Can shoes really be the root of all evil, wrecking havoc on our posture and joints? Studies have shown that modern-day, high-tech shoes can cause:
- bad backs and knees
- hamstring problems
- torn cartilage
- pulled muscles
- many more lower and mid-body complications.
So why wear shoes (especially high-heels, honestly are they comfortable)? Wearing shoes takes away from the foots natural state. We get so caught up that the feet are sensitive muscles that need protected, when really we’re only doing more harm than good, by not strengthening them.
The small muscles of the feet actually provide sensory feedback and help develop balanced movement, which correlates to functional lower body strength and power. The small muscles of the feet are also key in telling the body to quit. When you where shoes, you bypass the small muscles and forego this feedback so the larger leg muscles and joints bare more stress, which can lead to bigger, longer-lasting problems in the future. What else do shoes do? Well any time that you change the heel orientation then the arch mechanics change, thus so does the lower back (increase in the curve). Also arch supports don’t allow the arches to function properly and as a result the heels compromise energy storage and causes mayhem to your posture. Shoes limit blood flow. When you are barefoot blood is able to freely flow to increase blood circulation. Barefoot running allows for increased range of motion and flexibility.
Not enough? Let’s look at heel strike. Research by Daniel Lieberman, at Harvard University, has shown that shod runners tend to strike on the back of their heels (over 75% of runners), whereas barefoot runners tended to strike mid-foot. Not only did this improve form, but it conserved 5% more energy. Barefoot running strengthened the tendons and muscles of the foot and lower leg, which allows them to act as shock absorbers. As a result the mid-foot striking brought down impact force 60% on body weight. According to Lieberman, “The ankle is a very compliant, springy joint, and barefoot runners use it a lot. It isn’t available to you when you rear-foot strike, Then you’re relying solely on the spring on the heel of the shoe.”
Now, I know that it’s not practical to just go outside and start running barefoot. Barefoot training has to be eased into. Start out slow, running on softer surfaces, like grass and easing your way onto harder surfaces (also start out slower, no going to fast or too many). You have to build up the tendons and muscles in your feet, so take it slowly. Also I realize that running on harder surfaces or streets is unsafe, alternative options to running completely barefoot are shoes like the Vibram Five Finger. I have a pair, but I’ll tell you from experience that you need to ease into them, because they are like running barefoot! So strengthen your feet, give your posture a break, and spread out your toes and do some barefoot training!