Barefoot Running Myths, Lies, and TRUTH: #9 – Barefoot Shoes, Minimalist Footwear – Huh?

Hi, Steven Sashen from with
our 10-part series. This is #9, about the mythology that new people to barefoot running
have, or the best ways to not think things that will get in the way of you having a lot
of fun as you make the transition from wearing shoes to being barefoot, whether you’re walking,
hiking, running or doing anything in between. Today, we’re going to talk about minimalist
footwear and barefoot shoes. And the first thing I’m going to say is, just because something
looks barefoot doesn’t mean that it’s barefoot. It doesn’t mean that you get the same fun
and benefits of being barefoot. I did some research with the former head of biomechanics
in the U.S. Olympic Committee. It was amazing to see that people who were accomplished barefoot
runners would put on some minimalist shoes or some barefoot shoes and suddenly revert
to non-barefoot habits. They would have perfect form when they were barefoot and then they
put on some things that I won’t mention, that kind of do this to your feet, and then they
would be overstriding and heel-striking and not even know they were doing it. Because,
just because something looks like feet doesn’t mean it’s barefoot. Just because something
is thin doesn’t mean it’s going to be close to barefoot. Because you can have something
thin like a piece of steel that gives you no feedback from the ground. You can have
something thick like cotton that…and I don’t know what the hell that would do, but suffice
it to say, don’t be fooled. Don’t think that thickness is everything. Don’t think
that looking like feet is everything. What is everything is how well your feet can move
and how much they can feel. In fact, it’s interesting, if you cover your toes with anything,
even a light fabric, that little bit of resistance you’ll feel as your toes flex up, as they
dorsiflex, as they come towards your knee as you’re going through a regular running
style/running gait, that little bit of resistance will tell your brain—often—to not do that
natural thing that you should be doing with your toes. So, little things can make a big
difference into how you actually move. In a related note—wait, I don’t want to say
anything more about the barefoot thing. Not yet. Actually, I will tell you this. We tested
a bunch of minimalist and barefoot products against Xero Shoes. People were reliably…they
had the same biomechanics reliably in a pair of Xero Shoes as they did when they were barefoot.
And the reason is simple. Your feet are free, your toes are free, and all it is is a little
bit of rubber. It’s kind of like right before…well, you’re running barefoot, but right before
your foot hits the ground someone throws a piece of rubber on the ground. Now, I will
say, that’s not the same as barefoot because you’re landing on a piece of rubber every
time, not the varied and variegated surfaces that your feet will feel every time you’re
going out for a run barefoot. So, biomechanically similar, but from a sensation standpoint not
the same, and I’m the first to admit it even though this is my product. I say Xero Shoes
are great for when barefoot isn’t the appropriate thing to do or when you just need a little
extra protection. But let’s go to the minimalist thing. I want to be clear about “minimalist
shoes,” because minimalist shoes is a fictional concept. I mean, yes, they make them a little
lighter, yes they make them a little more flexible, but what the people who make minimalist
shoes did is they took all the benefits that we claim about barefoot and they said you
get the same thing from minimalism. There’s not one barefoot runner or barefoot-friendly
podiatrist or barefoot-friendly physical therapist or doctor who will say that. It’s not the
same. And there was some research that recently came out—I’ll try and link to it below or
you can find it on our blog—where they checked and found out whether people who were in minimalist
shoes made the transition to a different form, to barefoot form, compared to barefoot runners.
And not surprisingly, they did not, because you’re just not getting enough feedback from
the ground and you’re restricting little bits of your motion. That changes the way you’re
going to move when you’re in minimalist shoes compared to barefoot. So don’t be fooled
when someone says, “Hey, this shoe is just like barefoot.” Almost by definition, it
won’t be. So, all of that said, we’re coming up to Part 10 of our video series. If you
missed the first parts, we talked about whether you need to toughen your feet—I’m looking
at my notes—whether you should what to prepare for running, whether you need to strengthen
to prepare for running, how to make the transition to running, a whole bunch of things like that.
The last one is just my favorite topic about running happily, having fun, etc. and, well,
I’m not even going to tell you what it is. Just watch 10. It’s a short, short little
video. You’ll enjoy it. Until then, feel the freedom, feel the fun, feel the world. Thanks
again for watching. I hope that was helpful. Come on over to We have more
articles, more videos, barefoot comedy, and of course, our lightweight performance recreation
sandals that allow you to feel the freedom, feel the fun and feel the world.


  • There is no such thing as a "barefoot shoe". The only barefoot shoe is a barefoot. Everything else is a minimalist shoe. Shoe marketers love buzz words. Glad to hear Xero making it known that their shoes are not the same as being barefoot. Honestly builds loyalty.

  • I bought some "minimalist" running shoes for wearing at work, and I have noticed my feet don't behave the same way as when I'm bearfoot. kinda dissapointing. but I do need closed toe shoes for work so I guess I'm stuck with it. my feet have changed transition to a minimal shoe vs an over supportive shoe. the shoes I used to wear litterly killed my feet, now I'm strengthening my feet so they won't hurt so bad.

  • Where are the links to the research?

  • So true ! Took myself over a year and several so called "barefoot shoes" to figure this out. I'm still in the transition to barefoot running using diy spray-on-rubber socks which for me outperforms any commercial shoe because i can adjust the sole thickness (thinness) myself

  • Thank you.for that very informative

  • You should consider making some moosehide shoes. Minnetonka used to have a boat moc that was so comfy. Not exactly minimalist, but the sole was almost zero drop, and the moosehide was so soft my feet could splay out. Even in the wide size, you could see my outside toes pushing out the hide. Then they discontinued those, and now I'm trying their Classic mocs, not quite as comfy. But I'm looking at your shoes online and I see that strap that goes down from the laces and back to the heel. I actually tried something like that with these mocs, and it helped, but it looked like crap the way I did it. Anyway, I might give your shoes a shot even though they're not soft, soft moosehide.

  • Any thing wrong with five fingers?

  • Xero shoes horribly expensive.

  • Biggest difference between full barefoot and minimalist shoes is the fun, nothing beats feeling the ground with your feet, having said that you need something reasonable to run on or very tough feet.

  • Thanks for the awesome video. This is a informative site with lots of minimalist shoes

  • Thanks for the awesome video. Here is a informative site with lots of vegan friendly shoes

  • hi. great stuff here. you seems to know what you say. so, i want to try barefoot shoes but i read that its take a while to the body to acomodate and get used to it? so if iwant to walk longdistance or maybe do a hike, ima bit afraid? also, what about a good compromise for begginers? do you have a pair of shoes that you would advice to run walk and hike? also,what about ankle prtection with these kind of shoes? ithought it was really important to protect the feet with solid shoes? also, my podologue told me that our back needed a litle heel , is it false? because if the principle of bare foot shoes is to have the same rise on all the feet, its seems to be a total myth. im a bit lost:) thanl youuuu

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