Going barefoot sounds like some eccentric new trend, but did you know that going barefoot is actually a scientifically-researched practice that has tons of incredible health advantages, such as increasing antioxidants, reducing inflammation, and improving sleep? I personally exercise barefooted as much as I possibly can. The only exercise I use shoes for is rope jumping.
Anatomically speaking, going barefoot is one the best thing you can do for your feet.
We wear shoes to protect our feet from cuts, injuries, bruises, etc. But in reality, wearing shoes has weakened our feet.
Bio-mechanist Katy Bowman, claims that our “modern, thick-soled shoes are contributing to a lot of problems including osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, knee-hip-back pain, and bunions. This is partially because most shoes block full motion of the foot joints and nerve feedback from the feet.”
Our feet are supposed to be able to handle walking, hiking, treading, running, and yes, even working out, completely barefoot, without an issue. Many indigenous people from all over the world know this very well. They live almost 100% of their lives completely barefoot! They wander the savannas and hike the rain forests without the protection or support of their Nikes or Adidas, and yet, they have strong, healthy feet. Far superior to our own, with very few, if any, foot problems at all.
Here are a few health benefits to inspire you to ditch the Reeboks and give barefoot living a try…
1. First and foremost, going barefoot strengthens the little stabilizing muscles in your feet and ankles and makes them stronger. Ultra-cushioned and thick-heeled shoes that give a lot of stability and support actually make your feet and ankles lazy. Almost 30% of the joints in your body are in your feet. Your feet are the base of support for the whole body. Improper foot mechanics often lead to knee and back pain. The artificial support you get from shoes can place unnatural pressure on the knees, spine, and neck and lead to chronic pain.
2. Have horrible balance and coordination? Go barefoot. Again, by strengthening the small stabilizing muscles of your feet, you actually improve your balance and overall sports performance. Also, according to a study published in Oxford Academic, by going barefoot, “the nerve endings in your feet have access to the sensory information provided by the environment which improves something called “foot position awareness,” a fancy way of saying “stability and balance. Thick shoes remove this proprioceptive awareness, reducing balance and stability and increasing the risk of injuries.
3. Reduces the risk of heart disease. High viscosity has been linked as a risk factor for heart disease, but by going barefoot outside through a practice called earthing, this can contribute to reducing this factor significantly. According to a study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, earthing (when you walk barefoot outside), increases the surface charge of red blood cells. This charge helps reduce the amount of clumping in the cells, which results in a decrease in blood thickness.
4. Prevent problems later on in life. How many of us know older people who have hip problems? Probably all of us. If the stability and mobility of your feet start to deteriorate (which happens when you wear shoes all the time), this will affect and change the ankle, knee and hip positions and make them all more prone to injuries. Prevention is key here to avoid having issues later on in life. Going barefoot now as often as possible will help aid you from being another older person that needs a hip replacement.
Now, if you’ve been inspired to go barefoot to strengthen your feet and by connection, your whole body, then that is great! But start slow. Your feet have gotten used to shoes and support their whole lives. Going barefoot completely and adding in high impact and high-intensity workouts and movements can lead to injury. Just like any muscle, you have to work your way up.
Start by being barefoot inside your home, and work your way up to being barefoot as much as possible. Take your dog out barefoot. Getting the mail? Do it shoeless. Living room workout? Do it without shoes on.
Go slowly but overtime, you will learn how to use your feet again. Going slowly will help strengthen them and prevent injuries.