What Are Barefoot Shoes?

Have you ever thought that your feet have been bound all your life? Well, guess what? They don’t have to be. Barefoot shoes are designed to meet the demand of foot freedom, so if you have ever wondered what are barefoot shoes or how to use them, this is the post for you!

Most people today rarely think about the shape of their shoes or feet. Modern, narrow shoe shapes and deformed feet have become so ‘normal’ that we no longer even notice the inappropriate position of our toes in the shoe and the foot deformities caused by inappropriate footwear.

The human foot is a complex structure that requires movement in order to remain healthy and functional.

Although 98% of children are born with perfectly healthy, functional feet, the situation is completely different for adults. More than 2/3 of adults have foot problems and studies have shown that foot pathologies are present in as many as 80% of elderly people, and one of the main causes is inadequate footwear.

Our feet, which for years have been squeezed into tight and restrictive shoes, are slowly changing shape and becoming more and more like the shoes we wear. The foot muscles become weak, the foot stiff and dysfunctional. A number of problems begin to appear, but in most cases they are not limited to the feet but affect the whole body.

We are not just talking about high-heeled shoes, which we all know are not appropriate footwear, but about all modern shoes – trainers, flip-flops, boots, etc., which also have an extremely bad effect on the development of our feet, due to their inappropriate shape, sole stiffness and inadequate fixation.

If you haven’t thought about your shoes and feet before, now is the time to start. Of course, if you want healthy, functional feet and a body that will serve you well when you’re older. It’s never too late to make a change!

Feet do not need any support to develop properly and strong foot muscles can only develop if given the chance. So don’t lock them in inappropriate shoes.

Shoes that help the feet regain functionality by not hindering their movement are called BAREFOOT SHOES.

Wondering what barefoot shoes are?

Well, this are not some super weird shoes 🙂 They usually look quite normal, with only one difference – they allow your foot to move in the same way as you would if you were walking barefoot. Still, they provide you protection againts cold and ground when needed.

They usually look wider on your feet than what your eyes are used to see. And this is how they should look as this is your natural shape of the foot.

Remember! Just like your feet, your eyes will need time to get used to the new shape, which looks quite different and wider than the shape you’ve been looking at until now. Give your eyes time to fall in love with your natural foot shape again. Also, remember that you are the only one looking at your shoes directly from a bird’s eye view 🙂

So what’s their secret?

To ensure an optimal imitation of the natural movement of the foot, the barefoot shoe must be:

  • functional – foot-shaped toebox, with a thin and zero drop sole and properly attached to the foot
  • the correct size and width – the shoe must allow the foot to widen and lengthen properly when walking, which can only be achieved by wearing a shoe that is wide and long enough for your feet

The functionality of a barefoot shoe is described by five basic characteristics that also categorise the shoe as a barefoot shoe:

  • Asymmetrical, foot-shaped toebox
    Modern shoes have reshaped our feet (the foot is no longer our stable tripod), so for many people the natural shape of the foot (the foot widest at the toes) is no longer present. Barefoot shoes are designed to mimic the natural shape of the human foot, allowing the toes to spread fully when walking.
  • Zero drop sole (no heel rise)
    Any difference in height (even if it is only 5 mm) forces our body to find a new neural position to keep the body upright, and an elevated heel also has the effect of shortening connective tissues (e.g. Achilles tendons). The whole posture and centre of gravity is altered by an elevated heel, which has a very bad effect on the functioning of the whole body in the long term (here I recommend reading the book Whole Body Barefoot)
  • Thin and flexible sole
    To stay connected with the ground, to feel where we walk and let our muscles work and keep them strong
  • Secure on your feet
    Your foot should not slip out of the shoe, nor slip forward while walking. You shouldn’t grip your toes to keep the shoe on while walking, so you need to ensure that the shoe is well attached to the foot. All slippers, flip flops and poorly fixed ballet flats fare no good for you.
  • No toe spring
    Your toes should lay flat on the floor to prevent injury and ensure balance and stability of your body.

Who can wear them?

They are available for all, kids and adults. The choice is growing and today you can find them for all occasions and activities (sporty and elegant look, sandals, winter boots, for hiking, etc.).

DON’T FORGET! For adults, the transition to barefoot shoes should always be gradual (these are muscles we haven’t used for a long time). You will also need to relearn the correct, natural gait (yes, we forgot this too because of the wrong shoes).

Barefoot shoes will not be an instant solution to all your health problems (taking care of a healthy body and getting enough exercise is key), but they will make a key contribution to correct posture, movement, breathing and the proper functioning of the foundation of our bodies – our feet.

How do I start?

Choosing the right barefoot shoe for beginners is not always the easiest task.

For a detailed guide to buying barefoot shoes, see my post ‘How to choose your first pair of barefoot shoes‘.

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