Are you thinking about buying a pair of “barefoot-running” shoes, like those introduced this week by Adidas, but wonder if they really live up to the hype? We asked our exercise experts what they think of the suddenly popular trend.
Barefoot running shoes—which have thin rubber soles that fit over feet like gloves, with a slot for each toe—allow you to run with the same mechanics as if you were barefoot. And they offer some protection from abrasions, punctures, and stubbed toes. But it's unclear whether the barefoot-running style—in which you're more likely to land on the balls of your feet than the heels—offers any advantages.
In theory, it could lead to less hip and knee twisting and have less of an impact on joints. But it might also lead to shorter strides, making feet strike the ground more often and causing more cumulative stress. And switching to a barefoot stride might by itself cause accident or injury. So our experts say there's no clear advantage to either style.
Bottom line: If you want to try barefoot running, start slowly to see if it's comfortable. If not, stick with a good pair of regular running shoes.