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Barefoot Running Shoes

Best Barefoot and Minimal Running Shoes

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Updated March 04, 2011

If you are interested in joining the barefoot running movement, consider starting with one of these minimal or barefoot running shoes. The following barefoot and minimal shoes are popular among experienced barefoot runners.

1. Vibram FiveFingers

Vibram FiveFingers
photo (c) Pricegrabber
The original barefoot shoe that literally fits your foot like a glove. These shoes encourage a more natural gait whether you are walking or running. As you begin running in FiveFingers you will automatically adopt a forefoot or midfoot strike and avoid the heel strike you may have used while wearing thick, cushioned running shoes.

2. Merrell Barefoot Glove

Merrell Barefoot Glove
photo courtesy of PriceGrabber
Merrell joined the Vibram sole with their own version of a minimal shoe to come up with the Merrell Barefoot Glove. Designed with a bit of protection, a natural feel and a barely there upper, the glove helps you transition to barefoot running but still looks like a shoe. Versions for Women include the Pace, and Men's versions include the
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3. Terra Plana Vivo

Terra Plana Vivo
photo courtesy of PriceGrabber
If price is no object, the Terra Plana offers the $150.00+ Vivo barefoot shoe. These 'barely there shoes are lightweight and breathable but offer a very thin, puncture-resistant sole for basic protection, without the structure or form of other shoes. As far as aesthetics, this is one of the better-looking barefoot shoes currently available.
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4. New Balance Minimus and 101 Trail Running Shoes

New Balance 101 Minimal Trail Running Shoes
photo courtesy of PriceGrabber
New Balance offers two minimal shoe versions. The New Balance 101 Minimal Trail Running Shoe is a good choice for getting barefoot shoe enthusiasts who like off road and trail runs. The new Minimus line offers a variety of shoes inspired by the barefoot trend. You can find shoes for road running, trail running, and every day wear in the Minimus lineup. All NB Minimus shoes have a 4mm drop from heel to toe rather than the 12mm drop found in a typical shoe.
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5. ZEMgear

ZEMgear's moto is "Performance Protection for Bare Feet." Zemgear makes minimal footwear that allows you to move your feet naturally. The original Zem was designed for use in the sand. These booties have 4-way stretch Lycra uppers & soft molded rubber bottoms. For runners, watch for the ZEM O2, a barefoot training shoe, and ZEM 360, a super-lightweight barefoot running shoe.
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6. The Nike Free Run+

The Nike Free Run+
photo (c) Pricegrabber
But if you aren't quite ready for the next-to-nothing feel of minimal shoes, the Nike Free offers something in between minimal and traditional shoes. The Nike Free is lightweight and extremely flexible, but it does have a significant heel drop and quite a bit of cushion. It's a good transition shoe, but most barefoot purists won't be big fans of the Free.
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7. Mizuno Wave Universe 3

Mizuno Wave Universe 3
photo courtesy of PriceGrabber
Mizuno Wave Universe 3 is another good transition shoe. It's extremely light, at 3.8 ounces, offers minimal cushioning, and a relatively small heel drop. This version of the shoe has a more durable outsole that holds up longer and has a bit more structure than previous versions.
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8. Altra Adam | Eve

Altra offers the Adam for men and the Eve for women. These minimal shoes are designed for a true barefoot feel. They also come with various optional insoles so you can get the perfect fit and amount of cushion for every activity. This running shoe has zero heel drop for the ultimate barefoot feeling.
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