, the greatest thing about minimalist footwear is that it lasts forever. Back when I ran in cushioned sneakers I had to replace them every 500 miles or so because the cushioning is lost over time. With minimal sneakers there is no cushioning to begin with (that being the whole point) and you can basically use them until they come apart at the seams. I have a pair of New Balance Trail Minimus which I use both on roads and trails. I love them, they already have a few hundred miles on them and I see no reason why they wouldn't last me several more years. So, in that sense, minimalist shoes actually end up being pretty cheap.


                            • #15
                              The problem is people, and many of them frequent this forum, are happily paying for VFFs/vivo/merrels etc, so manufacturers are all too happy to keep the price up.

                              People are free to do as they please, but I have never, and will never pay over $25 (my most expensive pair*) for a minimalist option. To do so simply feels absurd.

                              * they're meant for scuba diving, and looks like cheaper on Amazon, get on it:

                              My absolute loves, these blend in so well nobody can tell they're fully minimalist:

                              Both options retail for under $25.

                              You can also find tai chi shoes for under $10 on amazon, but I would warn AGAINST the brown soled "rubber" ones and instead look for the cotton soles. I reserve those strictly for at-home use since they basically feel like super thin slippers. The inside has cotton, very comfortable/warm. I wouldn't exercise or walk about in them outdoors too much though. I'm also not too crazy about the way they look for social situations. They closely resemble "Toms". I do use them for at-home workouts if I feel like wearing any shoes at all, which I mostly don't. I also don't need to wear shoes at work luckily so I average at least 30 something hours a week barefoot at work, and about 20 something of those I'm standing. I work from home once a week, and I do the un-primal thing and work from my bed! but I do get up plenty and work out, etc but there's something magical about laying flat on your back with a pillow to prop you up some and getting paid for it.

                     Cotton Sole Kung Fu Tai Chi Shoes Size 39/6.5-7: Sports & Outdoors

                              don't get these:

                              They're minimalist for sure, and pretty comfy so I don't regret buying them, but the rubber sole is fucking LOUD. It sounds like wood against wood when you walk. I can't sneak around ninja style in these at all... I'm getting the cotton ones soon.
                              Last edited by iniQuity; 12-01-2011, 10:30 AM.
                              I used to seriously post here, now I prefer to troll.