For some people, the term “barefoot shoes” conjures images of odd-looking toe shoes worn by extreme “minimalist runners” who run over rocks and pebbles. However, contrary to what some might think, barefoot shoes or minimalist footwear don’t all look like gloves for feet. What’s more, they’re not just for runners – barefoot shoes are worn by people of all athletic abilities and ages due to the many benefits of barefoot shoes.
Read on to learn more about barefoot shoes and why they’re a far healthier option than regular sneakers for daily wear.
What Are Barefoot Shoes?
Barefoot shoes, also called minimalist footwear, are designed to mimic the feel of walking without shoes. Unlike regular shoes or sneakers that typically have a lot of cushioning, barefoot shoes have thin yet durable soles. These allow wearers to feel the ground underneath their feet while still providing some protection from hazards like pebbles and glass.
For years, people preferred to wear shoes with extra cushioning, believing that doing so would help prevent injury. Major footwear manufacturers incorporate all sorts of shoe-cushioning technology, such as soles made from foam, EVA and gel, which provide elevated heels as well as flexible and ergonomic midsoles.
However, proponents of minimalist footwear believe that humans did not evolve to wear shoes. Even today, there are places around the world where people still walk and run barefoot or in minimalist sandals like huaraches, espadrilles and zori.
There is also some evidence that excessive cushioning can actually be detrimental to foot comfort and health. In fact, one study published in Scientific Reports found that highly cushioned maximalist shoes increase leg stiffness and increase the probability of sustaining injuries caused by the impact of the feet striking the ground.
Meanwhile, a large body of research shows why barefoot shoes are better footwear options for daily wear.
Barefoot Shoes Health Benefits
Lightweight and without all the excess cushioning of regular trainers or sneakers, barefoot shoes are comfortable enough to wear regularly. They’re also not all “toe shoes” meant for runners. For instance, Origo Shoes manufactures minimalist walking shoes that look just like regular sneakers, which come in modern designs for children, women and men.
Apart from being comfortable and stylish, minimalist shoes are also good for foot health. The following are some health benefits of barefoot shoes:
They Strengthen the Muscles of the Feet and Legs
Over time, feet and ankles get accustomed to the excess cushioning and arch support of conventional shoes. This may cause the muscles in these areas to weaken.
Since minimalist shoes don’t have excess cushioning or arch support, they encourage the feet and ankles to work as nature intended them to. The results of a randomized controlled trial published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (MSSE) showed that walking in minimalist shoes effectively increases muscle strength and size.
They Help Reduce the Risk of Foot, Ankle and Knee Injuries
Minimalist shoes help strengthen the feet and ankles; therefore, they help prevent injuries and conditions caused by weak muscles and overuse, such as plantar fasciitis.
Minimalist shoes promote a natural gait as well as improve stability and balance; therefore, they may reduce the risk of pronation (excessively rolling the foot inward) and supination (excessively rolling the foot outward). This helps prevent pain and conditions, such as ankle sprains and iliotibial band syndrome, which can be caused by pronation and supination.
They Help Prevent Bunions
A bunion is a bulging bump that may form on the joint at the base of the big toe, and it causes pain and swelling while also limiting the movement of the big toe. Since the big toe plays an essential role in mobility and balance, a bunion can alter how your foot strikes the ground, throwing off your balance and increasing your risk of falling.
Those who wear tight or ill-fitting shoes are at increased risk of developing bunions. However, wearing minimalist shoes may help prevent the development of bunions and their symptoms.
Minimalist shoes have a wide toe box that allows you to splay your toes. This feature helps prevent the formation of bunions since toes don’t have to crowd together, and the big toe has enough room to move naturally. Additionally, if you already have a bunion, minimalist shoes may help relieve pain and address symptoms like corns and calluses by allowing your toes to splay.
Should Kids Wear Barefoot Shoes?
Now that you know why barefoot shoes are better for your feet than conventional sneakers, you might wonder if children should also wear them.
The answer to the question “should kids wear barefoot shoes?” is a resounding “yes.” Babies, toddlers and small children are used to and prefer going barefoot. Minimalist shoes are a better way to transition them to footwear than maximalist options with excessive cushioning.
For occasions where footwear is a must, such as a day at the playground or the park, it’s best to go with lightweight footwear that allows freedom of movement and provides protection against injury, which are all attributes of minimalist footwear. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AA) recommends shoes that are “based on the barefoot model.”
The founders of Origo Shoes became advocates of barefoot walking after witnessing their twin children’s difficulties in learning how to walk. They drew on their own childhood in Colombia, where they often went about without shoes, in order to develop footwear that delivers the same benefits as barefoot walking.
Experience the Benefits of Barefoot Shoes
Origo Shoes offers a selection of minimalist footwear for adults and children. Made by artisans from ethically sourced materials like cactus leather and plant starches, Origo Shoes promote sustainability as well as foot health. Shop online today or get in touch if you have questions or need help placing an order.