In this article, I’m going to be discussing why barefoot shoes are actually not enough.
Let me clarify, barefoot shoes are so important for your feet, but there is a lot more to the equation than that. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll have a much better idea about your feet, how they function and how to best use barefoot shoes on your journey to better movement.
Let’s start with a brief overview of why barefoot shoes are a good idea and understand some of the downsides if you don’t prepare or transition to them properly.
They have no toe-heel drop (also known as zero drop) which means that between the heels and the toes there is no difference in height. Our heels are not lifted like they are in conventional shoes. Because of this lift, most people's ankles are very inflexible and we may have to re-develop the dorsiflexion movement in that joint.
This is especially important if you want to run or walk long distances. This extra range doesn’t all need to come from the ankle, it can also come from other areas like the forefoot extending and toe lift. These are all different mechanics to think about when committing to zero drop shoes. I can be challenging on the whole body.
Most barefoot shoes have very thin soles, especially when compared to most of shoes that Nike, Adidas, etc make. Thicker soles add a lot of cushion to your steps causing a couple of issues. The first is that you’re getting inaccurate feedback from your feet. Every surface feels like cushiony foam because that’s what you’re walking on. You also think that you’re foot is on the ground but it’s not, it’s half an inch higher. Your body will adjust its biomechanics to account for this false sensory feedback. Your body is built to be in contact with the ground and those bigger soles skew that. When you get closer, you’ll likely find you’re faster and more agile as a result of more efficient movement and feedback.
A wide toe box is another feature of barefoot shoes. Try this, take off your shoes and socks and stand on one foot and then the other. You’ll see that when you put weight on your foot it gets wider and the toes want to splay.
Restricting your toes from splaying with constricting shoes leads to cramps, bunions, deformities and all kinds of weirdness over time. It’s important to work on restoring this movement to your toes with exercises and/or toe spacers to help support your transition to barefoot shoes.
What most people don’t realise is that getting into barefoot shoes is a journey. One that can be uncomfortable at the beginning whilst your body adapts. It’s a process that can take months or even years to fully adapt to.
Something that’s often missed when switching is the socks that you wear with minimalist shoes. If you’re still going to use thick, cushioned socks it’s going to undermine a lot of the benefits you’re trying to get. We created a whole guide to the best socks for barefoot shoes but we can recommend the toe socks from Injinji.
If you want to prepare your body properly before or during your transition to barefoot shoes, or you’d like to learn more about barefoot running, we curated a list of free YouTube videos with the best exercises to help you.
We also put together a list of online courses that help you restore and improve your natural movement mechanics.
And if you want something a little more personalised and tailored for you specifically, we have a list of independent experts who would be more than happy to work with you directly. They also have a lot of great free content online so definitely check them out.
Remember, if you don't have stability in your feet the rest of your body is going to be compromised. Keep safe and keep moving.