One of the first things people usually ask me when they meet me is usually some kind of question about my footwear. I always find it amusing that when meeting a new person and speaking to them face to face that so many people have their attention drawn to what is on my feet out of all the things they could focus on. Its literally the opposite end of the person from where we should be focused when communicating… anyway I digress…
I have worn only “barefoot” footwear (an ironic term I know) for over 5 years now. I usually wear Vibram Fivefingers when the weather is dry and VivoBarefoot Boots for when its raining. Vibram FiveFingers are the shape of the human foot, toes included, and that is what seems to shock people are draw attention to my feet. “How can your foot look like a human foot?” Is the usual reaction, because “I am a human and this is my foot” is my normal response.
You see for millions of years the human foot has evolved to become the amazing piece of machinery it is today, why would it make sense to limit its capabilities putting it inside something that makes it look and work more like a hoof? To me it seems absurd when I see people in shoes.
Barefoot footwear is designed to allow your toes to spread out so that you can use them for distributing your weight and balancing yourself, your toes are pretty useless if they are crushed together. Another important feature is being as thin and flexible as possible in order to allow your foot to function in an as close to natural way as possible. Hard and rigid shoes limit the movement of our feet and therefore the structures in them become weak and this is the root cause of many injuries.
When was the last time you saw a dog with an Icepack on its ankle after a nasty sprain? You don’t because dogs don’t twist their ankles! Nature found this wonderful sense for looking after the position of joints called Proprioception, which is our ability to feel and sense where our bodies are in space without looking at them.
If the soles of your shoes are thin then you can feel the floor below you, including any bumps or cracks which might knock you off balance and your body can respond quickly enough to adapt to this challenge and protect you.
When wearing thick rigid shoes your body doesn’t sense the inconsistencies in the ground until it is already too late and you have rolled your ankle over and torn some important tissue that will take weeks to heal.
I know, I twisted the same left ankle about every other year or so for a better half of a decade before on the 4th time finally seeing a physio to rehab it and learning that my proprioception was the issue and that research lead me to making the change to barefoot footwear and I have been injury free ever since, 6 years and counting on that ankle.
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