What are Barefoot Shoes all about?
They are supposed to have health benefits. But is that true?
Companies that make these barefoot shoes seem to be going strong and even other regular shoes and gym shoe brands tend to come up with their own version of the barefoot shoe models.
Are regular shoes not okay? What does the science say?
Barefoot Shoes – is this just another trend?
I was kind of blown away by the amount of scientific research that has been done about being barefoot and barefoot shoes. I had no idea that our feet with no shoes would even be a subject of scientific research.
As it turns out the scientific research shows that being barefoot or having shoes that resemble barefoot walking has huge positive effects on our health. It seems that being barefoot is something we should all do as much as possible.
I guess it’s not just a trend after all. Touching Mother Earth with your skin has amazing and scientifically proven positive effects on your health. However, we all have to admit, being barefoot is not very practical.
I’ll touch on the negative side of this at the end. For now. Let’s break down the positive…
The positive effects of being barefoot
Having your bare feet on the ground has 3 positive aspects:
- The Reflexology and/or Acupressure aspect
- The Grounding or Earthing aspect
- Your foot is not being constrained by the shape of your shoes
The Reflexology and Acupressure aspect of being barefoot and barefoot shoes
Although terms Reflexology and Acupressure mean 2 somewhat different things, in the context of barefoot shoes health benefits they are similar. It means that the simple act of walking with nothing covering the soles of your feet will give you a fantastic foot massage. It will, of course, depend on the surface you are walking on. It’s not always gonna be super cozy and comforting all the time. You may step on a pointy rock or something similar, but it’s gonna do you a lot of good.
If you look up any of the terms Reflexology or Acupressure you’ll find that feet specifically have a lot of reflex zone points or acupressure points that when massaged have a hugely positive effect on your health. The simple act of walking with no shoes on your feet is going to be just like a foot massage and will have just about the same effect. Even if it’s just a minute or two, like walking on the beach for a few minutes.
Let’s see what the benefits of foot massage, barefoot walking, and barefoot shoes include:
- Improves Your Blood circulation
- Helps lower your blood pressure
- Helps with headaches and migraines
- Reduces the effects of depression and anxiety
- Helps prevent foot and ankle injuries
- Promotes better sleep
- Relieves pains in your body
- Alleviates swelling or edema
- Helps Ease PMS and Menopause Symptoms
- Helps with Restless Leg Syndrome
- Dramatically speeds up healing time
- Accelerate recovery from intense athletic activity
Barefoot shoes are designed to be as close to wearing no shoes as possible. They are created so that you can feel the ground through the thin sole of the barefoot shoes. You can feel when you step on small rocks and even when the surface you are walking on changes. Like going from sand to grass or dirt, you can actually feel the difference.
So Barefoot Shoes will give you the “natural” massage of your feet that’s almost the same as being barefoot.
There are a few companies that make great Barefoot shoes. Like VIVOBAREFOOT for example. I absolutely love them. It’s the shoes that I wear 90% of the time.
The Grounding or Earthing aspect of being barefoot and barefoot shoes
Now let’s jump to the Grounding or Earthing aspect of being barefoot or wearing barefoot shoes.
Have you ever heard the term “Earthing” when it comes to being barefoot?
I am sure you’ve heard of “Grounding”. And I don’t mean when you got grounded by your mom when doing something “wrong” back when you were a kid.
You’ve heard of something being Grounded when it comes to electricity and electrical appliances. All electrical appliances have to be grounded. All the electrical sockets have a wire that goes into the ground and provides grounding. A wire going into the ground means that it’s “plugged” into Earth and when you are touching the Earth with your bare skin you are being grounded just the same.
A new term was actually coined – Earthing.
In the late 1990s a retired cable TV executive Clint Ober first introduced the idea of “plugging” directly to Earth with bare skin. Ober knew that Earth’s electrical surface is made up of negatively charged electrons (or free electrons). These electrons have the ability to reduce positive charges of free radicals in your body. Free radicals damage your body’s healthy cells in search of the one thing they are missing – an electron. Once a free radical finds it’s missing an electron, it’s no longer contributing to the inflammation in the body.
Throughout our lives, almost everyone is wearing synthetic-soled footwear made of non-conductive materials. And it’s these shoes with rubber and plastic soles that prevent us from being grounded. So we grow to be “electron-deficient”. Of course, there are other ways to reduce inflammation in your body, but we now understand that the earth below our feet is the greatest source of these electrons if only we stay in contact with it.
