Apr 23, 2008 at 9:04 am #1228543
@splproductionsLocale: Salt Lake City, UT
I've been reading websites such as barefooters.org and barefoothikers.org because I really have loved the times that I go out-and-about barefoot.
I've also found that there is a small school of thought that says that our feet have evolved over millions of years to function properly and we are messing them up by wearing shoes. (Read some of the article snippets at this link: http://www.barefooters.org/medicine/). Some of these studies suggest that shoewear increases ankle injuries, etc. Also check out http://www.unshod.org/pfbc/toysaw.htm and other information on that site.
I am by no means a doctor, but this way of thinking makes sense to me.
There is also a company "Terra Plana" that makes eco-friendly shoes (some completely from recycled material). They have a line called "Vivo Barefoot" that has a very thin, flexible Kevlar sole that supposedly makes you feel like you are walking barefoot (but still have the social advantages of wearing a shoe). http://www.terraplana.com/vivobarefoot_info.php
Thoughts anyone?Apr 23, 2008 at 10:15 am #1429716
@redmonkLocale: Greater California Ecosystem
While the soles of the feet adapt quickly, I don't think the rest of my feet have ever become conditioned to being slammed into rocks, roots, and thorny plants. My shoes suffer a lot of damage that would otherwise be taken by my foot, especially around the toes. I don't think backpacking barefoot works for what I consider backpacking and barefoot.Apr 23, 2008 at 10:19 am #1429717
My tribe supposedly went barefoot most of the time, at least prior to the adoption of western clothing. I'm told their toes smelled more like fingers. I've worn moccasins for traditional dancing, but have thought about adding treads & insoles to help absorb shock.
I think going barefoot might work on trails, at least after the foot toughens up. Offtrail, though, I'd want something with a sole; two summers ago I went on a 6-day offtrail trip and ruined a pair of hiking shoes by stepping on something that ripped a ragged, thumb-sized gouge in my sole. I thought of keeping it as a trophy.Apr 23, 2008 at 10:36 am #1429720
Re: Is going barefoot healthier?
NoApr 23, 2008 at 11:15 am #1429724
@arichardson6Locale: North East
Nice point John! ….. ;-)
I would say that in some ways, perhaps, it is "healthier," but I would argue that overall it isn't. I would say that in our current time feet should be protected simply because we weren't raised barefoot and if people in the past had the chance, I'm sure they would enjoy some shoes. I've read the stuff on arch support and how it affects the foot and such, and while it may be true, it doesn't seem like a good reason to go barefoot while backpacking.
Try to get me to keep my shoes on in a grass field though… :)Apr 23, 2008 at 7:48 pm #1429858
Ben 2 WorldParticipant
@ben2worldLocale: So Cal
My two cents… Whatever the advantages of going bare feet, folks who do that habitually have "leathery feet" — tough and comfy for all kinds of walks.
But most of us — city folks and suburbia folks — have to wear shoes most of the time — for school, for work, etc. Consequently, our feet are soft, and subjecting them to the rough and tumble on odd weekends may cause more harm than help. On the other hand, if you take care to walk barefeet on reasonable terrain for reasonable time duration — and build up their stamina from there — that could work very well.Apr 23, 2008 at 8:03 pm #1429865
@verberLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
I am sympathetic to the idea of going barefoot… but my feet aren't tough enough to do this and I am not committed enough to the idea to develop that toughness. Over the years I have known people who do everything barefoot. The other time they would stop going barefoot was in the winter when there was ice. Not because they got cold, but because they had sliced their feet open on an ice sliver.
I have found that flexible shoes like those made by inov-8 permit most of the natural motion while providing what is just the right amount of protection and traction for my needs. Your experience might differ.
Vivo Barefoot makes a number of shoes that are sort of modern moccasins with very thin, flexible soles and basically no cushion. They are a expensive and don't have good traction away from the asphalt jungle, but work well around town.
–markApr 23, 2008 at 8:29 pm #1429870
It's now common for runners to train by running barefoot on grass or sand. But, given I'm not a world class athlete, that's not the type of training I like to do. However, I have decided that moving in the direction of more barefoot style shoes makes sense. I just got a pair of these cross country racing shoes as a less restrictive option that hopefully won't destroy my soft city boy feet. They are flat with minimal cushioning and basically no arch support. There are the vibram five fingers that are popular with the pose running crowd, but they seem to thin and look to dorky for me.Apr 23, 2008 at 8:46 pm #1429874
@alohatinkLocale: In the Middle of No Where!
When we were growing up it was very common NOT to put your children in shoes, so as to not deform the feet. Later on you worn large rounded toes tennis shoes like Keds etc..
