Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
11 Nov

Jumping on the Barefoot Bandwagon

All across the country, people are kicking off their shoes and braving streets strewn with broken glass and rusty nails that house tetanospasmin-producing Clostridium tetani, and heaped with endless piles of toxic dog poop. They somehow manage to traverse sidewalks that crumble underfoot at the slightest touch, throwing a person off balance and putting the ankle at severe risk of permanent injury. Podiatrists’ waiting lists grow along with their bank balances with the endless parade of hobbling barefooters nursing crippling foot injuries; they laugh as their coffers fill.

And yet, despite these confirmed dangers and despite the warnings from esteemed experts, the barefoot revolution continues to grow. It’s pretty remarkable. The recent New York Marathon featured more barefooters than ever before, according to organizers, and the Barefoot Runners Society has seen its membership double since 2009. Purely anecdotally, whenever I’m out hiking, I see more and more folks going in Vibrams or even totally barefoot. I don’t get the weird looks as often (I actually kinda miss ‘em) and I’ve even spotted Vibrams in non-athletic environments, like grocery stores or coffee shops. It’s been awhile since a kid has screamed and pointed at my “monkey feet.” Progress!

Shoemakers are taking note and jumping on the barefoot bandwagon. You’ve got the MBT types offering “barefoot technology,” which despite my post last week actually has some support in the community and seems to help certain segments of the population, but people looking for as close an approximation of the barefoot experience without actually baring their feet generally opt for “just barely there” shoes. For me, my longtime personal favorite, Vibram FiveFingers, are pretty much the only way to go. But for those looking for other options there are a couple coming down the pipe. Let’s take a look at some of the more promising ones.

Merrell, noted outdoor apparel manufacturer, is teaming up with Vibram for their upcoming Merrell Barefoot 2011 line of shoes, with Vibram providing the outsole. There are six models, three for men and three for women, with four colors per model (except for the Tough Glove, which has three colors). The promotional material speaks the right language – “natural stride…encouraging forward momentum, where you land at mid foot”; “lower impact…more aligned at efficient gait”; “connection with nature” – and the shoes look good and light and sport a new “Vibram Trail Glove sole,” so I’m pretty optimistic about them. There is some interesting talk of an “internal support construction wrap” along with “a midfoot absorption plate,” which, as Birthday Shoes points out, may point to a troubling desire to protect our feet from themselves. Let’s hope not. Shoemakers have a tendency to consider themselves indispensable to our poor little footsies, but I’ll give Merrell the benefit of the doubt for now. Here’s a quick summary of Birthday Shoes’ Merrell coverage:

Men’s Collection

Trail Glove

– Designed for (duh) the trail

– Toe protection that wraps around the outside of the foot, perfect for those who stub their toes in the VFFs

True Glove

– Meant for “scrambling across creeks and crags”

– Multi-sport shoe; think workouts, playing basketball, going for a quick trek around the neighborhood

Tough Glove

– Traditional look; great for casual “barefooting” around the office or while out on errands

– Goes well with pants

– Works for impromptu activity, too, since it’s still minimalist

Women’s Collection

Power Glove

– Not sure what to make of it; it’s a boot with straps

– Birthday Shoes calls it a “cross between a removable cast and a snow boot”

Pace Glove

– Standard looking running shoe, akin to the True Glove for men

Pure Glove

– Strap; looks like the VFF Sprint without the toe fingers

– I hope they make one for men; it just looks comfortable

According to a few accounts, Merrell’s run narrow, which hopefully doesn’t bear true with their barefoot line. The big draw of the VFFs, at least for me, is the ability splay out my toes. I hate feeling confined to a shoe. My toes need room to wriggle. They’ll run between “£80 and £90,” or about $130 to $145 per pair. More expensive than the original FiveFingers models, and more expensive than no shoe at all, but, depending on the durability, worth it for interested parties.

