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Q:

What Are the Most Minimal Minimalist Running Shoes I Can Buy?

I like barefoot and minimalist running shoes, but the ones I’ve tried feel too constrictive. What’s the very least I can get away with?

Freeheel Runningpads     Photo: Courtesy of Starringer

A:We just tried out a new—and seriously minimal—minimalist shoe, aggressively touted as "the only barefoot shoe that deserves the name." And we liked them.

At first, it isn't really clear how they fit on your feet. They don’t even seem to adhere to the definition of “shoe.” The $120 Freeheel Runningpads are trail running footwear that you strap to your forefoot. There is no heel at all. Except for that, they resemble the running sandals of the famous Tarahumara tribe of northwestern Mexico: open on top with a leather strap that holds them in place between your toes.

The Runningpads weigh less than three ounces each, compared with the lightest FiveFinger models from Vibram (Seeya FiveFingers are 4.8 ounces), making these by far the most minimal on the market. Available for the first time in the summer of 2012, their German manufacturer Starringer says they “encourage and support the forefoot running technique.” Landing on the ball and toes of your feet is a big concept in barefoot running circles, so the Runningpads’ manufacturer is certainly hoping these find a niche.

After the jump, we’ll get down to the special ordering procedure, whether you'll feel comfortable wearing them in public, and the good stuff—the running.

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