What Is the Barefoot Movement?
Gaining quickly over its fitness fad counterparts, the barefoot movement is all the rage in new exercise talk. People are acknowledging the inconvenient truth about feet - a little secret shoe companies don't enjoy - that barefoot is better. In response to the gathering evidence that shoes do more harm to our feet and joints than good, 'barefooting' is a growing movement. It is essentially the practice of partaking in outdoor events without shoes or in shoes that mimic the benefits of bare feet.
A 2010 study discusses the barefoot movement as more than just a fad. More and more fitness folks across the world and even right here in India have started sporting minimalistic shoes or foot ‘gloves’, or actually going barefoot. Here is a study (from India), which says that children who wore shoes before the age of 6 were more likely to develop flat feet than children who ran around barefoot. Kids who ran barefoot for most of their first six years had better developed longitudinal arches and less flat foot. Among children who wore footwear on a regular basis, 8.2% suffered from flat foot (compared to 2.8% of barefoot kids). No other factors had comparable impacts. Adults didn’t have higher rates of flat foot than the kids, unless they reported wearing shoes as children.
The prevalence of flat feet today is more so because of how shoes shaped our feet since we were young. Shoes, it seems, have an undeniable ability to alter one’s natural foot structure. Need more proof? How about this?
What can you do about it? Try a few exercises to strengthen your feet:
- Do toe spreads. Sit, stand, or lie down and fan your toes out as widely as possible. Create space between each toe. Hold this position for ten seconds, and repeat the exercise 10 times daily per foot.
- Point at things with your toes. Pick something, anything, in the room and point your toes at it. Now flex your foot. Hold it for five seconds, then release. Again, do this ten times per foot each day. For extra work, try tracing the alphabet with your feet in midair each day.
- Get on your toes. Stand on your tippy-toes and just walk around for five minutes each day. Never let your heels touch the ground for the duration. Barefoot toe treadmill work is a worthy alternative.
- Try side walking. Stand up (barefoot, of course) and get in a shoulder wide stance. Bend your knees slightly and roll onto the outer edges of your feet. Keep the weight on your outer feet and slowly raise up on your toes. You should feel your longitudinal arch stretching; once you do, hold that position for five seconds. Repeat five times each day.
- Walk in sand. Sand is never the same. If you kick off your shoes and hit the sand, you will be catapulting your virgin bare feet into a chaotic, ever-changing environment that will force them to adapt. Walking barefoot in the sand is a highly effective way to strengthen your feet.
- And most important – Go slowly – If you are making a switch to going barefoot, then make sure that you go slow.
What are the barefoot products available?
Vibram Five fingers are the most popular barefoot ‘shoes’ today. They are like good gloves, in that they keep out stones and sharp things, but provide no supports to your feet whatsoever.
They provide the physiological benefits of going barefoot with the advantage of having some level of armor against the elements. You don’t have to worry about stubbing your toe, or cutting your feet on glass or other sharp objects you are bound to come across in your travels.
Those look weird and I won’t be caught dead in them!
Lets face it, most of us are socially conscious, and the Vibrams do look strange. What you can do though, is try and wear as little footwear as possible. As soon as you enter home, kick off your shoes, try and remove your shoes in office as well as much as possible. If you do home workouts, ensure you are not wearing footwear. Finally wear chappals, sandals, and other un-supportive footwear when you are going out casually.
Though the barefoot movement has miles and miles to travel before it makes it mainstream, a lot of health and fitness experts have switched over to going barefoot. What will you do?
Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images
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