New Balance is also coming out with a Vibram-soled minimalist running shoe. The NB Minimus is a running shoe with a not-so-neutral heel to toe drop of 4 mm. 4 mm isn’t much, especially when compared to a standard running shoe with a grossly pronounced heel and 12 mm drop, but if you’re coming from something like the VFF Classic, with its total lack of a drop from heel to toe, the Minimus might be jarring. Still, New Balance claims that it’s the thickness of the heel, and not necessarily the drop, that determines a runner’s tendency to land on the heel, midfoot, or forefoot. I’m not sure. It seems like the Minimus is designed for barefoot newbies, people who’ve never tried it before and want a gradual change before going fully barefoot (or barefoot alternative). It’s the in-between. It’s “closer to barefoot” without wearing funny toe shoes. Since Vibram is making the outsole, I think we can probably trust NB’s claims of enhanced ground tactility. No, not as much proprioception as going truly barefoot, but I feel like I have pretty good foot position awareness through my FiveFingers.

There’s the Wellness – a slip on without laces. Judging from the name, it’s for casual use and walking, like strolling the aisles of your local health food store.

There’s also the road shoe and trail shoe, which sound pretty similar except for the enhanced durability and traction on the trail shoe.

Here’s a blurry pic of all three of them (Wellness, Trail, Road) from here.

The Minimus is due for a March 2011 release. $100 each (all models). This bearded guy who runs upwards of 200 miles every week seems to enjoy them. I’m not so sure I dig the orange and black design, to be honest.

Richard Nikoley is real big on the SoftStar Runamocs, even preferring them in most instances over the Vibrams. They – surprise, surprise – feature outsoles made by Vibram: the 2 mm thick “Street” or the 5 mm thick “Trail.” I’ve tried these babies on myself, and to be completely honest I wasn’t a huge fan of the way they looked on me. But that’s just one guy’s opinion. If you like the way they look they’re a good barefoot option. They run $87, about the price of a pair of FiveFingers.

A few of the my staff members wear Vivo Barefoot shoes designed for casual use and they all seem to love them and always praise the wide toe berths, though they haven’t tried the Evo runners.

As with any shoe, trying these barefoot shoes on before you fork over cash is absolutely required. And it’s always smart to be wary of a shoe trying to emulate the natural barefoot state. I mean, even the VFFs aren’t really barefoot; they’re just really, really close to it. The beauty of VFFs is that except for the fact that you’re wearing a piece of rubber on your feet, they are almost completely neutral. Your toes can move, you feel stuff beneath you (albeit somewhat dampened), and your foot retains a mostly natural movement and landing pattern. It ain’t perfect and it ain’t barefoot, but it’s pretty darn close.

These shoes might do the same thing. I don’t know. They’re definitely a huge step up from padded running shoes, and they make entry into barefooting more palatable for more people, but until we try them on, we won’t really know. In any case, I’ll be sticking with my tried and trusty FiveFingers for now.

What do you think? Happy to see shoe manufacturers jumping on the barefoot bandwagon? Are they close enough to barefoot for your liking? Will you consider buying a pair? Share your thoughts in the comment board and Grok on!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Shoe companies move at blazing speed of one inch per year into the right direction. Hahaha

    C2H5OH wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • The Vibrams are still the best choice. For running, the Bikilas are where it’s at.

      Abel James wrote on October 25th, 2011
  2. i’m pretty excited to see some minimalist shoes that are new england winter friendly…i’ve been wondering what i would do with my VFFs when the snow comes. maybe now i can pick up something that can handle the cold and the office dress code

    Primalrob wrote on November 11th, 2010
  3. i love this idea, for running…what is your take on going bare for more plyometric type exercise?

    Alilac wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • When I started P90X in 2007 I would do all the workouts barefoot on a fitness mat. The idea of the fitness mat was to prevent the carpet from being worn away in one spot, not really to reduce plyometric shock with ground. I always had calf muscle issues when running, even just 2 miles. I liked P90X because I thought it was the warm up and stretch routines preventing injury. Now I think it may have been because I was simply barefoot, allowing my legs and feet to move naturally. Also, I’m back to running and recently ran a half-marathon that I trained for in vibrams.

      Ben wrote on November 13th, 2010
  4. VERY upset at the choice of name for the ‘Power Glove.’ The REAL Power Glove is perfection incarnate and should NEVER be belittled by having its name placed on a mere SHOE.

