Vibram FiveFingers are made out of polyester mesh and rubber. Huaraches, sandals worn by the Tarahumara in Born to Run, are made from recycled car tires. And now we can add PaleoBarefoots to the list, which are made from chainmail — the same material found in samurai and medieval armor. Can a little bit of history (and metal) really improve the way we run?
What It Is
What makes PaleoBarefoots different from other minimal shoes is what they’re made out of: a durable steel chainmail. This surprisingly smooth and light material protects the foot while letting runners better feel the surfaces they’re running on. The company touts that the shoes provide an “unfiltered environmental experience” for feet, whether that means a little dirt and grass, wet dew, or warm sand. And since there’s some science that says minimalist running could reduce injuries and fix form, these may be worth a runBarefoot running: biomechanics and implications for running injuries. Altman, A.R., Davis, I.S. Biomechanics and Movement Science Program, University of Delaware, Newark, DE. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 2012 Sep-Oct;11(5):244-50. doi: 10.1249/JSR.0b013e31826c9bb9.. Wearing them is easy too: Users can simply pull the shoe over the heel and lace them up to so it feels snug. Certain models also come with ankle savers, a thin neoprene slip that goes on before the shoe and provides extra support to the ankle and bottom of the foot.
Is It Legit?
Yeah, probably. But are these medieval-resembling chain-like shoes actually comfortable? If PaleoBarefoots are as snug and smooth as they say, then they may be worth a wear for those who are used to running in minimal footwear. If anything, you’ll get some bonus points for wearing what are probably the oddest-looking shoes we’ve ever seen. (Note: Greatist hasn’t been able to try on a pair just yet.) But medieval garb aside, PaleoBarefoots are another example of the immensely hot barefoot running trend. Despite a lack of conclusive scientific support for barefoot running, the movement isn’t letting up., Not much has stopped runners from tossing stability shoes aside and lacing up in nearly nothing, even though it’s unclear whether minimalist running is the best way to prevent injury and boost performanceThe rise of barefoot running. Collier, R. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2011 Jan 11;183(1):E37-8. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.109-3745.Barefoot running claims and controversies: a review of the literature. Jenkins, D.W., Cauthon, D.J. Arizona School of Podiatric Medicine, College of Health Sciences, Midwestern University, Glendale, AZ. Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association, 2011 May-Jun;101(3):231-46.Metabolic cost of running barefoot versus shod: is lighter better? Franz, J.R., Wierzbinski, C.M., Kram, R. Locomotion Lab, Department of Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 2012 Aug;44(8):1519-25. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182514a88.. Barefoot running enthusiasts claim modern athletic shoes compromise form — forcing runners to land on their heel which can be a fast track to physical therapy. Running barefoot or in a minimalist shoe could force a more natural fore or mid-foot strike, potentially reducing the risk for chronic running injuries. Stride benefits aside, barefoot running comes with potentially painful side-effects, such as exposing feet to dangerous debris. Barefoot running could also force runners to change their running stride too quickly. There’s still another camp that says foot strike doesn’t matter, and that finding a shoe that’s most comfortable for each individual is what matters most. PaleoBarefoots try to mitigate at least one of those concerns by letting wearers feel the ground under the feet while still protecting against the (sharp) elements. As a sturdy option that also makes people feel like they’re really running in nature compared to the standard barefoot “shoes,” we might soon all be knights in running armor. Do you run in minimalist shoes? Would you give this design a shot? Let us know in the comments below or tweet the author @lschwech