There’s a big trend in the world of foot health, and they are called barefoot shoes. Check out the surprising benefits of shaking up your shoe game.
Some people love walking around barefoot, whether they’re indoors or outdoors. Other people wouldn’t even think about stepping outside without having shoes on their feet. Some people prefer an abundance of cushioning and arch support, while others feel most comfortable in flip flops.
There are dozens of different shoe silhouettes on the market, and everyone has their own preference of what type of shoes they like. But regardless of your style, there’s one type of footwear that a lot of people are trying out:
Not sure if barefoot shoes are right for you? Here’s our guide to what they are and the surprising benefits of wearing them.
What Are Barefoot Shoes?
There are a few key things that make a barefoot shoe a barefoot shoe.
For starters, they have a zero heel drop.
The heel drop is the difference in height from the heel cushion to the toe cushion of the shoe. The heel drop directly affects how your foot strikes the ground when you walk in a heel-toe motion. Barefoot shoes have zero heel drop — they are completely flat from end to end.
Barefoot shoes also have thin soles and are made in lightweight and flexible materials. They have a wide toe box that lets your toes spread out naturally, and since they’re flat, they provide no arch support. Barefoot shoes are designed to feel as though you’re walking around in bare feet.
Walking in barefoot shoes can be beneficial to your body and mind.
Here are five reasons why:
Barefoot Shoes Strengthen the Muscles in Your Feet
Most shoes have a narrow toe box that squeezes the toes together. Barefoot shoes have a wide toe box that forces your feet to take their natural position and curve. The benefit is that walking and running with your feet in the natural position makes you use all of the muscles in the feet.
By putting all of your foot muscles to work with every step, you can strengthen your feet and allow your feet to develop in the most natural way. With shoes designed to support your feet, you don’t have to use all of your muscles; the shoes do most of the work for you.
With barefoot shoes, you’re forced to use those foot muscles that you usually ignore.
Barefoot Shoes Reduce Impact on the Legs and Knees
The heel-to-toe stride that we use when walking and running causes an impact on our legs and knees. Since barefoot shoes force you to use all of your foot muscles, they also force you to adopt a proper gait, which alleviates some of that impact.
The proper gait means to put pressure on the ball of your foot as opposed to your toes. Barefoot shoes, with their zero heel drop, help you do so naturally. Without cushioning to lift the heel, you’ll walk with a heel-to-ball-of-foot stride rather than the typical heel-to-toe gait.
Putting pressure on the ball of your foot instead of your toes can also help alleviate pain in the lower back. This is one reason why so many runners wear barefoot shoes, especially those that run on asphalt, concrete, and other hard surfaces.
Barefoot Shoes Provide Acupressure
There are more than twenty individual pressure points in the foot, each of which corresponds to a different part or organ of the body. Acupressure, or foot reflexology, is the act of applying pressure to certain parts of the foot. By targeting specific areas of the foot with pressure, you can improve function and feeling in other parts of the body.
Wearing barefoot shoes provides constant stimulation to those pressure points with every step. They can actually make your entire body feel better!
Barefoot Shoes Help You Connect With the Land
In barefoot shoes, you can feel the ground beneath your feet evenly from your toes to the ball of your foot to your heel. Having this connection to the ground is another reason why so many runners love this minimalist footwear.
It doesn’t matter whether you run on a city street, on a trail, or on the beach. Feeling the ground beneath your toes and heels helps you to be more in tune with any surface you’re running on. Many runners find that this connection to the earth makes running more enjoyable and encourages them to go further distances.
If you’re looking to test out barefoot shoes for running for the first time, check out brands such as Vibram FiveFingers, Merrell, and Xero Shoes. These brands make some of the best barefoot shoes on the market, especially for runners looking for the most natural range of motion.
Barefoot Shoes Can Improve Your Balance
Place your hand flat on a table, and you’ll see that it forms a triangle from the wrist to the tip of your fingers. The natural shape of the foot is the same.
The wide toe box in a barefoot shoe allows your foot to take this natural formation. Traditional shoes do the opposite and tend to bring your toes together. The wider the toe box, the more effectively your foot can spread out into that natural triangle shape.
Why does this matter?
Because the more triangular the foot, the better balance you’ll have. Balance also occurs through strength, and barefoot shoes are proven to strengthen the muscles in your feet.
Better balance and being able to feel the ground beneath your feet also contribute to proprioception.
Proprioception is the self-awareness of the body’s balance, movement, and position. Wearing regular shoes makes it hard to detect surface details, which makes it easier to stumble and slip. With that heightened awareness, you can minimize your risk for injuries and falls.
It can take some time to get accustomed to walking or running in barefoot shoes.
If you’re new to this footwear trend, start by wearing them gradually for short periods of time. Like all other types of footwear, it’s best to break them in and get used to how they feel on your feet before committing to wearing them for an extended length of time.
Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with The Cynwyd to help them with their online marketing.