Do barefoot shoes actually help? Fitness trainer weighs in

Modern footwear constrains our feet, leading to pain and other ailments. A different kind of footwear might have the answer to that problem

By Virendra Raj Singh

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram


Published: Thu 23 May 2024, 10:00 PM

An average person spends most of his or her day in shoes. While shoes often provide necessary protection and support, they can also hinder the natural functionality and structure of our feet. The rise of postural, foot-related issues and knee pain can be traced back to the restrictive nature of conventional footwear, which often forces the toes into unnatural positions and limits the big toe's freedom to move. This constriction can lead to a number of problems, starting with the feet and travelling up to the knees.

The Problem with Modern Footwear

Traditional shoes, particularly those with narrow toe boxes and elevated heels, can cause the toes to become cramped and misaligned. The big toe, which plays a crucial role in maintaining balance and stability, is often the most affected. When the big toe loses its ability to move freely, it can't function properly during walking or running. This improper movement can cause the knees to compensate, leading to strain and pain over time.

The Case for Barefoot Living

Going barefoot allows the feet to move naturally, promoting better alignment and function. It enables the toes to splay and grip the ground, providing a strong foundation for the entire body. The benefits of barefoot living include improved balance, stronger foot muscles, and better overall foot health. However, it's not always practical or safe to go barefoot in our daily lives. Modern environments often have hazards that make barefoot walking risky. This is where barefoot shoes come into play.

The Solution: Barefoot Shoes

Barefoot shoes are designed to mimic the experience of walking barefoot while providing protection from the elements. They have a wide toe box to allow for natural toe spread, a thin, flexible sole to enable sensory feedback from the ground, and zero drop from heel to toe to maintain natural posture.

Benefits of Barefoot Shoes:

1)Natural Movement: By allowing the toes to spread and the feet to move naturally, barefoot shoes help maintain proper foot mechanics.

2)Strengthening Muscles: These shoes can help strengthen the muscles in the feet and lower legs, reducing the risk of injuries.

3)Enhanced Balance: The increased sensory feedback improves balance and proprioception.

4) Reduced Knee Pain: With improved foot function, the knees experience less strain, potentially reducing pain and preventing injury.

Practical Applications

Barefoot shoes are versatile and can be used in various environments:

Gym: In the gym, barefoot shoes provide the necessary protection while allowing for natural foot movement during exercises like squats and deadlifts.

Outdoors: For activities such as hiking or running, these shoes offer the benefits of barefoot walking with added protection against rough terrain.

Daily Wear: Many barefoot shoes are designed for everyday use, blending functionality with style.

While the ideal of going barefoot might not be feasible for everyone all the time, barefoot shoes can provide the closest experience to being barefoot helping to restore natural foot function and alleviate related issues. In summary, embracing barefoot living, even partially through the use of barefoot shoes, can have profound benefits for our musculoskeletal health. It's a simple change that can make a significant difference, one step at a time.

Singh is an ACE and ACSM-certified coach

More news from Lifestyle