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With all the great advancements in health and wellness our society has made, it is ironic that NS3 signs (“No shirt, no shoes, no service”) still exist. Some establishments, regardless of whether they’ve posted a sign or not, will even eject a good, paying customer for violating what they claim to be a health regulation. It is unfortunate that people are actually convinced that going barefoot is uncivilized and unsanitary.
Many health experts, however, are in agreement that bare is the healthiest state for your feet to be in. In his book, Take Off Your Shoes and Walk, Simon Wikler, D.S.C., makes the case that practically all men’s and women’s shoes have no relation to the natural shape of the human foot. “Most adults’ foot trouble would either not exist or would be much less bothersome if properly shaped shoes had been worn during childhood or, better yet, if those people had gone barefoot,” he writes.
Wikler details that until the Renaissance, when the elevated heel and pointed toe were introduced, there were no known foot troubles. For example, there is no record of foot troubles in Biblical times, as compared to modern times. Furthermore, Wikler describes a study that was performed between 1957 and 1960, comparing people whose parents refused to allow them to walk barefoot to those whose parents encouraged it. The results of a barefoot childhood were:
Fewer instances of deformed toes
Greater foot flexibility
Greater ability to spread the toes
Denser muscles on the bottom of the feet
Greater agility than those who had never gone barefoot
Better hip circumduction and more flexibility of the gluteal and hamstring muscles (demonstrated by a greater ability to touch their toes when their knees were held stiff). Adults who go barefoot experience the following benefits:
Naturally shaped feet, including straighter toes free of corns, hammer toes, bunions and calluses in the wrong places
Well-shaped legs resulting from a natural and balanced gait
A more natural motion, free of the weight brought on by shoes
Prevention of blisters, ingrown toenails and plantar warts
In recent times, more and more people have taken to running barefoot, something that is normally practiced by runners from Kenya. Running barefoot might sound far-fetched, but it’s a growing practice. In 2001, Australian physical therapist Michael Warburton wrote that running barefoot decreases the likelihood of ankle sprains and chronic injuries, such as plantar fasciitis. Shoes actually increase the risk of a sprain because they make runners unaware of the foot’s position.
In 2005, Nike released the Nike Free, a shoe that “lets your foot run free on any surface,” designed to emulate the foot in its bare state. According to Nike, “Studies show that barefoot training leads to stronger feet, that stronger feet lead to a stronger body, and that natural movement enhances agility.”
Ever since I took up running barefoot, I’ve found that my performance has improved multifold. I can run faster, since I have nothing weighing down my feet. I also cover more distance, since not only do my feet tire far less, but my circulation is better than when I used to wear sneakers, and my feet hurt much less.
Also, my endurance has increased considerably, because my feet can concentrate, running in their natural form, rather than my brain trying to send extra waves from guessing how my foot is supposed to land. Sneaker companies like Nike are trying to adopt “barefoot” technology. But the best sneaker to have is still the naked foot!
If you enjoy running, I highly recommend bare feet for the job. Go ahead and try it once. You won’t regret it.