We are born without shoes, and within the first years of our life, we evolve without shoes. Our feet have the perfect physiology to walk, run, sneak or climb without any tools. They are flexible, can adjust to different types of surfaces, and the sensation gives us the right sense of balance and security. Walking barefoot helps the feet to stay nimble and to use necessary muscles, ligaments and tendons so that all joints and bones are keep in correct alignment. Not only the joints and bones in the feet themselves – but also legs, knees, hip, back and neck. The whole body is connected, and if one part is not functioning correctly anymore, it may have a profound effect on other parts of the body.
Wearing shoes that are too small or narrow, cushioned or have a higher heel, restricts movements and makes it difficult to use specific muscle groups, ligaments and tendons. This may result in pain in the metatarsophalangeal joint, deformity in toes, shortening of the Achilles tendon, or knee and back problems. Also, shoe weight changes the way the ankle, knees and hip hit the ground, which also affects the way that muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments work together. Thicker and harder soles inhibit the foot’s the ability to feel the ground and get sensory feedback, which makes it more difficult for us to keep balanced and react to obstacles such as an uneven pavement, stones or branches. Furthermore, it can reduce awareness of how hard the foot makes contact with the ground, making it difficult to adjust steps accordingly and may lead to knee, hip or back issues. Toes cannot splay, and arch musculature cannot be built in ‘normal’ street, running or hiking shoes.
Walking barefoot is the most natural way to walk, however, it can be risky on hot pavements in summer when you can burn your feet, or cold winters in the northern hemisphere when you need protection for the feet to stay warm. Also stepping on glass or other sharp or pointed objects can hurt the feet, and may lead to later infections.
It is recommended to walk barefoot at home to move freely and give the feet a break from being constrained. For outside, there are barefoot or five fingers shoes that can be purchased. These shoes protect the feet from climate and terrain, while still allowing them to feel and move naturally, as well as giving them the agility they need to stay strong and healthy.
As barefoot shoes have a flexible and ultra-thin sole, feet are closer to the ground than in street shoes and therefore sensitivity and balance is improved. There is also no interference with the work of the Achilles tendon or ankles. Toes have freedom and can move and work the way nature intended, and there is no heel counter, cushion or other support so that all muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons can be used and trained naturally. This leads to an increase in muscle activity, strength and flexibility, which will develop a natural and healthy walk. This in turn, supports a healthy and happy body and mind. Knee, hip, back and neck problems might disappear on their own when walking barefoot or in barefoot shoes, as the body can align itself and function properly. Feet will not be pushed in a specific direction, nor will movement be compromised.
When running in conventional shoes, we land on the heel – however when running barefoot, we land on the ball of our feet, as the impact of landing on the heel would be so great and painful that we would naturally choose to use the forefoot for landing. Wearing running shoes with thick soles however, takes away the ability to feel the impact, which leads to knee problems for more than 80% of runners.
If you get barefoot shoes, remember to train yourself how to walk and run in them. The first days or weeks in particular can be painful, as feet and ankles have to adjust to the new free movements. You can look up training videos online, or book a barefoot shoe running training to avoid later physical issues.
I love my barefoot shoes and cannot imagine a life without them anymore. Walking in conventional shoes feels unnatural now, and I try to avoid using them. I hope you will feel the same enjoyment wearing barefoot shoes, and I would like to hear your opinion about them. Feel free to drop me a message at any time.
Sonja from SOS Free