365 Ways #279–Bare naked feet Posted on November 17, 2010, 0 Comments

#279--The great marathoners from Kenya run in shoes for one reason--they get paid to wear them. But catch these athletes in their developmental years, and you won't find anything remotely resembling the modern day shoe on their feet. Typically they'll be barefoot or wearing some sort of sandal. They definitely won't be in some beefed up stability shoe to keep them from overpronating. Maybe they just can't afford them. But what they really can't afford is the orthopedic consequence which comes from imprisoning their feet in shoes which don't allow the feet to move in the way in which they were designed.

The cushioning and lack of proprioceptive feedback inherent to the modern shoe causes more impact forces to be transferred through the entire body. Indeed, studies have shown that the softer the surface the harder we hit the ground. It's like the body realizes that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction; and for energy to be returned to the body to lessen the caloric expenditure of gait, the legs must be driven harder into a soft surface than a firm one.

But isn't the lack of support dangerous? Yes, it is. So why are you wearing shoes that foster the atrophy of the very shock absorbing capabilities with which you were born? Look at a child in the first few years of life. He/she can use the feet almost like hands. And when they run, they land naturally on the mid-foot instead of heel striking. I guess they innately know that the heel just doesn't have the same fat pad as the rest of the foot. But that's just instinct. We can't trust that! Let's use our heads and put some shoes on these kids who must be one stride away from plantar fasciitis...

Casting our feet in shoes actually leads to structural weakness as we lose what we don't ever use. Eventually, we are forced to rely on the external support of our footwear or risk injury. It's an example of the SAID principle in action. We have a Specific Adaptation to the Imposed Demands--our feet get weak because we wear "athletic" shoes and allow them to become de-conditioned.

So start training your feet today. When you get home, take the damn shoes off and walk around barefoot. Start slowly at first; but gradually spend more and more of time developing the intrinsics in your feet and lower legs to work like they haven't since you were first learning to walk. In essence, that's what you'll be doing now all over again.