We have discussed how being barefoot can be a benefit, but why is there so much controversy? The reality is that a lot of people who switch to barefoot shoes do have increased pain and injury. Before you can make a decision about when or if to switch to barefoot or to using more minimal shoes, there are some important things to consider first.
You probably think that your feet are pretty strong. Especially if you are one of the many people that enjoy being active and you are hiking, walking, and running regularly, you probably have not noticed any foot weakness. However, if you have been doing those activities with shoes for most (or all) of your life, your feet are probably more weak than you realize. A shoe acts as a brace or cast that holds your feet in a certain position. It also provides a platform where you can push off, so you never have to engage those muscles quite the same as you do when barefoot.
Again, most people don’t think about their foot mobility. There are 26 bones in the feet and about 33 joints. Your shoes have kept most of those from moving. In order to be able to walk barefoot well, those bones and joints have to have enough mobility to be able to adapt to many different angles of rocks, sticks, etc. that we are walking on. Furthermore, even through you are likely to move the most through the ankle, most people wear shoes where the heel is higher than the toes. This means that your Achilles tendon is chronically short and tight. In fact, many people that jump into minimal shoes too quickly will find themselves with Achilles tendonitis.
How well you stand affects the load that is placed on your feet. If your weight is forward (as many people are), you will create excessive loads over the arch of your foot. This is one of several reasons that many people require some sort of arch support. Minimal shoes have no arch support, so your body has to be able to handle those loads appropriately.
Hopefully this brief overview will help you understand why there is a lot more to transitioning to minimal shoes than just running to the shoe store. If making the switch is appropriate for you, it can take months to be able to wear minimal shoes consistently, and a year or more to have the appropriate strength to run in minimal shoes. Some people have enough strength and mobility to transition much more quickly, but moving too soon for your body increases your risk of injury significantly. If you are interested in getting feet to work better for you, I highly recommend it, but learn more about it first. You are always welcome to come here for a free consult (719-477-6870), and I also highly recommend this book to learn more.