    Mike H. wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • If you are referring to the Nintendo Power glove popularized by the classic movie, The Wizard. Then I 100% agree with you.

      Nathan wrote on November 12th, 2010
    • You sir are correct

      Kevin wrote on November 12th, 2010

      I love the Power Glove… It’s so bad…

      Ryan M wrote on November 14th, 2010
    • I love the Powerglove. It’s so bad.

      Andrew wrote on August 2nd, 2011
      • Oops. If I had scrolled down a bit more I would have seen that someone had already posted that. 😛

        Can’t seem to delete it…

        Andrew wrote on August 2nd, 2011
  5. I am really interested in getting some barefoot running shoes. My first choice would definitely be a pair of VFFs. With Christmas rolling around I figure they would be the perfect gift but have had a heck of a time tracking them down as most sites, including Vibram’s if I’m not mistaken, classify these as a seasonal product. Does anyone know if there is a restock coming or is it true Vibrams are seasonal? Also, how close are the Evos to the VFFs? The price is certainly different.
    PS. I’m from Canada so perhaps that could be part of the issue (?)

    DMak wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • That’s where I got both pairs of my VFFs and they are an authorized retailer.

      Naomi Regan wrote on November 13th, 2010
    • Oh, wait, they don’t ship to Canada.

      Well do what I did. I went to the store locator on the Vibram site and went to the website of one of the US shops there and that is how I found Trailblazer. They have a list of Canadian ones by province so you may even be able to find a place that stocks them locally.

      Naomi Regan wrote on November 13th, 2010
  6. Glad to see some new options, though none of these look like a likely purchase to me (not digging the styles much).

    I love my VFF, but I have two problems with them:

    1. They tend to smell pretty bad after only a couple of wearings, and washing doesn’t really help much.

    2. They don’t fit most social/professional occasions. They’re great for working out and leisure outings, but not for work or nights out.

    Would love to know if anyone has seen stylish minimalist shoes that you could wear socks with, for men or women. Everything I have seen is either crazy space-age workout gear, or a shapeless, style-less lump.

    Kris wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • I just use toe socks and order VFFs in a size larger to accommodate them, I have the kangaroo skin trek ones as a warmer option (although they are not waterproof alas) – I’ve emailed VFF asking for some kind of Goretex product to get a winterproof version out there -I also use the VFF kso, sprints, and neoprene treks too.

      After 6 months of only barefoot or VFFs my foot anatomy is totally different from before and none of my shoes pre-Primal fit now. As a last resort I had to buy a pair of regular flat leather shoes to give me an option for wet weather here in Scotland but my toes hate not being able to splay completely and even though they are wide men’s sizing my toes still rub on the edge a bit!

      I really don’t give a damn what people think when I wear my VFFs, got lots of very odd looks in London last week but I walked 9 miles with happy feet so who cares!

      For me the toe pockets are the key as they allow your foot to move totally naturally without restriction. My balance is much better and I’ve had no joint/back issues since going ‘barefoot’.

      Kelda wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • take your smelly VFFs for a dip in a chlorinated pool! the chlorine will kill the bacteria causing the odor and they’ll smell good as new (with perhaps a hint of pool for a couple days)

      i’ve done this numerous times and it really does work!

      Ted wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • Hey Kris and all, if you are looking for a dressier shoe for work that is minimalist, you might check out this link from :

      SnookHaus wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • Patagonia advocates. They’re super light, super flexible, and totally flat. And they look like shoes.

      cody wrote on November 12th, 2010
    • Check out Terra Plana’s Vivobarefoot collection. There’s many pairs that are suitable for work.

      Nicky wrote on November 13th, 2010
  7. I’ve been wearing a pair of Vivo’s for 6 months now and they’ve completely fallen apart. I’ve glued and sowed them back together several times in the past two months, but here’s the kicker: I don’t run in these. They’re strictly for walking and other casual purposes (like sitting at my desk at work).

    I’m excited for the merrells. I had a pair of their shoes in the past and they’re very good at minimal soles, but the durability of the sole itself was what made me get rid of them. I’m hoping that with a vibram sole I might finally have a barefoot shoe last more than half a year (besides my vibrams, that is).

