So blog time about being barefoot. As a lot, if not all, of you know i have been completely barefoot for the last 7 months. This seems to get a whole lot of weird looks and constant questions as to why. I write this blog from the perspective of a yoga teacher and nurse who spends their life dealing with people with maybe some sort of knee valgus/varus issues, pain in the feet, hips, back. Tension and cramping in the feet and shins and hips, with a lack of mobility to even find the most basic of movements such as a hindi squat (the resting pose of pretty much 3/4 of the world population.) allowing the base of our body, the foundation of the structure we call "us" to do its job properly can have a massive impact of all sorts of pain and structure issues.
While there is probably about enough material for a book rather than a blog to be written on this subject, i while keep this fairly basic and short....(Psssst there are actually books written about this very subject, and written much more concisely than i ever could, hence me not writing one.....see in particular Katy Bowmans whole body barefoot and simple steps to foot pain relief)
So as the picture above shows, there is a hell of a lot going on with each foot. 33 joints per side, so even without a decent maths GCSE (i did it 4 times haha) thats 66 joints JUST IN THE FEET ALONE. Your spine has also 33 but only 24 actually move, while 9 fuse as we become adults. Now just think about how important it is all those spinal facets are moving and gliding over each other as they should. As soon as they stop there is all sorts of pain and discomfort felt through out the whole body, not just the back. Well guess what, your feet are no different, in fact in many ways they are almost more important as they are your foundations, they are what your entire Bipedal structure is built off just them. This doesn't even account for the 200,000+ nerve ending that are in the feet.
So briefly, i have been transitioning to being barefoot since around 2012 when i got my first pair of vibrato 5 fingers and since that time have just gotten to the stage where it just seemed a lot of work to put shoes on to just go to the shops, so now i have stopped. A lot of the questions i get asked are...Q: doesn't it hurt to ask on stones/concrete/acorns/whatever, just insert word there. A: is no....your feet are pretty amazing things, and the more you use them as they were designed to be used the more they get used to it. All those 66 joints suddenly start to find life that has been lost through wearing shoes (to use Katy Bowman's expression, shoes act as plater casts for our feet) al those nerves suddenly being to understand how lumps and bumps and digits and acorns are suppose to feel and so your feet begin to mould around the environment your are you. you begin to walk and step lighter, using your feet to feel your away through your walk. below is a video of me running barefoot across walberswick beach with my pups a couple of weeks back.
A few other questions i get asked would be things like Q: What Happens if you stand on something sharp and it gets infected? A: I look where i am going and i don't stand on anything so nothing gets infected. Q: What if you stand in dog poo (always ALWAYS the favourite to ask) A:i wipe and wash it off. exactly as you would do if you were wearing shoes, only it comes off that much easier...those waffle grip Vans are a bastard to get it out of. Q:Dont you care what other people think of you being barefoot?? A: If you know me at all then thats a simple one...No, people only care about how other people perceive them...if all you are worrying about is "will Fred and Jane think i am weird if i don't wear shoes" than your concerns are clearly aimed in the wrong place with the world as it is right now. Learn to be happy as you are in your self...maybe thats wearing shoes, but also make sure you learn and understand the issues that comes from wearing shoes/heels and the problems they can create (hello bunions)
Working with the Ipswich Town football players over the last 10 weeks has been a real eye opener as to what feet look like, even at a young ages, when you live in boots with a tight toe box. Toes squished together, metatarsal phalangeal joint enlargement (evening causing bunions) and toes which don't want to move as they should. The video above was filmed and shows Adam webster, Tom Adeyemi and Tommy Smith all playing with lifting the big toe and keeping the others on the floor and then web lifting the 3 middle toes and keeping the big one down. Great exercises to bring some of that neuro-plasticity back and remind those feet what they are capable of. Using th tennis balls to roll your feet on is also a great way to re-awaken the tissues in the nerves in the feet without beating the crap out of them like you would do if you used a golf ball...you aren't trying to "break down" any tissues or anything but just remind your feet what it is like to be awake, to be alive.
So if you are looking for shoes to wear there are a growing number of them on the market that make barefoot stuff shoes, the main two I've used and can vouch for are Vibram (they make the "crazy" 5 finger style glove shoes which you need to be happy with your self and not care about being seen as even weirder than being barefoot) and Vivobarefoot who make some pretty stylish nice shoes. like i say there are many brands these days and they are all trying to make the idea of wearing a shoe as close to being barefoot as possible. They have A wide toe box, a thin sole and a neutral heel rise. Traditional shoes pretty much constantly have a raised heel, and no i don't just mean girls and your high heels (or guys if you like). Your running shoe has a raised and padded heel to "take out the impact" that running causes through heel plant running. Go for a run barefoot and your body will not allow that style of running cos it bloody hurts so you shift to a mid foot running technique without even trying, your body just knows how it should run in nature. i wont go into the depths of running shod/barefoot and actually your body is great at adapting either way but if you are struggling with pain and injuries maybe its something you should think about.
So to conclude, Whilst i am at the extreme end of the whole barefoot thing and i wouldn't expect, though i would love, people to suddenly start walking everywhere barefoot, i do hope that maybe you might look at the ideas behind being barefoot and trying to do it more often. The reason i do it is to find a greater understanding and comfort in my own body. One of the reasons for this could be so that tescos don't kick up a stink when ever i walk in there (apparently its unhygienic being in there barefoot...even more so than the shoes that have never been washed) There are said to be calming benefits to walking on grass barefoot so maybe even just start there and slowly try to build up walking on your pea shingle drive, i shouldn't use these words as tescos quite often try to kick me out, but every little helps. You won't end up with super hard feet the whole soul of the foot adapts and just becomes harder wearing. If you have any questions about such things, feel free to drop me a line, this has already been WAY to long, but i will leave you with a clip of what your feet can be capable of if you used them like they can be used everyday