By Tim Newcomb
September 04, 2014

Some folks swear by barefoot running as a gimmick-free way to naturally move. Others claim it adds needless stress on the foot. Research efforts to prove one side right stand inconclusive, giving the strongholds of barefoot believers reason to appreciate Vivobarefoot.

While market research shows the minimalist shoe wave has crested past its peak, the original barefoot shoe company, Vivobarefoot, which launched in 2003, has stepped up its barefoot lines, adding in a variety of fashion looks, youth lines and, for 2014, a new trail running shoe to fulfill the demands from a growing sport.

In no way does Vivobarefoot, started by Galahad Clark of the Clarks Shoes family, believe the barefoot style has met an end. They believe their efforts have only just begun.

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With 20,000 nerve endings, 33 major muscles, 28 bones and 19 ligaments encased in a human foot, the advice on the best way to care for your feet while running has proven mixed, at best. You can find research on either side you want, some believing that cushioning a run offers support and comfort for a foot, seen more recently in the latest fad of offering ultra-cushioning. The other side brings up research that a foot works best when moving naturally, with no heel, midsole or arch support.

​Vivobarefoot fits squarely on the side of the foot needing nothing much more than protection. “Our design is driven by the knowledge that 70 percent of your brain’s information for movement comes from the nerves on the soles of your feet,” the company explains. “The more you can feel the ground, the greater your body understands its surroundings and natural movement.”

The American College of Sports Medicine has come out in support of barefoot running and Vivobarefoot has partnered with the nonprofit American Council on Exercise to train runners in how to run in the barefoot style.

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The key elements of Vivobarefoot’s entire lines include ultra-thin, puncture-resistant soles, natural foot flex, a zero-drop heel-to-toe profile to support natural movement and a shoe shaped to allow the foot to move sans motion control.

Barefoot runners still want the joy of hitting the terrain they love, though, and the latest in the Vivobarefoot line, the Trail Freak, gives them that protection when hitting rocky, root-filled trails.

A 2.5 mm rubber outsole has multi-direction lugs for traction control, a removable insole for additional protection, moisture-wicking lining, a mesh upper for breathability, reflective thread and lacing secured with a toggle. The entire unit weighs 9.1 ounces. A test on the trail proves that Vivobarefoot offers up the protection it claims along with a completely different style of running and foot movement.

Vivobarefoot believes natural movement has something to offer the running world, and the company wants to back that belief with protection no matter the terrain.

Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.