I think by now most of us have heard either a little or a lot about walking or running barefoot, or using “barefoot shoes”. (By the way, this is a phrase that drives me crazy; once you are wearing shoes, you are no longer barefoot!) I know that as a physical therapist, I get asked about it a lot.
Proponents of being barefoot or minimal shoes* are very vocal. The claims include, but are not limited to:
- Humans have been walking and running barefoot for eons, we should be doing that, too.
- It’s natural!
- Since I started running barefoot, I no longer have foot pain.
- No more back pain.
- No more knee pain.
- In fact, being barefoot is all around so much better that people are nicer and world peace is only a few bare foot steps away!
Okay, not the last one. However, it is fair to say that those that love being barefoot, LOVE being barefoot. Those against being barefoot are also quite vocal. Some of their concerns and criticisms include:
- Being barefoot is unsanitary.
- It increases risk of injury due to foot punctures.
- It increases risk of disease.
- Being barefoot increases injuries to the feet, including stress fractures, Achilles tendonitis, knee pain, and hip pain.
- Minimalist shoes are UGLY!
There is research to show a number of benefits to being barefoot. There is research to show a number of detriments to being barefoot. People come to us and want to know who is right, who is wrong, and by the way, should they start going barefoot?
As a physical therapist with 10 years of experience, I can tell you that I agree with the statements of those that are for being barefoot, as well as those that are against it. I am not surprised by the “conflicting” research. If you ask me if you should go barefoot, I’m not going to give you the “yes” or “no” answer that you really want. It’s not that simple. It is important, though. It’s a discussion that needs to continue, both with those that want to go out and buy the latest minimalist shoe, and those that just want the “fad” to go away so they can stop seeing those ugly shoes.
In the next few weeks, I’m going to do a brief series on the feet, and being barefoot (or not!) As you will see, my concern is not whether or not someone is barefoot, or minimally shod. Rather, foot health is what is most important.
Before we get started, feel free to let me know your opinion! Are you barefoot, or would you like to be? Do you think barefoot is a terrible idea? What are your experiences? Feel free to tell me in the comments below!
*This is the proper term for shoes that are trying to allow the foot to function as close to barefoot as possible while wearing shoes.