I’ve been using minimalist shoes, sometimes called barefoot shoes, for over a year now and I must say I really like them. They are great for fitness activities such as running, cycling, and working out at the gym. Last year I read reports about Chris McDougall’s book Born to Run because the findings and opinions of the book were spreading like wildfire throughout the running world. The book upended modern perceptions of the running shoe as it advises runners to turn back to running as barefoot as possible. The author concludes that modern running shoes are actually bad for runners because they cause most people to change their gait and the placement of the foot as it strikes the ground. The human running gait and landing position has evolved so that people are naturally supposed to take quick steps and land on their fore or midfoot area rather than their heel. The muscles on the bottom of the foot and the calf then reduce the shock caused by the landing. With modern running shoes most folks change and land on their heel in a more heavy manner so that long term more damage is created. He also does not believe in correcting foot alignment for supposed “problems” with feet as strengthening the lower leg and foot muscles will correct this naturally.
Well I purchased a pair of Vibram Five Fingers for running and working out at the gym and I have not looked back. I can hands down tell that my calves and especially my foot muscles are stronger. Modern running shoes are really like a Lazy-Boy recliner for your feet. The foot muscles just atrophy using them. A Lazy-Boy is good and comfortable sometimes but not good for getting a workout. My feet seem to connect more strongly with the ground which greatly improves balance and posture. Cycling in minimalist shoes will give your feet and calves a workout because the shoes offer zero stiffness and therefore your muscles will have to do the work. The Vibram Five Fingers offer just enough rubber in the sole so you don’t hurt yourself when stepping on little rocks, acorns, bumpy asphalt etc. Another benefit is the shoes last a long time, well over a year. No more trading out shoes every three months like you’re supposedly supposed to with modern runners. That has got to be a huge marketing scam. A $100+ pair of running shoes every few months or you’ll have all kinds of knee, foot and leg problems! Whatever.
Check out a pair of minimalist shoes and give them a try. But do start out slowly because your body and muscles will need to gradually work up to it.