    Lyle wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • I also had an issue of my Terra Plana Vivos falling apart. Customer service worked with me and sent me another pair. I haven’t started on my second pair, just wearing the first ones until they completely fall apart. I absolutely love them!

      rdwdawg wrote on November 11th, 2010
  8. Sorry to hear about Lyle’s experience with Vivo’s. I have a couple hundred running miles on mine and they are holding up very well. VFFs just don’t fit me and the Vivos are a great alternative. The price point is a little painful though.

    WRS wrote on November 11th, 2010
  9. Gimme a couple sets of huaraches and VFF and I’ll be happy as a clam.

    RD wrote on November 11th, 2010
  10. I’m pretty interested in the womens pace glove. if it comes in different colors. i have a pair of vibrams and they get thorns through the bottoms of them when im out hiking.

    Carly wrote on November 11th, 2010
  11. Feiyue Martial Arts Shoes. Same idea, but just $15. When I have to wear shoes, I wear these. I think they even look kind of cool when worn with pants.

    Otherwise, Havaianas flip flops are super-slim, very flexible natural rubber. The entire country of Brasil can’t all be wrong about them.

    Mech-Dogg wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • Wearing a pair of Feiyues right now at work…I love em.

      Sean wrote on November 12th, 2010
    • Amazing find.

      I just might order 3 or 4 pairs!

      DMak wrote on November 12th, 2010
      • I’ll have to check these out. I used to love to wear my old wrestling shoes with the super thin soles….

        Paul wrote on November 12th, 2010
    • Seems like the rounded bottoms might be annoying, I used to have that problem with canvas shoes long ago.

      Kiran wrote on November 13th, 2010
  12. My perpetually brush-diced ankles might appreciate the higher ankles of the Power Glove. I wonder if they’d know my feet aren’t “womens”.

    Andrew wrote on November 11th, 2010
  13. I wish they would come up with some for the winter season. I can’t see myself walking around in the snow with these. :(

    croí wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • Much agreed. I’ve been wearing my regular sneakers or boots into work and changing into my VFFs. The thought of standing at the bus stop in January when it’s -20F out and 2 feet of snow, oh, and they haven’t plowed the bus stop yet, does not make me want to keep wearing my VFFs outside!

      Alissa wrote on November 11th, 2010
  14. DMak…As far as I know, VFF’s are not seasonal. They make a few different models which could be considered seasonal I guess, one model being for trails, one for road, a neoprene one for water, etc. Try I got mine at this site and got them quickly. The only problem you may run into is sizing. VFF’s run different. Im a 9 1/2 sneaker and size 41 in VFF. As far as the EVO’s and VFF’s I cant comment, never tried the EVO’s. I do however LOVE my VFF’s. Take a little getting used to but this is advertised and should be expected. Good luck, happy hunting!

    Buck Savage wrote on November 11th, 2010
  15. you don’t like the orange and black ones, Mark? :-) beats hell out of those INCREDIBLY ugly Power Gloves….

    tess wrote on November 11th, 2010
  16. Here’s a couple of other options that cost about half or less. Once you remove the insoles you have way more room inside for toes, and the sole is about the same thickness as Vibram or RunAmocs.

    Richard Nikoley wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • After seeing this link of yours a few months back … I was determined to get the Sanuks. I checked them out at the mall … liked them … but went home with a similar, but lighter and cheaper pair of …. CROCS!

      Yes, Crocs. They have a minimalist-ish pair called the Santa Cruz. I got mine for $29.99 and I’m wearing them right now. Absolutely the most minimal, lightest, & comfortable (& almost cheapest) shoe I’ve ever owned.

      You just have to get over the fact they’er Crocs. lol,default,pd.html?cid=12N&cgid=men-footwear-slip-ons

      Kevin wrote on November 11th, 2010
  17. I love my VFFs, but I don’t understand why they are so expensive. How, exactly, are they “minimalist” and yet simultaneous twice what I normally pay for casual shoes? And the VIvos? Are you kidding me? I’m sure they only sell small numbers, but $160 for shoes that, based on some earlier comments, don’t last very long, is ludicrous.

