The last couple of months I have been delving a little bit deeper into what it means to have healthy and strong feet. A weird obsession? Maybe. I guess it stems from my deep fascination with monkeys. I’ve always kind of wished I had hands for feet. Just imagine the possibilities!
Before starting any (p)rehab work, we need to establish some realities though. If you have been wearing shoes the largest part of your life, adaptations will have occurred. It may either be impossible to completely “cure” these adaptations and it might take many years for you feet to re-adapt. The feet in the picture below look the way they do, because they have had the constant day in, day out stimulation. They have become this way through a lifetime of exposure to the elements. The only way we can get close to this ideal is by disregarding our shoes completely and living a lifestyle similar to a tribesman (or a monkey).
There are a bunch of ways we can try to improve intrinsic foot health and strength. Most of them will require some active physical and awareness work (which will be discussed in my next blog post), but there are also easier and more passive ways to induce adaption. Changing your footwear to minimalist shoes is a great place to start. It will shield you from inconveniences like stepping on dog poo or glass, cold feet and the uneasiness of people are staring at you. Goddamn hippies not wearing any shoes! Am I right?!
My personal favourite minimalist shoes are VIVOBAREFOOT shoes. They have the thinnest, most flexible sole I have tried to date, allowing you to actually feel what’s under your feet. This increased sensitivity is an important neurological impulse needed for adaption. Vivo’s shape also allows for your toes to be spread, giving you a wider base of support. Unlike most other minimalist shoes, they actually have a selection of shoes that look nice. I use them for everyday life things and light activity and switch to another type of shoe or bare feet depending on what I will be doing. Training things like parkour or skating in Vivo’s will limit your possibilities as they will not shield you from heavy impacts like other traditional shoes do. Vivo’s come in many different models so you can find some for a fancy party, a casual day or be active. Prices vary from cheapish to expensive.
Feiyue is also a great choice as they are more versatile and way cheaper than Vivo’s. They have a tighter fit which feels nicer when you are moving a lot. They also have slightly more padding to shield from impacts. They are a step further away from barefoot but are still a better choice than most other shoes. They only come in this design in a few different colours.
I have also tried Vibram shoes which are pretty good for light activity. Cheaper than Vivo’s but more expensive than feiyues. The separate toe thing is relevant in situations such as climbing trees or walking through rough terrain. You might feel a bit weird and get a few looks while wearing them, so that’s why I use mine mostly for outdoor activities as they help protect your feet from cuts and scratches.
If you know of any other great minimalistic shoes, please let me know in the comments! I would be more than happy to try them.
Be sure to read part 1 in the foot series, where we take a deeper look into the structure of feet and how they have adapted to our modern lifestyle.