Why You Should Wear Barefoot Shoes



I’ve been known to call most shoes “foot prisons.” The typical shoe on the market doesn’t do our feet justice. They are too narrow and do not match the shape of a foot. This leads to tons of issues, like foot pain, bunions, injuries, reduced feedback from your feet, and weak feet.


My focus today is going to be on the everyday shoe, rather than talking specifically about running, squatting, or other specific shoes. However, a lot of the information will overlap.


Why do I call shoes “foot prisons”?


Our natural feet are wide, strong, and sensitive to changes in terrain. Even though some people are born flat-footed, most people would develop the strength in their feet to support their arches if they were barefoot.


Shoes on the market are too narrow (yes, even the “wide” shoes out there). They do not match the shape of a foot. The cushions are typically too soft, which will take away the feedback your foot is supposed to get from the ground.


Think about it this way; do you think you would have better balance and support with a wide base or a narrow base? Of course it is a wide base. If your shoes are too narrow, then your metatarsals and toes will be pushed together.


Would you feel more comfortable in a straight jacket or in a shirt that “fits like a glove”? Why do we cram our feet into poorly fitting shoes? To find out if your shoe resembles the shape of your foot, take out the sole and stand on it. If your foot exceeds the barriers of the sole, then it is not wide enough or shaped properly for your foot.


Would you have more control standing on a firm surface or when standing on foam? Foam is squishy and is actually what we use to throw off someone’s balance in physical therapy. Why would you want to walk around on thick foam all day, every day when you can use the ground and your feet for support?


Most shoes are rigid, although some are pretty flexible. Your feet are meant to be flexible and strong. Your shoe should allow for plenty of movement of the big toe for proper walking and running mechanics.


Okay, we talked a lot about why I don’t like most shoes, but what other options exist?


Footwear is getting better, sort of. Many cross training shoes are flat and rigid, but still miss out on a lot of what your feet need.


Barefoot shoes are becoming more popular. In fact, the most ancient shoes were barefoot, so maybe it’s more of a comeback?


Barefoot shoes match the shape of the foot and allow your feet to get strong and resilient to injuries. Some great options are:

  • Vivobarefoot

  • Xero Shoes

  • Feelgrounds

  • Bearfoot


Personally, I have owned about 5 pairs of Vivobarefoot shoes and LOVE THEM. I’m sure the other brands are great, as I have heard positive feedback from people I trust. Maybe one day I will try out the other brands, but I have no complaints with my Vivo’s.


Random thought to share: I am considering becoming a Vivobarefoot affiliate, which would allow me to provide discount codes to our clients and readers. If this sounds like something you would be interested in, let me know and I will start that process!


Can you wear barefoot shoes for running, walking, exercise, etc?


Absolutely! These shoes are designed to keep you moving. You will want to slowly get used to them as you start training in them.


I use them often, but not always when doing CrossFit or running. While there are tons of benefits for most people, I am one of those that suffers from limited ankle mobility. The 4mm heel to toe drop in my cross training shoes gives me just enough to keep proper form with my deep squats. I have completed runs in Vivobarefoot running shoes, but they are not my go to for a long run. I still prefer to run in minimalist-style shoes, but the changes in my feet from over 30 years of soft shoes has left me uncomfortable running long distances (over 3 miles for me) in my Vivo’s.


Who should wear barefoot shoes?


The short answer is EVERYONE. There may be certain circumstances where you want to avoid them, but most people can benefit from wearing barefoot shoes every day for casual activities, including work. You should also try to spend as much time without shoes and socks on as possible.


Who should not wear barefoot shoes?


If you already have pain in your foot, a severe injury, or just had a surgery, then you should consult with a healthcare professional before changing up your footwear. You should first transition your everyday shoe to a barefoot shoe before trying to run and exercise in a barefoot shoe. If you are unsure if it is right for you, shoot me an email or a comment below and we can chat about specific recommendations.


Free your feet!


Corey Hall, PT, DPT

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