My Barefoot Challenge

by Jon Porcasi

Barefoot running is a trend that quickly picked up speed, a few years back. Basically it is running in a way that mimics being barefoot by either running without shoes, or running in a pair of thin-soled shoes. Being a devout runner I have always wanted to try this technique, to see what it’s all about.

Many have claimed that the magic in barefoot running comes from what it forces your body to do. Normally when a person runs in sneakers they strike the ground with their heel first, which can cause damage and more stress to the foot. With barefoot running, the technique forces the body to strike the ground forefoot first, keeping the runner on their toes, literally.

With any fitness trend comes the negative backlash. While many runners who have experienced barefoot running say they are comfortable with the change, there are some runners who are naturally rearfoot strikers, and as a result they have a hard time adapting to this method. For them barefoot running can lead to a higher risk of puncture wounds, infection and other injuries, which is why most podiatrists suggest incorporating it into your routine, but not necessarily changing over completely.

I decided to try a few different brands that are dabbling in this trend while I was on my Summer vacation, aboard the Explorer of the Seas:

SKORA Phase-X:

Look and Design: 5 out of 5

Of the three brands I tested, I thought SKORA had the coolest look to them. They are hyper-reflective, which makes them perfect for night running. They also have a no-tongue design, which reduces stress on the top of your foot.

Comfort: 3.5 out of 5

I found the Phase-X to be very comfortable. They are very lightweight, and have a sock-like quality making them very easy to use (and store for when you are traveling).

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Although they are not quite as different from traditional sneakers as I would have hoped, I would definitely use them in my daily routine. They were very lightweight and comfortable, perfect for many different types of runners. Performance-wise I thought they held up very well and didn’t leave me feeling any post workout soreness.

XERO Shoes, Amuri Cloud:

Look and Design: 3.5 out of 5

At first glance I thought the Amuri Cloud looked quite strange for a shoe because of their shape, but after putting them on I didn’t think they looked as weird. They are worn like sandals, but definitely have a lot more support to them then traditional flip-flops. With XERO Shoes you must really follow the instructions on the website and measure your foot accordingly before committing to buying a pair, since they are made to size. After measuring my foot I learned my true shoe size wasn’t a 10.5, but a 9.5-which kinda blew my mind.

Comfort: 3.5 out of 5

I found the Amuri Cloud to be very comfortable for a sandal, but I definitely felt that running in them takes getting used to. I will say that I did notice an instant change in my form when I did run in them. I felt more attuned and alert to each step as I ran, and felt like they were forcing me to run more on the balls of my feet.

Overall: 3.5 out of 5

These were probably the closest to straight-up barefoot running. I found the experience to be a lot easier then I had expected, though I don’t think it is something I would do on the daily basis.

SoftStar Shoes, RunAMoc:

Look and Design: 2 out of 5

These shoes were not my favorite. I wasn’t a huge fan of the color, and the fit was very strange-they felt almost a little too small to size. The look of them almost reminded me of bowling shoes, though I will say they were very flexible and easy to store.

Comfort: 3 out of 5

The RunAMocs were fairly comfortable, though I think if I got a larger size my foot would have been in a better place. These shoes were more of a crossover between SKORA and XERO. They weren’t as sneaker-like as the SKORA’s, but I didn’t get the barefoot feel I got when I ran in XEROs.

Overall: 2.5 out of 5

These were probably my least favorite of the three. I didn’t quite get the barefoot feel I was hoping for, and I felt that the top of my foot had a lot of pressure coming from the tongue of the shoe.

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