WHAT ARE BAREFOOT, MINIMALIST AND ZERO DROP SHOES?
So you want to join the barefoot adventure…. but all the terminology and choice is confusing?
The following is a simple explanation of what it actually means to wear a ‘barefoot’ shoe, helping you make the right choice when it comes to starting your journey to reconnecting with your feet, body and the world around you!
To put it simply, barefoot shoes strip back all the extra ‘stuff’ you find on a pair of traditional running shoes. Barefoot, or minimalist shoes as they’re sometimes called, are as little shoe as possible, protecting your feet only from weather and harsh terrain.
To do this there are several key elements of a barefoot (or minimalist) shoe:
- Heel-to-toe drop – this is the difference, in millimetres, between the forefoot and the heel of the shoe. A proper barefoot shoe should have a zero drop (just like your feet, incidentally!). Sometimes minimalist shoes are actually really ‘low profile shoes’ which means something between a 4-7mm drop, which is still a lot less compared to the 8-14mm drop of a traditional running shoe, but something worth checking before you buy.
- Stack height – is the total overall height of the sole. Other than running totally barefoot, the sole in a barefoot shoe is as thin as possible.
- Toe box – the toe box in a minimalist shoe is nice and wide allowing space to splay and recoil. Traditional shoes, as well as normal running shoes, are tapered, pushing toes together and compromising their strength and agility.
- Lightweight and flexible – barefoot shoes keep the foot connected to the ground and able to move as close to barefoot as possible. So truly barefoot shoes will be the lightest and most flexible out there.
- Pronation – is all different ways of padding a traditional running shoe. There is none of this in barefoot shoes. No arch support, ankle support – nothing.
So if you’re going hiking, running or you’re just after a pair of shoes to wear every day to work – you can go barefoot; just look out for the terms we’ve described to make sure your shoes really do fit the bill.
AND before you embark on a long hike wearing your all-new barefoot hiking boots – remember:
1. GO SLOW!
If you’ve been wearing normal shoes and sports shoes most of your life, you’ve been wearing shoes that are narrow, with a tapered toe box, a heel of some kind and a hard sole. These types of shoes stop your feet from working and moving to full capacity and strength. Switching to barefoot shoes means the 33 joints in your foot, as well as all the fantastic tendons, muscles and bones packed in there will finally get to move! So take your time to wake your feet up and get reacquainted with them.
2. Spend time barefoot. Really barefoot.
Being able to wiggle your toes and feel the earth beneath your feet is a great way to start reconnecting to your body and the natural world around you. Sparking up all that sensory feedback is why our feet are packed with nerve-endings, just like our hands. They really are made to feel. Your feet are amazing bits of kit, after all, they’re an awesome gift from evolution!
3. Get off that chair and MOVE!
Getting the most out of moving isn’t about killing it in the gym. It’s about moving more and moving better all the time – going barefoot will only help you enjoy this adventure more. So try some Toe-ga to increase your foot flexibility and prime them to be happy barefoot.
Deep squatting is a great indicator of overall fitness and flexibility. Try and reduce your chair time (or slumped on sofa time!). If feet didn’t evolve to get wrapped up in tight, narrow, rigid shoes, our hips certainly didn’t evolve to be folded up in a chair all day.
Welcome to barefoot – we’re pretty sure you’re going to love it here ;)