I had sooooo many messages about my barefoot boots the other day, so I thought it may be helpful to share a bit about why I went barefoot and how I have found it...
I suppose it's worth explaining what barefoot shoes are before I start with my journey.
This is my understanding of barefoot shoes
- They have zero drop to them, meaning they don't have a heel
- They have a wide toe box, meaning your toes can spread fully inside the shoes and do the job they were designed for
- They have a super flexible sole, meaning your foot can move in a natural way
- They have a very thin sole, no cushioning, meaning you can feel the ground beneath you.
I was barefoot shoe curious for a while before I decided to go for it. I had heard a bit about the concept being to allow the foot natural movement. The thing that really pushed me over the edge to trying them was the fact that I got into running and basically HATE all running shoes. Like they make me feel angry, with all that arch support and cushioning I never felt comfortable. And so I figured barefoot might work because they just don't have that in them.
I did a bit of reading and research, listened to Dr Rangan Chatejee's podcast (feel better live more) on barefoot shoes (listen here if you're interested Feel Better, Live More with Dr Rangan Chatterjee: #13 The Importance of Barefoot Shoes with Galahad Clark on Apple Podcasts). Watched a bunch of youtube videos on the transition to barefoot running and spoke to my lovely friend Zoe who wears barefoot shoes and raves about them.
So i went for it. I bought myself a pair of Vivobarefoot Kasanas trainers. Literally love at first wear. I remember saying to my husband "I don't feel angry" when I went for a little walk in them. Now, people/experts/youtube may tell you that there is a transition period for barefoot shoes. And that it would probably be good to build up to using them. Why? Because there is no support or cushioning, which means you are going to ask your feet, toes, ankles, calf muscles, achilies, knees, back and hips to support you more fully.
Did I go through a gentle transition phase? No. No I did not. I loved them too much. In fact the week I got them I ran 5km every day just to see if I could haha. I'm not one known for patience and taking things gently. So my transition phase went something like this:
- Feeling like I had to do all the work. I know this sounds strange but it felt like more effort to run and walk, I think because of a lack of cushioning.
- Very quickly developing better balance and ankle strength. I have always had weak ankles. Sprained them A LOT as a child. With highly cushioned shoes on, if you go over a bit of uneven ground the shoes take the unsteady-ness of it. With the barefoots I had to.
- My achilles hurt at the beginning of each run for a very short period of time. I think as they had to stretch further because there was zero drop in the shoes.
I have to say that buying barefoot shoes was the beginning of my running improving in a pretty drastic way. My legs, ankles and toes were doing what they were meant to be doing. Before getting barefoot shoes I would heal strike when I ran. For me it impacted my speed as I wasn't running in a forward motion, general running form was poor. But if you land hard and heal strike in barefoot shoes you'll soon know about it, it hurts! So i learnt to run with much much better form thanks to barefoot shoes.
I also loved (and forgive the "woo" in this) feeling the ground. Really connecting with the ground, where I ran and walked. It made everything feel more real. Helped me feel more present to the exercise I was doing. Helped me feel like I was doing the exercise, not the shoes.
And so I NEEDED some barefoot sandals for summer (birkenstocks are what I did wear, the complete opposite of barefoot shoes!) I went for Xero barefoot sandals. They are WAAAAY cheaper than Vivos and I like the simplicity of them, they are waterproof and have a warranty with them that lasted longer than Vivos (I'm heavy wearing on my shoes).
And now it's rolled around to winter - I have gone for the Xero snow boots. These are the ONLY barefoot boots I could find that were thermal insulated AND fully waterproof. Both of these things are a must for me because I really feel the cold in the winter and go on wet dog walks/wet school runs/watch football matches in the freezing cold. I have to say they don't look that exciting. But I bloody love them. My feet stay warm, they are definitely water proof and they feel so comfy.
I was asked if my kids wear barefoot shoes... The answer is NO. And I do feel bad. because having felt the benefits for me, and learning about the science of it, it would be great to get them barefoot shoes. But I have 4 kids and barefoot shoes are really fucking expensive and my kids grow like weeds. So it's just not something we can afford to do. Besides, Anna hates all shoes so is barefoot most of the time anyway, Luke and Samuel live in astros and football boots (there would be no point in buying for them) and Bethany, well as soon as she stops growing I will get her some, I think she would really like them, although she's more into DM style boots at the moment.
So I really would wholeheartedly recommend barefoot shoes. My husband now wears Vivos for work - he was getting a lot of foot and back pain wearing his clarks shoes and the vivos have helped. I would say they haven't fully solved his aches and pains, so not the magic solution that we hoped for him. But we think that is because he was a basketball player, and also a "good form" runner his legs/ankles etc were already way stronger than mine, his issue lie elsewhere.
The stat I really liked that I heard was that a group of elderly women who had knee trouble were given barefoot shoes and within a matter of weeks there was significant improvement in their pain levels. And also that after using them for a few weeks, research has shown that most people have an increase in foot strength of 60%. I like being stronger. I like the idea of my body working a way that it is designed for.
Any questions, please ask. I've been wearing them for just over a year now. And will never go back.