An introduction to Minimalist Footwear

An introduction to Minimalist Footwear

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The goal of this series of posts is to discuss and introduce minimalist footwear. While exploring minimalist footwear we will look at how our shoes have changed the biomechanics of our feet and lower limbs which can have negative impacts on our feet and lead to poor foot health. We will also look at the terminology that defines a minimalist shoe. There will also be subsequent explanation about what goes into designing a minimalist shoe. The final part of the series will look at the benefits of minimalist shoes while discussing some tips for an easy transition into your new minimalist shoes.

Walking is one of the most fundamental tasks we perform every day and like other routines we usually don’t take time for the basics. It has been shown that wearing typical everyday shoes may result in degeneration of the muscles and the sensitivity of our feet which alters how we interact with the environment (McKeon et al). As we evolved over many thousands of years our feet were in contact with the ground and responding to our environment. The advent of shoe wearing is relatively new in our existence and early shoes were usually made from animal skins. In more recent times these shoes have been designed to remove sensory import via thick heels and other mechanisms.

The foot is an extremely complex structure with numerous bones, ligaments, joints, and muscles. In fact, there are 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 20 muscles in each of our feet (Ridge et al). These bones, joints and muscles work together to support our upright bipedal (2 leg) stance as well as act as shock absorbers as we are running and walking (Ridge et al). Without shoes our feet react to the environment and strengthen the muscles and ligaments of our feet. When we walk with typical shoes the ability of the foot and in particular the plantar arch to react to stimuli is lost (Abdelraouf et al). When we have lost these external stimuli there is a lack of flexibility and strength in the foot which can lead to injuries (Robbins et al). It has also been shown that as we age this lack of flexibility and strength can lead to an altered gait and increased risk of falling (Peterson et al).

The goal of minimalist footwear to return to nature and regain this sensory stimulation from the environment. By reinvigorating our feet, we can have stronger and healthier feet. In the next post we will discuss the biomechanics of walking in more depth to better understand how typical shoes alter our feet.

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