I don’t have all the answers. I certainly don’t like stepping in doo-doo with my bare feet, but I also don’t like foot problems, and I’m certainly a huge believer in—what is a fact for me—most shoes being the cause for lots of health problems.
I wear shoes, absolutely! I’d like to not ever have to wear them, and perhaps I’m still struggling with the stigma associated with going full-time barefoot. When I do wear shoes I make sure they are minimalist shoes, which can be ugly as hell or just plain weird, but, they have no arch support, a huge space for the toes (toebox), and a very thin sole. Which is all good stuff.
I don’t believe in support, I believe that one is better off training to become strong, and yes that takes time, time that people find hard to invest these days. The more support you get the weaker you’ll become, it’s a fact.
The squishier and thicker the sole the less you have to worry about walking as we were intended to walk. Which is not heel-to-toe strides. If it was, we’d be able to walk that way without the aid of squishy shoes, so no, we were not designed to walk with a heal to toe stride, period. So, why do people walk with a heel-to-toe stride while other mammals don’t? Because mammals don’t have to listen to what the media tells/sells them.
Let’s analyze some of the things that happen when you do stride heel to toe.
When you land on your heel first you have a slightly longer stride because your knee is extended (straight leg).
There is no shock absorption if you would not be wearing squishy thick-soled shoes. The shock would go directly into the heel, through the tibia and fibula to the knee. From the knee, it travels to the hips and into the spine. Back, hip, or knee problems anyone?
However, if you land on the ball of your foot then the shock is absorbed via the ankle joint, calf muscles, knee joint, and quadriceps muscles.
It’s extremely important for shoes to be flexible so to not get in the way of our natural movement and bending of the feet. Fancy rigid dressy shoes and high heels take away almost all movement within the feet. Those muscles could even be under tension all the time, arch pains anyone?
Let’s get back to support. Support helps remove actions that the body is responsible for, support comes in a rigid form that removes the need for strength, and above all, support removes the cultivation of strength.
I talk from experience. I used to be a huge wear-the-latest-greatest-and-most-expensive shoe in the world fan, no matter the cost, whether monetary or physical. I had weak ankles, stinky feet, hurting feet, back pains, bad squat technique, and so much more. But I looked great and cool. I was almost in with ‘the crowd’. Since a decade or so, I suffer no more, I walk barefoot over mountains, I misstep in cracks and feel the strength and agility that I cultivated to be the support I need to stay safe and not ever twist an ankle, no matter how rough the terrain.
I don’t always go barefoot, I also wear flip-flops, not the cheap $8 flip-flops either, you know the ones that everyone will say “flip-flops are no good, told you so” about. You get what you pay for.
Quick intro to going barefoot/minimalist
There is so much more I could say about this topic, but I’ll leave it with this and provide a quick intro/summary on how you can get stronger feet and solve plenty of health problems.
- Train barefoot whenever you can (especially in your kettlebell workouts)
- Get better flipflops
- Don’t get anymore squashy fancy-looking rubbery thick-soled fashionable shoes
- Look into minimalist shoes
- Strengthen those feet and include them in your training
- Don’t switch from what you’ve been wearing all your life to minimalist shoes and run a marathon on day one
- Use progression and caution during your transition
- Be patient
- Cultivate a new sense
- Get used to activating and feeling new muscles
Here’s how I create strength in my feet:
- Stand on the side of my feet while brushing my teeth or having a shower
- Perform Hindu squats while stretching my triceps
- Squat deep
- Perform curtsy lunges
- Never ever wear shoes in the house
- If I was still working in an office I would not wear shoes
- Walk in minimalist shoes
- Calf raises
Is it a fad?
With so many new minimalist shoe companies appearing and all the news coverage it is getting, surely it can’t be a fad? It isn’t going away, it’s only been getting bigger and bigger over the years. Let’s have a look at some minimalist shoes:
- Vibram FiveFingers—I can personally vouch for 5 fingers as I wear them
- Vivobarefoot—I can’t personally vouch for these as I bought a trekking pair and it wasn’t for me, but my wife swears by them and I might try some others at some stage
- Xero Shoes—I will be trying these soon and report back
- Skinners—I tried them and put them to the ultimate test and they failed, but I won’t dismiss them for everyday casual wear