    Dan wrote on November 11th, 2010
  18. I’m interested in checking out the Merrells. The biggest thing stopping me from buying VFFs is that I can’t stand having anything between my toes.

    johnmc wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • Even worse is when I wear them in the woods – I end up with all sorts on grassy detritus stuck between them. I have to stop periodically & clean it out. Kind of annoying. Oh well, it’s sorel season here now anyway 😉

      Peggy wrote on November 11th, 2010
      • I once caught a sand spur in between my big and second toe KSO’s. It was both painful and difficult to remove.

        Mike wrote on November 11th, 2010
  19. A word of caution for those who like to go barefoot: be aware that you could end up with plantar warts. I went barefoot as much as possible, until I got a plantar wart. :( It’s caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) that can lie dormant in your body until your immune system weakens or foot trauma occurs.

    I guess about 10 percent of people have the virus. I probably got it at a water park. It took two months to get rid of the wart (with acid and duct tape, lol) and it was painful to walk the whole time.

    Kayla wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • yeah i got one probably pool deck and i won’t even put my toes on the pool deck or gym shower/locker room without flip flops now…those things hurt like hell, i had to dig out the root of the thing

      DThalman wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • Apple cider vinegar works for removing warts… within 3 to 4 days. Just passing the info along. :)

      Hannah wrote on November 17th, 2010
  20. Over the past 6 months at my CrossFit affiliate gym, 4 people have fractured their 2nd or 3rd metatarsal while using VFFs, including myself. Each of us eased into running with the VVFs slowly, carefully & cautiously. We are disappointed & frustrated that this happened, for we had high hopes for reaping the benefits of barefoot exercise. Three of us want to eventually try again, but are reluctant for obvious reasons. I share this as a cautionary tale.

    IreScotsWelsh wrote on November 11th, 2010
  21. to be honest it is better to run barefoot since the pain in your feet teaches you how to run correctly. vibram or other minimalist shoes can be dangerous if you have bad form. i started w/ 5-10 min in the mornings and after 2 months i was able run as much as i want on rock trails with crushed rock. i play basketball, sprint, walk arnd barefoot as much as possible..i do 3-4 times activity then my friends and no injuries or pain in my joints..of course be carefull where you is more fun than everybody thinks. barefoot ken bob is a good teacher to learn some tips. google it ..he gives free classes in LA

    salim wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • I tend to agree – the ability of bare feet to adapt is pretty amazing. My story: I started working as a parachute packer at a a commercial drop zone. This is a great full body workout, involves a lot of jumping on & off the packing table, etc.; you can’t wear shoes because they might damage the ‘chute – not good! But the path out to the hangar (where we took the finished ‘chutes,) was about 40 yards of 1.5″ to 3″ river rock. When I started, it was very painful & slow to just walk on those rocks; after a week or two of getting used to it, it was nothing to throw 3 or 4 tandem parachutes (~45lbs each)over my shoulders & quickly walk out to the hangar over those rocks barefoot (piece-work: we get paid by the chute, so faster is better, no time to put on shoes for the walk.)

      Seriously I was amazed at what my feet could do once I asked them to do it. Pro tip: 100% pure aloe vera on them feets every night keeps the callouses supple & avoids that hard heel pad w/ cracks around the edges.

      Daniel wrote on November 12th, 2010
  22. I love my VFFs. But as many have noted, they get stinky. My slightly older model is starting to wear out and, most importantly, they are dorky as all get. My girlfriend can’t stand the sight of them.

    Those black merrell tough gloves look neutral enough. I might give them a whirl.

    Zac wrote on November 11th, 2010
  23. IreScotsWelsh: What were you doing and how did you fracture your toe?

    Derek wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • All four of us broke the 2nd or 3rd metatarsal mid-foot (dorsal), on the top of the foot (so not the toe, but it is the same bone as the toe. All did it while running (not sprinting). In my case, I was turning a corner and “crack”, it happened just like that.

