10 Benefits of Being Barefoot

May 16, 2018 at 12:25 am




Ten reasons you should go barefoot whenever you can and wear barefoot shoes when you can’t




Humans went without shoes for millions of years before the tough streets and broken glass of civilization made them necessary.

We started out with thin, leather-soled sandals and worked our way toward thick, cushioned soles with high heels and arch supports.

Anyone ever wonder how our hunter-gatherer ancestors survived without all this support?

According to physical therapist and “Anatomy for Runnersauthor Jay Dicharry, their feet were much better off than ours are.

After studying the highly-functional wide feet of African runners who grew up barefoot, he came to the conclusion that the feet of “civilized” peoples were unnaturally narrow and deformed.

He attributes this to modern shoes, most of which he says subject us to a milder version of Chinese foot binding.

According to Dicharry, we should go barefoot on natural surfaces as often as possible. When it isn’t, we should wear the thinnest, most flexible soles possible with wide toe boxes.

Below are 10 benefits of going barefoot or wearing barefoot shoes:

1. Strengthens muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the foot

The lack of a lifted heal reduces the possibility of calf strains or Achilles tendinitis, according to a study published in the journal Nature.

Barefoot shoes allow runners to land on their forefoot or midfoot, which strengthens muscles within the feet so they can provide natural arch support.

Wearing regular shoes, especially during childhood, prevents feet from growing to their proper size and shape. They can also cause tendons and ligaments to shorten and muscles to weaken, increasing the risk of injury to these areas.

2.  Prevents injuries and promotes recovery

Regular shoes may cause you to land on your heel, which is unnatural, impairs balance, and puts you at risk of ankle strains, leg and foot injuries.

According to Harvard evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman, running in cushioned shoes is like “someone is hitting your heel with a hammer.”

Barefoot running also helps prevent plantar fasciitis by keeping the plantar tendon strong.

The plantar tendon keeps the arch of the foot from flattening completely when you land on it. It provides a natural source of cushioning and shock absorption.

Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the tendon, which often results from over-striding and landing on your heels.

Barefoot shoes are also less likely to cause blisters, because they encourage you to pick your feet up rather than sliding them.

Coaches and physical therapists recommend barefoot running  to treat these injuries and rehabilitate professional athletes (3).

3. Decreases oxygen consumption and improves running economy

Running economy is how far a person can run using a certain amount of energy. Those who have good running economy use less energy and less oxygen than those with poor running economy.

Running economy can be improved by increasing muscle stiffness, which barefoot running does.

A study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found runners wearing conventional running shoes consumed up to 6 percent more oxygen than barefoot runners, indicating their body wasn’t using it as efficiently.

Your body can direct the extra oxygen to your muscles, enabling you to run faster.

5. Develops a more natural pace, gait and posture

Those who run with regular shoes generally produce heavier strides, which feels like more work.

Barefoot runners develop shorter, but quicker strides. This is because they tend to land on the midfoot area, which makes it easier to push off and keep going.

This can also lead your body to return to a more flexible and comfortable posture, an indication that your muscles and bones are properly aligned.

6. Improves Balance

Running barefoot activates the muscles in the feet, ankles, legs, and hips responsible for balance and coordination.

Staying grounded and connected with the environment improves proprioception, or awareness of position and body movements, which also improves balance.

7. Allows for “earthing” or “grounding,” which has a positive effect on the parasympathetic nervous system

Walking barefoot or in barefoot shoes on natural surfaces such as soil, grass, and sand is called earthing or grounding. (8).

Earthing is the practice of gathering free electrons from the earth, which has been linked to improved sleep to reducing pain and many other health benefits.

A study was performed in 2006 that found stressed or sympathetically “charged” participants who ran barefoot lessened their muscle tension, particularly in the trapezius area, which holds stress in the body.

The nervous system becomes aware of this and switches to a parasympathetic state, which allows you to feel relaxed and safe.

8. Encourages outdoor running, which is better for your health than indoor running

Because of it’s focus on earthing, barefoot running encourages you to be outside. Those who run outside exert more energy than those on treadmills, soak up more Vitamin D, and are breathing cleaner air, as indoor air pollutants are 25-62% greater than outdoor air pollutants.

Also, being outside in bright sunlight during the day helps regulate our circadian rhythms, which helps us sleep better.

9. Improves Short-term Memory

In one study, barefoot runners short-term memory increased by 16% after a run, while those who wore shoes showed no significant change.

10. Boosts Blood Circulation

An study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that running in barefoot shoes thinned the blood and therefore reduced the risk of contracting heart disease.

This is because barefoot running wakes up otherwise dormant muscles in the feet and legs, boosting circulation in these areas.

There are several awesome brands of barefoot shoes and sandals coming out as more and more people discover the benefits. Our favorites are:

Xero shoes and sandals, a pioneer in natural movement footwear:

We especially like their lightweight, flexible and thin-soled hiking boots:

 

And their Z-Trail sandals:

And Bedrock sandals, especially their Earthquake sandals, which have the thinnest sole:

And Shamma sandals, especially their Warrior sandals:

RELATED: American Foot Binding