Runners’ World just blogged an interesting research topic (thank you Miha: http://sweatscience.runnersworld.com/2012/02/barefoot-versus-running-shoes-which-is-surprisingly-more-efficient/
The research showed that running with shoes is actually more energy efficient than running with minimalist shoes. As I am adding more fuel to fire the barefoot vs.shoed running debate I wanted to give a couple reasons to use minimalist shoes.
A good place to start is when x-training and Strength Training: These are excellent activities to use barefoot shoes. Minimalist shoes allow you to utilize your stability muscles and foot muscles more, making you stronger for repetitive motion activities (running) where we are likely to need more support. Make sure to not overdo it since going barefoot can increase the risk of fungus and infection always stay clean. the number one solution for when something does happen though is to always keep healthy and wash as often as possible!
Using them at work if you have a job that puts you on your feet during the day is also a great place. I wear my Nike Frees while training clients every day. (They actually help me demonstrate balance exercises better because I am able to use my “yoga” muscles better with less support since I am used to balancing in yoga barefoot.)
Because barefoot shoes help you build up the muscles in your feet they are also a GREAT tool to use in coming back from a plantar fasciitis injury or achilles injury. Both injuries require a very gradual build back to your old running speed and mileage. This is one reason why previously injured runners seem to be making the transition to barefoot running best. They have already hit rock bottom and are unable to run. Therefore the small steps they make towards recovery are success enough where a non injured runner would try pushing too far. As the the injury begins to fade and mileage increases, the muscles that protect the foot and knee and hip joints have had proper time to develop allowing a runner to adapt to barefoot running.
Now that I have told you some of the positives of barefoot running, the question then comes to down to you. Do you want to be a barefoot runner? On one hand if you do it correctly you are the stronger runner, less prone to injury. (ONCE AGAIN IF YOU ARE ABLE TO DO IT WITHOUT GETTING INJURED!) On the other hand research is coming out to show shoes make you more efficient. (This means if you were to race barefoot and with shoes (that are the lightest possible) your shoed self would beat your barefoot self. What runner do you want to be?? –There is no right answer. Your preference and goals are your answer 🙂
If you are interested in some minimal shoe choices check out http://www.squidoo.com/courtneyjulia . I would love to hear which ones you like.