The Ultimate Guide to Men's Barefoot Shoes

The Ultimate Guide to Men's Barefoot Shoes

Barefoot shoes were once considered a strange, fringe sort of shoe for people interested in bizarre running trends. However, their popularity has grown mightily in the past few decades as they've transformed from an odd trend to a beneficial option for work, running, hiking, training, and more. 

The idea of barefoot shoes and their understated approach almost makes you think of the minimalist trend of getting rid of everything you don't absolutely need. Do you really need those running shoes with the thick soles and substantial support, or can you minimize and switch to men's barefoot shoes? Is it necessary to have a dozen pairs of work shoes, or can you survive with just a few pairs?

Let's learn more about the concept of barefoot shoes and why you might want to try a pair.

What are Men's Barefoot Shoes?

Barefoot shoes probably aren't what you think they are, particularly if you've never seen a pair before. It's not as if you're wearing absolutely nothing on your feet. Described simply, men's barefoot shoes don't include a heel drop, which means the sole is the same thickness throughout the entire length of the shoe.

The overall thickness of the sole is also thinner than in a traditional shoe. Many wearers of barefoot shoes can feel the ground beneath their feet. With a thin sole, the flexibility of a barefoot shoe is increased over that of a normal shoe. Most barefoot shoes have soles that range from a tiny 2 mm to a thicker 8 mm.

The weight of a barefoot shoe is quite a bit lighter than that of a normal shoe. The lack of a thick sole reduces the average weight by several ounces, and the rest of the shoe often features very thin construction. The light weight of men's barefoot shoes is one of the primary reasons for their early popularity with distance runners.

Barefoot shoes commonly have a roomier toe-box than traditional shoes that will come to a point at the front. Women's high heels often feature a narrow toe box that results in very uncomfortable walking experiences, but men's shoes often feature narrow toe boxes, too, simply because they're considered fashionable.

Much like the paleo diet that advocates eating as our human ancestors ate, men's barefoot shoes are meant to mimic how humans walked around millennia ago before advanced, supportive shoes were developed. You may find that your feet feel stronger and that your posture improves when you switch to wearing barefoot shoes.

What are the Benefits of Barefoot Shoes?

Fans believe that using a barefoot shoe helps strengthen the foot because wearers are forced to use the heels and balls of their feet for support rather than relying on the arch support of a traditional shoe. The idea is that traditional shoes give the feet too much support, which actually results in making the foot weaker and less muscular because the foot isn't using all its muscles to move; it's relying on the shoe to support the movement.

Men's barefoot shoes may help restore muscle strength in the wearer's feet and legs, which can make it easier to walk, run, or hike long distances. Some users report improvements in their bunions and plantar fasciitis, which are painful foot conditions that make it difficult to walk. Other users report a reduction in lower back pain and the pain that commonly occurs in the knees and hips as we age and after we get injured.

If you remember back to your childhood, you probably spent at least some time running around outside without shoes. Even if you didn't run around outside without shoes, you probably spent most of your time indoors without anything more than a pair of socks on when it was cold. For most of us, we never had any issues getting around without shoes when we were young. Some believe that adopting that childhood habit of walking around without shoes can lead to all sorts of health benefits.

Some people even believe that wearing shoes of any type is tantamount to interfering with the natural evolution of the human foot, which has developed over hundreds of thousands of years. Early humans didn't wear advanced shoes, and there is the idea that barefoot shoes can allow modern humans to use the strength and agility granted through evolution rather than ultra-modern shoe support.

Who Should Wear Barefoot Shoes?

You might assume that you can't use barefoot shoes if you've been told you need arch support or have "flat feet." For years, we've had our feet examined and been told that wearing shoes with improper support could cause serious damage to our feet. In rare cases, that advice is valid. 

For example, if you have diabetes, you could suffer from diabetic neuropathy, which is a condition that causes tingling and pain in your feet. Those who have diabetic neuropathy and related conditions may need to think carefully before adopting a lifestyle that includes barefoot running.

However, some fascinating studies are underway regarding the ability of those with neuropathic pain, distal symmetric polyperipheral neuropathy (DSPN), and loss of sensation to benefit from barefoot shoes. Although those studies are in their infancy, the insights gained may eventually lead to barefoot shoes designed specifically with various impediments in mind.

For everyone else who isn't otherwise experiencing a condition that could result in harm to the foot when it's not cushioned properly, men's barefoot shoes are certainly an option to consider, whether you're an athlete or you just want to try something new that could benefit your foot. 

