Barefoot shoes may refer to several different types of shoes that simulate walking or even running barefoot. The shoes that seem to be most discussed are made by the company Vibram, and may be marketed in several styles called Vibram Five Fingers®. There are many favorable reviews of these thin-soled shoes that use a special product called Vibram TC-1 rubber on the sole. The shoes fit tightly around the foot, conforming to the foot’s contours and create freedom of movement. What’s most notable about these shoes is that they have individual toe holes; this makes them appear fairly unusual, and likely not the first choice with a cocktail dress or tuxedo.
Nevertheless, there are many advocates of the barefoot movement, but the trouble with walking around in bare feet, or running, is that the ground may have stones, glass, or other small obstacles that can injure the feet. Other shoe companies like Nike® have jumped on the bandwagon of creating barefoot shoes of various types that give the feel of being barefoot without hazarding the dangers of injuring the feet. People who are fans of barefoot running enjoy Vibram and Nike’s products, with a slightly higher population purchasing Vibram’s shoes to get the patented Five Finger design.
There have been some studies that support the claimed health benefits of being barefoot. In areas where people routinely walk barefoot, foot health is better than for those who walk with shoes on. Poorly fitting shoes and the artificial way the foot is positioned in many different shoes can change the way you walk, the way you strike with your heel and even your posture. Some claims exist that barefoot shoes strengthen the feet and naturalize the posture, resulting in fewer back and alignment problems and fewer problems with the feet.
This is not the case for everyone who tries out barefoot shoes. Though they may be great for strolling on the beach or even jumping in the water, some runners, especially with heel problems like plantar fasciitis find them difficult to wear. Since they provide no arch support and no cushioning, running in barefoot shoes on hard surfaces like concrete may exacerbate existing foot problems.
Vibram and other companies are gaining steam in creating trendy and perhaps healthier for the feet footwear with barefoot shoes. Of course, going barefoot was never quite this expensive before, and most of Vibram’s shoes cost at least $80 US Dollars (USD). They are, however, machine washable, and many attest to their durability and they do have a lot of fans. People who run, mountain climb, beachcomb, participate in various water sports, and many who just like the sensation of walking barefoot claim these shoes are extremely comfortable. Time Magazine called Vibram’s products one of the best new inventions of 2007, and other shoe companies are struggling to catch up with Vibram, though they have to create shoes that don’t violate the Vibram’s patents.