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Minimal Shoe, Maximum Performance

Posted on the 16 September 2011 by Nerdywerds @NerdyWerds

If you saw the article yesterday about barefoot running, you know I'm a fan of barefoot, or minimalist, running. There is scientific evidence that says barefoot running helps correct poor form, reduces injury and strengthens your legs and feet beyond what running in regular shoes can do. These shoes aren't magic or witchcraft, they just make your body conform to the running style we as human have evolved towards over the years. I'm not going to rehash the article from yesterday, but the comfort of modern running shoes has caused us to land on our heels when we run, we puts a massive amount of shock and pressure on your knees, ankles, hips and lower back. Barefoot running fixes that, because the first time you strike the ground with your heel and have to deal with the entirely of the shock, you'll change your stride really quickly.

If you tried going out in bare feet yesterday, you may have noticed running over rocks or sticks isn't that pleasant. It's taken me years of walking around bare foot before my feet were calloused enough to deal with it. If you did find discomfort in your barefoot run, don't give up just yet. We're talking about minimalist shoes today. In particular, we're talking about my favorites, the Vibram Five Fingers. These shoes have ultra thin soles, around 3.5 mm, ultra breathable construction and allow for proper foot flexion. I've been running in these bad boys for about a year and have loved every step. There are other minimalist shoes out there, and if you have a particular shoe maker you like, good odds are they will have a minimalist shoe now.

Since the are my favorite shoes, I'm going to highly recommend trying out the Vibram KSO's for summer or Vibram Flow for the winter. I love the design and freedom of wearing Vibram's. First off, if you wear them, you will need to be prepared to answer questions about the design. The Vibram line is called "Five Fingers" because of the independent toe design. As you can see from the image above, Vibram's are like gloves for your feet; they have 5 individual toe slots. And if you thought I was done with the glove analogy, you were sorely mistaken. Because these contour to your foot, much like a glove. In the spirit of brevity, they are also thin and allow your foot to move as if there were nothing covering it. That concludes the glove analogies.

All kidding aside, Vibram's are tremendous shoes. They are extremely lightweight, flexible and comfortable. They are water-proof, so you can wear them through puddles, if that's your thing, or you can take a dip in these puppies without fear. They are machine washable, so you don't have to worry about getting them dirty or having the funky odor all of my other shoes have. As I mentioned earlier, they have very thin soles. This allows you the sensation and benefits of barefoot running, without the pain or worry of running through rocks and sticks. A brief word of caution, and I really do need you all to know this, glass can still cut you through this. Do not run over broken bottle if you can avoid it. Also, of less severity, rocks will still sting a bit at first if you step on them. Other features are Vibram's patented anti-microbial material in their in-soles. This really does help eliminate odors as well as keeps my feet from stinking as much. That last part may just be my experience, but there it is.

Please don't go out and order your Vibram's based solely on my review. I love them, and they feel incredible on my feet; but the experience is different for everyone. Many people can not get used to the five toed design. To them, it feels unnatural and uncomfortable. Even though we're trying to go as close to barefoot as possible, you still need to be comfortable. If you're uncomfortable, you won't get out of the house; and if that's the case, you can do that in your old shoes. If Vibram's are too foreign or unnatural for your taste, do not fret; we've got you covered.

I've got two alternatives for those out there that enjoy toe unity; the New Balance Minimus and Asics Piranhas. These are both shoes I've never owned, but have extensively researched and have gotten rave reviews from people I trust. First up are the New Balance Minimus. My brother and father both run in these. They both seem to love them as well. My brother actually seems to prefer them to his Vibram KSO's, the shoes I love so much. But, wouldn't you know it, the Minimus is sporting a Vibram outsole. So if you feel that the Vibram soles are awesome but the "Five Fingers" aren't, this may be the shoe for you. Lightweight, breathable and flexible, this is the shoe I would buy if I didn't think my Vibram's would know I was cheating on them. Much like Vibram's, the Minimus family has shoes for a litany of different uses, but it trail running, road running and casual wear. I haven't come across anyone that's disliked these shoes and I definitely recommend going and trying them out.

Next up are the Asics Piranhas. Aside from winning the prize for fiercest named shoes, these are very highly recommended by a good friend of mine; and numerous people online. The best endorsement people have given these shoes, to me, is that they allow your foot to work as designed. This means they are flexible enough that your foot isn't being coddled like most running shoes. Most people talk about the ground feel in these; they say you really feel connected to the road. And that is actually a good thing. There is something that's, I'm not going to say spiritual, but something indescribable when you get that feeling. This is one of those things that you are just going to have to experience for yourself, but once you feel it, you'll know what I'm talking about. Aside from having a "one with the Earth moment" these are great quality shoes. Like all minimalist shoes, they are lightweight, flexible and breathable. They are a solid, standard one piece design, so no toe liberation like the Vibram's. They have a low profile heel, so their isn't the temptation to run "heel to toe". I've been assured on multiple occasions, by many people, that these are excellent shoes worth giving a shot.

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