The latest fad in healthy feet is minimalist footwear or barefoot running. Most people will prefer some sort of footwear to barefoot running and so many companies have responded by producing footwear that replicates that barefoot feeling and style of running.
Why Minimalist or Barefoot Running Footwear?
Many runners, because of modern cushioned footwear, have developed a heel strike method of running which means that their heels hit the ground and the the rest of their foot follows. Breakthroughs in running technology have determined that this strike can actually harm the body as it creates more shock to the legs that extends through the hips. This has been said to cause more running related injuries than anything else. When researchers studied indigenous people groups who run daily barefoot, they found that they naturally ran more on the front parts of their feet which actually produces less shock, keeps the body in good alignment, and can even make one run faster.
The Cons of Modern Footwear
Modern footwear forces us to conform our feet inside a shoe that doesn’t allow us full use of our feet as our toes are confined and limited in their movement. This not only can cause poor running form, but also can contribute to foot disorders such as bunions or Hallus Vagus. If you walk any amount of time without shoes you will quickly discover that modern footwear even changes the way we use our ankles, knees, and hips. So the problem of modern footwear is even more complex than just our squished together toes.
What Are My Options?
Luckily, some great companies offer footwear that can be a solution to these problems or help to correct the damage that has already been done. Vibram Five Fingers is one of the leading companies in this area. They offer a wide variety of barefoot shoes for running, walking, trekking, or everyday use.
If you prefer something a bit more traditional you might try some minimalist footwear options from Zappos! These shoes are lighter and snugger on the feet to give a barely there feeling.
Another option would be to go completely footwear free and run or walk in grassy areas or parks that will be softer on your feet until you can work up tougher skin on the bottoms of your feet and transition to tougher terrain. If indigenous tribes can do it, so can you!