Gear Guy

Freeheel Runningpads: The Run

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: The Run

For me, the Runningpads were minimalist running the way I’d always imagined it. In three runs around four miles each, these weird deerskin half-shoes gave me that feeling of connection to the ground and an appreciation for smooth running mechanics. They let your toes splay out and grip the ground. The sound they make was “pad, pad, pad”—probably a result of the layers of deerskin compressing against each other. The natural outsole held onto wet, mossy rocks surprisingly well. I thought I’d get a lot of small pebbles lodged in between my foot and the shoe, but I didn’t. I can’t wait to try them in frozen slush.

The only problem I experienced was some pain from the strap between my toes. After a few runs, however, that little notch of skin toughened up and the problem went away. As to wear, I have a good many more miles to put in before I can say how well they hold up.

Every runner has a different style. I am more of a mid-foot striker: I touch my heel with every footstrike, but with little force. For me, the “pads” worked well. I need protection in the forefoot where the brunt of each footfall arrives.

There’s no way I would run completely barefoot on most New England trails, what with the untidy layers of pokey sticks, roots, and pebbles lurking behind tufts of grass. A forefoot strike on anything like this typically elicits long strings of expletives echoing into the hills. But on a few glorious late summer runs last week, the Runningpads protected both my feet and the sensitive ears of woodland creatures.

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