We’ve had that experience where removing your shoes feels like torture. Your feet hurt, and your ankles feel bruised, and you wonder why you can’t just walk barefoot. Enter barefoot shoes.
What are Barefoot Shoes?
Research suggests that wearing shoes is bad for us, and that we are better off barefoot. Although modern shoes are great at protecting our feet, they do a very bad job at allowing our feet to breathe, stretch, and move around, activities which are important for reducing our risk of injury.
Barefoot shoes attempt to mimic the effect of walking and running barefoot. They are made with breathable elastic materials so that your feet receive not just protection but the feel and benefits of being barefoot. Since Tim Brennon designed Vivobarefoot, the first barefoot shoe, more than 20 years ago, barefoot shoes have become very popular.
Barefoot shoes ease any locomotory friction that you would typically experience when wearing traditional shoes. This makes jogging, running and walking easier, because of the reduction in stress. By reducing friction, the risk of injury is lessened. Features such as the wide toe-box of barefoot shoes give your toes the wiggle room they enjoy when you are barefoot.
Wearing Barefoot Shoes
You want to allow your feet to transition properly from traditional shoes to barefoot shoes, because, after a lifetime of wearing traditional shoes, you have lost some of the instinct of being functionally barefoot for athletic performance. Start off by wearing a transitional shoe type such as Lems Primal Pursuit, before making the step up to true barefoot shoes. Wired magazine suggests an even more radical approach: starting off with barefoot running, or wearing sandals, and then making the step up to barefoot shoes.
Atlanta-based sneaker trader Hype 24/7 recommends wearing barefoot shoes for small chunks of the day, gradually increasing your exposure throughout the day. For example, you can start off by wearing barefoot shoes for just 30min a day, working your way up to an hour, and going further and further up. If you want to wear them when running, or jogging, you may have to reduce the amount of time you spend running, or jogging, so that you allow your feet to adjust to running or jogging with them.
When making a transition, you should be guided by the sole and your Achilles tendon.
Soles are a very sensitive part of your feet; when you are moving, the sensations they experience lead to adjustments in your movement. Because you’ve been wearing traditional shoes for so long, your sensitivity has been blunted, and rather than seamless adjustments, you are likely to make some mistakes.
You have to condition your soles to be exposed to the ground, and you do this by starting off your heavy-soled shoes and gradually wearing thinner-soled shoes.
Traditional shoes contract the Achilles tendon. When you provide your foot with arch support and start wearing barefoot shoes, your Achilles tendon will start to grow again. However, this isn’t an overnight process. If you transition too quickly, that elongating process can become rather uncomfortable.