Maybe you have heard people raving about how much they love their new barefoot shoes, and honestly probably not shutting up about it, and now you’ve finally (secretly) caved and have “googled” what the hype is all about… Or perhaps you’ve been experiencing some joint pain or noticed some bunions forming on your feet despite your diligence in wearing shoes that provide arch support and have another million jillion fancy selling features… Or maybe you’ve just seen some super cool shoes around, been told they are “barefoot”, and just purely want to gather some more information… Whatever the case, hopefully this short and sweet blog can provide some clarity on the benefits of barefoot (minimalist) footwear and the variety of styles available!
The Benefits of Minimalist Footwear
Intuitively, we are built for it!
When you think about how incredibly intricate the human body is, and how much is going on without our conscious control… Our heart is beating, our lungs are breathing, our cells are dividing and dying and our food is being digested to help rebuild and replenish our tissues – all without a second of conscious intervention. We are living in truly amazing machines, intricately designed to function in the natural world. All of this amazingness applies as equally to our internal bodily environment, as it does to our outward structure! We were truly built with perfect physics.
Despite this, it can get very confusing being a human being, and one of the reasons we have thrived for so long is our capacity to innovate. This capacity has in part created a wide variety of footwear options that all provide a host of claims that can make us think twice about our own body’s innate capacity to hold ourselves up and navigate the world without outside intervention. The innovation has also lead to the ever-changing fashion trends that often include a “flavour of the season” shoe. The problem is that the industry behind a lot of the latest and greatest footwear is that it rarely takes into account what nature intended for our feet!
Barefoot shoes are made with wide toe boxes that allow for the toes to spread in the same way that they would if you were not wearing shoes. They are made with flat soles; no heel lift, nor arch support, that mimic the way our feet would naturally traverse the earth if we were not wearing shoes. They are made to protect your feet from the elements, but without interfering with the body’s natural design. In other words: They are adapted FOR your feet, rather than requiring your feet to ADAPT to fit into them.
Barefoot footwear can help you nurture your nature!
One of the best taglines in the industry of natural barefoot footwear that we’ve heard is Vibram Fivefingers “Become the Technology”. This pretty accurately describes the goal of barefoot shoes. Instead of outsourcing the work of proper arch support and alignment to a fancy latest and greatest shoe… with the right shoe, your body can become the technology! Allowing our feet to do their thing, in the way they were designed to do it, can support our lower leg and foot musculature in becoming strong enough to hold us up without relying on any external inputs.
A second plus to avoiding relying on fancy shoes that outsource all this work, is that since your feet are the foundation of your whole body, allowing them to exist how they would naturally – flat on the earth, with proper range of motion from heel to toe – it in turn allows for natural alignment at the ankle, knee and hip joint as well. Many people (including most members of our team) have anecdotally reported a reduction in joint pain in the lower body after making a gradual shift to barefoot style shoes!
It’s never been easier – There are SO many awesome emerging minimal footwear brands
If you’re someone who has been humming and hawing as the (re)emergence of minimal style footwear has been growing this past couple of decades, there truly has never been a better time to give it a go. Whether you’re looking for more of an athletic style runner/trainer, winter boot, rain-proof sneaker, or spring/summer sandal… there is undoubtedly a brand that carries what you’re looking for.
Still want to learn more?
Our favourite resource on minimalist footwear and natural movement is the extremely informative Human Biomechanist, Katy Bowman. She wrote a wonderful book called “Whole Body Barefoot” that explains the benefits of moving toward barefoot shoes and how to do it safely and effectively!
She also has a super awesome free blog with resources and loads of information on healthy feet and minimalist footwear that can be found HERE.
Also, Vivobarefoot, one of our top barefoot brands has some science based information on their website that you can find HERE.