The Barefooted Warrior

Ask anyone to walk up the high street without shoes on and they’ll look at you as if you’re mad, but they’ll almost certainly agree that going without shoes is one of the best things about being on holiday or on the beach.

There’s an enormous sense of freedom when we go unshod in the manner in which we came into this world. Even though going bare-foot on rough ground can never, on the face of it, be described as more ‘comfortable’ or ‘easy’ when compared to wearing the latest hi-tech padded shoes, it does offer a sensory experience much deeper and more ‘connected’ than any training shoe can ever offer.

 We have become prudish and fearful of touching the very earth that supports us.

Our feet evolved to be in constant contact with the ground beneath us and recieve a stimulating and therapeutic massage with texture of each and every step. Wearing shoes insulates us from the benefits of this massage and forces the foot to move in a fixed, inflexible, robotic manner.

In the same way that wearing an injured arm in a sling for too long will result in stiff, atrophied muscles and reduced co-ordination, keeping your feet constantly boxed up in ‘foot slings’ is just as unnatural and can, over decades, have a seriously detrimental effect on health of your whole body.

Considering that there are 20 different muscles in the foot, all of which need to work individually and collectively to balance you properly, it’s easy to imagine the harm smothering them with a shoe for a lifetime will do. The effects of shoes are seen clearly in feet with collapsed arches, curled toes or bunions – afflictions seldom seen in populations who have never worn shoes.

Would you bind your feet?

It is a Chinese custom to deliberately bind up female feet to make them look smaller and more feminine. In doing so they permanently damage the foot so that the lady concerned can no longer walk properly.

On a smaller scale of severity, all long-term shoe-wearers do something very similar. The toes are still forced to curl to fit into a toe box and the feet still become stiff and lump-like through lack of proper space and movement. The knock on effects of all of this can affect the way we stand, move and function.

There is excellent evidence for the fact that going barefoot can go some way to reversing any ill-effects our conditioning may done us so far.

Going Barefoot offers the following benefits:

  1. Improved walking and running efficiency
  2. Improved circulation
  3. Minimization of back pain
  4. Enhanced balance and agility
  5. Stronger calves, feet and foot arches
  6. Improved general posture and movement patterns.

The benefits of losing your shoes may reach even further. Reflexologists and Reflex Touch therapists claim to be able to help with both physical and mental ailments by stimulating points on the soles of the feet, and – although to some this may seem a little far-fetched – it does make perfects sense in the light of our body’s evolutionary expectations. We have evolved to keep our feet in direct and constant contact with stones, rocks, earth, sand and other types of ground. This friction massages the feet in a variety of different manners. It seems entirely possible that an absence of this sort of stimulation through the wearing of shoes could provoke symptoms that could be helped with intelligent application of skilled, targeted massage. Who knows?

Barefootedness taken too far? Perhaps, perhaps not…

Proponents of ‘Earthing’ take this point of view to another level again. They point out that throughout history humans walked barefoot and slept on the ground.  They place huge value on the need for humans to spend as much time in contact with the natural earth as possible. Being insulated from the earth by rubber or plastic shoes and man-made surfaces, they believe, breaks the essential healing current of energy that otherwise flows between the earth and our bodies. Seems a bit far out for me – but hey why ever not?

The science behind these claims is in its infancy, so instead of waiting for solid proof, why not tested it yourself and see how it feels to you? Sling your shoes back in the cupboard and get outside and walk on real earth, grass, mud, stones or sand. If it feels great and makes you feel happier, what else matters?

The human foot has evolved for more than four million years to do its job without interference from shoes, so why do we continue to wear the latest high-tech shoes that only force us further from the way nature intended?

There are of course times when going barefoot is really not practical (even the hardiest bare-footer ‘shods up’ sometimes), then maybe you could take a look at what has become known as ‘minimalist footwear’; shoes that have only a minimal impact on the way the foot operates.

Even though you may have to endure the odd sideways glance, Minimalist footwear is amazingly comfortable and performs brilliantly under any conditions.

Most minimalist footwear worth its salt comes from small ‘niche’ manufacturers and is sometimes difficult to come across on the high street. Some look surprisingly ‘normal’, while other brands even provide individual pockets for each toe to operate independently as they evolved to do.

Ok, perhaps they’re not always the perfect fashion statement for everyone, and they’re sure to attract the funny looks worn to a wedding, but they really are unbelievable in the great outdoors: scrambling through a wood, walking through fields, climbing rocks or trees, or even in the water.

We hope to be showcasing some of these great shoes on our website soon.

Of course one draw back with going completely barefooted is that you’re unlikely to be allowed into the gym. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, for reasons you might find interesting  HERE.