As per scientific studies, running barefoot is most beneficial for the health of your foot. However, since it is not possible to run barefoot, especially at professional level, you need to look for other options. Toe shoes are a new trend in athlete's running shoes. They have instantly become a rage due to their unusual shape and structure.
Vibram is a pioneer brand in toe shoes. However, due to certain limitations you cannot wear Vibram on all occasions. Hence, you might want to explore other options for barefoot running. Nike Free, by far comes closest to Vibram's when it comes to offering a barefoot running experience.
Vibram Five Fingers Vs. Nike Free
Nike Free 3.0 and 7.0 look like any other pair of running shoes. Although, they are extremely light weight and offer a near barefoot running experience, their appearance does not say anything about their special purpose. On the other hand, Vibram Five Fingers instantly stand out due to their peculiar shape and structure. They are designed like a glove, with separate slots for each toe. They are like a tough, synthetic version of your real feet. Both, Nike Free and Vibram come in an array of colors.
Nike Free offers the comfort akin to any high quality running shoes. The comfort offered by Vibram is simply incomparable. Vibram offers high flexibility and greater bending ability. It also offers free movement of toes due to separate slots for each toe. Width of Nike Free is not much desirable for some sizes whereas finding a right sized Vibram is a big headache, due to its snug fit. It is particularly difficult to find toe shoes for kids in right size.
Performance depends greatly upon the activity that you intend to perform. For instance, Nike Free offers you overall strength and balance while running, whereas Vibram offers you a better grip while rock climbing, trekking etc. Nike Free is mostly apt for running and jogging, cross training and cross fit, whereas Vibram can be worn while playing water sports like surfing, paddling, etc. Wearing Five Fingers does give you a good support while running, but it tends to slow you down, hence not recommended for competitive purpose.
Nike Free offers a good durability which is comparable with any other good quality trainers or sneakers. Vibram also offers a surprisingly good durability in spite of their thin and delicate structure. Both these shoes are machine washable, yet it is recommended that you wash them manually. Vibram will need a more frequent washing than Nike Free.
When it comes to prices, Vibram is a bit costlier than Nike Free at a price tag of $80. Nike Free is ranged between $60 - $80. Some varieties of Nike Free may cost you more than Vibram Five Fingers.
New Balance shoes are built somewhat on the line of Nike Free. They are extremely light weight and a favorite amongst professional marathon runners.
Newton running shoes are designed using a high-end action-reaction technology which prevents the runner from running incorrectly. It also corrects the incorrect running form, over the years.
Vivobarefoot are most appropriate for wearing in public, especially at work. They give you the required comfort without making you stand out.
The competition in the toe shoes market gets stiffer with the entry of these two latest contenders.
They are true toe shoes, designed on the similar lines as Vibram FiveFingers. The only exception in design is that Fila Skele-Toes have four slots for toes as opposed to five in Vibram's. The last two small toes occupy a single pocket. They are visually appealing and comfortable with its stretchable, breathable upper part. However, they restrict flexibility due to their very stiff sole. They are nowhere near to Vibram, when it comes to performance and comfort. The reason could be that, they are promoted more as a lifestyle shoes rather than fitness ones. Their biggest advantage is that they are available within a price range of $50 - $60.
Adidas Adipure Trainer
As the name suggests, they are designed for training and not for running. The design is exactly similar to Vibram Five Fingers, with five toe pockets, one for each. They offer great comfort and flexibility (though, not as good as Vibram). The shoes are roomier with a wider heel region. The seams in the toe pockets cannot be felt, hence do not irritate your toes, unlike Vibram. Overall, their performance can be rated above Fila Skele-Toes, but below Vibram, the pioneer in toe shoes.
Hope this review helps you to choose correct shoes for barefoot running. If you do not mind being spotted in the crowd, you can sure go for Vibram or else choose from the other ones mentioned above.