Setting Your Feet Free

I have recently come across a couple of writings advocating a more barebones (or more specifically, barefoot) approach to footwear.  The first is an article expaining how running shoes do nothing to reduce injuries; the second is a blog post by lifestyle design experimenter Tim Ferriss about his experience with Vibram Five Finger shoes.  Both come to the conclusion that modern running shoes hinder natural foot biomechanics and usually lead to foot and/or lower leg problems.  Since our body movement is more of an interconnected kinetic chain than isolated movements, the impaired function of the feet causes other parts of our body to compensate for the dysfunction at the foot.  Ultimately, poor foot mechanics induced by shoes leads to knee, hip, back, and shoulder problems

I’ve written about the overly supportive shoe issue before in a previous blog post, and I have since then become even further convinced that shoes–particularly athletic shoes–are a major reason we have so many foot problems, lower leg injuries, and overall dysfunctional body mechanics.  Thick soled, elevated heel, motion constraining shoes prevent the foot from moving naturally and reduce the feedback we get from our feet about our balance and body positioning.

Unnatural tilt creates compensation issues


Over time, our reliance on support from the shoe weakens our feet.  I’ve noticed this in my own feet.  I inherited the flat foot gene that permeates my dad’s side of the family.  My feet were once so flat that I could step on a surface and tell how level it was by the feeling on the soles of my feet.  I also sprained my ankles a lot playing basketball.  After switching to thin soled aqua socks for several months, my feet became stronger, and my balance got better.  These days I suffer far fewer rolled ankles since my feet better sense the ground and can react faster to protect my ankles and my balance.  As an additional pleasant surprise, my previously completely flat feet now have a noticeable arch; not much of an arch, but enough to that my friends and family have confirmed that I’m not hallucinating.

I won’t deny that cushioned shoes are still useful; after nearly a year of my minimal shoe experiment, my feet still hurt after extended periods of pavement pounding.  I’m glad that I no longer fork over gobs of cash for fancy shoes that ultimately do nothing for me other than weaken my feet.  I don’t know if I can win over more converts to the minimal shoe/barefoot lifestyle, but I know I plan to continue minimizing how often I wear my cross trainers.

Johnny Kuo

Combative Corner Author

*Article was originally written in 2009 by Johnny on his blog, Zenfulness.  The information, we feel, is still very pertinent.  Proper training (footwear) is important in becoming not only a good athlete but a healthy (and well-informed) one as well.  For more postings by Johnny, follow him at MindBodyKungfu or subscribe to us, here, at the CombativeCorner.

One Response to “Setting Your Feet Free”

  1. Hello.

    My wife is the strength behind my understanding of this subject. However I will say, I wear, very happily, several pairs of Evo Barefoot Running Shoes. I run 3 to 4 times per week, between 5 & 13 Km per run.

    I am also wearing them as I train and teach the martial arts or and all througout the day.

    I now highly recommend both Vibram and Evo, as my wife wore both Vbram and Evo. She is also a certified Yoga & Breath Work Trainer.

    My running style is now adjusted completely to this natural manner, which has reduced injury and potential for injury, especially after having undergone a previous ACL surgery.

    I highly suggest to people alongside of my wife, to try the shoes and understand the science. It has worked for me and a growing number of very active runners.

    In Peace & Fellowship

    Jamen Zacharias
    All Things Institute of Path of Rest
    Fraser / Thompson River Canyons
    British Columbia, Canada

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: