If you look around at small children, who often take their shoes off at every opportunity, you will realise that it is unnatural for our feet to be overly cushioned and insulated from the world. We complain of knee injuries and problems with our feet but with normal footware we are effectively strangling the astonishing network of muscles, ligaments and nerves designed to respond to our movement requirements.
We spend most of our lives in shoes with our feet unable to flex and move naturally. Do you realise that there are 26 bones in our feet, one-quarter of the bones in the human body? The feet are highly engineered to do the job of walking and running without assistance.
Most shoes prop up the heel, some to extraordinary heights ! The higher the heel the more the toes are forced forward into the toe box. Since the toe box does not usually match the natural shape of the foot the toes cannot spread naturally. and are usually squashed together. Modern shoes cushion and numb your feet from the terrain in the name of protecting your feet. Actually they weaken them. You can see the effects of conventional footware on our feet when you visit the beach. How often do you see crossed, bent and deformed toes, bunions and other signs of abuse? It seems that the older you are the more damaged feet become.
Boots add pounds to your feet and support your ankles so that they become lazy and weak and more prone to sprain. Because of their weight, boots substantially increase the energy expenditure of walking : research by the US army shows that a pound on the foot is equilavent to 6.4 on the back. Boots greatly reduce your agility and your ability to move your feet freely and nimbly on undulating terrain and increasing the likelihood of a fall in difficult terrain.. You tread heavily and insensitively on the earth. You can see the erosional effect of boots on the earth when many people use the same route.
Imagine footwear that can improve your posture, help make your feet healthier, strengthen muscles in the feet and lower legs, increase their range of motion and increase the sensory reception so important to balance and agility. Imagine footwear that can make running safer and healthier by encouraging a forefoot strike and a more natural running form that creates less impact on the knees, hips and lower back. Imagine footware that makes you feel more connected to the earth and the terrain you are moving over. This is the new world of barefoot footwear. It is the answer to the plea from our feet to treat them with respect and admiration and to allow them to do the job they were designed to do properly. Barefoot footware is designed to allow our feet to operate naturally. Barefoot footware is shaped to match a healthy foot. It has zero lift in the heels, it has reduced cushioning and it is very light. It was pioneered by Vibram with their Five Fingers.
There are now 4 types of barefoot footware:
1. The five toes separated.
With all toes separate, there is the most articulation possible in the toes and the greatest feeling of freedom in the feet. Foot stability is superb. The 5 toes separated is best for warmer climates. eg. Vibram 5 fingers.
2. The Tabi: a traditional Japanese design where the big toe is separated from the other toes. Having your big toe separate from the others means that it can spread and be straight - in the line of take-off thrust as you step forward. The partition between the big toe and the other 4 prevents the forefoot moving sideways, giving better control and stability than a shoe.The other toes together can keep each other warmer in cool conditions. Surfers use the tabi style wetsuit footware for stability and warmth. Freet Footware pioneered the modern version of this style.
3. The barefoot shoe: all 5 toes together.
Most major brands have now developed shoes in this style.
4. The barefoot boot: all 5 toes together.
For cold and snow conditions this style is best for warmth.
If you order direct from the UK using the code "aarn", you will receive a 30% discount. Use this link: FREET