Barefoot Trainers: A Paradox in Running Clothes

When is comes to running clothes and footwear, is the principle “less is more” true? We take a look at the increasingly popular trend of barefoot running and consider three of the best barefoot trainers.

People have run barefoot for most of our evolutionary history, so it’s not exactly a new phenomenon. But it suddenly became a hot topic in the world of running in 2009. That was the year that Christopher McDougall’s book “Born to Run” came out, in which he concluded that running shoes have done little to prevent injuries and that runners would generally be better off running barefoot.


Since then, the idea of running barefoot has taken the running world by storm. Proponents cite impressive lists of benefits, including:

  • Increased awareness of foot position leading to reduced incidence of ankle sprains
  • Improved balance
  • Increased blood circulation to the feet, preventing varicose veins
  • Less risk of over-straining and over-training because of increased sensitivity
  • Improved running technique
  • Stronger muscles in the calf, hips and under the foot

Sceptics may be convinced by Daniel Lieberman’s research at Harvard University. He and his colleagues at the Skeletal Biology Lab investigate the biomechanics of endurance running, comparing habitually barefoot runners with those who wear modern running shoes. They’ve concluded that barefoot or minimally shod people can run easily on the hardest surfaces in the world without discomfort from landing.

It all sounds convincing enough. And then the niggling reality hits you: Dirty roads. Nails, rocks, thorns and broken glass. The cold. The looks that you will get from other people when attempting to run with no shoes. And – dare we admit it – the fact that one of the pleasures of running is investing in some serious running clothes.

Good news! This is where barefoot trainers come in. These are also known as minimalist shoes, presumably because someone spotted the paradox verging on the oxymoron of referring to a barefoot trainer. Running clothes manufacturers have embraced the barefoot running movement by developing minimalist shoes that offer a rubber sole to protect your feet from the surface on which you’re running – and little else to get in the way of the barefoot experience.

There is a rather bewildering range of brands of barefoot trainers around, ranging from the ludicrously expensive and surprisingly hi-tech, to far more basic models. Three of the brands that made it to “The Week’s” review of the best barefoot trainers are:

  • Newton Running MV2: These are described as containing “strips of engineered rubber” that will give you “a faster, more responsive run.” Retail price: £100.
  • Vivobarefoot Ultra Mens 20: Endearingly described as “part trail runner, part grown-up jelly shoe,” the emphasis with these trainers is on fun and affordability. Retail price: £59.
  • Inov-8 Bare-X Lite 150: These trainers are noted for their comfort and how easy they are to pull on, thanks to their integrated tongue and lock lacing. Retail price: £85.50.

We’ve held sales for each of these brands on the site before, so don’t forget to keep an eye out for a bargain!

You know you want to. Bare your sole.