The first barefoot shoe that came out, or the first shoe that people thought of as a barefoot running shoe, was the Nike Free and I got a pair of those. This was a good 10-plus years ago and it was miraculous. The sole was flexible in such a way that you would walk and you would actually feel the undulations of the ground in a way that you never felt before. It was incredible, it’s also perhaps the bestselling barefoot-inspired minimalist shoe ever made. People don’t wear it just for running – people wear it casually. They wear it to the office. They wear it to the gym. They wear it just for walking around. It’s just an admittedly seemingly comfortable shoe.
Once I started going truly barefoot and truly minimalist and once I started making and wearing Xero Shoes, I put on my Nike Free again and I was dumbstruck because it has a really high heel, which can offset your posture. It has quite a bit of arch support, which frankly I don’t need, and support is mostly unnecessary if you use your foot naturally.
Let’s take a moment to consider the arch of your foot. It’s a very strong, stable, structure. It doesn’t need extra support. In fact, when you put extra support on this structure, it makes the whole thing weaker. If you push up on the keystone of an arch, the whole arch falls down. Support is highly misunderstood.
This was the first sole that was really flexible, but it’s not nearly flexible as something that you get from Xero Shoes where you can really feel the ground. Now, if you’re worried about feeling too much, that’s okay because we have soles of different thicknesses. We have a 4-millimeter Connect sole and that’s really close to barefoot. The thicker sole that we use in our 6-millimeter Contact do-it-yourself kit or on the Venture gives you more trail protection. Then the 10-millimeter FeelLite™ sole that we have on our Z-Trail, it gives you an amazing amount of protection in something that weighs next to nothing and is still crazy, crazy flexible. Comparatively, there’s whole different layer of flexibility that you get from Xero Shoes compared to the Nike Free.
I’ve gotten so used to the freedom that you feel in a sandal that I can’t really wear that shoe comfortably anymore. While the forefoot is nice and wide in the Nike Free, it’s got a pointy toe and my toes aren’t pointy. So be attentive to when someone uses the phrase “barefoot shoe” for something where they’re saying it gives you the fun and benefits of being barefoot, but when you look at it logically you have to kind of go, “I’m not so sure.”
Speaking of Nike shoes, we refer to our sandals as huaraches, inspired by the Tarahumara huaraches that they make out of tire tread and a piece of leather and some leather lace. Our sandals were inspired by those. Nike has a product called the Air Huarache and if you look it up, it doesn’t look anything like a sandal, doesn’t look anything like what the Tarahumara would wear. I don’t know why the name works but you might find some confusion with that when you look up huarache and see the Nike Huarache, and it’s certainly not something like our sandals or definitely not something like a traditional huarache.
Just use your brain. I trust that you’re smart enough to figure out the gap between reality and marketing. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. We’re just here to help.