Merrell Lithe Glove Barefoot Running Shoes

Minimalist running shoes are all the rage””depending on which circles you’re running in.

I’ve been very intrigued by crossfit shoes, but I have heard some things that have concerned me; but first, for those who have seen five-finger shoes but know little else about this curious apparel, let’s look at the technology driving the industry.

The foot is a marvelously complex machine. The bone structure from the toes to the heel and back is aligned for a very specific purpose. The muscles work in a complex harmony that keeps the body stabilized and running on a relatively small surface area. If a person’s gait promotes pronation (the foot turning inward, flattening the arch), supination (the foot arching outward), or a host of other problems, then that system is thrown off.

Zero drop shoes, minimalist running shoes, and the entire industry is based on letting the foot correct itself. The argument is that arch-supported shoes, generic inserts and heel lifts, and various other technologies in shoes are actually detrimental to a person’s foot.

And for the most part, that is true””if a person has one pronated foot and the other stands regularly, generic inserts and standard shoe technologies may accidently supinate the correct foot in an effort to fix the pronation. Make sense?

But therein lies the misconception, and it is one that actually pushed me to speak to my chiropractor: I have major back and neck issues caused by a car accident. My back problems are continued because my hips are offset. So the best way to fix my back is to fix my hips, and the way to fix the hips is through customized shoe inserts that corrected my pronation, which brings us back to minimalist running shoes.

So on good authority from the doctor, we should not worry about inserts that are customized to our foot when running. Minimalist running shoes provide an enormous amount of benefits by strengthening the foot and letting it customize its running patterns according to the way it was built to perform. But for those of us with long-lasting back and foot issues, our orthotics need a little more encouragement.

The thing to remember when looking into minimalist running shoes is that the technology is built to strength muscles in your foot that go unused in contemporary running shoes. They are built to improve strength, not speed. If you, like me, have to deal with specialized orthotics, let me dispel the misconception: personalized inserts will do as much for your foot as this new breed of cross trainers. When in doubt, follow the doctor’s orders.

Jared Heath is a full-time writer whose recent interest in zero drop and minimalist shoes simply could not be contained. When he’s not writing (or righting?) the exercise wrongs, he adores spending time with his wife.