Auto and I were chatting the other day and it reminded me I’ve been sitting on this blog post a very long time.  By now most of you know that I’m a weirdo who doesn’t like to wear shoes for training (or competing) if at all possible. 

Obviously I am an odd duck and shoes are not just a fashionable accessory, they help protect your feet from sharp objects on the ground, keep your feet warm and are required apparel in many social situations.  Some might also consider shod feet to be cleaner feet but given the stinky bacteria-growing environment shoes provide I’d say the trade-off between honest dirt and festering damp sweaty shoe interiors is an even trade off.  But smelly feet aside, here are the 5 problems with wearing shoes:

1) Shoes squish your feet together.  Your toes were meant to spread wide to create a broad stable base.  Instead we see deformed feet with big toes squished into the other toes and bunions forming.  In China they used to bind the feet of young women deforming them.  Look at your bunched up toes and developing bunion and realize that your feet are being forced through a similar, albeit slower, deformation process to your detriment.

2) Shoes lift up your toes.  This unnatural posture shortens some muscles and lengthens others holding them in an unnatural position for hours at a time effectively deforming your foot.  And because your foot shape and design evolved to efficiently interact with the ground, the shoe’s reshaping (deforming) of your foot has impaired your foot’s ability to correctly interact with the ground.

3) Shoes Weaken your muscles.  Shoes are designed to make walking easier.  And they do.  To your detriment.  They prevent muscles in the foot from having to work as hard and thereby rob you of the opportunity to strengthen those muscles.  As the foot is your foundation, weak muscles in the foot destabilize the entire organism.  Weak feet result in poor posture and poor force production.  Your skeleto-muscular systems form a chain, bad foot contact results in poor ankle function, poor knee function, poor hip function, poor spine function, poor shoulder function, poor neck function.  When standing upright you are connected to the earth through your feet, if you have a weak connection, everything else will be negatively affected.  How can you hope to move well if your foundation is weak?

4) Shoes decrease proprioceptive awareness.  Our central nervous system connects to the world through our senses and connects to the tangible world specifically through our hands and our feet.  Have you ever tried operating all day with thick gloves on?  Pretty clumsy going.  Well, that’s what we do to our feet when we go about shod all day.  We rob our feet of critical sensory feedback from our environment.  That also puts us at higher risk of tripping and falling.  Your body operates very much on a use it or lose it basis.  So if the muscles or sensory nerves of the feet are not being fully utilized they begin to lose their sensitivity.   Try walking barefoot on gravel if you haven’t for a while.  At first it hurts.  Not because the gravel is damaging your feet but because you are experiencing sensory overload.  Your feet are no longer used to so much sensory feedback.  Walk unshod for a few days and that pain disappears, you’ll be able to walk over gravel without any discomfort.  You were meant to sense and interact with the world through your feet. 

5) Shoes destabilize you.  Shoes lift you up, raising your centre of gravity making it easier to lose your balance.  Many are also built on soft, squishy soles that allow your weight to shift unnaturally rather than providing a solid stable base.  It’s like standing on a  mattress all day.  Do you tweak your back often?  Turn your ankle?  The way most shoes are designed puts you at risk for all sorts of micro movement errors that result from instability.

In previous posts I’ve linked to research articles on this subject to prevent it sounding like just another untethered rant from your crazy, tin foil hat wearing uncle but honestly, there is so much research on this subject now, you can’t swing a defunct cat meme around without hitting half a dozen articles on the problems shoes create.  If you are skeptical, don’t take my word for it, go out and research it yourself. 

But of course shoes are necessary on occasion.  I wear them for running, for rope climbing, for going into public spaces that require shoes and for not freezing my feet off standing in the gym all winter.  So when I must wear shoes I look for flat sole shoes with no lift and no cushion that are wide in the toes allowing my feet to spread naturally.  Though obscenely priced, the best shoes for my money are still made by Vivo Barefoot in the UK.  I’ve worn Vivo’s since 2010 and while I have preferred some of their styles over others, every pair of Vivo’s I’ve owned was better than any other shoe I have ever worn.  They make shoes for every occasion from amphibious shoes, to dress shoes to hiking boots.  One of my goals is to one day have a pair of Vivo’s for every activity I am required to engage in.  Given their price tag that may take me a while but in the meantime I am very happy with the pair I wear at the gym for the winter.

Friday Make Up Day

1) CrossFit Open 15.3
AMRAP 14 Minutes:
7 Ring Muscle-ups
50 Wall balls
100 Double-unders

2) Shoulder Press 1-1-1-1-1
Push Press 3-3-3-3-3
Push Jerk 5-5-5-5-5

3) Randy
75 Snatch @75/45#

4) Ab Attack
400m DB Farmer’s Carry @30/50#
50 Hollow Rocks
400m DB Farmer’s Carry @30/50#
50 GHD Sit Ups
400m DB Farmer’s Carry @30/50#
50 T2B
400m DB Farmer’s Carry @30/50#
50 Abmat Sit Ups