Barefoot running has gained a relatively small but fervent following in recent years, inspiring a Barefoot Runners Society and the third-annual International Barefoot Running Day this past weekend. Its reputation for improving technique and preventing injuries may be up for debate, but there’s one undeniable benefit of running unshod: You don’t have to buy new shoes. (Predictably, footwear companies have countered the trend with oxymoronic “barefoot running shoes.”) If you prefer a bit more cushioning between you and the asphalt, you can find comfortable, breathable, lightweight shoes from respected brands starting at $65.
Below are the top picks from Cheapism.com for both men and women.
- The Saucony Kinvara 3 (starting at $65) is a durable and justifiably popular shoe, according to expert and consumer reviews. It’s lightweight and flexible, yet it provides ample support, with memory foam heel pods and proprietary cushioning technology. (Where to buy)
- The Saucony Guide 6 (starting at $100), a stability shoe, is best for people whose feet tend to roll inward somewhat when they run. Many online reviewers are longtime fans of the line and give it credit for helping refine their stride and alleviate pain. (Where to buy)
- The Asics Gel-Blur33 2.0 (starting at $68) features gel and memory foam for shock absorption, a sock-like liner, and flashy color combinations. Reviewers note that the shoe seems to run about a half-size small and a bit wide in the heel but proves comfortable if you can find the right fit. (Where to buy)
- The Brooks PureConnect 2 (starting at $90) is the lightest and most minimalist shoe on the list, weighing in between 5.2 ounces and 7.2 ounces, depending on size and gender. An unusual design isolates the big toe to give runners a better feel for the road. Even reviewers who initially had reservations about the split toe have found that it gives them a more powerful stride. (Where to buy)
Before you buy, try this test from Runners World to help determine the right type of shoe for your foot: Pour some water onto a baking sheet and wet the sole of your foot, then plant it on a paper grocery bag (or just step purposefully onto a bath mat the next time you get out of the shower). Compare your print with the examples provided to find out if you have normal arches, high arches, or flat feet.
Most people with normal arches can wear any of the shoes listed above. A high arch encourages the foot to roll outward, a motion known as supination or underpronation. So-called supinators should opt for a neutral shoe like the Saucony Kinvara 3, Asics Gel-Blur33 2.0, or Brooks PureConnect 2, rather than a stability shoe like the Saucony Guide 6. That model suits runners with flatter feet who are vulnerable to overpronation. Severe overpronators may want to try a motion-control shoe like the Brooks Addiction 10. It starts at $110, but we’ve seen the women’s version listed for $65.
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