The thinking of my parents and their pediatrician was shoes were not necessary for the proper growth of a childs foot.
My two sons hiked a few days barefoot on the JMT last year.
You should of seen the looks they got!!!
I was concerned about damage to their feet or fine bones cracking under the weight of their packs. They were fine and happy; buzzing along till the dirt/sand got too hot…so they switched to wearing rubber slippers. I worn my Crocs for hiking and my slippers as camp shoes. Bring extra slippers they break far to easy on the trails. lol
There are the Barefoot Sisters known for hiking the AT as well as a hiker who hikes barefoot using all gear made from Tyvek. I will admit you won't catch me hiking in snow barefoot that's for sure!
I think it boils down to what you are use too and comfortable with.
Just be prepared for a wider foot as the results of going without shoes for years :)Apr 23, 2008 at 9:06 pm #1429877
W I S N E R !Participant
I often go barefoot to rock climb (warming up), on short hikes, running around the house, doing yardwork, etc., and have some pretty tough soles…but I still cringe at the thought of scree and talus fields and what my feet would look like after a thru-hike…One misplaced step and oops, there goes the big toenail…
I think it all depends on where and why you're going barefoot.
Going barefoot obviously goes WAY back into human history, but then again so does footwear, depending on the region and the needs of the culture. Early humans braving Northern European winters without footwear…don't think so.
I'm a runner and do believe that running barefoot is probably fine, maybe even good for you- ON THE PROPER SURFACES. Bare human feet didn't evolve on asphalt and concrete; any runner knows how potentially destructive these surfaces can be.
Knowing that millions upon millions of humans have lived their entire lives barefoot, I'm tempted to believe it's more "natural", but then again, when have you ever seen data on how common major foot problems, lacerations, broken toes, fractured heels, etc. are in these societies? I've been going pretty hard for 30+ years without a major foot injury. Is it luck or shoes?
I'll take a lightweight pair of street running shoes with plenty of mesh for my journies (3 season)- to me, they're the best of both worlds.Apr 23, 2008 at 10:10 pm #1429888
@tippymcstaggerLocale: North Texas
Intestinal worms may not be widespread…but imagine stumbling across a site freshly treated to the "smear method," ick.
Totally for barefoot now. After very little training pros outweigh cons for me.Apr 23, 2008 at 10:42 pm #1429892
Ben 2 WorldParticipant
@ben2worldLocale: So Cal
I think people are supposed to "smear" off trail. :)Apr 24, 2008 at 5:57 am #1429922
– -K.T.- –Participant
Yes but Ben people are supposed to do a lot of things with their waste that doesn't happen. Ewe!Apr 24, 2008 at 7:30 am #1429943
@robdevLocale: Pittsburgh, PA
Shoes do appear to deform feet. If you look at photos of people who never wear shoes compared to people who wear shoes, the toes of the shoe wearers are more compressed. I went barefoot frequently as a kid, and as a result my toes are not as compressed as they are on many of my friends. I have to be very picky about my shoes because of this. Wide toe boxes are a requirement.
I have notices that I walk the same way in shoes as I do barefoot. I don't need heel cushioning since I don't slam my heals down. My legs get really stiff if I wear shoes that are too high off the ground.
Unfortunately, I can't go barefoot as often as I would like, since I'm in a city now and my feet have grown soft. I tried a pair of Vibram Five Fingers, but the fit wasn't quite right (big toe was a little too small, overall length was a little too long). Now that they've got a new model, KSO, I might try a slightly larger pair.
Those Vivo Barefoot shoes also look interesting for when I need to wear normal looking shoes.
In the end, I'm not qualified to say whether barefoot is healthier, but the research I've read shows that more minimal shoes are healthier than fancier running shoes. You don't need to go barefoot, you can pick shoes that are closer to barefoot.Apr 25, 2008 at 9:45 pm #1430249
@start2dayLocale: So Cal.
If you've ever seen the gnarled, deformed feet of a person who has never worn shoes, you know the answer! Footwear was one of humankind's first and best inventions. Don't get nostalgic.Apr 25, 2008 at 10:03 pm #1430251
I wear shoes. My feet are great.Apr 25, 2008 at 11:24 pm #1430257
@eaglembLocale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
Other than the seemingly more frequent shards of glass on trails and sidewalks, spiny plants and thorns and foot borne parasites, no reason I can think of to not go barefoot…
Going barefoot is 'natural', but then so is strychnine…
Conversely, who knows what's growing in your shoes.Apr 27, 2008 at 1:33 pm #1430434
@retropumpLocale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
I also grew up "barefoot". Eventually got kicked out of high school because of it. But even in my most hard-core phase I would wear moccassins on terrain that was likely to be icy, full of broken glass, or lots of large prickles (small prickles didn't bother my feet). Heat or cold, per se, were not a problem once my feet had toughened.
