Sport Innovation/Barefoot Running Shoes
Since the introduction of the traditional running shoe in the 1970's (Lieberman, et al., 2010), footwear manufacturers have claimed to accommodate specifically for every foot; motion control for low arches, cushioning for high arches and stability for normal arches (Rixe, Gallo, & Silvis, 2012). This has been achieved through fancy air-pocket and gel sacks, to cushioned soles and "motion control" technology (Collier, 2011; Rixe, Gallo, & Silvis; Ryan 2010).
Despite these advances, the prevalence of running injuries, especially to the hips, knees and ankles, have increased (Kerrigan, et al., 2009; McGregor & Wallack, 2011). It has been suggested that it was Christopher McDougall's 2009 "Born To Run" book which started the barefoot-running craze (Bates, 2012; McGregor & Wallack). Since then, a number of barefoot shoes have hit the market offering a safe alternative to the latest shoe technology, whilst still providing the benefit of protection to uneven terrains, adverse weather conditions and outright dangerous surfaces that running unshod exposes runners to (Ryan, 2010). Some of these innovative footwear include Vibram FiveFingers, Merrell Barefoot Shoes and Kigo Footwear.
Popular Barefoot Running Shoes
Hitting the market in 2006, the Vibram FiveFinger (Figure 1) was the first (and remains the most popular) barefoot running shoe, even winning Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2007 (www.barefootrunningshoes.org). Vibram FiveFingers remain unlike any other running footwear with their trademark individual toe compartments and thin, flat surface consisting of numerous components allowing greater flexibility, ROM and high traction. Producing 36 styles for men, women and kids, Vibram have ensured that every individual and their desired sport or recreation is catered for (www.vibram.com).
Merrell's Barefoot Shoes (Figure 2) offer everything from barefoot running and water sports footwear, to sandals and hiking boots. Like Vibram, they cater specifically for men, women and children, with a range of laced, slip-on and strapped styles. Interestingly, Merrell use Vibram soles, although only in one continuous surface.
Kigo Footwear (Figure 3) simply provide a unisex barefoot running shoe with a wide toe box, toe cap protection and extreme flexibility mimicking natural foot movement. Kigo Footwear is extremely lightweight, weighing no more than five ounces each and utilises only recycled materials.
The above barefoot running products feature most, if not all, of the following: waterproof, windproof, UV protection, insulation, ventilation and quick-dry materials.
N.B. For this article, a distinction between barefoot running shoes and minimalist running shoes is made with barefoot running shoes providing zero drop between the heel and the ball of the foot.