seems a bit of a stupid question, but I've been reading a lot online and most of the studies showed that you don't need $200 running shoes, but just the correct running form. Do these shoes really offer any advantage? I have never tried a pair.. what do you know?
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Shoes offer a lot of support to your achilles tendon, and reduce injuries in that regard. However, they increase the risk of a knee injury, or fibula/tibia injury (from rolling your ankle).
The reason people roll their ankles is because of shoes.. shoes aren't round, they have edges.. so when you step on the edge of a road, if enough pressure is applied to the edge of the shoe, it snaps over quickly potentially causing a bad ankle injury. This doesn't happen 99% of the time barefooted because there is no edge on your foot that can create that snapping action.
Shoes also make the runner heel strike on each step (because the heel-to-toe ratio), which is improper running form. Barefooted is the best way to correct running form, because you won't want to heel strike since it'll hurt. You'll also learn to be "light on your feet" which will alleviate knee pain.
The difference between just any shoe and a running shoe-- well it differs from shoe to shoe.. but mostly running shoes won't cover your ankle as much, giving it more range of motion and they'll be lighter.
In my honest opinion, barefoot running is the healthiest option. It is a little difficult starting up, because you won't be use to running barefooted and you'll likely have weak ankles.. but they'll get stronger. You'll also suffer terrain abuse initially, but that gets better too (as I said before, you'll naturally learn proper form and become "light on your feet").
So conclusion: Do they help over regular shoes? Yes-- they're lighter and cover your ankles less. Are they better than nothing? No-- unless you're afraid of mockery or any type of negative attention you might receive by running a little differently than the rest.0