Toning shoes are currently enjoying a massive rise in popularity, with men and women attracted by the highly comfortable design and excellent underfoot padding. However another class of shoes is also becoming highly sought after, and in terms of padding, they are at the other end of the scale. Barefoot shoes take away all of the cushioning for which toning shoes, and indeed modern sneakers, are famed and return the body to a much more natural way of moving.
Modern shoes aim to cushion and protect the feet, however in doing so they often restrict movement, promoting a heavier heel strike and reducing the flexibility and movement. Toning shoes go some way to correct this, promoting a natural and healthy roll, akin to walking barefoot in soft sand; a much more natural way of walking for which humans were designed.
However with barefoot shoes, all of the EVA cushioning is removed, and what is left is little more than a protective rubber outsole for traction and protection from stones and spikes. Whilst this may sound like a painful way of walking, with no heel cushioning and little protection, the opposite is the case. When walking barefoot, the posture changes, with the ball of the foot becoming the major weight bearing part of the foot. The flatter landing reduces the pressures and forces acting on the feet and bones for a highly comfortable exercise session. The shockwaves are better absorbed, and the landing is less forceful, and is actually highly comfortable once your feet become conditioned to the new way of walking.
Barefoot shoes offer an ultra snug fit, almost like a second skin, and there are few shoes more comfortable to wear. So snug and natural is the fit, that many people forget they even have them on their feet.
The major brands are Vivo Barefoot and Vibram FiveFingers, the latter featuring shoes with a separate compartment for each toe. These five fingered shoes help to give the maximum traction, making them ideal for water sports, and are great for a more natural and healthier run. For off road running over soft ground, there are few better shoes to give the feet a thorough workout.