Your feet are made up of several muscles, tendons and nerves, the same as any other part of the body so ultimately, wearing shoes weakens the feet. The feet are designed to be mobile body parts, shock absorbers for the knees and spine, force producers and transmitters.
Have you ever been out on a boat and been told to put a life jacket on for safety?
When you had that life jacket on could you easily rotate your torso, or did you have to strain your neck, maybe switch positions in a seat or stand up to turn around?
Generally, an awkward feeling and position right?
Well when we are wearing shoes we are essentially doing the same thing to our feet. We are limiting the capacity for movement and strength and creating inefficient movement to compensate.
We have 5 toes on our feet and they are designed to be used! I’m sorry if here you were thinking they were just an appealing (or unappealing for some) appendage, turns out they serve a purpose!
When we are barefoot the distribution of weight over the 5 toes is designed to optimally absorb force and allows us to move in a pain free motion. When you wear shoes, you are telling your brain that what it once thought was 5 separate appendages is actually now just one clumsy base.
Think about the way most shoes are designed for a minute, do they become wider as you reach the edge, or do they become narrower?
You will find most, if not all shoes reach a narrow point at the edge of the foot. This completely contradicts the design of our foot as we sprawl the toes out.
When going barefoot the feet are able to become more agile and flexible, contouring to uneven surfaces which helps strengthen the feet and prevent against ankle strains and injury’s.
It’s no surprise then that if you are a person who spends all their life in shoes, that going barefoot would cause you pain. These muscles have become lazy, so when they do have to do work, they fatigue quickly and have a low tolerance to any kind of load. Not only does this cause pain, but it can make you unbalanced on the feet, increasing susceptibility to falls.
Obviously, going barefoot all the time is not a practical option, but here is a few things you can do…..
Feet need regular training just like any other part of the body. Try and go barefoot wherever you can. Use yoga classes as a time to work on your foot strength, just as you would leg strength, arm strength.
To develop strength in your toes – interlace fingers between the toes and squeeze
Massage and release tension by rolling the arches over a golf ball, tennis ball or hard frozen water bottle.
To strengthen the toes – place a small hand towel under your feet. Now try and crunch the towel up with your toes.