In my experience with thousands of runners (either barefoot What did the five fingers say to the face slap shirt or in Xero Shoes), you can mitigate or eliminate calf soreness by doing a very gradual progression of time/distance when you switch to barefoot/minimal (e.g. start with only 30 seconds of barefoot running, and increase by 30 seconds a week). Also, rather than focusing on strength, the attention should be placed on relaxation and decreased effort. As an example, rather than pushing off with your foot (which uses your calf more than necessary), focus on lifting your foot off the ground through hip flexion while relaxing the calf. When shouldn’t you use them? It’s all about personal preference. I use them for running on trails, mountains, treadmills, anywhere. I also use them at the gym even when I’m not running.
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because I get a better leg workout. There’s a reason big Arnold What did the five fingers say to the face slap shirt went barefoot, and since most gyms don’t allow that, it’s the next best thing. So yes, they can be, but you gotta try ’em. I might have uniquely-suited-to-barefoot running feet, so try ’em for yourself, and see how it feels. Ease your way into it, and slowly fall in love – but only if it feels right for you. It ain’t for everyone. Some people are scared of ’em. Others like the feeling of more support. I know the surfaces will be even, which is almost always the case. I can get some knee soreness on runs longer than 7 or 8 miles in my minimalist shoes, which is something that I never, ever experienced with the Vibrams (even though I’m still toe- and midfoot-striking as I did in the Vibrams. I really did love them!