Part 1:

Two years ago I entered the world of ‘barefoot’ footwear; an increasingly popular alternative to ‘normal’ shoes and trainers. These are my experiences.

The theory is that humans had been running barefoot for a long time before big brands started manufacturing the modern trainer. They had to run, and run well to catch their food and to avoid being food. Therefore the foot is perfectly designed to run without all these mod cons of cushioning and stability etc. That is, at least, the theory.

People who advocate barefoot running claim benefits ranging from improved posture, faster running times and fewer injuries. Also a more connected feeling to their body and earth. They can be very evangelical about it. Opponents to the new ‘fad’ claim that there is increased injury (especially metatarsal fracture) and possible future problems from such unsupported foot use. There is evidence to support both arguments. The answer is somewhere in-between and is individual to each person.

I have Vibram Five Fingers© (VFF’s for short) they are like gloves for the feet. They have very thin soles to enable increased awareness of what is under your feet and allow as much intrinsic mobility of the foot as possible. They also have individual pockets for the toes, allowing increased ‘wiggle’ ability. It is the nearest thing you can get to walking barefoot, with some protection from what is on the floor, which can be gross.

One of the things you have to know before you wear them is that everyone will look at your feet and ask you questions about them. They are a bit like Marmite; people will love them or hate them.

The second thing to know is that you have to build up wearing them slowly… Or you will end up in pain! The muscles of the foot need time to build up and this does need to be done slowly. You would not just go and run a marathon without some training, not without hurting something anyway. In the same way, you need to train your feet and legs to work barefoot again. So start small and build up time and mileage.

So how did I get to own my first pair of VFF’s, one of the more unusual looking ‘barefoot’ shoes? It was not for all the benefits highlighted above. My partner saw a man wearing them, thought they looked suitably odd, decided they would suit me perfectly and accosted the man for details. And there began my love affair with these weird looking but, in my opinion, amazing shoes.

Written by Margaret Sinclair, Osteopath.

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