About 4 years ago we had an explosion of interest and demand for the barefoot shoe, or skin shoe. This revolution was fueled by a belief the big shoe corporations had been duping us all this time. That they had promised their shoes with big squishy heels and bulky forms were good for our feet and health, but now the truth was out, they were actually hurting us, and giving us all flat muscle-less feet! Its important to remember no proper studies have shown this is true yet. However the assumption is based on some reasonable ideas. First and foremost is that when you walk barefoot the muscles in your feet are working drastically differently than when walking in a normal pair of walking shoes. All types of muscles are activating to balance your feet and thus your walking when moving barefoot, or as close to barefoot as possible.
For years the big shoe companies have been trying to persuade us their cushioned bulky running shoes will somehow reduce injury and make us better runners. Or that its better to workout at the gym in their shoes. Here is an interesting quote for you:
“We found pockets of people all over the globe who are still running barefoot, and what you find is that during propulsion and landing, they have far more range of motion in the foot and engage more of the toe. Their feet flex, spread, splay and grip the surface, meaning you have less pronation and more distribution of pressure.”
—Jeff Pisciotta, Senior Researcher, Nike’s Sports Research Lab.
A bit of hypocrisy one might think. The bottom line is there are people from all over the world that have been running in flimsy sandals or barefoot for thousands of years, its part of their traditions and culture. And do they get lots of injuries from it? No, in fact it looks like they experience far less injuries that the average bulky running shoe westerner.
When my wife used to do yoga, or her balance classes at the gym she always used to complain about the feeling her normal exercise shoes gave her, that she couldn’t seem to flex her arches properly, that she wasn’t feeling the stretch that she should. Then she tried doing it with our new barefoot shoes and noticed an immediate difference.
In conclusion it seems the studies have still not been done to prove anything conclusively (and that is not surprising when you think about who usually funds such studies). But there are now millions of barefoot shoe users that swear things have changed for the better.