I just recently began trying the barefoot method of running and I can say that I do like it a lot. I was open minded about trying it, but I wasn’t tied to the idea that I would love it. I’ve been using Merrell’s Barefoot Run Vapor Glove. As these are my first pair of minimalist running shoes, I don’t have anything to compare it to except traditional shoes. But I will give you my impressions of this brand of shoe and also tell you how I have made the transition.
Merrell Barefoot Run Vapor Glove Sneaker
Overall I think these are great “barefoot” minimalist running shoes because my feet and legs feel great from them and I’ve had no blisters or injuries from them. There is plenty of room in the toe box for your feet to really spread out. The Vibram sole is very thin, but since it is made from Vibram material it will last a very long time. The stitching is impeccable with no areas that would cause blistering. The inside is made with antibacterial material to keep them from stinking. The upper mesh is very thin and lightweight. (Be careful not to take on a heavily wooded trail as they could puncture easily and tear. A trade-off with a true barefoot feeling shoe.) They come in men’s and women’s and the color options are awesome.
Would I recommend these? Unequivocally, yes, I would. If you are thinking of trying barefoot running, I would say go for it and buy these extremely well made sneakers that truly give the feel of being barefoot. Here’s the link to view them on Amazon and read other reviews: Merrell’s Barefoot Run Vapor Glove.
How I Transitioned to Barefoot Running
I started by walking around in my house and at work in my new barefoot sneakers, all day every day. Then I started doing little bits of jogging in them in my house. I have a nice long hall way for this. You could do this outside. For about 5 minutes each day I would do this little bit of jogging, adding a little more time each day. My lower calves were sore, but in a good way. My Achilles tendon felt completely fine.
In the second week I did a track workout. I brought my barefoot and my traditional shoes. I planned to run 3 miles total. I started with the barefoot shoes and ran until it felt that my muscles were a little sore, not painful. That was 1.5 miles. The rest of the way I ran in my traditional shoes. The following day my lower calves were quite sore again, but have not had that soreness since. The rest of the week I ran in traditional shoes, except when I did HIIT workouts at home during which I used the barefoot sneakers.
This past week I ran my normal 3 miles in just the barefoot shoes and everything went well. No soreness the next day. Yesterday I ran in my traditional sneakers because it was raining so heavy. I could have run in the barefoot shoes, but I just thought the traditional one might be warmer. Today I felt so good I literally went the extra mile and did 4 miles. It was hilly on a paved sidewalk and it felt great. So I’m not a die-hard (yet) barefoot runner, but so far I really like how my legs and feet feel.
What It Feels Like to Run “Barefoot”
When you transition to these shoes it will feel really weird the first time you run on the road. I felt “naked” and “unprotected” on my feet. I felt the hardness of the road, but I remembered how to run barefoot:
- shorter stride.
- land under your body.
- land on the mid to forefoot, never on the heel.
- after landing on the mid/fore foot the heel comes down and then up again to propel you forward.
- relax and allow your feet to expand work as the shock absorbers they were designed to be.
I reminded myself of the benefits of barefoot running whenever I felt anxiety about it, how barefoot running:
- strengthens the foot and lower leg.
- reduces the impact to the heels, ankles, knees, hips, making injuries less likely.
I allowed myself to enjoy the feeling of my foot stretching out with each step, of really feeling the ground, of feeling lighter. And before I knew it, I was flying, I mean running 🙂 and just enjoying my run. Mind you I was not feeling any pain, just anxiety. I had given myself plenty of time, about 3.5 weeks to acclimate to them.
So when you feel this uneasiness on your first few times, just relax, enjoy the freedom of your feet, and listen to your body to know how much is the right amount for you each day as you transition. Once you’ve built up to go for a full run in them what you’ll find is that after the first mile or so, your feet actually get warmed up. You don’t feel the hardness of the ground anymore. It just feels wonderful, almost like your feet are getting a massage with each step.
How should you transition? As slowly as your body needs. Start out just walking in the barefoot shoes. You’ll have soreness just from this. In the second week add little bits of jogging say 3 minutes to start and then add a few more minutes each day. I recommend going to a track if you can when you’re ready so you can go as far as feels comfortable and then switch back to your traditional shoes for the rest of your run. Listen to your body and really pay attention to your form.
Here is a super helpful video on how to learn to run “barefoot” style by the coach Eric Orton featured in the book “Born to Run,” an inspiring book to read if you’re interested in barefoot running.
Here’s another great video demonstrating how to run barefoot.
Conclusion and Other Tips
I’m still not sure whether I will be an exclusive barefoot runner, but for now I am really enjoying how my feet feel being virtually barefoot all day long. They feel free, stretched out, comfortable and strong. Like I said above, walking barefoot feels like you’re getting a massage on your feet with each step. You’ll have to try it for yourself to feel the goodness!
If you want to try barefoot running I recommend the Merrell’s Barefoot Run Vapor Glove wholeheartedly. Amazon seems to have the best pricing.
For walking around your house to become a “barefooter” I recommend these other shoes that I purchased:
Merrell Jungle Glove Shoes. (Here are Men’s only. Here is the link just for Women’s. And here is the link for the exact canvas version that I bought. They are slips-ons and they literally feel like a glove, but with plenty of room for your toes to completely spread out.)
(They come in this color, lavender, light gray, and grayish-black which I got)
Xero Shoes Huarache Sandals. These are really really cool minimalist sandals. You can either put them together yourself – which is the default. (A very easy and fun DIY experience that doesn’t take much skill or time.) Or you can buy pre-made or custom versions of these sandals. If you go with the DIY sandals, there are many ways you can tie them. Here is the method I devised myself:
Have you tried “barefoot” style running? What has been your experience? Do you have questions or comments? Would love to hear from you either in the comments, on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media you prefer!