Barefoot and immunity: Taking your shoes off for health?
When the flu season comes knocking at the door, we all start upping our Vitamin C intake and thinking about how to avoid getting sick. At the same time, we could boost our immunity if we did one simple thing:
Took off our shoes (and put on different ones).
Read on to learn how ordinary shoes reposition your entire body and what you can do about it today.
Your body is a well-oiled machine
Think of your body as a perfectly tuned clock. As long as all the clock’s gears stay linked to one another, everything runs smoothly, and the clock always shows the exact time.
But what happens when one gear falls out of alignment?
That’s what happens to us when we wear ordinary shoes. Try taking the insoles out of your shoes, put them on the ground, and stand on them with your full weight. Do your feet spread out over the edges? That means your shoes are deforming your feet.
Your feet are like that imaginary first clock gear:
- The position of your toes affects the alignment of your entire foot.
- The foot dictates the position of your ankle joints, which then sets the alignment of your knee joints and hips.
- The hips impact the position of your pelvis, your spine (lumbar, thoracic, and cervical regions), and your head.
Each of these parts is one gear—and every gear has the power to throw off the entire system.
When you have healthy posture, your individual body axes are connected.
Realigning the first gear
Now, imagine that you realign the first gear. All you have to do is just give it enough space to rotate the way it should.
That’s what happens when you take off your shoes — or swap them for a pair that gives your feet plenty of room to move. Suddenly, your entire body “fits” the way nature intended, and big things start happening:
- You straighten up, and your body stops collapsing in on itself.
- Your internal organs assume their natural positions so they can properly function.
- Muscle tension harmonizes so your body can correctly circulate blood and flush out toxins and waste products.
- The lymphatic system functions naturally. Did you know that lymphatic congestion often causes immunity issues?
- Your lungs get more space to allow you to breathe freely and deeply and provide your body with enough oxygen for proper metabolic function.
- Natural movement stimulates your internal organs, such as your digestive tract. This can improve the removal of wastes from your body and the microbiome in your intestines, which can impact immunity up to 90%.
Give your foot room to assume its natural position.
It’s all in your head
Have you ever been sick from stress? Then, you already know from personal experience how much mental stress affects your physical health. The good news is that barefoot walking is also good for you mentally.
It’s extremely important to straighten up your body (and your mindset). Try this simple exercise:
Close your eyes and hunch your shoulders. How do you feel?
Now, stand up straight, square your shoulders, and make a conscious effort to stand on both your feet. How do you feel now?
Psychologists often describe how our physical posture can significantly impact our mood. Taking a moment to stand in an open, correct posture can actually help relieve stress and anxiety. Now, imagine what life would be like if you felt this way all the time. If you give your feet the space they need and learn to walk healthy, your body will straighten up, and you’ll be ready to tackle every day with a winning attitude.
(If this topic interests you, we highly recommend watching this Ted talk from psychologist Amy Cuddy.)
Change your shoes to change your mindset.
In addition, the soles of your feet can feel and sense the world around you—just like the palms of your hands. And when you allow them to do so with the right footwear, you’ll activate your brain with new stimuli with every step you take.
Barefoot walking (with a bit of exaggeration) “turns on” your brain.
An acupressure massage on the way to work
According to traditional Eastern teachings, several reflex zones and points on the feet act as the gateway to your health. When you walk barefoot, you constantly stimulate these zones—giving yourself a foot massage with every step. Eastern medicine approaches believe that this can help to promote internal organ function and activate energy pathways (e.g. nadis and meridians).
Experience a foot massage with every step.
Why standing up straight is not enough
You may have noticed that a lot of the benefits from barefoot walking come from the fact that it helps to get your entire body into the correct posture. So, wouldn’t it be enough to just stand up straight—and keep wearing regular shoes? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
You can’t fake correct posture.
Of course, it’s possible to straighten up your body for a moment, open up your chest, and take a deep breath. But the very first mechanism that keeps your body aligned, the foot, is still deformed. As a result, you won’t be able to hold the correct position for long. You’ll also have to work hard to maintain this posture as you’re engaging muscles that you wouldn’t normally use when you’re in a relaxed and healthy position.
Do I really have to go barefoot?
No, you don’t have to stop wearing shoes. You just have to choose a pair that allows your feet to function the way they should.
The main problem with conventional shoes is a narrow toe box, which deactivates your toes, and a thick, inflexible outsole. They act like a splint, similar to if you had casts on both of your feet all the time.
So, how do you free your feet? Look for shoes that:
- Give your lots of free space for your toes. You’ll recognize them because they have a wide, round toe box.
- Allow your feet to move and bend freely. It’s essential to have a flexible, elastic outsole.
- Do not have a heel. Shoes with heels change the entire alignment of your musculoskeletal system.
Your foot should always be centered in a shoe, allowing each part of your foot to connect naturally. This reduces any unnecessary strain on your joints, enables the correct transfer of force with every step, and balances muscle tension around your joints.
A centered foot needs plenty of space.
But be careful to avoid “barefoot” shoes that boast about their thin sole but still have a similar toe box to classic sneakers. This type of shoe often ends up doing more harm than good.
Wear shoes made by physiotherapists
One thing you might not know about us: Ahinsa shoes were specially designed by physiotherapists. That’s why in our shoes, you’ll walk as healthily as you would barefoot. It’s true—we even researched it at Masaryk University! Rigorous testing has shown that your feet function in our shoes exactly the same as they would without shoes.
Test result images from Masaryk University.
That’s why Ahinsa shoes fit you from the moment you put them on—and your feet are happy when you wear them.
Plus, we developed our Comfort footwear line for those of you who are just getting started with barefoot walking. Our unique flexible insole protects your feet against sharp impacts while giving them enough room for natural movement.
Do you know how to walk the healthy way?
Once you’ve put on shoes for healthy walking, you’re just one step away from natural movement. Download our ebook Step by Step to Healthy Walking by physiotherapist Lukáš Klimpera to learn simple exercises that will teach you natural walking and benefit your entire body.
This article was based on research from the following experts: