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Barefoot Running: Here to Stay?

Have you tried “barefoot running”? This movement attracts lots of press and has inspired a new breed of minimalist running shoes. But is it right for you?

Barefoot running (Merrell)A new REI Expert Advice article, How to Choose Minimalist Shoes (Barefoot Running), can guide you to the answer. Written by longtime runner Linda Ellingsen, it explores the origins of the minimalist phenomenon pioneered by the Vibram FiveFingers shoes (pictured). You’ll get an overview of midfoot striking, which is promoted by minimalist shoes, versus the heel striking that’s associated with traditional running shoes. If you’re a runner, you’ll want to check this out.

For another perspective, read author/photographer Dudley Edmondson’s blog. Dudley lives and runs in Duluth, Minn., where runners need to be hardy to even consider wearing minimalist shoes at this time of year.

Looking for more tips on outdoor gear or activities? The REI Expert Advice section includes more than 300 educational articles and dozens of how-to videos. Topics range from avalanche basics to how to choose a water filter or purifier. Take a look. It’s one more way REI is trying to make the outdoors more accessible for everyone.

Posted on at 2:12 PM

Tagged: Expert Advice, Vibram FiveFingers, barefoot running, minimalist shoes, natural motion running and rei

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I tried running with nothing on my feet once and that will be the last time. I did 1 mile and was in terrible pain the day after. I dont know if it was because i had nothing on or because it wall pavement i was running on but it was a terrible experience.

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I am by no means an expert, but have been running minimally since the beginning of the year. The most important thing is that you need to ease into it very carefully. The muscles and connecting tissue in your feet ankles and lower legs are not used to this type of motion and stress. An adjustment period of 2-8 weeks is normal from what I understand. Second, you need to make sure to adjust your stride so that you aren't doing the 'traditional' heel strike that most of us are used to.

I think that if regular heel striking is working for people, then they probably don't need to switch, but I personally think that minimalist has worked for me so far (only about 6 weeks).


one mile is a long way to go barefoot if you've never done it before.


I am definitely a fan of barefoot running. I couldn't run for a year because of problems with my knee but once I went barefoot I hardly felt the pain anymore.


Talell makes a very good point. Transitioning to barefoot or minimalist running (they are NOT the same thing, BTW) needs to be a gradual, careful process. It's not just a 'take off the shoes and hit the road' process. Start slowly. A quarter mile, then half, then one, so on and so on. Wear minimalist shoes for your everyday adventures. You need to strengthen the key muscles and tendons in your feet, ankles and calves in order to run this way pain free. And, form is very important. If you take away the padding on the heels of your shoes, and still run with a heel-first strike, you're going to absorb a huge amount of impact into your heel. That will reverberate up through knees, hips, back - and it's going to hurt. As you transition into minimalist footwear, learn how to land first on your mid-foot or the ball of your foot. It may feel odd at first - lean forward, and consult good training sources like POSE or CHI methods. Pay attention to how you roll through your foot when you're walking barefoot, and try to replicate that when you walk in minimalist shoes. Same with running - think about landing mid-foot and lean forward so that it happens. Slow down when you do this - you'll sacrifice some speed at first but the rewards are certainly there.

We posted some information about transitioning from Dr. Mark Cucuzzella at - it may be of some use.

This is really simplified, but it comes down to the basics - minimalist footwear is good for you and it feels good, but it is different and you need to give your body time to learn this just like anything else.


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