The barefoot shoe revolution has really brought us some interesting shoes. You have the classic (and kinda creepy) Vibram FiveFingers, the Sazzi five-toed sandals and the Swiss Barefoot shoe-socks, to name but a few. One of the latest entries in weird, goofy barefoot cobbling is the Freeheel Runningpad, a sort of half sandal from Germany's Starringer.
The "pad" part of the Runningpad product name suggests it's probably a little more minimal than the average pair of sandals. However, when you look at it from the top, it looks a lot like any other leather sandal. It's not until you view it from the side or bottom that you realize you're looking at a forefoot sole with sandal straps on top. It leaves the heel completely naked and free.
The entire barefoot movement is based upon the idea that barefoot running encourages a forefoot or mid-foot strike, as opposed to the heel strike that is common when using modern running shoes. Landing on the front of your foot is said to support superior, natural running posture and mechanics, lowering the potential for injury by relying on the natural spring of your foot.
Whatever your thoughts on the merits of barefoot running principles, it's easy to see how they apply to the Freeheel Runningpad. By eliminating the heel section altogether, the shoe provides an even stronger impetus to employ a forefoot running technique. In addition to encouraging forefoot running, the shoe keeps weight to a minimum and claims to offer an optimal climate for cool, comfortable feet.
In using a half-sole sandal design, Freeheel also strips away about as much of the shoe as possible while maintaining something to sell. It markets the Runningpad as the "only barefoot shoe that deserves the name." While we've seen some other interesting takes on minimalist shoes, this one certainly seems to leave you the most barefoot.
One purported advantage that we have to take issue with is "water and gravel in and out." Water isn't as much of a problem, but we'd prefer the gravel to just stay out, where it doesn't threaten to become lodged uncomfortably under the sole or toe. Allowing gravel in at all seems more like a con than a pro, though the Runningpad's open design should let it pass through more easily.
Given that the Runningpad doesn't fit around your whole foot, traditional sizing need not apply. The shoes are sold in small, medium and large sizes, which are based upon the width of your forefoot.