I have shared many times over the last couple years about the importance of going barefoot. It pains me to see little ones learning to walk with their feet strapped in the latest fluffy sole and constrictive shoe. Even for adults, feet are not designed to be in shoes, in fact it has been demonstrated and studied that restrictive and corrective shoes are the cause of plantar fasciitis, numerous knee problems, achilles issues, and so much more.
Walking around barefoot has so many physical health benefits, and its just so easy. You will never hear me tell my kiddos, “don’t go outside without your shoes!” In fact, you will likely only catch me saying, “grab your flops and bring them with us!”
Even some of my avid bare-footers still use highly “supportive” shoes for running and exercise. Did you know that these were developed in the 70’s, and statistically, runners in the U.S. have suffered increased injuries and overall slowed down since the advent of the modern shoe? It’s true! Many “old-school” runners talk about how money ruined running in the U.S. because once big companies got involved, overall we decreased speed and increased injury…only so the same companies could then market shoes that would fix the problem…see the cycle?
Why should you lose the shoes?
- Shoes block the motion of the foot.
- Shoes block the nerve feedback from the feet. (The soles of our feet send important messages to the brain to assist in walking and other neurological functions).
- Shoes encourage you to land on your heel first in your stride creating an unnatural and high-force walking pattern.
- Shoes limit our range-of-motion in our legs (causing atrophy over time).
- Shoes block our connection with the earth, which is very important for reducing inflammation as well as many other benefits.
- Shoes cause increased strike force which leads to chronic injuries.
Being barefoot has so many benefits and walking for people of any age in stiff, restrictive, shoes has been linked to contributing to osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, knee-hip-back pain pain, bunions, etc.
All this being said, transition slowly if you haven’t been walking or working out barefoot. Having worn shoes is similar to having your foot in a cast for an extended period of time. When you where a cast on a body part, you see 30-40% muscle atrophy in that limb just over the 6 week period, imagine 20, 30, 40, 50, or more years. It will take time to rehabilitate your feet. And if you think, “I’m too old for this!” You’re not, age 64 is studied to be on the the most important ages to get back to barefoot.
Start by transitioning to no shoes in the house, then no-shoes (or compromise…barefoot shoes) outside, then last slowly start removing your giant shoes from your workout. Start with barefoot walking and then slowly try slow quarter-mile runs and gradually work your way up to avoid injury. It will take time to adjust your gait from heel strike (injury prone) to the appropriate and natural fore-foot/mid-foot gait. Your body will thank you.
Please remember, this doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing decision. This is important enough that just adding barefoot time outdoors as you feel comfortable with WILL have improvement.
Next week I will go into detail about the major health benefits of barefoot and then options for diabetics and those, like me, in places where barefoot doesn’t always work. (Like 100 degree blacktop in Texas!)
For now I’d love for you to sound-off with your comments and questions! Do you go barefoot?