Think back to your early days, I’m talking the summers when you were 5 or 6 years old. How were you spending your days? Most likely you were playing a lot running around barefoot not caring too much about the small stones and gravel on the ground. Have you tried doing that now? I have and in the beginning it is not a pleasant feeling at all! The big difference between then and now? A lifetime of desensitizing in shoes, that’s what. The normal feedback from the ground has turned into pure pain. I think we can all agree that this cannot be natural, but what can we do.
After becoming interested in barefoot/natural running and reading Tim Ferriss’ “The 4 Hour Body” I have been thinking about how we treat our feet. Modern shoes seem to produce something similar to what was done to Chinese girls long ago, trapping the feet forcing them into strange positions making them disfigured. I took a close look at my feet and it’s quite clear that my toes have been pushed together and two of my toes have been twisted and pushed inwards, basically formed by modern shoes.
My interest in running quickly turned my eyes to running shoes that would let my feet get the natural feedback needed for natural movement at the same time as keeping them protected. At that time everybody was talking about the Vibram Five Fingers and those interested me at first but I quickly decided that the gorilla feet look was not for me. Also my pal Fredrik L was using a pair and they seemed very difficult to put on and seemed to require a very snug fit. Since I was looking for something that was not restricting or closing in my feet they did not seem ideal. Instead Fredrik pointed me towards Vivobarefoot Ultra Ms that had quickly become his favorite shoe. I tried them out and they were great, just what I needed to get the barefoot feeling while running. Later I have switched to Vivobarefoot Evo since the sole is a little bit more rugged. My flawed running technique was wearing the Ultras out. Now I use the Ultras for walking and when I know I might get into water.
What about the rest of the time?
After getting used to running in minimal footwear a thought popped into my head. Why use minimal footwear for running only? Why not get natural feedback all the time? Since i spend much more time not running than running, getting my feet used to natural feedback would certainly go quicker if the were subjected to it as much as possible, so why not with every foot step? First step for me was to start using my running shoes for everyday use. It worked fine but running shoes don’t exactly have an office look. I started looking for barefoot shoes with more of a dress shoe look. Fortunately I didn’t have to look for long, Vivobarefoot already had them in their line. No I actually wear Vivobarefoot shoes almost exclusively, for example Ra and Dharma (not made anymore) to the office, winter is when I usually look elsewhere.
Are you ready?
So how about your feet? Do you still keep them locked up in horrible torture chamber footwear? If you are I think it is time for you to free your feet. Look around, there are lots of great shoes to try out for men, women and kids. The number one reason you must free your feet is that with modern restrictive footwear your feet are blind! You are cutting your body off from a lot of the feedback it uses to move naturally. The result? Unnatural movement of course.
And for all the parents out there, do your kids a favor, let their feet develop naturally. With the sensory feedback from the feet your children will develop better balance and a better understanding of how their bodies work. Another great benefit is that with more sensory feedback, the brain has more stimuli to process and a result from that is healthier brain development. Not bad for a simple things such as scrapping restrictive footwear.
Remember this when selecting footwear, it must allow feedback, protect you from the elements and not restrict or control your movement. Pretty simple really.