What you should know about barefoot shoes

The warmer weather means more time spent barefoot outdoors.

Humans weren’t born with shoes, though it didn’t take long before crude footwear was worn.

But walking in shoes does have its problems. Some biomechanical experts claim our modern shoes are contributing to a lot of ailments 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.

This is one reason that some neurologists recommend flat shoes, like swim shoes, for children with certain neurological delays. Wearing shoes with less padding improves the feedback from the feet and helps improve walking in these children.

There is now a whole barefoot shoe movement, designed around the desire to get back to nature and walk or run as we were naturally designed to do.

Shoes can be considered “barefoot shoes” if they:

  1. Do not have a raised heel. The shoe should be flat and all the same thickness from heel to toe.
  2. Allow free movement of the toes. Many shoes have thin or even pointy toe beds and constrain the toes. A barefoot shoe should be open or allow free toe movement.

In other words, barefoot shoes provide a basic protective barrier between the foot and the ground and not much else. Barefoot shoes also qualify as minimalist shoes, though not all minimalist shoes are technically barefoot shoes.

If you are considering a permanent move to barefoot shoes, you may want to talk with a specialist or at least do some research. Barefoot walking and running is a big divergence away from your usual shoes and posture. You will need to make some adjustments to avoid injuries or pain.

This article and accompanying research sheds some light on the pros and cons of barefoot shoes.