Q. I’ve heard some people talking about barefoot shoes lately. What are those? And what are they used for?
—Confused Chris, Smyrna, Ga.
A. Don’t feel bad about being confused. ‘Barefoot’ and ‘shoe’ are not two words that really seem to go together. But it is a really big trend in outdoor sports footwear. Here’s the deal: Barefoot shoes are basically very thin-soled shoes minus all of the cushioning, support, etc. that you find in regular shoes. They’re meant to mimic the feel of going barefoot with the benefit of a sole to protect your feet from heat, sharp objects and such. The idea is that these types of shoes might be healthier for your feet and legs because they cause you to use different muscles and may give you better feel and balance. There are a wide-variety of barefoot-style shoes out on the market now from those that look like gloves for your feet to those that are more like pared down running shoes. People are currently using them for jogging, hiking, kayaking, canyoneering, and just hanging around.
Are they a good choice for your troop’s next backpacking trip? Probably not. If you’re carrying any kind of weight on your back it’s smart to have hiking shoes or boots with plenty of support and thicker soles for the hazards you’ll likely run across on the trail. Are they fun to wear? Sure. But use common sense on which activities are best suited for going “barefoot.”
Here are a few of the latest barefoot-style shoes/brands: