Engage your feet with a spot of Toega

"For a tree to become tall it must grow tough roots among the rocks." – Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 Are you looking to improve your foot health, joint mobility and toe strength? Are you looking to re-engage your brain with your feet and take back control of your once dexterous toes? Re-learning how to use your feet is easy and could have benefits way beyond strong feet. Let us introduce you to the wonderful, enriching, world of Toe Yoga, or Toega . But why would anyone need to re-engage their feet? There's a simple reason: a lifetime spent in narrow, rigid and cushioned shoes has probably not had a positive impact on your foot health – especially if you started wearing traditional shoes from an early age when your feet were soft and malleable. Over time the body adapts to its environment and non-foot shaped shoes often negatively impact the body’s hardware; adversely affecting the muscles, tendons, bones which make up the moveable joints required for movement and neural receptors and pathways which inform the brain on it’s position in space and time. This lack of information exchange between the feet and brain is commonly responsible for the recession in our ability to enjoy natural, injury-free movement. We have forgotten how to move, but all hope is not lost! There are some relatively easy, low-risk activities you can add to your daily routine without causing much disruption; small habitual changes that could have a big impact. The first step towards happy, healthy movement should start in the toes and feet. The following Toe-ga exercises should be performed daily to improve mobility, flexibility and strength in the ankle, feet and toes. Do them twice a day if possible and give yourself 5–10 minutes to complete the exercises, the longer the better. Being barefoot, if it’s safe to do so, or wearing appropriate footwear (ahem VIVOBAREFOOT shoes) for the majority of the time will allow your newly gained foot mobility to materialise as your feet adapt. Rooting the big toe In a standing position, push the big toe down into the floor and raise the other four toes off the floor. This can be extremely challenging at first, so aim for small pulses of the movement. It’s also important to keep the ball of the foot in contact with the ground at all times, i.e. do not roll the foot inwards in order to lift the other four toes. When your proprioception starts to improve, aim to hold the other four toes off the floor while pushing down the big toe for up to 30secs. Big toe under Bend the big toe underneath the foot – using your hands to assist if necessary. This can be an uncomfortable movement (often with restricted range of motion) so it’s important to use a soft surface when doing this exercise. It is important that the emphasis is on mobility at the 1 st metatarsal joint. When viewed from above, it will appear as though the big toe has been chopped off. Big toe out With or without assistance, bend the four smaller toes underneath the foot, leaving the big toe pointing forwards. In this position, root the big toe into the floor to improve strength in this position. The bending of the toes can be an uncomfortable movement so it’s important to use a soft surface when doing this exercise. Again, it’s important to emphasise mobility at the metatarsal heads – when viewed from above, it will appear as though the smaller toes have been chopped off. Sit on heels, big toe pulses Keeping the toes facing forwards, sit back on the heels allowing the toes (and plantar surface of the feet) to stretch. Once in a relaxed position, push the big toes into the floor repeatedly (pulsing) allowing the body to gently rock back and forth. Hands on heels, extend hip/spine In the above position, place your hands on your heels and slowly extend the hip and thoracic spine as you straighten your arms. Once in this fully extended position, pulse the big toes as before, rocking the body back and forth. Sit on heels, plantar flexion Sit on the heels once more, except this time, plantar flex the ankle allowing the toes to face behind you – this time you will feel the stretch on the front of the ankle/foot. Sit on heels, plantar flexion, lean back As you sit on the heels in the above position, gently lean back (supported by your hands) as far as is comfortable – feeling the stretch through the quads/hip flexors. Take care not to overstretch in this position. Head to the Transition section to fnd out more about skilful standing, walking, squatting, jumping and finally running.

 Learning to walk in barefoot shoes

If you are new to wearing VIVOBAREFOOT shoes we’d recommend walking before you run and transitioning gradually. It might feel unusual at first, but it’ll be worth it in the long run. Shoes that make sense Like any training programme, it takes time to adjust to barefoot movement. You may have sore calves and feet to begin with but this is just the feeling of waking muscles up that may not have had a proper workout in years. In time you should get stronger feet, increased ankle mobility, improved posture and better balance and a new found sense of connection with the ground. The “workout” begins the first time you walk in our shoes. Start Slowly Therefore we’d recommend starting slowly; being barefoot (where it’s safe to be) where possible and wearing VIVOBAREFOOT shoes for short periods for walking. Your brain will start to adapt quickly and you body will also begin to change too. We’d recommend regularly doing toe exercises little and often (whilst brushing your teeth is ideal) and when walking think about good posture and correct walking pattern. We have lots more information on Toe-Ga and walking . Born to Run? The best-selling book, Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall, paints a romantic picture of taking off your shoes and running with the Tarahumara people. In reality there’s a bit more to it than that. It’s true humans have evolved to move. Moving regularly and uninhibited is key to human health and fitness. However in western cultures we tend to do two things: we sit down and we wear shoes. A lifetime spent in a seated posture and in narrow, rigid, and/or cushioned shoes is likely to have a detrimental impact on your body and your ability to move skilfully, without injury. No silver bullet They are flat, wide and flexible to allow your muscles and tendons and bones to work harmoniously. The ultra-thin, puncture-resistant soles allow the brain to have a good idea of what’s happening under foot – that’s it. Our shoes are not a silver bullet; they simply allow the feet to move as if barefoot – it’s down to you , patience and embracing a new kind movement . Ready to embrace a new kind of movement? SHOP WOMENS SHOP MENS

