Walk barefoot and in minimalist shoes

Taking Root by Kate MacDowell

Taking Root by Kate MacDowell

I’ve delivered a lot of babies but I never delivered one wearing shoes.

For most of human history, humans wore no shoes or minimalist footwear such as simple sandals.

Human feet evolved a lot compared to those of chimps and gorillas. Specifically, humans evolved to have mobile feet. One quarter of the bones in the human body are in the feet. The rest of the body – especially the back – evolved to work well with bare feet. Human feet need to be smart in order to keep the brain up in the air and protect the body’s balance.

Humans used to run over irregular ground. So feet and brain had to be smart enough to conform instantly to irregularities in ground. On the Discovery Channel, you can see hunter-gatherers running barefoot through forests without harming their feet.

Eventually, rich people had shoes. Now, almost all modern humans wear shoes most of the time.

Tightrope walking

Try walking with thin-soled shoes so your brain senses what’s under your feet.
You will feel more alive. Photo: Wiros/Flickr. CCASA

Stupid feet, smart feet
Shoes protect our feet and are necessary in many circumstances. Shoes prevent our foot from fully interacting with the environment around us. But shoes make our feet stupid, which makes our brain stupid. Stupid feet contribute to balance problems and falls in older people.

Stupid feet can also affect ankles. It’s been my experience that it is usually the ANKLE that causes a foot problem.

In a person wearing shoes, the back becomes a shock absorber. Let your foot be acquainted with ground again. Your back will thank you for it.

Going barefoot stimulates our brains and connects us to the real world. Going barefoot is good for everybody.

Walking surfaces
Barefoot or shod, it makes a big difference what surface we walk on. Walking on irregular surfaces makes our feet smarter, which makes our brain smarter.

Concrete and asphalt surfaces are unchanging. Therefore the brain does not need to pay attention. So the feet lose the skill and falls are more likely on uneven surfaces.

Practical steps
Often we must wear shoes. But there are ways to create variety and receive benefits:

  • Look for opportunities to take off your shoes and let your feet be in touch with the world.
    There’s no reason to wear shoes in the house. At home I go barefoot or wear socks or moccasins.
  • Even wearing shoes, walk on uneven surfaces such as cobblestones. Run around or play catch in a field. This gives your feet the opportunity to use the full set of muscles involved in a natural human stride,
  • Check out minimalist footwear and seek shoes that are thin soled and have minimal support. If one design or manufacturer doesn’t fit you, try another. I always wear flexible soled shoes — Nike Frees, moccasins, Kigas or Vibrams. There are more options all the time.
  • Even with regular shoes, seek shoes that have minimal support and are not too rigid. Avoid what I call “pillow shoes,” which feel good on the feet but transfer stress to the knees and lower back. Smart feet don’t get sore. The feet should wear the shoes. Shoes should not wear the feet.
  • Give your feet a feast. Walk barefoot sometimes on irregular, interesting surfaces such as grass and sand.
  • Women should save high heels for special occasions. One cannot use the whole foot wearing high heels, so they are not good for the back or balance. High heels can look great, so use them for show, and not for go.
  • Similarly, cowboy boots can interfere with stability, especially stylish ones with pointy toes.

One bare foot, one sandal

Going barefoot is a step forward.

When it comes to changing footwear, it’s OK to do it in baby steps. When it comes to babies, keep the shoes off! Their feet are learning.

Further info
Move and play with the barefoot brothers
Stilettos and cowboy boots both bad for feet

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