Barefoot Shoes – Freedom for Your Feet
We all know that running has numerous benefits and is good for health. But do you also run in a natural way? This is a very popular question since “Natural Running” is the new thing in running circles. Thus, no wonder that this movement has changed something in the running shoes range.
Barefoot shoes are the latest trend for runners and other athletes. But is that really healthy for your joints? Here is the information about this new way of running and what you need to consider.
What is the point of these shoes?
Basically, there is nothing healthier for your feet than to run barefoot. Because even though the attenuation in cushioning in running shoes reduces the bounce, muscles get weaker because of decreased use. On the other hand, walking barefoot stimulates the delicate feet muscles and the lower leg muscles. And since the risk of injury is quite high in running barefoot in the nature and uncomfortable, it didn’t take long until the first special shoes were in the market. The most common shoes are from FiveFingers from Vibran, which is a very popular brand in the hiking scene.
The point of running with this new footwear is in reducing the feet steps and to touchdown shortly before the whole body weight is on the joints. Therefore, you end up on the whole foot instead of ramming the heel with a stretched leg on the ground as it is often the case.
What is so bad about the old running shoes?
Studies conducted by researchers from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville showed that the joints are more exposed by wearing the common running shoes than by walking barefoot. The hip get about 54 percent loaded with well damped shoes, the knees and ankles by about 36-38 percent more loaded than when you walk barefoot. The causes for this high load are probably because of the increased heel and the supporting material under the arch of modern running shoes. As a result, many amateur athletes tend to run too much on the heel which causes increased shock and instability of the foot.
Usage of barefoot shoes:
- Watersports: Especially, FiveFingers models are perfect for water athletes since you have to be actually barefoot to get the right feeling and a firm footing. But it can be also dangerous to go barefoot because of sharp stones for example or due to slipping. And since FiveFingers are not only waterproof but are also very slip resistant even when wet, this shoe is perfect for water sports.
- Running: While running shoes had the function to attenuate, to support and to carry, runners and other athletes are more and more into the new barefoot or minimalistic shoes to get back to a natural movement of the foot. The essential characteristic of these models is a small gap between the heel and fore foot. The heavily damped running shoes of older generations were more comfortable but are a risk for the joints.
- Trekking: Shoes for this sport have a thicker sole with a strong profile to be able to walk on rocky ground and on sharp stones. Because of its great grip on rocky surfaces, it is also a great alternative for climbers to traditional climbing shoes.
- Martial Arts and Body Building: It is important in both sports to have a good grip. So due to thin soles, you have not just good hold but also the feeling of being barefoot without the risk of injury you have when not wearing any shoe.
- Pilates, Yoga and Gym: There are special models for indoor sports. These models have a thinner sole so you have a better foot feeling and a low weight. But due to its thin material it is not recommended to use them outdoor.
- Every day use: Many people who got used to wearing these light shoes want to wear them all the time because of the comfort. Especially in the summer, this new footwear is a good alternative to sandals and barefoot walking. But it doesn’t need to be necessarily a FiveFingers since not many people like the design of them. There are many other brands such as Merrell, New Balance, Newton or Sancony which have shoes that look almost like a normal sport shoe.
It is important not to immediately switch to the barefoot running technique whether you are beginner or an advanced athlete. Take the advantage of these models only as a second shoe to run shorter sessions at the beginning. You need to strengthen the foot muscles and tendons first, and the muscles have to get used to the new load. After a few weeks of training, you can start running a long session with you barefoot shoes.