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The health benefits of barefoot walking and running

Updated on October 7, 2011

Going Commando with Naked Feet

Barefoot walking has been receiving a lot of press of late due to its excellent benefits for the health. Of course it all started many millennia ago and was an instant success, which had everyone doing it. Somewhere along the line, around 6000 years ago everyone was hell bent on wearing shoes to take away the disadvantages of barefoot movement.

Scientists, professors and foot specialists are now all singing the praises of going barefoot. Every fitness shoe manufacturer worth their salt is producing a range of shoes to simulate going barefoot. The majority of toning shoes offer a barefoot walk in soft sand approach to exercise, and reproduce the benefits.

The journal Nature has recently published a study on barefoot walking and how this really benefits not only the feet, but the joints, the legs and the lower back.

In shoe design labs the world over, treadmills have been taken over by barefoot runners as their scientists try to determine how better to serve the feet. It would appear that evolution has developed the foot into a perfect shock absorber, and getting a more natural movement back into walking healthy, invigorating and brings more muscles into play, strengthening the feet and legs.

Benefitting from barefoot walking

The rise in joint problems, bunions, hammertoe conditions, and painful feetcan all be attributed to wearing inappropriate footwear in many cases, and if we were all going barefoot many health problems related to the feet would see their prevalence dramatically fall. Athlete’s foot and fungal infections would not have the moist environment to proliferate and the feet would be a lot better off.

The change in gait which results from running barefoot sees the foot land flatter, which lessens the stress on the heel and prevents jarring of the foot, ankle, knees, hips and lower back. Barefoot is as nature intended, and lets face facts, evolution is rather good at getting the body to perfection and it had walking licked pretty early on. The foot arches are the perfect shock absorber for the body, however they need to be used correctly and it is something that we have all forgotten whilst we have been in full shod comfort.

To get a better understanding of the benefits of barefoot walking, be sure to have a look at the video below when you have 5 minutes spare. Its gives a great explanation of how the body is much better off barefoot.

The Bare Facts of Barefoot walking and running

The problems and health dangers of barefoot walking

It would not be ethical of me not to warn you all of the dangers of barefoot walking, which the video fails to cover. The aim of this hub is to give a balanced point of view, so here are the dangers of leaving the shoes at home.

  • Glass
  • Stones
  • Excrement
  • People wearing shoes
  • Gravel
  • Hot tarmac
  • Wet weather grip

I don’t need to dwell, as they are pretty self explanatory. But how can one benefit from the natural way of walking whilst gaining some protection from the problems above?

Vibram Five Fingers

Vibram Five Fingers
Vibram Five Fingers

Vibram Five Fingers

The answer has been found by Vibram who have made Pirelli tyres for the feet which feature a separate lobe for each toe. They would have been laughed out of Dragons Den, however Pirelli invested quite a large sum in Vibram and their latest line of footwear is just that.

Vibram rubber has been developed into one of the highest quality materials available for grip and durability. It is almost universally used on the outsoles of the major outdoor performance footwear brands. But when it came to producing their own line of shoes, Vibram quite literally threw away the mould.

Naturally they started from the ground up. They had the grip sorted already so all they needed was a suitable upper. They ended up with something rather more foot-like than standard shoes with an upper which is little more than a convenient way of keeping their rubber firmly fixed to your feet. The shoes are called Vibram Five Fingers, and you are unlikely to find a more comfortable shoe on the market.

Vibram Five Fingers

Vibram Five Fingers
Vibram Five Fingers

Vibram Five Fingers - Gloves for the feet

They were TIME magazines best invention of 2007 for preserving the full benefits of natural barefoot walking and running whilst offering extra protection and grip. They are terrific for water sports and give extra traction, as the toes can be utilised more. They help to improve balance and give an added degree of cushioning and will instantly give you grippy feet. There are few better shoes for Crossfit training on the market.

Won’t all that rubber take away the natural feeling of walking?

It does a little, but in a good way. There are a great many benefits to a little walking protection. You can walk for longer, you have better traction when walking in the wet, and you are less likely to get a walking injury. Besides you don’t have to wear them all the time and can still go commando and walk as nature intended when the mood takes you.

If you want to have a bit more cushioning, or don’t think they will go with your new outfit then there are Skechers Shape ups, Reebok Easytone Shoes and Fitflops sandals which all offer a little more padding and support and are far less likely to freak people out. However if you want the full benefits of barefoot walking, with a little extra grip and protection, then it has to be Vibram Five Fingers.


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