I created this video to expand on some of the concepts in my new book Powered By Nature.
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Wearing shoes and going barefoot both come into play in two chapters of the book, Movement and Earthing. Below the video, you’ll also find a summary of the various points covered.
In this video and more to come, I’ll be sharing specific details about what I personally do. I like the following quote:
“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.” — Bruce Lee
And that is exactly what you should do with the following information.
Four Benefits of Footwear
1. Protection is the main reason. Our flesh is sensitive (especially when not used to touching anything). Rubber is used in shoes because it’s a very protective material.
2. Fashion is the second reason. This is the main reason for the wide variety of footwear available today. As you can imagine, fashion is not at the top of my list of priorities. Yet some people are willing to sacrifice the last two points for fashion.
3. Performance is the third reason. Typically, you might think of sports or athletics. Here, a variety of footwear options can absolutely make a difference in what you’re able to do.
4. Health is the final reason. This is the main lens in which I try to look through when choosing my footwear. A famous podiatrist said no one can have a natural gait while wearing a shoe. That shoes screw you up biomechanically, changing joint angles and more. That’s why going barefoot comes first when possible, and when it’s not, I go for as close to barefoot as possible.
I strive to go barefoot as much as possible. Included in this as you see in the video because of the colder temperatures is wearing socks. Socks do not restrict movement or earthing benefits. Working from home I can do this on my average day quite easily. Some people wear their shoes indoors, but I find this crazy. It’s not about keeping the carpet clean, it’s about keeping the casts off of your feet.
Of course, it’s also great if you can walk outside on the natural terrain barefooted too. This may be hard to do during the winter, or other times, depending on where you live, but if you can it’s a great thing to do.
My favorite brand of footwear is Earth Runners. These sandals are huarache style. A sandal with looped straps that hold them in place.
(There is an issue with normal flip-flops. Your big toe and your index toe need to grip the toe strap in order to hold the sandal on your foot. If you haven’t worn flip-flops in a long time, you’ll notice your foot just doesn’t have that gripping pattern down, and sometimes the sandal is just flip-flopping and sliding off your foot. This causes a weird strain and changes in one’s gait and ideally, that should be avoided.)
With the straps on the Earth Runners, the above issues can be avoided. The soles are made of thin material though they do have options for more cushioning. This is my predominant footwear as long as it’s not wet or too cold out. I wear them out in nature or around town.
The biggest benefit, besides the minimalist style that allows your foot to be free, is that they have a copper plug with wiring through the strap. This allows the benefits of earthing or grounding while still having foot protection available.
Vibram Five Fingers
Vibram shoes mimic the actual shape of your foot and like gloves, provide a spot for each toe. When you first start wearing these shoes, you may have difficulty in getting each toe in the right slots. This may indicate that your feet need help in getting back into their natural form, which is exactly what these shoes can help with. I had this issue when I first started wearing them. But now, after years of going barefoot and wearing these shoes my toes slide right into place.
Recognize that shoes are kind of like having your feet in a cast. The muscles atrophy. Then when you first start going barefoot (or wearing shoes such as Vibrams) while forcing the same amount of work onto your feet as you previously did, you could damage things. This has happened with people who run marathons and then switch to Vibram shoes and continued to run marathons. It may take months, even years, of training for the feet musculature to really come back strong. So ease into hiking, running, or any other activities slowly and smartly.
Another side note on the Vibrams. They have a tendency to smell really bad after use, especially if you workout in them. Although you can throw them in a washing machine, the odor does not come out! For this reason, I recommend you wear socks with them, which drastically reduces the smell and prevents your feet from sweating directly inside them all day. There are five-fingered socks like the ones from Injinji.
Flat and Heeled Shoes
My other shoes may not be great for the toes, however, they are flat. Vans are great for this as are many other styles of shoes.
Compared to dress shoes which have a raised heel. While great for making you look taller, it throws off your entire body mechanics. The ankle joints then affect the knees which affect the hips, spine, and so on. I end up wearing dress shoes a few times a year and I always feel off balance when I do it. That’s because I am off balance. Even when wearing them, for instance at a table, I’ll kick them off under the table where people won’t notice.
Dress shoes tend to be the worst. Obviously, this is even more true for women than men. Besides the raised heel many of them come to a narrow point in the toes. The pair I have has a wide toe box to prevent cramming my toes up into a narrow point.
I also have a pair of boots I wear occasionally for hiking in extra wet or muddy areas. These come up around the ankles which can be good for providing ankle support in places you might need it. The drawback is that they provide all the stability so you’re not self-generating it. And wearing them too much could cause your ankles to lose mobility
Recognize that a relationship with the Earth starts with our feet as that is our point of connection. But with modern footwear, it’s largely a point of disconnection (literally).
Secondly, we modern humans tend to believe we are smarter than nature as to how the foot is supposed to work, despite the foot working just fine ala’ natural. When we start in molding and reshaping our feet, we invite issues such as bunions, hammertoes, back and knee problems, and more.
It’s just like when we thought we are smarter than nature by isolating certain chemicals, rather than recognizing that there is intelligence in nature like with herbs. And there are countless other examples like this. Check out Powered By Nature for much more.
Take back your nature by taking back your feet!