The bare minimum for happy feet

The bare minimum for happy feet

People have been running barefoot for millions of years. Cultures that don’t wear shoes are still running barefoot, while our modern, urban society hobbles about, wearing orthotics and condemning running as being too hard on the body. Free thinking footwear designers, many of whom were dedicated runners began questioning this dichotomy. They decided that running doesn’t have to be bad for you – you just have to do it properly.

barefoot technology 2The naysayers will say that we were not meant to run on hard, manmade surfaces. How about the sun-baked savannah? Mountain trails in the Andes? Hard packed roads in ancient Greece? Injury rates are not down since super cushioned running shoes were introduced – elite African marathoners continue to train running thousands of kilometers barefoot. When they show up on race day, they won’t be wearing more than a thin little shoe to protect them from glass and city debris.

When you run barefoot, your feet land flat beneath your hips, knees are bent and flexible, toes splay out to grip the ground. Your posture is balanced and therefore your stride is more efficient. Your leg muscles and arches flex to cushion you and move you forward, your whole foot is in touch with the ground, stimulating nerve endings and encouraging agility. There is less pronation and better distribution of pressure. The barefoot shoe allows all this to happen.

Nike introduced the Nike Free in 2005 and Vibram followed with their weird and wonderful Five Fingers in 2006, with the barefoot running trend continuing to build a loyal following. Merrell has a whole line of ‘barefoot’ footwear for men and women, for hiking, training, running and wearing everyday living a barefoot lifestyle. All you people who spend your time at home in bare feet – this is the shoe for you! The barefoot shoe is super lightweight, often with a Vibram sole for extra protection from city streets. The arch is cradled by the high tech material, the toes can wriggle happily in a wide toe box. It all works because it’s so minimal.

Images courtesy of Merrell and Wolverine Worldwide

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