By now, I’m sure you’ve seen someone pass you by wearing shoes that look like gloves on their feet, especially if you live in Colorado. And you’ve probably thought how ridiculous it looks and wondered what the purpose of that was. . .
Like everything, I began to dive into the science behind WHY health enthusiasts are flocking to minimalism/barefoot shoes. Turns out, it’s as fascinating as it is common sense.
I’d like to point out that there are many things we humans do now that our bodies were not designed to do – all of which are causing the crazy epidemic of health imbalances we are seeing today. . .
- Sit nearly all day long – the body was not designed for that = structural problems
- Being around electrical devices that emit EMFs 24/7 = biological disruptions
- Eating food and taking medication made of chemicals = gut, mind, and immune destruction
- Pooping and giving birth in positions that make the process 100x harder and alter the internal structure of the body = unnecessary complications
- Being connected to media and checking our smartphones every 2 seconds = mental health problems.
- Never walking outside barefoot = biological and energetic imbalances
- Putting man-made chemicals on our hair and skin daily = hormonal and cancer problems
- Being exposed to blue light even after the sun goes down = hormone and circadian rhythm disruption
If only we were outside most of the day with our shoes off, in the sun, eating organic food, drinking spring water, limited electrical devices, rising and going to bed with the sun, and living and connecting face to face with people daily. . . . dang would our bodies be incredibly healthy and happy!
Now back to reality, I don’t know anyone that lives that life so we must do certain practices every day that allow us to live more closely to how our body was designed to work in spite of everything coming it against it.
A few hacking natural health practices include:
- Red light therapy (photobiomodulation) you can get a device for your home!
- Blue light blocking glasses
- Dry brushing
- Squatty Potty
- Turn your phone on airplane mode (as often as possible)
- EMF blocking devices
- Greens powders
That was a tangent, but it fits with this post. Shoes. Why do we wear shoes that inhibit the way our feet were designed to work?!
Problems with Regular Shoes
We have essentially taken our feet and put them in a cast. A cushiony, stylish cast. What happens when you put things in a cast? No natural movement or strength training occurs. Whatever is inside gets weak, and forgets to work how it was designed. That is what is happening to our feet.
The more you walk barefoot, the more you will be comfortable walking barefoot, and the stronger your feet will be. And you want stong feet because your entire structural system depends on how well they work.
Wearing cushiony shoes:
- Weakens and atrophies the muscles and joints of the feet leading to feet, knee, and even back problems.
- Does not allow natural movement patterns as our toes were meant to move, flex, bend, and sense different textures of land. When strapped in cushion shoes, they don’t do that, and if you don’t use it, you lose it.
- They create structure and alignment problems (especially for women!) Any positive heal shoe shifts the pelvic floor out of alignment leading to a weak core and pelvic floor function (hello peeing your pants when you sneeze) and ‘mummy tummy’. Who would have thought your shoes could be a huge cause of these unwanted problems!
- With years of enclosing and supporting our feet in shoes, our bodies have forgotten how to walk and run naturally.
- To walk and run naturally, our feet need to be able to feel the ground beneath them and to move in the most efficient way, absorbing force and moving us forward (or up and down in running).
Benefits of Barefoot Shoes
Supports Body’s Natural Feedback Systems
Biomechanist Katy Bowman claims that our modern shoes are contributing to a lot of problems because most shoes block full motion of the foot joints and nerve feedback from the feet.
There are nerves that interpret the shape of the ground by how the bones in the feet bend at 33 different points (joints). This creates a mental image in the brain (similar to how a dolphin uses sonar to avoid obstacles). Wearing shoes prevents any motion in these joints (except the ankle) and leaves the shoe-wearer “blind” to the environment. This is what makes stiff shoes the worst when it comes to natural development.
Feet are your foundation. One quarter of the bones and joints in your entire body are in your feet.
You have more nerve endings in your soles than anywhere but your fingertips and lips. This means your feet are meant to bend, to move, to flex, and feel the world.
Barefoot shoes allow your feet to do just that.
Keeps Body in Correct Alignment
Most of us wear cushioned, supportive shoes with a positive heel. A positive heel means that the heel of the shoe is higher than the toe.
Heels and supportive running shoes are the norm, but some experts speculate that they may cause more harm than good!
Supportive and cushioned shoes encourage the wearer to land on the heel of the foot when walking or running, as the shoe absorbs the impact. This alters the natural step and posture and creates a different walking pattern.
It also limits our natural movement patterns and causes our muscles and range of motion to atrophy over time.
Barefoot shoes allow muscles, bones, and joints to stay working, strong, and healthy.
Strengthens Core and Pelvic Floor
Listen up ladies, those heals are putting your pelvic floor out of alignment, causing pressure on your core, leading to ‘mummy tummy’, that pooch none of us want to see.
When you walk properly (read ‘naturally’), the muscles of your backside, core and pelvic floor work properly too. Correct walking posture means you don’t tuck your tailbone, lean forward from the hip or thrust your pelvis forward either. It means you walk tall, with your body in a straight line and looking at the horizon, not the ground in front of you. As a result your glutes actually work as you walk and run, your core is effectively supporting your centre of gravity as you move and your pelvic floor muscles are at full length and doing their job of holding everything in.
So as well as no more shin splints or dodgy knees, I get a perkier butt and a toned pelvic floor too? Don’t know about you, but I’m in.
But, I need Support
Many people won’t consider going barefoot because they already have foot issues, pain, high arches, or flat feet.
Many people now wear orthotics and extra support for the feet. Movement specialists like Bowman feel that this could be making the problem worse.
The reasoning is that the feet weren’t designed to have as much support as modern shoes provide. Our feet are so supported in most shoes that we don’t have to use the muscles of the feet in the same way. Over time, the muscles weaken which may cause the problem.
As with any muscle, we have to actually use it to strengthen it. Foot pain without arch support may just be a sign of weak foot muscles that need to get stronger. Incorporating more barefoot movement (or wearing barefoot style shoes) may help strengthen the feet over time.
The “cure” for the problem is not putting your foot in a cast (which is essentially what an orthotic is), it’s using it, working on strengthening it.
One reason that running in bare feet could help strengthen your feet and arches is that landing with a mid-foot or forefoot strike can actually engage the muscles in your feet.
Think about it: When does immobilizing something make it stronger? Never!
Let Your Kids Be Barefoot!
Kids need to be barefoot or wear barefoot shoes for the same reasons you do, but even more so because their feet and brain are still developing! Their little feet need to be able to move, flex, and sense the textures of the ground so their feet will develop strong and properly.
Foregoing shoes allows your baby to help develop the strength and balance needed to start walking. Shoes may actually hamper the development of growing feet. As explained in Podiatry Today, going barefoot tends to promote the ideal form of foot development, and that closed toe shoes in particular may inhibit the development of the foot’s arch. Even kids who are not yet at the walking stage may be deterred by shoes.
Now that you know your body will operate how it was designed to when your feet are able to move freely, feel different textures of the ground, and not be in a cushion cast that atrophies your feet or heels that throw you out of alignment causing a host of issues, how do you choose what to wear?
When wearing any shoes, keep these factors in mind:
- No heals (even most tennis shoes have some sort of high heal than the toe)
- The more movement, the better. Choose shoes that allow the toes to move freely.
- Go barefoot as often as possible.
They have tennis shoes, sandals, women’s shoes, men’s shoes, hiking shoes. . . all designed to allow your feet to work how they are supposed to work.