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Ditch Those Bulky Running Shoes

Get light on your feet with barely-there sneakers

Go bare or go home: Running enthusiasts have been repeating this ditch-the-shoes mantra so often in recent years that it has become almost passé. But the thought of pounding the pavement sans protection can scare off most avid marathoners. Luckily, for those who want coverage but not bulk, a practical alternative awaits. Minimalist sneakers—gear without the high-cushioned heels, stiff soles and arch support—provide runners with many of the perks of going barefoot, but ease their fear of stepping on something painful along the way. “For most of human evolutionary history, people ran either barefoot or in very minimalist shoes,” says Daniel E. Lieberman, a human evolutionary biology professor at Harvard who has studied barefoot running. “Now there’s an interest in doing things more naturally, getting back to how the body is designed to work.” But rather than jumping feetfirst into a thin-soled shoe, Lieberman advises, runners should start with short distances and work their way up to longer runs. Less can be more—especially in neon.