We are designed to be barefoot.
You did not come into this world with shoes on.
Quite frankly, the shoes you wear might be affecting you more than you realize.
The shoes you wear could be the root cause of your back pain, your knee pain, your hip pain, foot pain, and could cause poor breathing, posture, and other issues over time.
It’s not just some of the maybe more obvious culprits like heels and dress shoes.
What I’m about to say is going to burst some bubbles, but it needs to be said.
Most of the shoes that we buy to run, work out, and train in, are designed for maximum comfort and support, but that “comfort and support” is the last thing your feet need.
The foot is a wildly complex part of the human body. It has 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles.
In short, it’s designed to be all the support you’ll ever need.
The modern running shoe especially is made with a super thick sole, and even thicker heel, designed to take pressure off your foot and ankle.
Which may sound great on the surface, however, your foot was designed to absorb this impact, and the more you remove this kind of pressure, the less the bones and muscles in your foot work, and the more you start moving improperly.
As with all things in the body, if you don’t use it properly, you lose it over time.
Which means, these shoes that are built for comfort and support, over time, can actually create lots of discomfort throughout the body, in the form of foot, knee, hip, and back pain.
Furthermore, you have these receptors on the “balls of your feet” called “proprioceptive receptors”.
These receptors, when stimulated, send instantaneous signals to your central nervous system correcting posture as needed.
The more “removed” your foot is from natural movement, due to all that extra “support” from a running or training shoe, the less likely you are to stimulate these very necessary receptors.
These corrections are not conscious, you don’t realize they’re happening, which also means, if these receptors are not being properly stimulated, you don’t realize the slow, subtle changes to your posture over time.
How many of you reading this see a chiropractor to correct postural/functional issues causing pain or central nervous system issues? And how many of you reading this who aren’t seeing a chiropractor, but are dealing with these issues?
A lot of the process in reversing these issues can begin with some self-care in correcting how your feet move and function.
Allow me a second here to get off my soapbox.
As I’ve mentioned before in “The Weekly Thread”, and what will continue to be a common theme, is that we don’t live in a perfect, ideal world.
Ideally, in a more perfect world, we would all work, train, and live barefoot.
Unfortunately, for 99.99% of us, that’s just not possible.
My aim is to provide you with better information, better solutions, oftentimes, to arm you so that you are more well-equipped to undo the negative effects living in our modern society can have on us.
This segment is just that.
I recognize many of us wear high heels regularly for work, or ill fitting dress shoes with a heel.
I recognize that society, or our employers, may expect this kind of more formal dress of us.
Let’s dive into some solutions and resources that will help you combat the constraints of our modern world.
Go barefoot whenever possible, especially outside.
This may sound obvious, and some of you may do this already, but become more conscious of not throwing shoes on to go outside.
Remember those proprioceptive receptors on the balls of your feet that help your central nervous system control posture and adjust to changes in posture?
As mentioned, they NEED to be consistently stimulated to function and send proper signals to your CNS.
The easiest way to do this is to walk barefoot outside, especially on ground or terrain that isn’t so uniform, and is more stimulating.
Your grass, gravel, anything that is less uniform will stimulate these receptors.
(At the bottom of this segment, I will list some resources for products to help with this as well.)
Furthermore, quite a bit of research has been done on the benefits of “grounding”, which simply put, is the act of connecting your bare feet to the ground/earth.
In short, the human body runs on, and produces an electrical charge that is the same frequency of the Earth. By connecting to this native charge of the Earth (bare feet in the grass), you can reduce inflammation, pain, and even boost immune system function.
Here’s a scientific paper on the subject, The effects of grounding on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
Alas, the constraints of our modernized society don’t allow for us to go barefoot all the time. Here are some tips and resources to stay as close to barefoot as possible, and to do some self care to work those feet back into shape.
I mentioned above that many of us wear high heels, or ill-fitting dress shoes for work or events, however, outside of that, especially when exercising, the choice is entirely yours.
There are now multiple companies, including Nike, making super minimalist shoes, without all the cushy comfort and support (Nike also makes a plethora of running shoes that will destroy your feet), that mimic walking around barefoot.
