I know that “barefoot running shoes” sounds like an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp.
I mean if you’re running barefoot, then, by definition, you aren’t, wearing shoes. Right?
Okay, let me explain.
Barefoot running is hot right now. Ever since Chris McDougall’s book, Born to Run, about the Tarahumara Indians who ran (and won) ultra-marathons either barefoot or wearing huarraches — simple running sandals they often constructed out of old tires and twine, more and more people are interested in barefoot running. People, myself included, were transfixed by the stories of Caballo Blanco (the “white horse”) and Barefoot Ted, who got rid of their regular running shoes and ran barefoot or in Mexican running sandals instead.
In Born to Run, Chris talks about how he had tons of injuries until he started barefoot running.
Dozens of newspapers have printed articles about bare foot running, with pro- and con- discussions about whether this is good for you or not — those in favor saying that it’s more natural and will not only eliminate running injuries but heal old ones, and the ‘con’ camp saying running without shoes could be stressful on your feet and calves.
By the way, my experience is that if you go slow at first and don’t do too much, it’s really fine — certainly not more than running in shoes. And, I also had some old calf problems that, after a month of running barefoot, are completely eliminated.
Bare foot running is wonderful. It’s tons of fun, it changes how you run to a more efficient technique, it’s wonderful to not be wrapped up in socks and shoes… and it can screw you up in a big way if you accidentally step on something (which, so you know, happens WAY less often than you might imagine… in fact, less often than the amount of times I would trip on something when out for a run in my racing shoes).
Or, sometimes you want to run on a surface that, well, isn’t a great place to being without shoes.
And so now we have to talk about huarache running sandals, or barefoot running shoes.
Barefoot running sandals – huarache – give you the benefits of being barefoot, with the protection that will protect you from getting cut up if you step on something by accident.
Huaraches are really pretty simple: some sort of sole, and something to hold that sole onto the bottom of your foot.
Regarding soles, I’ve seen cardboard, carpet, leather, rubber, even your basic beach flip-flop bottom. A cool, high-tech variation, if you can find it, is Vibram Cherry material. It’s quite flexible but it also gives you great protection.
Regarding the lacing, you can try nylon cord, hemp twine, latigo leather or any other cord that’s strong but flexible. There are a couple of different tying styles: one stylelooks like it goes to a toga party, the other is less, oh, odd-looking and lets you slip-on and slip-off your huaraches without having to re-tie them.
Another barefoot-ish option — not exactly a running sandal, but important to mention — is called Vibram Five Finger shoes (yes, the same Vibram from the soles I mentioned earlier). These are like gloves for your feet, with little sections for each toe.
The Vibram Five Fingers are okay, but they don’t let your feet be as free as huaraches. Also, they don’t fit my feet quite well, plus the soles are noticeably thicker and more structured compared to the huarache sandals.
Huaraches are the next best thing there is to actually being barefoot, other than somehow putting a flexible but impervious layer of some magical material directly onto your foot.