• Missy Porteous

Running Shoe Recommendations

Updated: Jul 31, 2019

With the fun run calendar in full swing, I've been asked for some running shoe advice. This is a topic I’ve spent years researching and have a wealth of 'mesearch' on (just ask my ruptured left calf) so I definitely feel I’m more equipped to help you than the 18 year old high school student at Athletes Foot (no offence kiddo). So here goes!


Contrary to popular belief, the big shoe manufacturers do not design shoes with foot function in mind. Shoes that are truly designed for foot function are ‘unpopular’ and therefore don’t make sales for Nike. You only need to take a look at the Nike Free which some years ago were designed as a transitional barefoot shoe and now is just as cushioned and disastrous as the Asic Gel Kayano .



Nike Not So Free


Now that I wear a barefoot shoe for all training including distance running, it’s been a while since I investigated running shoes but after my recent research attempt I can confirm that the market place is much narrower than a few years ago. Please indulge me a quick little history lesson to explain why.


Throughout the 90s and 00s, running shoes became chunkier, bigger healed, more cushioned and more ‘supportive’. To make a long story short, some amazing guy (Christopher McDougall) wrote an awesome book in 2009 called Born to Run. What ensued was a frenzy of barefoot running with no transitional process which resulted in a myriad of injuries both long and short term and inevitably the down fall of the barefoot movement.


Altra Vanish-R Unisex Shoes Dark Blue

A slow transition process must occur when moving from the Asic Kayano Gel to the Vivo Barefoot. My advice would be to use a transitional shoe in between like the Altra Vanish R (pictured above) and a grass based barefoot program before moving on to hard surfaces. In every case I know of (and that is many) where this process has been carefully followed, there has been nothing but life gains. Things such as; improvement in running technique (this happens the second you take off the giant shoe which WILL make you heel strike), improvement in foot strength, stability and control, and a reduction in injuries.


Hoka One Clifton 3 - Good Lord!!!

You can find a million studies stating that these cushioned shoes are the way to go, however, those studies cannot determine that a foot, knee or even shoulder injury was caused by Hoka One Clifton 3 (pictured) 2 years after wearing them. Studies are often carried out by the giant shoe manufacturers who want to tell a specific story. Unfortunately the research grants are not given to The Barefoot Podiatrist or The Running Lab, two extremely reputable local podiatrists that help hundreds of people each year using a transition to barefoot method.


Below is a guide to what you should be looking for when buying any shoe including fitness, work, fashion and most importantly one's that are for your precious little peoples feet. Clark's school shoes and the like are where the trouble starts and it's a slippery slope from there. If you are researching shoes and they don’t have these specifications available then they are not designed with foot function in mind and should be avoided.


1. Heel to toe drop: (shows whether the heel is raised or whether its flat) should be zero but no more than 3mm 2. Shoe weight: (usually listed per shoe) should be less than 200gm but anywhere up to 150gm is best 3. Arch rise: (this shows whether there is arch ‘support’) should be flat or minimal up to 3mm 4. Stack height: (this is the thickness of the sole) should be no more than 15mm 5. Toe box: (the front of the shoe should allow your toes to move freely) should be round or wide, not pointy


Finally, below is a very limited collection of shoes I was able to find that would work as a transitional shoe all the way down to a barefoot shoe (listed in order from chunkiest to barefoot, top to bottom). It doesn’t matter if your feet pronate, supinate or are flat, a neutral shoe with the above characteristics will help strengthen and inevitably ‘correct’ your feet. I would further advise to avoid comfort…WHAT THE?…yep I said it, avoid INSTANT comfort, this doesn’t mean you should be uncomfortable but you should feel like you are wearing your feet and not clouds for shoes. Lastly, if the reviews (which are irrelevant anyway) and marketing for the shoe is all about epic support and cushioning I would run a mile in your bare feet in the other direction.

Merrell Bare Acess Flex

Weight: 205gm

Heel to toe drop: Zero

Stack height: 14.2mm

Arch: Medium

Toe Box: Wide


Merrell Bare Access Flex 2

Weight: 198gm

Heel to toe drop: Zero

Stack height: 14.5mm

Arch: Low

Toe Box: Medium


Inov8 F Lite 195 Knit

Weight: 195gm

Heel to toe drop: Zero

Stack height: 9mm

Arch: 3mm

Toe Box: Narrow

Altra Vanish R

Weight: 116gm

Heel to toe drop: Zero

Stack height: 12mm

Arch: Medium

Toe Box: Medium/Wide

Topo Athletic ST3 Weight: 172gm

Heel to toe drop: Zero

Stack height: 16mm

Arch: Low

Toe Box: Wide

Merrell Vapor Glove 4

Weight: 122gm

Heel to toe drop: Zero

Stack height: 6.5mm

Arch: Zero

Toe Box: Wide

Vivo Barefoot Primus Lite

Weight: 115gm

Heel to toe drop: Zero

Stack height: 5mm

Arch: Zero

Toe Box: Wide


If you are still reading which is unlikely haha, I have a bunch of members (almost all of them) that started at the gym in a pair of chunky training shoes. The first thing I do is educate them about the type of training shoe that's required at the gym and why. They have 4 weeks to buy a pair that follow the above specifications and if they can't then the gym might even buy them a pair (shhhh don't tell anyone). Often these members are shocked at receiving the news that the shoes they have been wearing are potentially (more than likely) damaging for their body. I'm going to go out on a limb and say they probably didn't believe me and thought I was a crazy old lady. That attitude quickly changes the minute they are wearing said new wheels; it changes their lives...well maybe that's my wording but you get my point. What if I told you that transitioning to a barefoot or minimal running shoe is the same as changing to a stable training shoe, it may take longer to get that ‘happy place’ feeling but it will happen.


When you wear your feet or a minimalist shoe every day (as I do), then you attempt to put on any other type of shoe and it’s painful almost instantly, you realise just what damage is being done to our feet. I know we can’t all get around barefoot all the time but we can get close and I guarantee it’s life changing. In summary; retrain your feet to support you as they are designed to do and donate your damaging shoes to someone that you don't like!

Vivo Barefoot Primus Lite



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