You might be wondering what ‘barefoot shoes’ even are. Well, barefoot shoes are footwear for daily use, sports, or leisure activities. The main idea behind barefoot shoes is to create the same feeling you would get if you were to walk around without any shoes, the sense of toes spreading out as they touch the floor.
How do barefoot shoes work?
The stack height (amount of material between the foot & the floor) and broad design of these shoes help the feet splay out with each step to allow better movement in numerous joints found within the foot. Its minimalist design creates a feeling of having a close connection to the floor without feeling constrained by regular shoes.
Another feature that many Barefoot shoe brands may have is a flexible sole, which allows the shoe to twist, flex and move along with your foot to give you a more incredible feeling of unconstrained movement.
Are barefoot shoes good for you?
Yes! Some benefits of barefoot shoes include:
Barefoot shoes allow the foot to be accessible to move with each step without being confined to a rigid form in regular footwear. These shoes make you feel more aware of what is around you and help you immerse yourself in your environment.
Wearing barefoot shoes can help improve your running form and the overall kinematic involved in walking/running, which in turn will assist in reducing stresses along the lower limb.
Barefoot shoes benefit flat-footed people, helping provide stability and making the flat arches within the foot feel more comfortable during walking/running.
Some of the Health benefits that Barefoot shoes can provide are improvement of body posture & balance, more significant calories being burnt while exercising, developing a more natural gait and a great degree of movement in the ankle & foot.
Pros and cons of barefoot shoes
Improved foot function: our foot comprises 26 bones combined with 31 moving joints, allowing us to scrunch, flatten, and traverse any surface, whether flat, inclined/declined, rigid, or soft.
Strengthening the intrinsic muscles, tendons, and ligaments within the foot: modern footwear has made the intrinsic muscles in our feet less active, especially during running. Running with barefoot shoes can help to engage those inactive muscles, tendons & ligaments to assist in performance.
Encouragement of midfoot/forefoot landing: It is commonly believed that the best form to have during distance running is midfoot landing as opposed to heel striking due to the biomechanical effect it has concerning anatomical structures.
Improved lower limb function & coordination: the lack of cushioning & support in the shoes will cause a chain of muscle activation from the intrinsic muscles in the foot, ankle and lower leg musculature, which will facilitate improved balance & proprioception.
Lack of cushioning present in the shoes; when running, there is a great deal of shock absorption that occurs in the heel when striking a surface (roughly up to 8x of our body weight will go into the heel during running). Modern shoes have built-in cushioning to help reduce the amount of stress that is directed into the heel; with Barefoot shoes, that lack of cushioning can lead to more significant stress being put onto the muscles & bones within the foot, ankle, knee, hip and sometimes into the spine. Some of the common injuries sustained from this increased amount of absorption are stress fractures and Achilles tendonitis.
Lack of protection to the plantar fascia; Are you wondering what the plantar fascia is? The plantar fascia is a band of connective tissue found on the underside of the foot. Most shoes have a bit of a rigid sole, mainly to help protect & support the plantar fascia from being overused, which can lead to Plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the plantar fascia), likely to occur in barefoot shoes.
The skin on the sole of the foot is more likely to blister using barefoot shoes as most shoes have made the skin less durable to contact friction with the floor. Unless your feet are weathered enough to build a bit of a callus, going “barefoot” immediately with the necessary progression will be painful.
The width of Barefoot shoes: The typical design for most barefoot shoes is a wide forefoot space to allow the toes to spread out and feel their surroundings better. This shoe feature would be fantastic if you are flat-footed or naturally have a wide foot. Still, if you have narrow feet and choose to wear barefoot shoes, your feet won’t feel secure & will move around within the shoe. So it would be best to seek brands with barefoot shoes that form around the foot better.