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Adidas Adipure Trainers : Barefootin' At The Gym and On the Trail

Despite being marketed as a training shoe – think weight lifting, plyometrics, and other gym endeavors –- Adidas’ new Adipure Trainers are perhaps the best option for newcomers to barefoot running.

I've tried multiple models from many different footwear companies, and the Adipure Trainers are the first shoes that allowed me to start running barefoot without foot pain. I think I'm in love.

A few months ago I was running barefoot on the beaches in Mexico and wound up with a severe ache in the top of my foot that was so bad I ended up limping for three weeks. It’s a feeling I’m accustomed to because I’ve tried entering the sport a few times with different shoes, and each time I’ve wound up with some sort of pain somewhere. I eventually realized that the problem was that I had no real experience running barefoot. The muscles in my lower leg weren’t accustomed to it, and my stride was still that of a typically-shod, heel-strike runner.

Adidas’ Adipure Trainer is an interesting hybrid between a barefoot toe shoe and regular athletic shoe. Like barefoot running shoes, they have a relatively thin sole, less padding under the heel, and, like some models, individual toe boxes for each toe. Like a typical running shoe, they have some lateral stability, as well as some rigidity under foot. I can’t tell you how important this combo is to me; the Adipure Trainer is just substantial enough to allow me to truly start running barefoot without getting injured, particularly as I run off trail and on uneven surfaces.

Barefoot running takes humans back to their roots, to a time when shoes didn’t have a heel cushion – or, rather, to a time when we didn’t have shoes. Without that heel pad, it’s jarring and painful to land on the back of the foot. Try running down a gravel driveway and landing on your heels – ouch! The theory behind barefoot running is that humans actually evolved to land on their forefeet, so running barefoot has been purported to reduce the common maladies modern runners encounter.

Still, after 34 years of heel striking, it’s been challenging for me to transition into barefoot running and the forefoot strike that accompanies it. This is where the Adidas Adipure Trainers shine. These shoes actually encourage the transition. What I liked most about the Adipure Trainer is it there is a substantial amount of cushion and structure under the forefoot, so as I relearned how to run my body was forgiven for any mistakes it made. The Adipure Trainers are certainly stiffer than shoes designed expressly for barefoot running, but that’s fine with me, a beginner who simply needs a transition shoe. Thankfully, my feet have not hurt at all as I’ve progressed up through the miles.

Sure, the Adipure Trainers felt weird the first time I put them on, but within several minutes my toes began to stretch and my feet felt almost empowered. I was able to feel the ground as I walked around the yard. My feet became more dexterous -- they started to feel like an extra pair of hands, at least to a degree. As I ran off road and more, I started to feel increasingly more stable. This is probably because these shoes are designed for plyometrics and gym exercises, which, like fast trail running, require agility, some jumping around, and stable landings.

I broke in my Adipure Trainers with a short run of maybe 20 minutes on a variety of surfaces. It's great on the road and on the trail. During testing I ran on everything from crushed gravel to asphalt to dirt and to rocks, and my feet stayed happy. The sole is thick enough to prevent sticks or rocks from poking through or bruising my bony feet, but it’s thin enough to encourage a natural gate. I’ve watched my wife run in a different brand of barefoot runners, and she is constantly wincing because the sole is almost too thin for all the sharp things underfoot in the Colorado Rockies (where we live).

I also liked that the upper of the Adipure Trainers is made of a stretchy neoprene-like material, which hugs my feet and keeps them warm even when I'm running in late winter temps. At one point on my first day out I decided to run off trail, and I found myself in shin deep snow – and my feet didn’t feel chilled. I found the neoprene around the toes also protected me when I ran into twigs or stubbed them on rocks.

The Adipure Trainers are available for men (black/grey, red/grey, black/yellow, sizes  6.5 to 15) women (light blue, sizes 5 to 11). I found the fit to be true to size.

Bottom Line: The best barefoot runners I’ve tried. I highly recommend them for outdoor athletes wishing to test out the sport.--N.W. (Jan 2012)

BUY ONLINE : $90, some styles on sale at Amazon.

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