Here are our top picks:
Micaela absolutely loves all things VivoBarefoot. They are getting wildly popular, as more and more people are going “barefoot”, so they can be tough to get. CLICK HERE to check them out. They also make barefoot dress shoes, making it possible to go barefoot even in a professional setting.
I personally wear Nike Free, which is their line of minimalistic, barefoot style running and training shoes.
Graham Tuttle, also known as “The Barefoot Sprinter” on social media, is a tremendous resource and well worth following. He also has programs available online to help you get your feet, hips, and back back, and correct posture naturally, through movement.
CLICK HERE to follow @thebarefootsprinter on Instagram. Honestly, this guy could change your life!
CLICK HERE to check out his programs online.
Finally, Posture Pro, founded by Annette Verpillot, offers great products for your feet, such as insoles with discs that stimulate those proprioceptive receptors, along with other tools to do so.
CLICK HERE to check out Posture Pro Shop.
This is a great practice as part of a consistent bedtime routine, or as needed, when feeling overwhelmed and/or stressed out later in the evening, and when dealing with a racing mind.
The idea is to get out whatever you need to get out, on paper, before you lay down for bed.
This can be as simple as writing down a to-do list for the next day, or it could be writing down your thoughts, feelings, emotions from the day in a journal.
For me personally, I like to write down the good things from the day, as no matter how bad the day, you can always find good in it. I also like to think about, and write down what I am grateful for as I get ready for bed.
I also highly recommend that whatever you do, that you physically write it down on paper, as the actual act of handwriting makes you more mindful, and of course, keeps your face out of a screen right before bed.
Whatever you feel you need to do, or what is best for you, is what you should do. The idea is that you are getting out whatever needs to get out, and off your mind, before you go to bed, allowing you to rest more soundly.
For older adults, every 500 additional steps taken daily, is associated with lower heart risk.
A recent study done by the American Heart Association shows a pretty substantial benefit in lowering risk of severe cardiovascular events from simply walking a little extra each day.
The study was epidemiological, and meant to show the correlation between daily steps taken in elderly adults (age 70 and over) and risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack, stroke, or heart failure.
Participants were followed up with for 3.5 years after the beginning of the study.
Here are some key highlights from their findings:
Walking an additional 500 steps per day was associated with a 14% lower risk of heart disease, stroke, or heart failure. (For context, a mile is abut 2000 steps, so 500 additional steps would be roughly one-quarter mile)
Compared to adults who took less than 2,000 steps per day (less than one mile), adults who took about 4,500 steps per day (about 2.25 miles) had a 77% lower observed risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event.
- Only about 3.5% of participants who took about 4,500 steps per day had a cardiovascular event, compared to 11.5% of those who took less than 2,0000 steps per day during the 3.5 year period of the study.
It’s pretty simple.
This study observed elderly adults aged 70 and over, so this definitely applies to anyone in that age category, however, the lesson can be applied as early as you like, starting with now.
The more steps you take in a day, on average, over time, the lower your risk of heart disease, and most likely, the better your chances of living longer without disease as a whole.
An epidemiological study of the 5 “Blue Zones” for longevity (areas of the world where culturally, people live much longer, without disease, than other parts of the world) shows that one of the biggest correlations to living longer, healthier, free of disease, is making walking a greater part of your everyday life.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the longevity benefits of building and maintaining strong muscle in both men and women.
Combine these two, and it appears that simply walking more on a daily basis, and lifting weights 3-4 times per week for 30-45 minutes, can help increase the likelihood that you will live longer, and healthier. To read our comprehensive guide on muscle and longevity CLICK HERE
We are Human BE-ings
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” -Robert A. Heinlein
As we move into warmer Spring weather, I’ve been thinking more and more about this idea of “BEing” and what that means to me.
There are so many things out there trying to distract us, trying to pull us out of the moment, keep us from BEing.
And don’t get me wrong, certain distractions, like entertainment from time to time, can be a healthy, important, and much needed distraction.
However, so can using your time to take a more active role in the BEing part of human being.
Personally, I’m looking forward to exploring new waters, doing more hiking and camping.
Doing more mobility, movement, and proactive self care work for my body.
Cooking new, more adventurous epic meals.
How about you?