Barefoot Freedom

Barefoot freedom is a natural way for each and everyone of us. As we learned to walk as children we spent the majority of that time walking barefoot. Barefoot walking is one simple way to improve the overall health and structure of your feet as well as your entire body. In simple terms our feet our the foundation for our body and health. Correct alignment, structure, and mobility are directly tied into our feet and ankles.

Since the introduction of modernized shoes there has been a constant struggle against the idea that barefoot freedom cannot support properly due to the fragile nature of our feet. The reality is are feet have been fragile and unable to support our body and natural movement because of shoes. There are many indigenous individuals around the world that live 100% barefoot. Many of those individuals wander through rain forests and savannas without the support and protection of shoes. Those who go the majority of their lives barefoot often have few foot problems if at all.

Think of the idea of wearing a thick and rigid pair of gloves the majority of your life. What would happen to the mobility, dexterity, and physical contact that your hands are designed to do? What would our movement look like? How would we perform simple tasks like cooking, cleaning, hunting, gathering, or protecting ourselves. This idea is ridiculous because we all understand the importance and need for our fine motor skills developed through and with our hands. So why are we okay with doing this same concept to our feet?

Our feet, just like our hands receive constant sensory feedback from everything we come in contact with. Every slippery, sharp, stable or unstable, soft or hard surface provides constant sensory feedback to our feet and in return our body makes constant adjustments to these changes. Heavy soled and stiff shoes reduces the foots range of motion, it softens the skin of bottom of the foot, weakens the muscles and bones of the foot as well as the ankle. These heavy shoes have been marketed as a protection and support of our feet, which in reality we tend to walk harder, strike on the wrong part of the gait, which causes joint and back problems.

For those who have occasionally ventured in the outdoors barefoot, may have experienced an awkward gate, pain or discomfort in the sole or pads of the feet, pain in the toes or ankles, especially if that experience took place on uneven or rocky terrain. It may seem natural to think that because of the negative experience of barefoot walking that it may seem unnatural. The reality is no matter how strong the body is, if the feet are week, then the entire foundation of your body is weak.

Regular barefoot movement has many benefits:

  • Strengthens and stabilizes the muscles of the foot and ankle.
  • Improves our proprioception which will in turn improve our overall balance and mobility.
  • Improves muscle alignment and provides a more efficient and natural gate.
  • Strengthens arches in the foot.
  • Increases flexibility and provides a wider range of motion.
  • Releases stress and raises your energy levels.
  • Decreases opportunity of injuries, not only in the foot but also in the entire body.
  • Eliminates odor that are often accustomed with shoes.

Now of course their may be times when going exclusively barefoot is not optimal. Many tribes have incorporated minimal footwear on a regular basis. In fact, wearing minimal footwear can increase your speed, especially over rough terrain it can protect your feet from cuts, burns, or other foot related injuries. Their design however was simple, they were flexible, light, and thin. Today we have those same options available to us as well. They are called “minimal footwear” and can provide positive alternatives to barefoot freedom. They also offer the same protection as well as social acceptance for those society expectations.

Here are my personal recommendations based off of going barefoot or wearing minimalist footwear for the last 20 years:

Barefoot freedom like any other area of physical practice needs to be progressive to allow for the feet to strengthen and become healthier. By increasing barefoot movement too quickly can lead to fatigue and injury due to the fact that the muscles and health of the feet are weak. By slowly increasing the volume and intensity one can safely develop the necessary foundation for higher levels of barefoot movement over more strenuous terrain. There are multiple ways to slowly transition to barefoot freedom. One way is to ditch the shoes for increased time throughout the day and if possible try to walk barefoot outside in nature also called (earthing). The second option is to transition your footwear from normal footwear to thinner, more flexible shoes until your feet can support minimal footwear for long periods of time. It’s important to remember that occasional discomfort is acceptable.

Freedom awaits you….. Enjoy!

-Clint

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