General knowledge has it that running and walking barefoot can be better for you for a multitude of reasons. It’s the natural way, after all. Several shoe companies have designed so-called ‘barefoot’ shoes that aim to provide modern foot protection with the benefits of a more minimal and comfortable shoe. Unfortunately, most of those shoe designs look like foot-gloves and, let’s face it, make you look pretty weird if you are wearing them in any situation where you aren’t actually running. Some of those five-fingered shoes are also mostly made for running or walking on smooth surfaces, not on hiking trails or in urban environments–for better durability you will have to pay extra.
Merrell has recently introduced three new styles of Barefoot shoes ($110-$120) that offer specific designs depending on your environment as well as a full-toe design that is more acceptable in public than its split-toe counterparts. The new shoes are offered in ‘tough’ for urban wear, ‘trail’ for rugged environments (above), and ‘true’ for an all-around barefoot shoe. The brand claims that the Barefoot shoes will help improve posture and balance, connect you better to the terrain, and strengthen your feet and leg muscles. Vibram outsoles give the shoes good grip while a super lightweight upper ensure the ‘barefoot’ feel. Features like the brand’s Omni-Fit lacing system and rear leather foot sling give the shoes a glove-like fit. There is more information on the Merrell site about the benefits of wearing Barefoot shoes and the science behind the design.