When I committed to starting my barefoot journey, I knew I would have to make some lifestyle changes in addition to the mindset shift I had already been working on. The first step was to simply spend more time barefoot. This was easy, as I already preferred to live barefoot at home. I just had to say goodbye to some of my favorite slippers and hello to a new pair that did not negatively affect my feet.
The second step I had to take was to find my first pair of barefoot shoes. Unfortunately, I could not go barefoot everywhere, and my feet would need some protection from the elements as it got colder.
I started my shoe-buying journey by exploring what I would need in a shoe to honor them and their natural movement abilities. There were four main questions I would have to examine before making a purchase.
Are they flexible?
While continuing to learn about the capabilities of my feet, I learned that they could be much more flexible than they currently were. The feet and ankles have 33 joints—joints equal movement. That’s a lot of potential movements! The reduced capability for movement in the feet is largely due to the fact that for most of my life, I wore shoes that were stiff and prohibited the movement of my feet, especially my toes. So, when looking for a shoe that would fit my wellness goals, I knew they needed to bend and allow movement of my feet and toes.
Are they foot-shaped?
Next, I had to take a good, hard look at what I had been cramming my feet into. Most of my shoes had a narrow toe area. I could tell that my toes had tried to form to this shape by curling themselves round each other, so they could squish into the limited space I had given them for so long. By the end of my examination, I had unfortunately determined that I didn’t have a single pair of shoes that was actually as wide, if not wider, than my toes when standing without shoes! That means my shoes were not foot-shaped. They did not allow my feet to assume their natural position, which meant a lot of compensations had to be made in my feet, resulting in pain and alterations to their natural shape. My new shoes would have to have a toe area, or a “toe box,” that was actually shaped like a foot! They would need to allow the toes to spread and move without pinching and pushing them together.
Can I feel the ground?
Again, I looked back at my less than perfect shoe collection with a new lens and saw that they not only didn’t look like feet, but they were stiff. With each step, we should have the ability to extend through the toes; however, most of my shoes did not allow any extension or movement because of the thick or stiff sole of the shoe. Not only did it not allow for toe extension, but I could not feel what I was walking on when wearing them. That’s why even a little rock could throw me off balance when walking in heels. The bottom of our feet is full of proprioceptors. Proprioceptors are “self-sensors”; they provide the nervous system with information about our center of gravity, joint angles, and impact forces. Without them, we would live with the constant fear of falling because we cannot sense where we are in space. With stiff and thick soles, I could not allow my proprioceptors to gather the information they needed to tell my nervous system what it needed to know to move me safely through my environment.
Lastly, are they flat?
Are you constantly walking downhill without realizing it? If your shoe has a heel, then you sure are, and you would be surprised how many everyday shoes have a heel. A heel is any lift in the heel area of the shoe, even if it is seemingly small. What I didn’t realize was that even my running shoes had heels! I thought I had successfully ditched the heels by opting for flats at work, but even those had a heel. Constantly wearing shoes with a heel reduces your ankle mobility and creates a ramped ankle position, which makes it harder to press through the toes or move the knee over the toes, which is needed when squatting—a very common and once-considered resting position.
Now that I knew what I was looking for, I applied these four “F’s” to my shoe shopping approach. I looked for shoes that would check all of those boxes, plus one extra: price. When you have built up a shoe collection over years, it’s hard to just ditch them and replace shoes for all occasions, especially at some of the prices I was seeing. I also knew that was not the best approach. I needed to ease my way into new shoes, so I wouldn’t create more problems for my feet by sticking an unconditioned foot in a high-mobility shoe. I wanted to start out small—buy one shoe that would work for many occasions and give me options to ease into this shoe style without constantly buying a new pair.
That is when I found Amazon’s Whitin shoes. They carried a variety of styles and shapes at a price that I felt comfortable with and exchange policies that made it easy to find the right fit. I finally settled on the Whitin Minimalist Barefoot shoes. They came in a wide variety of colors and had a removable leather insole. This came in handy as my feet got used to their newfound freedom and were ready for more. It was as simple as removing the insole, and off I went, exposing my feet to a whole new experience without a new pair of shoes. Not only were they comfy, but they were also cute! I literally had people pull their phones out of their pockets at the gym to look them up and buy them on the spot.
Your feet can be free, and you can still look good too!
**Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This means, I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. This does not change or affect the price of the product in anyway.**
You too can check out the Whitin minimalist shoes and start your barefoot journey, you can find this Amazon brand at: https://amzn.to/3JUlV8O
I personally love their canvas shoes that are very similar to Keds or Vans but better for your feet, you can check them out here: https://amzn.to/46MaedV
Another pair that I just tried out this summer and absolutely love is their water shoe. It is lightweight, quick drying, and perfect for the water or around town: https://amzn.to/3PYJZv3