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What to look for in barefoot trail running shoes

Updated on August 19, 2013

Here are a few tips to help you find the best buy for the trails

Does the barefoot trail running shoe have a flat sole?

A flat sole is a key component of barefoot running shoes. The heel to toe drop, is the difference in the thickness of the sole under the heel compared to its thickness under the toe. Ideally this drop is zero, which promotes better running form by encouraging you to land on your forefoot. Most shoes today have a drop of 12 millimeters, while the drops in minimalist shoes are usually much less.

What is the shoe made of?

In a market full of companies touting how minimal their shoes are, durability also becomes an issue. Will a thinner sole last long enough to be worth buying? Research the life expectancy of the brands youâre considering. I have found that even though Nike spends more money on shoe research than all other shoe companies combined. There model of barefoot shoes call Nike Free, have held up the worst. In fact they typically last 200+ miles less than Merrell or New Balance.

How much does your shoe weigh? Silly question right! Now in the minimalist shoe market.

Weight is another factor to consider. Most barefoot running shoes fall in the 5 to 6 ounce (141 to 170 gram) range, which is lighter than the average running shoe. Most runners donât need to worry too much about an ounce here or there, but if you want to replicate the barefoot feeling, then the lighter your shoes, the easier it is to convince your feet theyâre naked.

Make sure to test your shoes before taking the purchasing plunge.

Try to test run different brands of barefoot running shoes before buying. For a lot of us, thatâs easier said than done; specialty running stores aren't always accessible. If youâre stuck ordering online be sure to follow any fitting guides associated with your shoes.

Note -> Exercise caution with any minimalist shoe on your first several runs.

Some companies offer insole inserts with their product lines to help runners successfully make the transition from traditional running shoes to barefoot running. These inserts allow you to decrease the shoeâs arch support as your foot gains strength. If a product line offers these inserts, youâre likely to have greater success transitioning to minimalist running.

Below are three shoe makes and specific models that I have ran in personally. I gave brief barefoot running shoe review for each of them.

Merrell Trail Glove 2 Review - Voted #1 by Myself, my dad, and several of my patients

Since I own my own business that is in a health conscious niche, I get the luxury of wearing these shoes every day. I also run in them as well (but a different pair ;) ). The Merrell Trail Glove 2 is by far my favorite minimalist shoe I have ever bought and had the opportunity to run in. Since I have a wider foot I was a little nervous to wear these at first, but I am sooooo glad that I bought these. I have had fewer running injuries since wearing these on longer runs than any other shoe I have used. I would highly recommend them to anyone looking at getting a great minimalist shoe with a great support.

New Balance Minimus Trail Running Shoe Review - Voted #2 by Myself and all my Crossfit patients

If you are like me and have a wide foot I would recommend going with a new balance minimalist style shoe. The Minimus is probably the closest shoe you can get to not wear anything. The shoe itself doesn't appear to be made of great quality material, but I can assure you that the shoe has help up form me over the past seven months. So if you have a wider foot that didn't fit into the Merrell Trail Glove (my number one choice) I would go with the Minimus

Vivobarefoot Ultra Running Review - Voted #3 by Myself and my brother

The main reason I want to purchase these was that I wanted have more all weather pair of barefoot running shoes. The shoes themselves look a little funky when compared to my Merrell Trail Glove 2. But I am surprised to say that they have pretty decent padding. The Vivobarefoot for me are bulkier than the previous two models I talked about as well. As far as running goes they are comfortable and actually performed well even on longer runs of 6+ miles. Overall I think this shoe is more for runners who have been running in barefoot shoes for awhile now.

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Other Trail Barefoot Running Shoes

Merrell Men's Barefoot Trail Glove,Drizzle,10.5 M US
Merrell Men's Barefoot Trail Glove,Drizzle,10.5 M US

My original trail running model. Best trail shoe had before I upgraded to newer model.

New Balance Women's Minimus WT10 Trail Running Shoe,Grey/Blue,10 B US
New Balance Women's Minimus WT10 Trail Running Shoe,Grey/Blue,10 B US

several patients of mine have had these and love them


Have you running any of these three models? What are your thoughts on them?

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