When I first moved to Wellington in 2010, the one thing that had me perplexed more than anything was the number of people walking around barefoot without a care in the world. Born and raised in the UK, I rarely saw this and thought those who did were crazy. Fast forward 6 years and it is me walking around barefoot or in minimalistic shoes, so why the change of heart?
Contrary to what societies stereotypical views are on being barefoot in public, allowing the feet to be free of any constraints not only feels amazing but believe it or not is proven to be highly beneficial towards a healthy lifestyle. As advanced as modern science is, it still surprises me that walking around barefoot is seen as primitive, is hazardous for our health, a consequence of a poor lifestyle, a social taboo suggesting individuals who do this are less civilised or even crazy! Today there is an abundance of evidence clearly supporting that less is more when it comes to our feet both from a biomechanical and health perspective.
“A South African study in the podiatry journal The Foot, in 2007, studied 180 modern humans from three different population groups (Sotho, Zulu, and European) and compared them to 2,000-year-old skeletons. The researchers concluded that people had healthier feet and posture before the invention of shoes. The Zulu, who often go barefoot, had the healthiest feet of the modern humans.”
The truth is that we are designed to be barefooted and cannot achieve adequate full body movements if our feet are unable to move naturally or functionally. In my previous blog I identified the feet as being the foundation of the body, if the foundations are faulty then don’t be surprised if the body has a bunch of recurring issues or the inability to operate optimally.
“A 2006 study found that shoes increase stress on the knee and ankle, suggesting that adults who walked barefoot would have a lower rate of Osteoarthritis.”
The feet just like your eyes, nose, hands, etc., all need stimulation in order to operate – without it the body struggles to pass vital messages to the brain, muscles become lazy and the ability to cope with the most basic tasks becomes extremely taxing. Imagine being carried around everywhere, every day until one day you are told to get up and walk, and you are wearing a super tight shell tracksuit with a material that doesn’t breathe. The Image I’m describing would look disturbing and smell horrific. So why are we doing this to our feet?
“Famous studies by Rao UB, Joseph B (July 1992), Sachithandam V, Joseph B (March 1995) and Hoffmann P (October 1905) have all shown, feet that have never worn shoes rarely had problems with: bunions, corns, and fallen arches, aren’t prone to more than ordinary foot eversion on standing and walking due to the associated weakness or stiffness of the joints in the foot and weakness of the muscles controlling them, as well as having a much reduced incidence of problems like callouses”.
The list of why not to wear shoes is endless, I could easily write a novel about the benefits of barefoot living. Instead of looking at the problem lets pay attention to the solution.
Firstly, throwing all your shoes away exposing your lovely feet to the world 24/7 would be very noble, a little extreme and not the greatest idea. For many of us, we have spent a lifetime in shoes meaning we have spent a lifetime shortening our Achilles, losing our arches, weakening our intrinsic foot muscles, creating bunions and deforming the feet. So the last thing we want to do is throw them in the deep end, stress them out, get injured, wear a moon boot, complain about it and sue health professionals that designed barefoot shoes… wait, this already happened in America, no surprise there!
A potential solution could be to look at the design of the shoes we wear and opt for a more sensible type or give minimalist shoes a go, spend around 20 mins a day with no shoes building up to longer duration’s and perform foot exercises in order to build that solid foundation and take on the world.
My next blog will focus at what transitions I have used successfully to live a pain free and barefooted life.