Are Minimalistic Shoes More Than Just The Next Health Trend?
Foot health is becoming more of an interest, especially since we are in an era of going back to our primal ancestors from eating, the way we sit, to even how we walk. I’m sure we can all attest that it’s more work these days to stay active and healthy then it was even 20 years ago. We sit a lot, eat a ton of unprocessed foods, and run down with stress. We are yearning to use our body the way it’s supposed to with natural movement and stop limiting ourselves due to our busy sedative lives. I’m sure we have all heard people claim that being barefoot is best, or having arch support is necessary. But what really is the healthiest and most functional option for our bodies? The human foot is amazing, it has 26 bones, 33 joints, 19 muscles, and 104 mechanoreceptors. Our feet are the base of our whole body and understanding how we can properly take care of them is vital.
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Anthropological evidence suggests that footwear began to be worn approximately 40,000 years ago. This is based on the observation of a reduction in toe length at this time indicating a reduction of reliance on the lesser toes during movement. Shoes throughout history have evolved from functional to more stylish. This study shows that walking barefoot compared to wearing cushioned shoes results in a reduced step and/or stride length. This reduction is limited when walking in more flexible footwear and walking barefoot shows an increase in cadence (rate at which one walks).
We’ve been told that more padding in a shoe reduces the impact forces on the body’s joints and tissues during weight bearing activities. Interestingly enough Physics and research do not support this claim. Often the best way for us to reduce impact is to have reduced shoe cushioning. Reduced shoe cushioning may feel uncomfortable due to your feet having to reassess how to move without jarring our feet into the ground. Cushioned shoes force us to do more work when walking compared to minimalist shoes or being barefoot. Cushioned shoes weaken our foot muscle strength and arch, taking away our foots ability to work each muscle when moving. Runners who use minimalist shoes or barefoot, adopt a midfoot strike compared to a toe or heel strike running form; allowing the ankle to contribute to shock absorption and not put so much stress on the knees and hips.
It’s understandable that people may be hesitant to try out Minimalistic shoes due to the Lawsuit against Vibram Five Fingers for making false and unsubstantiated claims about health benefits when it came to their product, and some customers experienced injuries while wearing them. Injury can occur during the transition time from cushioned shoes to minimalist shoes due to the muscles being weak, that’s why it’s best to let your feet adapt to the shoe and gain strength before going full force into activity.
A study by robbings and Waked published back in 1997 in the british journal of sports medicine states the following. “Athleticfootwear is associated with frequent injury that are thought to result from repetitive impact. No scientific data suggest they protect well. Expensive athletic shoes are deceptively advertised to safeguard well through “cushioning impact” yet account for 123 percent greater injury frequency than the cheapest ones.” Athletic shoes are designed more for aesthetic than maximizing foot comfort and health. That old saying pain is beauty, well apparently that applies to athletic shoes as well. I know I typically go for the better-looking shoes when I go get a pair to work out in, but as I do more research I’m trying to get my priorities straight and put my health before my style.
Minimalist shoes might not be for everyone, especially people with foot trauma who need the cushion in shoes to feel comfortable. The best way to go about switching to minimalistic shoes is to have a slow transition time, giving your foot plenty of time to adapt to a new type of shoe. While walking barefoot and wearing minimalistic shoes is “trendy” the reasons behind it are valid, if we have poor foot health or foot problems, it will affect other parts of our body. Who knows, minimalistic shoes might just be the next big thing.