Yesterday in part one (click here to read), I introduced barefoot footwear and reviewed one of the major brands on the market. Today, I will review the other major brand's product and a potentially surprising alternative.

  • VivoBarefoot – The second major player in the barefootwear community, VivoBarefoot's shoes look much less like feet and much more like regular trainers. Instead of individual toe compartments, their trainers boast a wide forefoot to allow toe splay – this is the spreading of the toes that occurs with a barefoot when it is flat against the floor supporting the body's weight (this is restricted by the shape of many shoes). The collection of shoes available includes thin soles of varying thickness that all have the zero heel-to-toe differential meaning the timing of foot contact remains intact. To help prevent the thin soles puncturing easily from sharp objects or maybe gunfire, they include a kevlar weave in all soles. VivoBarefoot also claim that the sole material gives very little bounce to the wearer's stride when compared with Fivefingers which means you walk and run more like you would if barefoot. Some Vivo models are described as amphibious and have an outer plastic shoe that houses an inner wetsuit like slipper that I love to wear by themselves.

  • Standard plimsolls/pumps/sandshoes – A few years ago, I needed a plain black trainer quickly for a job I was doing. Knowing that I wouldn't wear them again, I grabbed a cheap pair of black plimsolls. One day after that job, I had forgotten my trainers for the gym and chose to see how the plimsolls held up. I never looked back. Plimsolls are ultra lightweight and flexible, their thin sole gives you a superb feel of the ground and the pair I have bought came in at less than 10% of the full price cost of a pair of Fivefingers or VivoBarefoots.

To sum up my opinions on the main benefits of the three:

  • Vibram Fivefingers give you toe separation that allows you to remember that your toes are important parts of your feet and their lower profile models give great feel of the ground.

  • VivoBarefoots are very comfortable, durable shoes with zero differential and room for toe splay that don't make you look as crazy as the Fivefingers do.

  • Plimsolls are lightweight and give great flexibility and feel for less than 10% of the price, albeit less fashionably.

Having walked a good fraction of a mile on concrete yesterday barefoot, my personal experience tells me that these barefoot trainers have helped condition my feet to do this a little but not much. You will only learn to tolerate barefoot walking and running by doing it regularly in a progressive manner. This of course comes with risks of superficial damage to your feet. My girlfriend can jog barefoot on gravel with ease (with no lasting effect) and has had the battle-nicks to earn this.

Being able to barefoot run with ease indicates that a person is skeletally and muscularly well organised but does that mean that barefoot running can have the effect of improving this organisation in an person? In a great book on the barefoot running culture called 'Born To Run' by Christopher McDougall, he says so having dedicated a substantial amount of time to learning the art through training over an extended period of time. Having only dabbled in actual barefoot walking and running over the last year, I am not qualified to say yet but  My suspicion from what I have read, seen and done so far is that going barefoot regularly and being able to run and do other challenging activities without footwear will give somebody more athletic freedom. I'm interested to see how far this athletic freedom can expand without further specialist training taking place.

Barefoot shoes are comfortable shoes that will help your athleticism...a little.

 

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 My Vivobarefoot amphibious outers. Barefoot trainers bridge the gap between regular trainers and barefooting.

My Vivobarefoot amphibious outers. Barefoot trainers bridge the gap between regular trainers and barefooting.