The benefits of running barefoot
Humans first made shoes to protect feet from the elements and rough terrain - whether the nearly-impenetrable jungle or the burning sand of the Kalahari.
And in the world of architecture, product design and engineering, the concept that the shape of an object should be primarily based upon its intended use, is something entirely accepted as logical.
Form follows function - it’s common sense. So, why is the form follows function concept so alien to modern society, when applied to modern shoe design?
The purpose of the foot is to provide a stable base of support for standing, to control and direct body weight in walking and running. Nature’s engineering solution arose over thousands of years in the shape of the habitually barefoot human foot structure that we are all born with.
Left alone, this engineering masterpiece performs its job perfectly, facilitating easy, smooth and pain-free movement over a variety of terrains.
Look at some of the un-shod populations in the world, like the San people of the Kalahari. This community has remained almost entirely barefoot for thousands of years and, to this day, practice the ancient art of persistence hunting; an endurance running technique hunting where humans track, follow and ultimately outrun wild animals, on foot, with just a one-piece leather sandal protecting their feet from the harsh desert underfoot.
Evolution has told us that humans are designed to stand, walk and run barefoot, without injury, but generations of modern footwear have left the shod population with weak, deformed, dysfunctional feet.
The foot's perfectly-adapted structure can be quickly and easily distorted. Narrow, stiff and pointy shoes can adversely alter foot shape in as little as six weeks, with the extent of deformity worsening, in a linear fashion, with each year that shoes are worn.
Changing natural foot shape decreases the stability and control of the foot, leading to many joint and movement problems upstream (such as ankle, knee, hips and back).
Reversing the process
Thankfully, the foot is malleable enough that the damage, in most cases, can be reversed. All that is required is time spent loading the feet with body weight (i.e. standing and walking) without shoes on, or in shoes that are wide, flat and flexible enough to allow your feet to work as they should.
Shoes were originally invented for warmth and puncture protection – that’s it. Standing and walking without shoes on, over a period of time, helps feet become stronger, more flexible and able to function as evolution intended.
Of course, it tends not to be totally practical to run or walk without shoes on.
And that’s where barefoot shoes come in - they take advantage of breakthrough biomechanical research and high-tech materials, but they stay true to this original purpose.
Like traditional shoes worn for centuries, modern barefoot shoes allow feet to retain their natural shape, strength, and range of motion.
At Vivobarefoot we've built a shoe brand on the basis that, when it comes to footwear, form really should follow function. Our range allows feet to do their natural thing on all terrains and in all seasons, allowing for maximum sensory feedback while still protecting from sharp objects, thanks to a puncture resistant layer in the sole.
So that damage caused by restrictive, padded shoes can be reversed, with a little time, patience and practice. Here's how...
Start by taking off your shoes. Try walking around the house. Get used to the feeling of your feet working as they should.
When you feel ready, try wearing barefoot shoes for short journeys and build up your strength slowly, over time.
Eventually, your feet will start to heal from a lifetime of modern shoes and you’ll regain the natural strength and mobility required to walk or run barefoot, as our ancient ancestors did.
More details on the science behind this piece are available in The Foot and Ankle Online Journal