Barefoot shoes are a type of shoe that all runners should try at least once, but they're also an option that has become popular for work and other circumstances where the goal isn't a workout. If you're on your feet for much of the day because you have a job that requires a lot of walking, barefoot shoes are an option to consider.

Further, if you work in an office but enjoy walking, hiking, and running, you might want to try barefoot shoes for your workouts, as well as for your time spent in the office. Some fans of barefoot shoes wear them everywhere and for every activity because their feet feel so strong yet comfortable while wearing them.

If you have concerns about your ability to use men's barefoot shoes because you have a foot ailment, the easiest way to figure out whether you should wear them is to visit your doctor and ask. 
Barefoot shoes are no longer a strange and exotic option for footwear, and your doctor should have some good advice on whether you should try them.

Acclimating to Barefoot Shoes

One thing you don't want to do after buying a pair of barefoot shoes is immediately toss all your regular shoes. If you've spent many years wearing supportive shoes, your feet have probably adapted to the shape and support of your regular shoes. Switching to Men's barefoot shoes is a wonderful thing to try, but it's best to take it slow in the beginning.

The first thing you'll want to do to get used to your barefoot shoes is to start walking around in them. However, it's not necessary to walk a half-marathon the first time you slip them on your feet. Try walking around the block a few times – walking, not running – to see how your feet feel each time they hit the ground and propel you forward.

You shouldn't feel any pain or difficulty walking when you break in your barefoot shoes slowly. Once you've worn them for a few hours each day for a week or two, you might try wearing them for the entire day. You might wear them to work or use them for a full workout at some point during the day. As time passes, you can rely more on your barefoot shoes than your regular shoes until you cut out the regular shoes completely.

Remember, if you don't take it slow when trying out barefoot shoes, your run the risk of feeling pain in your feet as they adjust. You may give up wearing your new barefoot shoes before your feet have had a chance to adapt, which can mean you miss out on the joys and comforts of wearing minimalist shoes.

If you've never worn barefoot shoes, start with just an hour a day for the first week. Increase that time to two hours in the second week. By the time you reach two months of wearing your shoes, your time spent wearing them should reach eight hours per day. 

Simply increase the time you wear the shoes by one hour each week until they're a normal part of your daily routine. This schedule can help you adapt to barefoot shoes when you use them for exercise, as well as when you buy barefoot shoes for work.

Using Barefoot Shoes for Work

When you think of heeled dress shoes, you might imagine a woman's high heel, but men's work shoes often feature heels, too. Modern heeled dress shoes for men may have arch support, narrow toe boxes, and heels, just like the shoes that women wear. Unfortunately, an overabundance of support in your work shoes may lead to weaker feet and a loss of muscle and agility on your feet.

For that reason, we advocate trying a minimalist or barefoot shoe for work. If you wear heeled dress shoes for work, you might experience a loss of proprioception, which is your body's ability to sense movement and the location of your body at any given time. Even if your dress shoes feature an amazing amount of comfort and support, you may not fare as well in the long run with those heeled dress shoes.

Barefoot or minimalist shoes are an excellent alternative, particularly when you can't seem to find a pair of work shoes that fit you well. Traditional shoes often squeeze and squash our feet in unnatural ways, and sometimes it seems like they're not even made for actual human feet but for some idealized version of what a computer thinks a human foot should look like.

You may find that using men's barefoot shoes for work helps you strengthen your feet, improve your posture, and get to the end of your workday without the expected fatigue and slouching that you feel when you arrive home and fall onto the couch, exhausted. 

Using Barefoot Shoes for Exercising

Barefoot shoes have become quite popular with distance runners, track runners, and people who love running, but they're definitely not a shoe you can wear and immediately wear to a marathon. Even if you're an elite athlete, your feet have become used to the supportive shoes you've worn for years. It's important to ease yourself into a schedule of running with your barefoot shoes.

Although you can wear barefoot shoes for walking around for up to an hour your first week, you don't want to wear them that long if you're using them for running. In fact, you probably only want to run up and down the street a few times before taking them off. Try visiting a high school track near your house to practice. Run a few hundred yards your first day, and then take a break.

Every few days, try wearing your barefoot running shoes for a few more yards. If you're trying to run at peak speed, you might actually feel some fatigue in your legs. If you feel any pain at all, stop running and rest before you continue. Take a few days off if you feel pain after running for any length of time. If you've been running in highly padded shoes for many years, it may take months to acclimate fully to barefoot running shoes.

The moral of the story? Take your time! You might want to run as fast as possible, but there's no reason to make the transition to barefoot running as fast as possible, too. Resist the urge to go "all in" and just run as far as you're comfortable for the first several months.

