Footwear plays an essential role in our daily lives, providing protection and support when outside and inside the home. While pretty much everyone wears regular shoes, they can actually increase your risk of injury – even when brand new.
From an evolutionary standpoint, we didn’t evolve to wear shoes suddenly. While shoes feel comfortable, they can weaken the feet and open them up to potentially troublesome foot-related conditions.
Some cultures still practice barefoot walking, in which shoes are never worn. These cultures can be seen to have improved balance, reduced pain, and better posture. This has led to an acceptance and uptake of barefoot shoes in other countries where the total removal of shoes seems radical.
In this article, we look at some of the short-term and long-term effects of conventional shoes on the feet and why more people are starting to go barefoot more often.
1. Restricted Toe Movement
Most shoes have narrow toe boxes, which can restrict the movement of the toes and cause a range of problems. The toes need wiggle room, and if they can’t move, you may suffer from conditions like hammer toes, bunions, and ingrown toenails. These may even require surgery to correct.
This is why it’s a good idea to find shoes that prioritize toe splay and natural movement. This enables the toes to spread and grip like without shoes.
2. Lack of Arch Support
Most of our shoes tend to lack the adequate arch support needed, which can lead to painful foot conditions through prolonged use. Without this proper arch support, the arches of the feet can collapse, resulting in conditions like plantar fasciitis or flat feet.
Since arch support distributes pressure evenly across the feet, it can help to improve the alignment of the body. Lack thereof can lead to back pain, poor posture, and balance issues.
However, arch support eliminates the opportunity for the feet to support themselves, affecting muscle development. Barefoot shoes are designed with a minimalistic approach and incorporate anatomical arch support. This mirrors the foot’s natural shape, encouraging a healthier arch structure.
3. Risk of fungal infections
If our shoes fail to provide adequate ventilation, moisture can build up inside, creating an environment prone to fungal growth. Conditions such as toenail fungus and athlete’s foot thrive in these conditions and can cause extreme discomfort, among other health problems.
Going barefoot can eradicate this issue; however, if shoes are preferred, these should be designed with breathable fabrics and materials to facilitate better airflow and moisture management.
4. Weaker ligaments and muscle Atrophy
You’ll find that most shoes are made with excessive cushioning and support to appear comfortable. Although, wearing these shoes for extended periods can weaken the muscles and ligaments in our feet.
Over time, this can lead to muscle atrophy or decreased foot strength, increasing the risk of further injuries and stability.
Shoes must encourage the natural engagement of the foot muscles, which means minimal support and cushioning. While it may initially seem uncomfortable, you’ll see the long-term benefits over time.
In conclusion, the effect that daily shoes have on how our feet develop is a complex and important factor for the health of our feet as a whole.
Normal shoes that provide proper support and fit well can promote healthy foot development by offering stability, protection, and cushioning.