As a result, I now also have very wide toes, which are hard to fit with a shoe. Birkenstocks and Crocs come about as close to fitting my foot as anything. But I still have a fully intact arch, no foot problems of any kind (no blisters, corns, bunions, plantar fasciatis, ingrown toe-nails etc…) at the age of almost 50. I would say, given the move to UL hiking, that going barefoot would be good for your feet as long as you stuck to trails that were not full of prickly stuff, and not too hard packed for too great a distance, otherwise at least put a thin layer of skin protection onto the bottom of your feet. Or stick to off-trail which is often much softer on the feet than human compacted trails.Apr 29, 2008 at 3:17 pm #1430771
Sounds like hooey to me! I can't see how going barefoot in the outdoors is going to do anything other than potentially set you up for a major disaster of some sort. If there were some way to research it I'm fairly certain that you'd find that in those societies where the bulk of the population is barefoot, foot injuries of every sort are widespread and common.Apr 29, 2008 at 10:11 pm #1430841
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> I can't see how going barefoot in the outdoors is going to do anything other than potentially set you up for a major disaster of some sort.
Sounds like a good justification for a 60 lb pack and two spare pairs of full-leather high-ankle boots.
> I'm fairly certain that you'd find that in those societies where the bulk of the population is barefoot, foot injuries of every sort are widespread and common.
Curiously, foot injuries do not seem to figure very large in African health stats.Apr 30, 2008 at 12:11 am #1430852
There's a guy in my office that goes barefoot. All the time. I should ask him if he does hiking/running.
Unless your feet are really tough, i think it'd be pretty easy to get a little cut, ..and then get dirt in it and have it not heal and become more and more painful for the rest of the trip. Especially with the broken glass you can find almost anywhere, including wilderness.
Plus as you're probably aware, we learned to walk/run with shoes, and as a result we impact our heels too much. So it might require an adjustment there.
I hiked in essentially running flats all last year and didnt notice any ill effects of almost no padding.May 2, 2008 at 7:39 am #1431248
@terraLocale: Sydney, Australia.
You will benefit from going barefoot when possible.
Even just a weekly walk barefoot on grass in the park for 10 minutes.
Honestly you will have healthier feet and ankles (which means healthier knees, hips, back, neck, proprioception, mood etc)
Look at the homunculous (sensory nerve proportions).
Notice the size of the feet (and big toe).
Then also realise that neurologists regard afferent nerve impulses like a 'nutrient' of cerebellum… And are also realising that the cerebellum does soooo much more than just balance and co-ord.
Most shoes stop normal use of the big toe (and foot structure in general). In fact they alter your gait.
Now question if you are experiencing life to its fullest whilst tied perpetually into your shoes.
Caveat: Modern society has robbed us of much of the natural terrain we evolved for. Hence a minimal sole which allows natural foot dynamics may be better that prolonged barefoot in urban areas on flat, level, paved surfaces.
Anyhow, trust me on the 10 minutes barefoot in the park thing. ;-)
This is a good intro: http://nymag.com/health/features/46213/index3.htmlMay 2, 2008 at 1:13 pm #1431288
For those of you who don't want to spend the time toughening up the soles of your feet, you can always buy some pre-built ones here: http://www.vibramfivefingers.com
There are guys doing ultra-marathon type trail runs on rocky terrain in them (i.e. over 50 miles) and are just loving it. For more info on that subject, you can check out one guys blog here: http://www.barefootted.com
For me, I have been hiking exclusively in them for over a year now and wouldn't go back. I really didn't have much choice, it was the only solution for me that worked to solve some foot and knee problems that continued to get worse as time went on.
At work and around town I typically wear a pair of moccasins so that I look a little more normal. I don't like them quite as much as the FiveFingers though because they still restrict my toes a bit.
There is a great article on the subject of barefooting here: http://nymag.com/health/features/46213/May 3, 2008 at 4:33 pm #1431473
@splproductionsLocale: Salt Lake City, UT
Glad to hear you love them! I am just waiting to Vibram to get my size and color in stock and then I will be ordering a pair myself. By the way – which style do you prefer for hiking? The KSO's seem like the most practical. Thoughts?
I have started a site called barefootrevolution.com – I hope to gather information, studies, reviews, links, etc and make it a useful and informative site.May 3, 2008 at 4:40 pm #1431475
I have the Classics right now, when I bought them that was the only model that was available. My wife just got the KSOs, which I think is better for hiking/trail use because they keep out debris better.
Good luck on the site, I will check-up on it as you go!
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