As more shoe companies enter the minimalist shoe market, the term “barefoot shoes” is becoming more prevalent. This phenomena extends from shoe manufacturers to retailers to the general public. There was a time this annoyed me. After all, it’s an oxymoron. Wearing any shoe, by definition, is not barefoot. It ranks right up there with “baggy tights”, “near miss”, and “boneless ribs.”
It caused other problems, too. When communicating with new runners, it would be difficult to give advice when they claimed to run barefoot only to find out they were running in Vibrams.
At some point, my level of annoyedness reached critical mass. Instead of going postal, I decided to take a step back and assess the situation. I realized I had to change my mindset. By reframing the situation, I had the power to turn an annoying situation into an opportunity.
This is what I concluded:
1. “Barefoot Shoes” is good publicity: The term is used to describe shoes that allow the same form as barefoot running allows. The shoes could have easily been called “POSE shoes” or “ChiRunning” shoes… even “natural running” shoes. The fact that people refer to them as “barefoot” shoes gives barefoot runners immediate credibility. Credibility leads to things like research. That’s a good thing.
2. It’s not that confusing… all we have to do is ask: When a new BFR/MR runner claims to be a “barefoot runner”, I simply ask if they use any sort of minimalist shoe like Merrells or Vibrams. This immediately clarifies if they are really barefoot in a non-threatening way without copping an attitude of superiority. Simple problem, even simpler solution.
3. Accept companies using the term for marketing: This was a biggie for me… until I recognized the benefit. Companies use the term “barefoot shoes” in marketing. Why? It effectively describes minimalist shoes to a market that does not have the extensive knowledge us vets have. In effect, it sells more shoes, which creates a larger pool of people running with good form. Again, that is a good thing. Furthermore, it effectively creates a divide between lightweight reduced shoes or flats and what I would consider true minimalist shoes.
My point- the idea of “barefoot shoes” annoyed the hell out of me UNTIL I started to objectively examine the pros and cons. At that point, I realized the pros far outweigh the cons. Stewing over a situation I had zero control over seemed… well, counterproductive if not simply impossible.
As a barefoot runner, I made a conscious decision to 1) stop bitching about people using the term, and 2) openly embrace the concept and use it meet my own goals to change the world. So far, so good.