 The heel shaped heel

‘The Newest Evolution in Our ‘HANDCUT’ Barefoot Shoes’ Just as our feet evolved to be perfect bits of walking and running kit, our HANDCUT shoe collection has evolved the art of traditional shoe making—combining a centuries-old craft with our modern technology, and advances in our understanding of feet. Every Vivobarefoot shoe is flat & wide, thin & flexible, with a thin sole; allowing your feet to retain natural shape with every step. To bring you even closer to natural, barefoot movement, we introduce a new feature into the HANDCUT collection: the curved heel rocker. Most conventional shoes are thick and rigid, with a 90° heel edge. This sharp angle means problems not just for your feet. Your ankles, shins and balance also suffer. Every step we take when we walk, our foot passes through three position phases, known as “rockers”. These phases are: the heel rocker —the heel contacts the ground to begin the step—the ankle rocker —the foot rolls from the heel to the ball of the foot—and the forefoot , or toe, rocker— the ball and big toe push off of the ground, giving the step momentum. A smoother heel rocker means a softer heel strike, and less muscle strain in the shin. Our curved heel is contoured to your natural foot shape, for a smother heel stroke, instead of a jarring heel strike . Here is how our curved heels shape up against conventional shoes: The new Handcut shoes are a labour of love. By tweaking tradition with barefoot function, and using the best Tuscan leather I could lay my hands on, these shoes are a piece of luxury, for an already perfect piece of design; your feet. SHOP NOW

 Persistently Hunting The Persistent Hunters

“Ahh, yhes, you have just missed him, he has gone to jail for shooting a man with a poisoned arrow.." We had driven for over 1000 kilometers over the African Plains. . The previous three villages had all pointed us in the direction of this little village, saying the last guy who knew how to do the long distance running and persistence hunting would definitely be here. The previous evening, our guide Werner, known as "Honey Bird", had told us a history on the San (the Western term to categorise a multitude of bushmen tribes living all the way from Botswana to South Africa). The Ju/’hoansi, our hosts, are one such tribe, and call an area of 90,000 sq km around the Nyae-Nyae pans home. Since they banned hunting in Botswana last year, the Naye-Naye conservancy area is the last place in Namibia where the Bushmen are still permitted to hunt using traditional techniques and we were here to find proof of the endurance running hypothesis: Original humans hunted by running down and tracking prey over the hottest hours of the day. Humans have a unique ability to stay cool (sweat) with an efficient and elastic running style enabling us to out-last Antelope who can only manage short bursts to run away before they have to cool themselves down by breathing. Through clever tracking and consistent running, the humans are able to move the antelope on before they are fully recuperated and the beast ultimately keels over from heat exhaustion. The drive from the village was a ponderous one, and we were becoming pessimistic about whether we would even get to meet someone that knew how to do the persistance hunting. Just as we were about to give up, a demure figure sitting across the room inquired, “Are you guys doing a project?” “We are looking for the last of the persistent hunters, but have hit a dead end.” The mysterious figure was Aleksandra Orbeck Nielsen, who had left a glamorous career in Paris and New York to set up a conservation trust, called: Nano Fasa; to help protect the last wild zone of Namibia. Her goal was to set up a sustainable future for the people in the area. She knew the best hunters around and was about to launch, ‘The Barefoot Academy’ based around 5 branches: The Hunter “Tracking is like dancing, I feel happy.” The Gatherer “If we all share, we have enough.” The Healer “Healing makes our hearts happy and our bodies strong as the antelope” The Story Teller “We tell stories to teach, to prepare, to share and to connect.” The Sustainer “When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves.” The next morning Aleks was off to film a documentary, and we decided to go for a run with Ben McNutt’s bushman friend Toma. Ben had been working with Toma and his friend !Ao for the last ten years, leading expeditions to Namibia through his company Woodsmoke. As Toma glided effortlessly through the bush, we witnessed human movement at its most natural, he was deftly moving as humans have done in this part of Africa since before the dawn of humanity. Back in the village, we met Toma's 80 years old father, squatting by his hut (while his son slouched on one of the chairs), who regaled us with tales of what he called ‘the running hunt’ and how they used to do it in this area. “I wish my children would still do the running hunting” , said the old man. “They have become lazy and because they go to school have not had enough time to learn our traditional ways.” Only 1 in 10 bow and arrow hunts are successful and the older villagers are frustrated that the young are too lazy to pursue this efficient and successful method of running hunting. Schools, sitting in chairs and the introduction of secondhand first-world padded shoes are affectively crippling the Ju/'hoansi. As a result, running hunting, one of the most original methods of human pursuit is on the verge of dying out. Ju/’hoansi like Toma and his brother have both gone to school, discovered chairs (they even have two chairs outside their hut) and started wearing poorly fitting secondhand Western shoes (often at least 2 sizes too big or too small). After being coerced by their insistent father, they have tried the running hunting, but so far without success. “We gave up.” “It was too hard.” Toma and his brother say that they cough from smoking and as a result of tuberculosis. Although they reluctantly admit they ‘should’ stop smoking and start running to make their lungs stronger. As the sun rose on our final day and we set off up the hills to Nhoma camp,, which had become rundown by an infamous Boer who had committed the crime of selling the Ju/’hoansi the free giveaway secondhand shoes he had received as ‘donations’ from the West. Aleks has recently launched a tracking school and the skill of running hunting will be part of it. Students will come for a minimum of 2 weeks to help build up the camp, contribute to projects, and learn the ancient ways of these humble, wise and beautiful people. It was easy to distinguish the people that had started wearing Western shoes, as their toes were already warped. Whereas those who had stuck to the original natural sandals had beautiful straight toes . The people of Nhoma only hunted in the traditional bushman sandals – these days mainly made of tire rubber. The local cobbler complained of the lack of skins to make the shoes in the original way. They used to make two different types of sandals – one for hunting with a big toe groove for extra grip and a flat one for everyday use. As the sun burnt into the bush, the film makers were capturing the locals gathering the larvae to make their poisonous arrow heads and we set off on our 1000km return trip back to Windhoek, on the way witnessing a final termite hatch at Roy’s camp. As a wise lady said, “Termites show that when we unite together we can build great things.” We look forward to all coming back to inaugurate the tracking school, don the locally made bushmen sandals and run down a Kudu.. and try to escape without a poisoned arrow in our ass! - Galahad Clark

