Going Barefoot has many health benefits.
Being barefoot assists directly by helping to maintain healthy foot and ankle mechanics, as well as the further reaching effects on our kinetic chains, and all the way to our brains.
Human are designed to go barefoot. From an anthropological viewpoint, the physics of how we walk, and our posture are based on being barefoot. Going barefoot allows the bones of the foot to spread out, thereby stretching the intrinsic muscles of the foot and widening the base of stability. This wider base decreases the amount of force being delivered to any one single area. Distributing the force over a greater surface area.
Barefoot also increases engagement of the intrinsic muscles of the foot and ankle. Strengthening these structures. The more “Support” we provide to the foot, the less the muscles of the foot have to work, making them weaker. Pain and symptoms increase, and then more, “Support”, is given to the foot to alleviate those symptoms. Which, causes the muscles of the foot to work even less, causing further weakness, causing symptoms to reappear. And repeat the process over and over again, weakening the foot further and further.
The effects of this reach far beyond the foot as it alters posture, movement patterns, and the proprioceptive input to the brain. Barefoot allows appropriate sensory input to flow from the foot to the brain. We require this sensory input to maintain a healthy nervous system. A healthy nervous system is essential for proper functioning of all body systems. The more “stuff” we put between our foot and the ground, the more this sensor input is diminished. And the more nervous system disruption that can occur.
Sometimes these disruptions need to be corrected, and Neuromuscular Reeducation may be helpful in restoring proper function.
Tips for increasing Barefoot time:
- Remove shoes when at home – Allow the feet to naturally expand, even small amounts of time barefoot can significantly improve your health
- Get in Barefoot time in nature – Grass and dirt are excellent surfaces to connect with the ground
- Change your shoes – Look for shoes that do not confine the foot, especially at the toes
- Less is more – Wear shoes that have as little material as possible between your foot and the ground
If pain or other symptoms increase, be sure to visit with your healthcare provider. Sometimes if we have been without much barefoot time for an extended time, it may require short incremental adjustments back to more natural functioning. Also, be sure you are plugged into someone who understands the foot mechanics, and can help you transition to stronger, healthier feet, in a productive and safe manner.