Human beings have been walking on the planet for around 200,000 years, mainly barefoot. It is only within the last 40 years for the likes of recreational running that we have adopted wearing a super cushioned shoe.
As human beings, we are more naturally adapted to being barefoot than wearing the latest super cushioned shoes, but before you throw away your best running shoes, you have to remember that if you have been wearing shoes all your life then your feet, posture and biomechanics have compensated for this and if you do throw them away then an injury is likely.
Most people will have heard of pronation and consider it a dirty word, but it is a natural movement our body goes into as we decelerate from speed as we slow down to stop.
Excess pronation of the foot can be caused by:
- Bunions due to your big toe being pushed to the side and no longer supporting the foot.
- Weak muscles in your foot and calf unable to lift up the arch of your foot (flat feet).
- Instability in the hip allowing your knee to drop inwards when you run.
Stability running shoes are designed to support over pronation and reduce the likelihood of injury. When we run, we can put up to four times our body weight through each leg as running is defined as never having 2 legs on the ground at any one time. This means that if you weigh 70kg (11 stone), with every foot stride you put 280 kg through your leg. If you run at 80 strides per minute then that is 22.4 tonnes through each leg every minute that you run.
Running shoes are great for running, as they take over the role of the weaker muscles, but if we are in the gym or walking around then we want to target these muscles so that we can improve our biomechanics. Being barefoot or wearing barefoot shoes gives our feet freedom to move, which in turn strengthens muscles which have become weak due to the excessive cushioning and cramped styles found with most normal shoes. It can also allow us to regain a more natural gait which will help with posture and spine alignment when we move.
The Benefits of Barefoot
Our feet are highly sensitive – when we stub a toe it hurts a lot! The reason for this is that they are designed to give us sensory feedback from the environment around us, just the same as our fingers, hands and genitals, so that our bodies can adapt and change to their environment. When we walk barefoot on the ground we enhance this sensory system, but when we wear cushioned shoes then the feet feel even less of the ground we walk on.
With systems of the body, we either use them or lose them. The more we walk barefoot or as close to it as we can, the more we can improve this sensory system therefore becoming more aware of our position in time and space and thus reducing the risk of falls and twisting ankles as we will have a higher level of proprioception.
The Right Barefoot Shoes
When I run, I wear running shoes and at other times, like at home, I like to be as barefoot as possible. Public gyms and gyms including our own, however, don’t like you being barefoot and rightly so for hygiene reasons, so I love wearing Sundried’s barefoot shoes as they have no support, a minimal sole, they allow my feet to move naturally and enable me to feel the ground knowing that I am working my proprioception and stabilisation systems of my body. They are also stylish, comfortable, keep my feet cool and are washable. Some of my clients and my colleagues have commented on them and now own pairs and also love them.
About the author: Claire Williams is a Team GB Age Group triathlete and Sundried ambassador. With contribution from Ian Laird. Visit ohc.ptenhance.com for more.