If you are even a casual runner, you have probably heard quite a bit about the "barefoot running debate"; in 2010 several studies from Harvard confirmed what people who had been running sans sneakers using a forefront foot strike running method had been saying for years — that they had fewer injuries than those who ran in conventional sneakers with a heel strike motion.  


Not only were there fewer injuries, but according to Vivobarefoot there are other advantages, too: "70 percent of your brain's information for movement comes from the nerves on the soles of your feet. The more you can feel the ground, the greater your body's understanding of its surroundings and natural movement."


I have always enjoyed trail running without shoes at all (when it's warm enough), just because it feels so great on the feet and it's more fun to be able to detect all the differences in the ground you are covering. It also keeps you incredibly focused on the task at hand. And ever since trying my first pair of "barefoot running" sneakers, I've been hooked, and won't be going back to the superpadded sneaks of my youth. I'll still run completely barefoot in the woods when it's warm enough, but for the rest of the time, sneakers like those below (which all also have eco-friendly components) will be my go-tos. If you travel, you will be happy to know that they take up less room and weigh less, which is great when you're lugging a suitcase. 


New Balance's New Sky sneaker is made from recycled PET (on average, about 8 former plastic bottles go into each pair) and packaged in a recycled box. The 101 series, shown above, is the newest update to the line from the company. 
Vivobarefoot makes a huge selection of barefoot running sneakers and is one of the original proponents of the running technique — the company has been making these shoes for over a decade. And all the company's sneakers are "produced sustainably using recycled, locally sourced materials, with efficient and eco-friendly production techniques, in independently monitored ethical factories."
Vibram Five Fingers are another of the original barefoot running shoes and they're one of those products that you either love or hate the looks of. These are made from Smartwool, which is a renewable, biodegradable fabric. 
Newton Running's natural running sneakers come in a host of fun colors and offer a bit more support than the other shoes above, so they might be a good transitional shoe if you are thinking of working your way up to barefoot running, but want to try out the forefoot running technique first (these shoes are designed for that). 

Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

Get out and (barefoot) run
These sneakers are especially made to mimic running barefoot, and are made with eco-friendly materials.