 The Ancient History of Barefoot Shoes

Today, everyone from fitness coaches to stockbrokers are sporting barefoot shoes. Without knowing it, these modern barefoot shoe-wearers are carrying on a tradition that stretches back across generations -- to the first shoes ever made. Doctors have long understood the health benefits of the minimalist shoes--or no shoes at all--worn by indigenous communities all over the world, from the Solomon Islands to the west coast of Africa. As far back as 1905, medical journals published articles lauding the healthy habit of this minimal footwear. The strong, dexterous feet of traditional shoe-wearers stood in stark contrast to the overlapping toes and grotesque bunions caused by cramming feet into narrow Western shoes. Symptomatic of the “disease of civilisation,” foot deformities were another epidemic spurned by the increasingly unnatural lifestyle of the modern, urbanized world. Humans first made shoes to protect feet from the elements and rough terrain--from the nearly impenetrable jungle to the burning sand of the Kalahari. Today, barefoot shoes take advantage of breakthrough biomechanical research and high-tech materials, but they stay true to this original purpose. Like traditional shoes worn for centuries, modern barefoot shoes allow feet to retain their natural shape, strength, and range of motion. Indigenous shoemaking is barefoot shoemaking. And this ancient traditional inspires us to get back to our roots and create barefoot shoes made for modern feet from every walk of life. SHOP BAREFOOT SHOES

 Gobi II Suede Testimonial

“Here I am, where I’ve been I’ve walked a hundred miles in tobacco skin, And my clothes are worn & gritty.” Lyrics from ‘Something Pretty, Patrick Park. At this stage I’m confident to say that my Gobis are the best travel shoes I have ever owned. They have walked many hundreds of miles; from African deserts to Scottish beaches, from jumping onto London tube trains, to skipping over open sewers in Asia, and they are still going strong, if looking a little travel weary. In my opinion these are VivoBarefoot’s ‘gold star’ shoe – they are tried, tested and trusted – for traveling to hot dry countries you couldn’t ask for a better companion. The simple design and stitched sole make them pretty much indestructible for rough and tumble travel, yet they are stylish enough to wear into a smart hotel lobby; but in my opinion their two most impressive features are their breathability and their pack-ability. The suede upper allows perspiration from your feet to sublimate through the leather and evaporate away. I’ve worn mine in the Namib Desert at 40+°C and had dry socks at the end of a hard days hiking. They also pack very small; will even go in the lid of a rucksack or can be rolled up and crammed into the bottom of a side pocket, helping to keep your weight down at check-in. My granny used to say “spend your money on your boots and your bed, because if you’re not in one, you’re in the other”, so my advice if you are planning a trip somewhere hot this year, and want something light and comfortable to wear, you should give serious consideration to investing in a pair of Gobis, your feet will thank you for it. SHOP GOBI II

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