A Case For Being Barefoot & Minimalist Footwear

Try imagining going on a walk in those Moon Shoes that they sold on TV back in the late 90s. It might not be too bad taking them around the block and walking on the street. Now imagine taking those Moon Shoes to the beach and walking on the sand– totally a different story. Across the globe, there are countries, religions, practices, and tales in history and literature that ditch shoes and focus on the importance and benefits of going barefoot.

Picture the Earth roughly 10,000 years ago. No asphalt or sidewalks, mostly grassland, sand, and stone, right? As humans began to travel from place to place on foot, adjustments needed to be made in order for them to be able to brave harsh weather and terrain.

We’ve made quite a few adjustments from wrapping our feet in animal hides to now placing orthotics in our running shoes. But were our feet really meant to be confined to shoes where ligaments, tendons and muscles are restricted and arch support is artificially created? Studies have shown that, in runners, going barefoot allowed for pressure on the foot to be distributed evenly and resulted in a shorter stride and better overall performance. Running shoes that are bouncy and often come with an elevated heel encourage heel striking which sends the force of the impact up through the skeletal system.

Science has also discovered that feet in countries where walking barefoot is more common, like in Australia, India and New Zealand, are wider and provide more ankle stability than the slender feet of Western countries such as the U.S.. In African countries where walking barefoot is extremely common, but the weather and terrain conditions are harsher, naturally-produced calluses on the bottoms of the feet act as protectors to rough terrain and were even compared to non cushioned shoes like Vibrams. Think about it this way: babies don’t learn how to walk while wearing shoes first. It’s important for them to learn how all those 200,000 nerve endings react to the impact of their weight on the floor and doing so in shoes would cause over compensation and unnecessary adjustments of the joints, muscles, and bones.

Still not convinced? Here are some other benefits of unlacing and going footloose:
•Potentially decreases injuries of knees and hips and back
•Increased awareness of where your body is in space (proprioception can be your $5 word today)
•Good grounding method to better connect to nature
•Potentially increases stability in the ankle and knees to help with balance

Looking at feet and their purpose and function from this point of view just reminds us that sometimes “better” looks more like returning back to how our ancestors moved and less like new, fluffy shoe technology. This summer when you’re doing yard work, walking on the beach, or playing with the kids outside, try kicking your shoes off and tune into how your body shifts, grounds, and propels you forward, you just might find yourself rethinking your next steps!

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Rachel Palepale

Author Bio

Rachel Palepale has been part of the First Capital Gym team since November 2021. She has been coaching since August 2021. She has a B.A. in Professional Writing.