In modern society, the forces of fashion and culture tell us that shoes are necessary for pretty much everything - there’s a different kind of shoe for every occasion, whether that’s walking/running, hiking, climbing, lifting, sports etc. Most of these shoes also happen to be narrow, rigid, cushioned and heeled which unfortunately tends to make feet narrow, stiff and weak over time (essentially like a modern and less extreme form of Chinese Foot Binding)
(Source: South China Morning Post)
While shoes can provide important protection and functionality in certain contexts, it’s crucial to understand that feet function best when they’re bare and unobstructed. This is when they can actually feel and connect with the ground and express coordination and dexterity with movement.
A perfect analogy here is gloves - we use different types of gloves at different times to provide protection (like for washing up or gardening). But we all know that our sensation and dexterity are affected by gloves so we don't use them for tasks like using computers or phones and we don't use them all day, every day 'just in case' our hands need the protection.
To use a foot-specific example, on a rough hike with poor ground visibility and potential dangers (like sharp sticks and stones) then having an extra layer of protection is super handy. But in the more controlled and gentle environment of the garden, nothing feels better than having bare feet in the soil and being grounded to the Earth.
We have been conditioned to believe that our feet need the protection of shoes at all times but this just simply isn't the case - our feet can develop amazing levels of strength and resilience to texture and load, when given adequate time and exposure to adapt.
When we do choose the option of wearing shoes, we should try to wear shoes that don’t restrict the natural function of our feet - shoes that are wide, thin, flat and flexible - that way when we do go barefoot, we’re not dealing with the tightness/stiffness/deformation that comes from wearing restrictive footwear.
At first, it may feel like our feet ‘need’ the support of shoes at all times but with gradual exposure and some focused training, the opposite effect tends to occur - our feet actually crave the feeling of being bare and supporting themselves.
If you're wanting some tips and guidance on how to transition to barefoot and natural footwear then check out our online community or our Online Workshop. If you're looking for a pair of natural (or 'barefoot') footwear then check out our website to see our range of Vivobarefoot shoes, otherwise check out our other favourite brands below:
- Vibram Five Fingers
- Feel Grounds
- Earth Runners
Of course we're always here to help out if you need any help choosing footwear or along your barefoot journey!