Hopefully I don’t have to explain the irony of a term such as “barefoot running shoes” or any other kind of “barefoot shoe” for that matter. The term “barefoot running shoe” has become the common term for referring to minimalist shoes. (Minimalist is perhaps not the best term for referring to this style of shoe either, but certainly more accurate than barefoot). This mixed up terminology is muddling the conversation surrounding barefoot running. I too, have often been guilty of talking about “barefoot running shoes.” As a barefoot/minimalist running columnist I am constantly find myself clarifying whether I am referring to “barefoot running” with shoes, or “barefoot running” without shoes.
Those that actually run barefoot, no shoes, feel particularly strong about this confusing conundrum. This is understandable, as running barefoot is not the same as running in Vibram Five Fingers, and it is certainly a far cry from running in other shoes, such as Nike Free, that claim “barefoot shoe” status.
So, with the obvious irony in this oxymoron, why do people continue to refer to minimalist running as barefoot running. I really don’t know how the phrase got started. I assume it has something to do with Christopher MacDougal’s best selling book, Born to Run, in which the character Barefoot Ted runs ultra marathons in his Vibram Five Fingers.
So with all the information on the internet why are people still talking about “Barefoot Shoes?” In part, the internet perpetuates the problem. I myself, recognizing the inaccuracies in the term from the very beginning have been known to use it. Why? Though it is not proper terminology, it is common terminology. This means that a large majority of people interested in information about minimalist footwear will open the Google homepage and search for “barefoot running shoes.” Though they really mean Minimalist footwear, Google does not know the difference. In fact there is a pretty good chance that you stumbled upon this article because you searched for “barefoot running shoes.” In short an article about “barefoot running shoes” will be read much more often than an article about “minimalist running shoes” even if they are the same shoe.
So what is the best terminology? Minimalist shoes are closer to the mark, however, the term is still rather ironic as “minimalist shoes” can cost upward of $160, making it hardly fit within a minimalist lifestyle. Other ideas include “natural running shoes,” and “forefoot running shoes.”
What do you think about the term “barefoot running shoes?” Leave your comments below.