While there are ways for you to make every shoe Grounded I’m afraid options to buy barefoot shoes that are also grounded are very limited.
Let’s look at what these options are:
- Again, the Barefoot shoes of my choice are VIVOBAREFOOT. It is barefoot in every sense of the word except the “grounding” part. No, they are not grounded.
If you do want to go all the way and add the “Earthing or Grounding” element to it you have a few options:
- You can use a brilliant product that can “ground” almost any shoe called “Erthe”. It’s basically just a thin band that is very conductive and kinda wraps around your shoe from outside in. One side of it is also super sticky so it’s easy to install.
- Another option is the so-called Grounding Shoes DIY Kit from a company called Earth Runners. This DIY Kit really does “Make any of your shoes Grounded”. It’s basically a conductive “button” that connects your shoe with the ground. So when you walk this conductive “button” makes you connected with Earth.
- Earth Runners also have a small range of grounded shoes – Check it out here: EarthRunners
But they only have Sandals and no other shoes. And even though these shoes are “grounded” they seem to lack in the other “Barefoot” aspect of it and that’s the “feeling the ground” part. Or the Reflexology and Acupressure part. They only cover the “Grounding or Earthing” part.
Barefoot also means your feet are not constrained by the shape of your shoes
The funny thing about modern-day shoes is that most of them are not shaped like our feet. Seems that aesthetics is more important than comfort.
I am not talking about lady’s pumps of high heel shoes. I am talking about ordinary casual shoes that are supposed to be super comfy. These shoes are still too narrow and not at all shaped the way your foot is shaped. So as time goes by and we were these “regular” shoes, we may develop all sorts of Foot Deformities. You might be genetically conditioned to have some sort of a Foot Deformity but you do not want to help if develop because of a bad choice of your foot ware.
Shoes that resemble barefoot walking are shaped exactly like your feet. Therefore barefoot shoes help our feet maintain that “neutral tension”, that “muscle and tendon workout” that make our feet healthy.
The human foot is evolutionary masterpiece
The natural foot is wide (fan shaped), Flexible (with three dynamic arches) and
Sensory (with thousands of nerve endings).
The downside of being “barefoot”
It’s obvious – your feet have zero protection.
That means it’s a bit hard to go through this “western” life that most of us have with no shoes on our feet. There’s stuff on the ground, like broken glass that can cut the skin on your feet in a heartbeat. Or you can step on dog poop just the same. This will not damage your feet but not gonna be any fun washing it off 😉
Calluses – Hard skin
Calluses are hard areas of skin that develop on the feet in response to pressure or friction.
Practicing barefoot walking or even wearing Barefoot Shoes will expose your feet to more friction than wearing ordinary shoes. Nothing terribly wrong with that, but you will have to rub that hard skin off more often. Or get a pedicure once in a while.
Shoes are a brilliant idea.
Shoes protect our feet. They keep our feet dry and warm. Plus, shoes offer support to our feet as well. Now, this is good, but can also be bad.
One of the “wrong” things about shoes is it’s not really healthy to wear them 24/7. I mean someone should have told us that it’s good for us to be barefoot. It’s healthy for the foot as well as for the whole body because of the Grounding/Earthing effect as well as the Reflexology/Acupressure effect.
But hey,… people are told smoking is really bad, plus the evidence is overwhelming, but they still smoke. So not sure that just “knowing” about the positive health benefits of being barefoot and barefoot shoes will do the trick.
The point is shoes add so much good into our lives. It’s not easy going back to being barefoot.
What we should do is kinda make it part of our lifestyle, to include a daily habit of being barefoot for at least a little bit.
We can be barefoot in our own home.
When we’re outside, well it’s definitely not practical to be barefoot most of the time. But when we can, we should try to do some Earthing if possible.
How to be Practical and be “Barefoot”
And since that does not give me much Grounding I like to spend some time every day totally barefoot, not even wearing socks. Mostly that’s in my home.
I know, I know, being barefoot at home might not give me much of a Grounding at all. That’s why I use Grounding or Earthing sheets for my bed as well – but that’s a story for another article.
If I am outside and I can have the skin on my feet touch the ground I’ll do that. Not being fanatical about it at all. It’s not like every chance I got outside, my shoes are coming of. Not like that, no. But if I am on the beach and it’s not razor-sharp rocks to walk on to get into the water to swim, I love to feel the terrain with my bare feet. The water, the sand, the rocks. This also kinda kicks me into a present moment, practicing some “mindfulness” as I feel the Earth under my bare feet.