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So you might have seen that I was on NBC Chicago the other day, pimping out my Chicago Marathon team and helping to demonstrate some barefoot running techniques. But I have a confession to make… I’m not actually a barefoot runner… yet.

I’ve thought about taking the plunge many times, but I’ve never actually buckled down and bought the weird shoes, toe socks, or endless literature that can accompany a barefoot lifestyle. I know I have nothing to be afraid of. After all, THREE of the Tribe James runners are experienced bare-footers (Erin, Kyle and Mom… I’m looking at you!). And I know how to make the switch from regular to barefoot in a healthy and safe way.  So what’s the deal? Why can’t I make the switch? Do I even want to make the switch?

I do.

I love that barefoot running strengthens your foot rather than protecting it like normal shoes. I love that you are relying on your own body and your own stride, and that you can be so connected to the road. But what attracts me most to barefoot shoes, is the fact that you can really feel what’s happening to your feet. The danger with normal shoes is that, if you’re hurt, you are less likely to notice that your stride is continually beating on the injured area. Think of it as boxing with a broken finger. If you pop a glove over the injury, you’ll be able to continue hitting… but your finger will still be broken. If you can’t feel exactly where it hurts, how can you find the root of the problem?

I’m definitely not saying that barefoot running is for everybody. It isn’t. But I think it’s time I gave it a shot. So this week I’m going out to test drive a few options in minimalist footwear. Here are a few pairs I’m pretty interested in trying:

Barefoot Run Dash Glove by Merrell

This is a shoe that will need to be broken in sloooowly. The zero-support Vibram sole lets your feet land completely flat in a run, and that could equal major pain if I jump into things too quickly. But I like the fact that this is a true barefoot shoe… and while it’s a little pricey for me ($110), the fact that it comes in my signature (and lucky) neon yellow makes me want to splurge on them.

Lightweight Neutral Trainer by Newton

I know, I know… this looks NOTHING like a barefoot shoe. But that’s because it technically isn’t. Newton has been promoting “Natural” running forever, and they really know what they’re doing. Instead of an un-cushioned sole, Newton sculpts their shoes to emphasize a forefoot landing. This will train your body to move in a more natural stride. Since I’ve never attempted barefoot running before, I’m thinking the Newton’s could be a great first step in getting my body ready for minimalist running. However, the $155 price tag is tough to justify. Ouch.

Free Run + 2 by Nike

Yeah, I’m going to try these, but I honestly have some low expectations. I don’t have anything against Nike… In fact, I’ve always sort of stood up for them in terms of running gear. They really do have some great products and I’ve been running in their Lunar Racer for the past 3 years. But I just can’t get over the face that this “minimalist” shoe has so much cushioning. I’m including it in my list though, because I think it could be a good transition shoe for me. The super flexible forefoot also helps build up the small muscles in the foot we rarely use in normal shoes, so we’ll see… I do love the fact that you can completely customize these babies. So maybe something like this? I like.

What do you think of the barefoot “trend?” What shoe would you suggest for someone like me who is finally ready to transition?

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