There has been a growing common thought among many people today that shoes and the barefoot movementfootwear cause more harm than good for feet.  This train of thought has caused large groups of like minded people to forgo shoes when engaging in any sort of outdoor activity.  More & more you will see people outside doing activities barefoot or in barefoot shoes.  Shoes like Vibram Five Fingers have become very popular with people that share this opinion.  What is this movement all about and does it have any actual credibility?

The theory is that when running and jogging became popular in the western world so did footwear such as sneakers and running shoes.  These shoes have been blamed for all types of related problems that arise in and around the foot.  Our feet are naturally designed to absorb the shock of running and falling through the design of the arch.  By wearing shoes with extra padding under the heel, we have trained ourselves to walk and run improperly by applying all the shock to the heel which in turn goes up the legs and knees.

It is the claim that flat feet, bunions, and other foot problems all arise from overly padded and constricting foot wear and the incorrect walking/running motions they train our feet for.  It is the theory that heel striking in running shoes causes more injuries than running barefoot and forefoot striking or mid-foot striking (landing with the ball or middle of the foot first before the heel).

Running and walking barefoot has many health claims:

  • Running barefoot will strengthen the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the foot and your arches will become more pronounced.  This can prevent hyperpronation and flat feet.
  • It uses less energy as you use the natural spring in your foot and calf muscles more to store and release energy.  This is a more energy efficient method of running.
  • You may reduce injuries to the Achilles tendon and calf muscles as they stretch and lengthen with each stride.
  • You may improve balance and coordination as the muscles that aid in balance become strengthened.

If you decide that barefoot running and walking is for you, you might want to try out a pair of barefoot style footwear.  Running and walking barefoot obviously does not protect against sharp rocks or glass and this can be dangerous.  There are several companies like Vibram Five Fingers that make footwear that mimic being barefoot with little to no padding and or by having separate compartments for each toe in the shoe.

Please Weigh In With Your Opinions On Going Barefoot
I (the webmaster) would like to know more about this from people that have actually done this.  The concept of engaging in active activities barefoot is very fascinating.  Do you love barefooting it on a regular basis?  Did you try it out and will now never go back to running shoes?  Did you try it out and hate it?  Do you think this is all quackery?  Weigh in with your comments below.

There are many factors that can contribute to the development of a bunion.  One common factor that can contribute is Hyperpronation.  Normally when we walk a foot will properly rotate in an inward and downward motion.  This motion is very subtle but it allows the foot arch to evenly disperse weight and compensate for uneven pavement.

Hyperpronation as seen here can cause excess weight on the big toe and lead to a bunion.

Sometimes a foot will rotate or (pronate) in an excessive and abnormal manor.  This condition called Hyperpronation will cause the foot to rotate too much to a point where the inner arch can move towards the ground.  While this condition is often referred to as “flat feet”, is is a disorder that has more to do with joints and muscles.  The incorrect motion will eventually lead to other problems as other muscles and joints try to compensate.  As noted previously, a bunion is one of the problems that can arise from Hyperpronation. (see what causes a bunion)

There are many abnormalities that can cause this motion to become abnormal.  Weak hip abductors (the muscles on the back of the hip), a short Achilles tendon sometimes caused from wearing high heeled shoes, or it can be caused by an abnormality of the muscle in the calf that runs under the foot (tibialis posterior tendon).  Depending on the underlying cause for your hyperpronation, there are many things a person can do to correct or compensate for this problem.

Orthotic arch support inserts like this can compensate for your hyperpronation.

People suffering from Hyperpronation should not wear tight fitting shoes or high heels.  Wearing shoes with proper arch support or purchasing custom orthotic inserts can also help to fix the issue.  Your podiatrist can provide you with these custom inserts, but there are many over the counter orthotic inserts that one can purchase as well depending on the severity of your condition.  Walking barefoot is also a common remedy that is given so that sufferers can strengthen the foot and ankle muscles.  Try out a pair of five toed running or walking shoes.  Many people swear by these products but consult your physician first.  There are also several stretching and strengthening exercises one can do.  Try toe raises, heel & calf raises, and thigh exercises such as hip abductors.  Also you can try “toe pickups” as stated in a previous article bunion exercises.    As always check with a doctor to make sure what your underlying issue is that is causing your hyperpronation before purchasing any correction products.

There are many things a person can do to aid in bunion correction and relief.  These include several exercises that can be done on a regular basis to help ease the pain.  Try some of these out at the end of the day while barefoot on the couch:

Toe Pulls
Hold your big toe with one hand, and your foot with the other.  Gently pull your toe and hold for about ten seconds.  For a variation, try gently twisting the toe clockwise and counterclockwise while pulling on it.

Toe Stretches
To stretch your toes, point your toes forward for 5 seconds, then curl them for 5 seconds.  Repeat this as many times as you are comfortable with.

Toe Presses
Press and stretch your toes against a hard surface in one direction and hold for about 10 seconds.  Then press and hold them in the other direction for the same time.

Towel Pulls
Sit in a chair barefoot with your toes on the edge of a towel. Start flexing (curling) your toes and pulling the towel to draw it up under your toes.

Rubber Band Toe Pulls
Hold both of your feet in front of you with your heels together.  Wrap a rubber band or a similar item around both big toes and pull them away from each other.  Hold this for a few seconds.

Marble Grabs
While sitting or standing, try to pick up small items like marbles or something similar with your toes.  Try to move them from one pile to another.

pampered toes toe spreader
These spread each individual toe and feel great at the end of the day (Click For Details)

Tennis Ball Raises
These will help to train proper alignment of the feet and ankles which will lessen undue stress on the big toe from over pronated posture.  Stand up  with a tennis ball squeezed between your ankles. Rise slowly onto the balls of your feet with your ankles level and then slowly lower back down.  Repeat as desired

Wear A Toe Stretcher/Spreader At The End Of The Day
In addition to toe exercises, wearing a toe spreader at the end of the day can give a great relief to stressed joints and sore bones.  These spread and stretch your toes apart and can be worn while simply relaxing.  They will also help with alignment.

In conjunction to bunion pads and bunion night splints, doing these exercises on a regular basis will help slow the progression of your bunion and aid in bunion correction.