Author: Michael Plater
Barefoot shoes or minimalist shoes have become common in the last few years. These shoes, which almost feel like gloves for the feet, mimic going barefoot. They're available in various styles, some designed for running and others for everyday wear. However, the question remains whether these shoes are for everyone, considering humans have different foot anatomy. While most people have normal arches, others have flat feet or high arches. In the article below, get to learn whether these shoes are for you if you have flat feet or high arches.
The Foot Anatomy and How It Influences Your Choice of Shoes
Your foot is a three-dimensional structure made of connective tissues, muscles, and bones. It has about 100 ligaments, over 40 tendons and muscles, 22 joints, and 28 bones. In fact, a quarter of the bones in your body are found in your feet.
While there are many ways to classify feet, the most common classification is through arches. The three types of arches are flat feet, normal arches, and high arches.
Flat feet: A flat foot is just as the name suggests. It means when you walk, your whole sole or the area under your feet gets into contact with the ground. Medical professionals use a term called pronation, which describes the inward rolling or leaning of the feet towards the arch. The more you pronate, the flatter your arch will be.
Normal arch: A normal arch is where the feet's middle part is raised slightly from the ground. This is the type of arch you'll find in most people.
High arch: In this type of foot, your arch is raised higher than normal. Often, high arches are inherited.
There is a network of tendons, ligaments, and muscles that move, maintain and support the position of the bones of your feet. These muscles have several functions, like moving the feet, controlling ankle movement, raising and stabilizing toes, and supporting the arch.
When you walk, your feet are the ones that get into contact with the ground. That means they are the first to feel whatever forces your movement generates. As such, your feet act as shock absorbers and help maintain balance on uneven ground.
When you walk or run, your foot goes through the contact phase and the rolling phase. The contact phase is when the feet are on the ground, and the rolling phase is when they're in the air. Even when the foot lands incorrectly on the floor, in most cases, it can still withstand any stresses that cause injury or pain.
Traditional footwear can sometimes prevent your feet from functioning the way they're supposed to. This is where barefoot shoes come in.
Flat Feet and Barefoot Shoes
A person with flat feet has fallen arches. The condition could be hereditary or caused by an injury. Most people often say flat feet should be supported and that barefoot shoes aren't right if you have this condition. But this couldn't be further from the truth. Research has shown that barefoot shoes are good for flat feet because they can stabilize them and make it more comfortable to walk. These shoes not only improve muscle strength but also allow the feet to function more naturally.
Flat feet can lead to pain or discomfort around the feet, knees, and ankles because of the altered alignment and weight distribution of the feet. Although the conservative treatment for this condition involves orthotic devices or exercise to strengthen feet muscles, some medical practitioners suggest wearing barefoot shoes to allow the feet to function as they should and strengthen ligaments and muscles.
When transitioning to barefoot, it's advisable to do it gradually to prevent potential injury or strain. You can even consult a podiatrist for professional advice on whether these shoes are okay for your situation. You can start by walking with them in the house, and as your feet adjust, consider a barefoot dress shoe for work.
In addition, when selecting these shoes, there are some features you need to look for. First, ensure they're flexible to allow your feet to move naturally without restricted movement. Plus, the flexible sole strengthens foot muscles. Secondly, it should have a low heel-to-toe drop. A zero drop encourages a natural gait. Lastly, they should have arch support. Although barefoot shoes lack the same level of arch support as traditional shoes, they still have some level of support to avoid discomfort.
High Arches and Barefoot Shoes
High arches are the opposite of flat feet. In this scenario, your feet or arches are raised more than normal. High arches can lead to pains or other issues such as plantar fasciitis and shin splints. Even with high arches, you can still wear barefoot shoes.
When you have this condition, some doctors might recommend wearing orthotic inserts or supportive shoes. Unfortunately, these options can sometimes weaken the foot's muscles instead of strengthening them. On the other hand, barefoot shoes can strengthen the muscles, leading to less pain or restricted movement.
Barefoot shoes allow you to use the tendons and muscles in your feet more. In return, this strengthens your foot and arch. In addition, with these shoes, instead of landing on your heels, you'll land on your midfoot or forefoot, thus strengthening your feet muscles.
Why Wear Barefoot Shoes?
Whether you have flat feet or high arches, consider switching to barefoot shoes. As research has shown, your feet' arches play a huge role in the distribution of body weight and shock absorption. Not having a proper arch can cause increased stress on muscles and joints. Conventional shoes usually have a slightly higher heel-to-toe drop. Unfortunately, this can shorten calf muscles or cause pain in the lower body.
Barefoot shoes have zero drop where the entire sole of the shoe is flat. That's how your natural feet should be. Wearing these shoes allows you to work certain muscles that you normally wouldn't in conventional shoes. This increases natural balance and stability while improving foot strength.
Another benefit of barefoot shoes is reduced pain. Most traditional shoes may force your toes to stick together, which can hurt your feet. Barefoot shoes reduce pain by giving your feet enough room, allowing them to spread naturally. This improves feet alignment and posture, leading to less pain and discomfort.
These shoes also allow better balance and proprioception. In other words, they allow you to feel the ground naturally, which enhances proprioception. Proprioception is the body's ability to detect its location.
While this article mentions the benefits of barefoot shoes for people with flat feet and high arches, note that you should seek medical advice if you have issues with your arches or are in pain. Talk to a professional podiatrist who understands how natural foot movement can help patients. With that said, if you have never considered barefoot shoes, it's time to. So much freedom comes from these shoes, which everyone should experience.
Try OAKAs, the Modern Dress Shoes
If you're looking for barefoot shoes to enjoy the mentioned benefits, look no further than OAKA. We have barefoot modern dress shoes that you can travel or go to work with. Our shoes are designed to improve health, comfort, and mobility by allowing the feet to work how they naturally should.
Michael Plater is an authority on barefoot shoes, having spent years reviewing and testing products as well as modifying and ripping out soles to find the healthiest options.