How Do You Walk in Men's Barefoot Shoes?

You might wonder whether you need to walk differently when wearing barefoot shoes, and the answer is no. The shoes will certainly feel different the first time you wear them, but you don't need to make a special effort to land on your heel or the ball of your foot while walking. Over time, your gait should naturally adjust.

If you want to know how to walk in barefoot shoes, just take your current shoes off and walk around with bare feet. Does it feel strange to walk around without shoes? Probably not, because most of us walk around our homes with no shoes or with a pair of socks on and nothing else on our feet.

There is a theory held by some orthopedic surgeons that walking around barefoot is a benefit because it matches our natural walking pattern best. However, there are multiple schools of thought regarding the benefits and risks of walking around without shoes and trying barefoot shoes. 

For most people of average health and who are without major foot problems, learning how to walk in barefoot shoes is a simple and natural process and is also without significant risk. Sure, you can accidentally step on a pebble when you're outside walking without shoes, but that's probably something that most of us will experience at one time or another anyway.

The best way to make a safe transition to barefoot shoes – whether you use them for work, play, or exercise – is to make the transition slowly. None of us learned to walk in a day, and it's probably impossible for anyone to give up their regular shoes and transition to barefoot shoes entirely and without a hitch. 

Do You Need to Wear Transitional Shoes Before Wearing Barefoot Shoes?

Some manufacturers construct shoes with an amazing level of cushioning, support, and your feet feel like you're walking on clouds with each step. For anyone working on their feet all day, these insanely cushioned shoes can feel like a godsend because they make it feel like you can walk all day, every day, and never get tired.

However, you may find it beneficial to try men's barefoot shoes even if you're comfortable with your traditional shoes. Do you need to find a pair of shoes to wear in between wearing shoes with incredible support to barefoot shoes? The answer is no. There's no need to buy an extra pair of shoes with partial support just to eventually move onto barefoot shoes.

The key is in transitioning slowly to your new barefoot shoes. You can switch from wearing literal pillows on your feet to men's barefoot shoes as long as you take the transition in a slow and calculated manner. Don't rake through your closet and toss out all your regular shoes. Keep them around for a while – or even forever – as you begin your barefoot shoe journey.

Just because you wear barefoot shoes doesn't mean you have to *only* wear barefoot shoes. Variety is the spice of life!

Do You Need to Only Wear Barefoot Shoes?

We've discussed the many benefits of barefoot shoes, but is it possible to enjoy those benefits if you don't wear the shoes all the time? Can you walk, run, or work out in barefoot shoes if you're only using them to exercise? 

The answer is yes. You don't need to wear barefoot shoes all the time to enjoy their benefits. Some wearers swear by their barefoot shoes and won't wear anything else, but it's certainly not mandatory that you toss all your regular shoes and only wear your barefoot shoes.

However, you might find that the benefits you receive from wearing barefoot shoes, as well as the way your feet feel when you wear them, encourage you to wear your barefoot shoes for most of your activities. You might start by wearing barefoot shoes for work and then start to introduce them to other areas of your life.

One of the best places to start with men's barefoot shoes is with your work shoes since many of us work for many more hours a day than we work out or have leisure time. When your feet are comfortable for all those hours each day at work, you'll find that your body feels better and less fatigued when you're not at work.

Are Barefoot Shoes Stylish?

While it's an admirable goal to seek out footwear that's entirely functional and leaves form on the cutting room floor, it's not unreasonable to want a men's barefoot shoe that looks as good as it feels. The first mainstream barefoot shoes created many years ago were quite short on looks and were truly meant as an incredible minimalist approach to footwear.

Times have changed, however, and today's men's barefoot shoes are a whole other animal. They provide incredible mobility and comfort, and they look good doing it, too. For example, you'll find that OAKA men's barefoot shoes feature practical elements like anti-slip tread, soft, flexible fibers, and a convenient slip-on style.

On the other hand, the shoes offer an incredibly stylish appearance that makes them indistinguishable from a traditional pair of men's dress shoes. We've even designed a faux heel into the architecture of the shoe while still allowing your foot to enjoy the zero-drop design of a barefoot shoe.

Try Men's Barefoot Shoes from OAKA

If you've never considered wearing barefoot shoes, now is the time to see why so many people have given up their cushioned shoes for barefoot shoes that offer comfort, increase foot strength, and look terrific. Barefoot shoes have come into their prime at OAKA, and we're excited to see how much you love your new men's barefoot shoes.


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