Minimalist shoes are the hottest—most hotly contested—development in running these days. For every convert who swears that running “barefoot” (in zero-drop shoes with flexible soles and little or no arch support) has made them faster, more efficient, and less prone to injuries—and I’m one of them—there are just as many cautionary tales from runners sidelined with Achilles strains, calf problems, and stress fractures. A couple of my friends have gotten injured while transitioning to minimalist shoes in recent months, and the sheer volume of research they turned up is staggering, striking fear in the heart: Are minimalist shoes the Bad Idea Jeans of our generation? Or are they the best thing to happen to our feet since we were babies?
Now that some of the big names in barefoot technology are making mini minimalists, the debate has filtered down to the youngest generation: Are barefoot shoes good for kids?