What are barefoot shoes? And are they right for YOU?
It’s like the whole world is wild about it.
You see people walking barefoot or wearing barefoot shoes everywhere you go – in nature, around town, and even at work. So, why are your colleagues suddenly so excited about the barefoot trend? Are barefoot shoes really that great, or has everyone just gone crazy?
And most importantly: Is barefoot right for you?
You’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together a great guide on everything you ever wanted to know about barefoot shoes.
Barefoot shoes ≠ shoes with thin soles
Let’s debunk the most common myth first: Thin-soled shoes are not barefoot shoes.
As physiotherapist Lukáš Klimpera said in this interview:
“A barefoot shoe is designed to allow the foot to function as freely and naturally as possible. This means that it must not restrict the foot in any way.”
In other words, the goal is not to minimize the thickness of the sole but to allow the foot to work the same way it would if you were barefoot.
You can recognize proper barefoot shoes based on several characteristics:
- Space. They have plenty of room for your toes.
- Flexibility and adaptability. Barefoot shoes follow the natural movement of your feet.
- Lightweight. They are as light as a feather and don’t weigh you down.
- Zero heel drop. Barefoot shoes don’t tilt your feet or change your body alignment.
- Thin sole. The sole itself is meaningless if the shoes don’t match any of the previous points mentioned.
Typical barefoot shoes are shaped like this. Note the roomy toe box.
What’s wrong with classic shoes?
The foot is an ingenious mechanism. It has tremendous rebound force, it’s flexible, and it can naturally cushion your footsteps. But modern shoes take those natural abilities away.
Here’s what happens when you wear an ordinary shoe:
- The toe box restricts your toes and keeps them from functioning correctly.
- The heel tilts your foot and realigns your entire body.
- The sole strips away information about the ground beneath you.
It’s like your foot is in a cast when you wear a shoe like this. It can’t move naturally, and you have to find other ways to walk, causing all sorts of problems – from back pain to bunions.
Barefoot shoes set your feet free and give you the opportunity to start walking naturally again.
The foot has no room in a regular shoe, so it gets compressed and deformed.
Why is a thin shoe insufficient for barefoot walking?
“Barefoot shoes,“ which have the same shape as classic shoes, will not free your feet. The foot will still be restricted as if it were in a cast, meaning it won’t bounce naturally or cushion your footsteps. At the same time, it won’t have the protection of a soft sole.
In other words, you can injure yourself even more in these shoes than in normal ones – and you won’t enjoy any of the benefits of actual barefoot walking.
True barefoot shoes are spacious, flexible, and lightweight.
What impact does barefoot walking have on your body?
Barefoot shoes aren’t magical, and you won’t learn how to walk naturally just by wearing them. But they do give you the freedom to use your feet as nature intended.
It’s up to you to learn how to walk in a healthy way, and once you do, things will start to happen.
- Your foot settles into a more natural position.
- The whole body gradually realigns from the foot, allowing you to straight up and open your chest.
- Your breathing deepens, and your lung capacity increases.
- More natural breathing stimulates your organs and helps them to function correctly.
- You activate your pelvic floor, an area that troubles many adults.
- Every step you take stimulates your brain. Barefoot walking can even improve your mood.
- Your balance improves.
Barefoot walking improves your mood. You have to experience it!
Are barefoot shoes right for you?
Barefoot shoes are ideal for almost anyone who wants to learn how to walk healthily. As physiotherapist Lukáš Klimpera notes:
“There are some diagnoses, such as diabetes, peripheral nerve disorders, and various injuries, which aren’t ideal for wearing classic barefoot shoes. I also wouldn’t recommend them to people who don’t have the time to devote to the movement of their musculoskeletal system or how they walk to avoid injury, especially with hard footsteps. For them, it’s better to wear our Comfort collection, which gives their feet space but also protects against harsh impacts.”
Essentially, going barefoot is right for you if:
- You don’t suffer from any of the limitations listed above.
- You have the time and desire to be more aware of your stride and improve it.
Adults will have to learn barefoot walking, but it’s worth it.
Your most common questions about barefoot walking
What if I’m not used to barefoot walking? Are barefoot shoes still right for me?
Yes, but don’t rush to put them on. Start by walking on a soft surface, such as grass or sand. It’s helpful to consider healthy walking as a skill you must learn. We’ve forgotten how to do it after years of wearing shoes.
Our tip: Learn how to walk healthily with the ebook Step by Step to Healthy Walking. You can download it for free.
While you’re still learning to walk the right way, we recommend wearing Ahinsa Comfort shoes. They are roomy and flexible but also protect your feet from hard footsteps.
Are barefoot shoes healthy shoes?
Yes, but of course, they don’t work miracles. They are shoes that allow your feet to function properly, but it’s up to you to be aware of how you walk and learn how to walk in a healthy way.
Are there barefoot high heels?
No, there is no such thing. Heels, or shoes with a narrow toe and high heels, are the exact opposite of all the principles of barefoot walking.
We recommend wearing barefoot ballet flats instead. They not only look great, but they won’t hurt your feet.
You can even wear handmade ballet flats on a night out. Your feet will thank you.
Is there such thing as barefoot running shoes? And are they healthy?
Yes, barefoot running shoes do exist and are the best thing an athlete can wear, especially if you want to walk and run healthily.
The rebound force of your foot comes from the toes, which are restricted in classic running shoes. In barefoot shoes, your toes are free to move, giving them the space they need to create a strong bounce. So, you can expect better running performance when you change your footwear.
Our tip: Read this article Barefoot and performance: Take your shoes off and discover your full potential.
Let your feet show what they can do!
Does going barefoot hurt your feet?
When you first start out, you may feel that you’re engaging different muscles than you normally use. As a result, you might experience some slight pain, but it will soon pass.
“If the pain is at the same level as normal muscle fatigue, this is completely normal. It means you’ve activated the muscles, and they will get stronger over time. But sharp, dull, or shooting pain is the body’s signal that you’re not doing something right, “ says physiotherapist Lukáš Klimpera.
Persistent pain usually indicates that you are not walking correctly. Try to be more aware of your footsteps and tread more softly.
What about walking barefoot in the city? Is it a good idea?
Yes, as long as you already know how to walk in a healthy way. In this case, walking on a hard urban surface is good training that can teach you how to feel every step and put your feet down more carefully.
However, we recommend starting out with barefoot shoes on soft surfaces. Or, start by wearing Comfort Ahinsa shoes, which are ideal for barefoot beginners. They cushion your footsteps so you don’t injure yourself.
Will I be cold in the winter?
It might surprise you, but you won’t be cold. In general, barefoot boots and winter boots allow your feet to move naturally, increasing circulation and warming them up. The same principle lets you chop wood in the winter without needing to wear gloves.
If you tend to get cold if you stand still for long periods in the winter, we recommend adding a winter insole to your shoes to keep you warm.
Our tip: Read this article Why do your feet get cold in the winter? You’re wearing the wrong shoes.