      IreScotsWelsh wrote on November 11th, 2010
  24. Where’s the Inov8 love? I have some Inov-8 195’s and I love them. They are super light and hug my feet like a glove.

    Michael F wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • Agreed! I was reading through the posts fully planning on making a similar comment if no one else was going to mention the Inov8s, awesome footwear!

      Ted wrote on November 11th, 2010
  25. I powerlift competitively and have been using pool shoes for years. Ever since a child I have always preferred to be barefoot and just don’t seem all that concerned about arch support. The pool shoes are cheap, flat (a requirement for PL meets), lots of traction, and always stretchy mesh tops. I wear them practically everywhere when shoes are required.

    Shri Drake wrote on November 11th, 2010
  26. this is awesome, now if they would just use the minimalists approach to the price tags too. Hard to afford $100 – $200 dollar shoes. I may just keep mine bare.

    Robert wrote on November 11th, 2010
  27. Hey, you forgot to mention the feelmax shoes :)

    I have used them for 2 years now and they give a great barefoot feeling. When it comes to running or hiking i use my fivefingers sprint. But I wear my feelmax osma the rest of the time.

    Torgeir wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • Yeah, I’m really looking forward to getting into the feelmax.

      RobertJ wrote on November 11th, 2010
      • I’ve been wearing the feelmax shoes for about a year now, and I love them. I like them even better than my VFFs.

        Poidog wrote on November 11th, 2010
  28. LOL.. OMG the absurdity of “barefoot shoes” that cost so much!
    Four dollar watershoes from KMart suit me just fine, when they get stinky or worn, toss them. Mine last a lot longer than the above commenters pricey shoes.

    Roya wrote on November 11th, 2010
  29. I just got a pair of Zembooties and like them more than the VFFs for a variety of reasons. I like the split-toe or ninja style better than the five fingers. For one, they are easy to put on. The sole is thinner, but will likely wear out quickly. I wore them on a trail and they weren’t grippy enough for the slick, wet leaves. I’d LOVE to see a hybrid between the Zem and VFFs. A ninja-toed, thin-soled, wamer foot-mitten. I may check out the NB shoe for trails. I’ll buy anything Anton Krubicka is selling.

    Sarah HI wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • +1 for the ZEMs. They’re more comfortable than I expected.

      Larry wrote on November 16th, 2010
  30. These barefoot shoes are starting to look better and better

    Jeff wrote on November 11th, 2010
  31. I think the biggest benefit to having more “barefooting” shoes would not be to have other shoes to run in (my VFFs do just fine) but to have more options for when nicer-looking shoes must be worn. Can’t see wearing my VFFs to a job interview with a nice skirt, for instance. But if a good barefoot-style shoe was to come out that looked dressy enough, that would be a big bonus. I was well known for going barefoot in my office building when I used to work out of the house anyways.

    Robin wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • I cannot speak for women’s shoes but I have taken two actions:

      1) I took my dress shoes to the cobler and had the heel removed and a flat sole intalled.

      2) My work shoes are steel-toed boots. The same cobler removed the heels and installed 6 mm Vibram non-lugged soles.

      James wrote on November 11th, 2010
  32. Toms are good for everyday use. Just rip out the insoles and slip ’em on without socks.

    Vivo Barefoot has some good casual models, as well as some dressier options. I recently wore mine to a wedding. Again, just remove the insoles.

    Erik Cisler wrote on November 11th, 2010
  33. My Terra Plana Aquas are holding up fine. I had to get them since I was no longer allowed to wear vibrams t work, although people can wear sandles.

    Mike H wrote on November 11th, 2010
  34. Has anyone looked into barefeet in pregnant women? There is risk for flatten arches during pregnancy and is recommended that they don’t walk barefeet and limit walking in general.

    Elizabeth wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • Interesting, considering my obstetricians all suggest walking as ideal during pregnancy.

      Being pregnant does change your shoe size and flatten your feet due to the hormones involved. I don’t know that it’s really possible, or ideal, to orthopedically bind/contain your feet to prevent that though…

      Jenny wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • I went 90% barefoot through two pregnancies (one DD is two tomorrow, the other is three weeks old). I walked, lifted weights, and performed all activities of daily living in a barefoot state. I was a teacher, so being barefoot in the classroom was no big deal, and for walking back and forth or shopping I wore flip flops or my very flat, very comfortable Sketchers dress-y shoes.

      I found that my feet are still strong, with no arch collapse at all. They are wider, but pregnant or not, widening of the foot will happen once you start bare-footing more often. I also have good stability and no soreness in my feet or ankles, and my back aches less now that my posture seems to have naturally realigned.

      I was never a shoe person anyhow, even from childhood. I wore them to follow fashion and social convention, but in the past 5 or 6 years I’ve just gone without. Don’t fear barefoot mobility during pregnancy – how many pregnant human females have existed over the past hundreds of thousands of years before the advent of shoes, and still managed to hunt and gather and take care of babies?

      Consider that the artificial support of most shoes molds the foot to fit the shoe’s shape, and that “falling arches” or foot-flattening is more likely to be a beneficial re-shaping of the foot’s anatomy to a more natural state, rather than an occurrence of deformity.

      Madbiker wrote on November 12th, 2010
    • Personally had no issues being barefoot during my first and second pregnancy. Also had injury free second pregnancy working out 6-7 days a week doing kickboxing and weightlifting and running trail races all in my VFFs up to the day of giving birth. And now post birth and in comparison to my first pregnancy in which I wore regular running shoes and did less exercise, my feet and ankles are much stronger the second time around! and my feet did not flatten. I had worn VFFs for a few years now. Awesome!

      heather wrote on November 12th, 2010
  35. Seems like just another fad to me. I’ll stick with my running shoes.

    rob wrote on November 11th, 2010
  36. I’m new to this, so apologies for asking about something that’s no doubt been covered…. What’s the consensus opinion on Birkenstocks? I started wearing their sandals a few years back, and they’re all I wear now. I prefer to go barefoot, and I always have. For winter, I make and wear ‘yoga socks’. I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t had to be concerned with a work dress code that prevented open-toed shoes. If/when that occurs, I will probably try one of these options, and or one of the Birkenstock shoes.

    Esther wrote on November 11th, 2010
  37. I like that the Merrel shoes have a toe wraparound–it would really help with parkour.

    Calvin wrote on November 11th, 2010
  38. It’s great to see other companies jump on the bandwagon. I love to run in my VFF but with winter weather on its way here in Michigan I won’t be able to do so very soon. Its great to know there are alternatives that will allow my feet to stay warm in the winter!

    Primal Toad wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • @Primal Toad:

      My winter running shoes are $13 canvas sneakers from Walmart and medium weight wool socks. (I will be running in the same ones from last winter.) The soles are thin and, after about 30 miles, are very flexible.

      We here in southwest Texas don’t have the vicious winters you do but these cheap sneakers have served me well in six-inch snow, ice, and melting snow. The only time they failed me was when I had to run through ankle-deep melting snow back in early March. That sucked.

      James wrote on November 11th, 2010
  39. Gotta love a primal post about shoes. Thanks Mark!

    debbie_downer wrote on November 11th, 2010
  40. I like going barefoot as NO shoes. My feet are adapting to new sensations and when I put VFF’s on I can feel a big difference in my gait and how heavy my step is in those. I am hoping to be able to ditch those for all my runs and hikes.
    Unless one is running through a construction zone, there are no nails on sidewalks and if there were, thin VFF sole wouldn’t be much of a protection either.
    So far I haven’t met even one barefoot runner in real life or online rushing to a podiatrist.
    I am in awe how quickly shoe companies are banking on this movement though. They are the ones laughing all the way to the bank.

    Ewa wrote on November 11th, 2010
    • AMEN! I’m more likely to get injured walking into a door jam (I’m a bit klutzy) than my feet, which have been COMPLETELY freed for over 6 months. I’ve had a few scrapes on them, but nothing that didn’t heal up within a few days.

      To the previous poster who got plantar warts: plantar warts can only grow in warm, dark and moist environments… like the inside of a shoe. The same with athlete’s foot.

      Ericka wrote on February 27th, 2011

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