I have talked about this one a few times in the past but I am not sure people are getting it. Barefoot vs. wearing shoes.
Why do we have this seemingly genetically ingrained feeling that we must wear shoes to take care of our bodies properly? When did it start?
Sure if you’re walking on ice or broken rocks a little bit of protection on your feet is a good idea to protect the skin. But that is really all you need footwear for. I think we need to disassociate the need for protection for your feet and the need for support for your feet.
But why is it so ‘dangerous’ to lift weights barefoot? I just cannot understand this crazy aversion to letting your body work the way it was designed to work.
I hear things from people all the time about why they need supportive footwear. I have fallen arches, I have flat feet, I pronate, I supinate, blah, blah, blah. 99% of people spewing this rhetoric at me have no idea what any of that even means. All they know is that some minimum wage retail shoe salesperson has told them they suffer from one of the aforementioned maladies. So you purchase some shoes with extra support and away you go.
A few months pass and your knees and hips don’t feel any better. Wow, your issues must be WAY worse than you previously thought! You had better get professional help! Off you go to look at custom orthotics. You step on pads, have your feet poked, prodded, and measured. You walk on fancy electronic pads and see a bunch of cool stats and bar graphs on a computer screen that make no sense to you but you nod along in agreement with the sales person putting you through the assessment.
(Note: yes, I mean sales person. Just because the person is a Chiropractor, doctor, or physiotherapist they are still giving you a sales pitch to purchase orthotics. If you don’t believe me, see if they will tell you what their profit margin per set of orthotics is. I happen to know just how profitable a business addition it is – wonder if they will admit that?)
You buy the orthotics and figure all of your problems and issues are going to fix themselves. The majority of the time they do not. Why?
First – how often do you wear these orthotics? Just when you workout or wear a particular set of shoes. So a few hours a week. What about all of the other hours a week you spend walking around without the orthotics?
Second – what caused your issue in the first place? Was it the arch of your foot? Pronation issues? Or was it poor movement patterns, weak foot muscles, tight calves and hamstrings, or some other much more relevant issue? Remember that everyone is built a little bit differently. There is no one ‘right’ arch angle for your foot, or set number of degrees of pronation and supination that is right for your foot and ankle. We are all built a little bit differently.
The point of this blog is that you don’t NEED shoes for support. You may need them for protection from the elements. But your foot was designed to work on its own. It is one of the most amazing engineering marvels in the biological world. Look into it sometime. It is amazing.
It is designed to support and move your entire body. It is the first sensory input for the rest of your body to balance and move. It doesn’t need any help from a cheap piece of foam or plastic rolling off some assembly line at the lowest possible cost to increase someone profit margin.
You do not need shoes for support. Stop listening to the manufacturer’s sales pitches or your local orthotics retailers insistence that you must have them. It just isn’t the case.
You are hoping that you can find a mechanical fix for issues that are actually related to lack of exercise, being overweight, lack of movement, or any combination of those issues. If you are fit, active, healthy, and a normal bodyweight and then your feet, ankles, knees, and hips are having issues you can explore other options.
Use exercise to prevent needing supportive footwear instead of the need of supportive footwear preventing you from getting exercise.