So what’s all that hype about minimalist shoes? These are shoes designed with less support than regular sports shoes, in line with the barefoot running theory. The theory suggests that without excess cushioning, runners tend to land less forcefully, minimising leg injuries.

(L-R): Terra Plana Vivobarefoot Neo L, Merrell Barefoot Pace Glove,
Merrell Barefoot Pace Glove and Vibram Fivefingers Komodosport

The reduced cushioning is also meant to improve your balance and work your muscles harder to strengthen them. Over time, you’re supposed to run faster and further.

Beginners however, should ease into these shoes slowly – walk, then run short distances in them before progressing to longer runs. This conditions the unused muscles in your feet and prevents  over-straining them.

We tried jogging in these four pairs:

1. GREAT FIND: TERRA PLANA VIVOBAREFOOT NEO L, $179*
FEEL: The soles felt stiffer and slightly thicker than the Merrell Barefoot Pace Glove and Vibram Fivefingers Komodosport. When I walked briskly in them, it felt like a regular pair of sneakers with thinner soles. While I was jogging, however, I could feel the ground pounding beneath my feet.

FIT: It felt spacious – the soles were broader than the other shoes. They were also not tapered in the middle of the soles, unlike the others.

COMFORT: The suede-like material of the tongue and collar felt velvety and soft around my ankles. The inside of the shoe was smooth and it was comfy without socks. But my feet sweated more in this pair of shoes.

VERDICT: 7.5/10. Though heavier and less breathable (it’s made from recycled material), it’s fairly comfortable to run in. With its retro sneaker design, it doubles as a casual weekend shoe.

Get it at Terra plana, #02-04, Mandarin Gallery, 333 Orchard Road, Singapore 23897, Tel:6836 5348.

2. BEST VALUE: MERRELL BAREFOOT PACE GLOVE, $139*
FEEL: This was the second lightest shoe, after the Vibram Fivefingers Komodosport. The mesh material felt as light as paper. The soles (narrowest of the lot) were slightly arched in the middle. With less support around the arch, I felt that I relied more on my feet for balance while jogging. With its thin soles and no detachable insoles, I also felt the ground acutely.

FIT: With elastic bands behind the ankles – it was easy to slip in and out of the shoes.

COMFORT: I wore this with socks at first, when the inside felt scratchy. But after three runs, I ran in it comfortably without socks.

VERDICT: 8.5/10. Thin at the bottom and light on top, it’s a good minimalist shoe in a conventional design.

Get it at Stadium Ngee Ann City, #B2-15-23, Tel: 6538 8888 and Royal Sporting House Marina Square, #03-129A, Tel: 6336 4149; Parkway Parade, Level 1, tel: 6440 9175; Suntec City, #01-157/159/161/163, Tel: 6332 1495; Tanglin Mall, #B1-16A, Singapore 247933, Tel: 6736 4922; Vivocity, #02-111, Singapore 098585, Tel: 6376 8015.

3. WE LOVE: VIBRAM FIVEFINGERS KOMODOSPORT, $199*
FEEL: The lightest of the lot – I felt like I was wearing socks with a rubberised sole. This strange-looking shoe had the thinnest and most flexible soles. I even felt the prick of small thorny Casuarina seeds on the jogging tracks at East Coast Park.

FIT: With five toe pockets, it was like gloves for my feet. It took practice to get my toes into the right pockets; by the fifth run, it was a breeze. It also had the snuggest fit, thanks to its Velcro straps instead of shoelaces.

COMFORT: My feet stayed cool throughout my run – the nylon and mesh material were very breathable. There were no scratchy seams or stitches in the shoe, so wearing it without socks was comfortable.

My only gripe was that the high heel tabs rubbed against the back of my ankles when I walked; this wasn’t a problem when I jogged.

VERDICT: 9/10. Light, flexible and fits like a glove. The nearest thing to being barefoot.

Get it at Takashimaya Department Store, level 4, Tel: 67381111; Tangs Vivocity, #01-187 & #02-189, Singapore 098585, Tel: 6303 8688; Outdoor Life Velocity, Novena Square #02-60/67, 238 Thomson Road, Singapore 307683, Tel:  6255 4814.

4. NIKE FREE TR FIT, $159*
FEEL: This felt the closest to a regular running shoe. Although it had thick soles (my feet could not feel the ground), it was much lighter than regular sports shoes. It had flexible soles – with criss-cross groove lines on them – and when I jogged, the shoes gave a nice bounce to my steps.

FIT: The soles were tapered inwards in the middle, giving a snug fit. With a thick tongue and tight shoelaces, the shoe was comfortably tight.

COMFORT: It was luxuriously comfortable. The insides were well cushioned. The V-shaped heel tabs were the kindest to the back of my ankles – it did not rub against them when I walked or jogged.

VERDICT: 8/10. A well-designed shoe for those who want to slowly ease into barefoot running.

Get it at all Nike stores; visit the Nike website for the store locator.

PHOTOGRAPHY DARREN CHANG | ART DIRECTION & STYLING KATHLEEN CHAN

*All product and pricing information was correct at the time of the magazine’s publication. We advise readers to check with the store for the latest availability and pricing information.

This article was originally published in SimplyHer June 2011.