In recent years, there has been a growing trend of people wearing barefoot-style shoes. These shoes are designed to mimic the natural feel of being barefoot while still providing some protection to the feet. Nine years ago, we became a shoe manufacturer because we discovered the benefits of this kind of shoe and we wanted to bring an American-made barefoot-style shoe that wearers could be proud to sport. We couldn't be happier to see that more people now understand the importance of barefoot-style shoes.
On the way to becoming happy customers, people often look at our shoes and ask themselves, "Are barefoot shoes good for me and my feet?" There are many benefits to barefoot-style shoes, including improved balance and posture, better alignment from toes to the tip of your spine, and increased muscle strength. If you’re considering changing, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons to decide if they’re right for you.
The benefits of barefoot shoes
When it comes to the benefits of barefoot-style shoes, there are many — both physical and psychological — that make them appealing to so many people. Here’s a breakdown of the benefits for you to consider:
- Improved Balance and Posture: Barefoot shoes allow you to better control your gait and so maintain a more neutral walking and even running posture.
Increased Muscle Strength: Wearing barefoot-style shoes helps to strengthen your feet and muscles by working on stability. Strong feet will have less risk of injuries such as ankle strain. They naturally absorb shocks without the need for extra cushioning.
Enhanced Agility and Efficiency: Barefoot-style shoes put less strain on your feet and have fewer restrictions so, when you run or train, you can have a more natural stride or step.
Better Alignment: Proper alignment, or the way your body lines up, can have a huge influence on how you move. For example a bunion can affect your running gait. Barefoot-style shoes allow your bones, ligaments, and tendons to regain their natural positions, reducing any misalignment, which can help to prevent long-term injuries.
Psychological Benefits: Not only do barefoot-style shoes have physical benefits, but they also offer some psychological ones. These shoes help boost your confidence by making it easier and more enjoyable to walk and run. They also keep you more in touch with the ground through the soles of your feet, giving you a feel of lightness and freedom of movement.
What you need to know before switching to barefoot shoes.
While there are major benefits to wearing barefoot-style shoes, there are also some risks associated with this type of footwear. Here are some of the risks you should be aware of:
Initial Discomfort and some getting-used-to time: When you make the switch to this type of footwear, expect a period of adjustment. You will likely experience some initial discomfort due to the difference in posture. It takes time for the muscles in your legs, feet, and ankles to adjust to the new shoes. It personally took me over three months to completely stop feeling any soreness in the calves.
- Lack of Cushioning: Some barefoot shoes don’t offer much cushioning, which can cause problems if you are a heel striker. Without the cushioning, you may have to adjust your heel stride to a more mid-foot stride. SOM Footwear offers more "forgiving" barefoot-style shoes with an 8 mm sole which allows you to feel grounded yet with some good protection when walking or running on trails.
Injuries: While wearing the correct type of barefoot style shoes reduces the risk of injuries, it is very important to take the time to adjust slowly. To avoid any injuries, be patient and give your body time to adjust and strengthen.
How to decide if barefoot shoes are right for you
The best way to find out if barefoot-style shoes are right for you is to try them on. We always ask our customers if they go barefoot at home. If the response is yes, there is a great chance they will love their SOMs because they will feel as comfortable in them as being barefoot. There are many types and styles of barefoot shoes on the market but be aware of the not-so-barefoot ones. To help you make the right decision, here are a few tips:
Study different models of shoes: Barefoot-style shoes should have a roomy toe-box, a zero-drop sole (no elevated heel), and the sole should be entirely flexible and light. Basically, the opposite of the narrow shape, forward tilt, and stiffer-sole shoes you find so often on the market today. Barefoot shoes offer a natural way of walking and running. They don't restrain your feet in any way and they make you stand in the exact same posture as you would barefoot.
Listen to Your Body: Take your time when transitioning to barefoot shoes. This can take weeks or even months. Listen to your body and, if you experience any discomfort, take time to stretch your calves, ankles, and feet. More on this below!
Evaluate the Quality of Barefoot-Style Shoes: Make sure that the shoes you purchase provide you with the best quality materials and construction. Good-quality shoes will be well-constructed and will last longer. SOM Footwear stands behind its product and offers excellent customer service. At SOM Footwear, your shoes are manufactured in, and will be shipped directly from, our factory in Colorado.
How to get started with barefoot shoes
Adapting to barefoot-style shoes can take some time, so here are a few tips to help you transition more easily:
Gradually introduce the shoes into your routine: Start wearing them for a short amount of time each day, and gradually increase the amount of time you wear them as your feet get used to the new style. For example, you could start by wearing your new shoes for 30 minutes a day for the first week, then increase it to an hour the next week, and so on.
Pay attention to your posture: The zero drop and flexible sole promote a natural gait and require proper posture, which can take some getting used to. Make sure you're standing up straight, with your shoulders back and your weight evenly distributed across both feet.
- Take it slowly: Don't push yourself too hard or too fast when adapting. Listen to your body and take breaks if you need to.
Strengthen your feet: Because barefoot shoes don't have as much cushioning as other shoes, your feet will need to do more work to support your body weight. Strengthening exercises like toe raises and calf stretches can help prepare your feet for the new challenge. Also, it's normal to experience tenderness on the bottoms of your feet as you adjust to the thinner sole. Ease your feet in, but be reassured that this is your feet building up a natural strength that old, traditional shoes have stopped you from having.
Your feet freedom is waiting for you
Remember, everyone's experience with adapting to barefoot shoes is different, so don't get discouraged if it takes you a bit longer to adjust. Keep at it, and soon enough you'll be enjoying the many benefits of wearing barefoot shoes!
So, are barefoot shoes good for you and your feet? Switching to barefoot-style shoes may require some adjustment, some stretching (which is always good for you anyway), and some patience but the rewards are well worth the effort over time. Most of our customers don't go back to cushioned shoes once they are used to their SOM's.