While I got my first barefoot shoes in 2019, my barefoot journey started already as a kid. I always liked to be without shoes, and I never wore them when I was at home. Also, since I had flat feet, I was encouraged to do foot exercises. Thanks to this I have (what Mathieu calls) 'monkey feet' because I can lift up stuff like pencils and clothes with my toes. Works well as a party trick.
As a kid, I remember looking at my grandmother's feet and finding it strange that her big toe pointed towards the other toes instead of straight ahead (now I know it is called a bunion). I thought that it is something that probably happens to everyone as they get very old.
Other than that I did not think much about feet except when it came to finding the next pair of footwear. I have always valued comfort, but I often made a compromise between comfort and style. 'Wearing in my shoes' and suffering from an occasional blister was a part of the expected process after purchasing your shoes.
Some years ago Mathieu inspired me to buy my first pair of barefoot shoes. That became my first 'health hack'. The logic behind barefoot shoes made a lot of sense to me. By just looking at the pictures where they compare a regular shoe with a barefoot one, you can see how the first squeezes your toes together. Also, I came to realize that there should not be such a big difference between how I walked in shoes or barefoot. Do I really need that cushion and heel that makes me heel-strike as I walk and run in shoes? Do I want to keep getting blisters every time I buy new shoes?
It took a bit of time to transition to barefoot shoes even though I was already used to being barefoot. My feet and body needed time to get used to the new way of walking. Also, I had to get used to having much more space for my toes. At first, the barefoot shoes felt too big. Now the other shoes feel too narrow. Yes, I still have some regular shoes as well and I wear them sometimes. But if I need to walk a lot, I always prefer to wear barefoot shoes. In terms of impact, I have noticed that my feet have gotten stronger, and my posture and balance have improved.
Until now, I have bought all my barefoot shoes from Vivobarefoot. There are more providers out there, but I have stuck with Vivobarefoot because I have been satisfied with the quality of my vivos, I love their approach as a company, their values, and how they do everything sustainably. Barefoot shoes are definitely more expensive than regular shoes, but it is an investment worth making. Besides being more natural and comfortable, barefoot shoes also last a long time. There is no heel that needs yearly fixing and with no cushioning, they do not get worn out from the inside either.
My goal is not to get you to go and immediately buy barefoot shoes. I do hope I sparked curiosity about feet and you will start paying more attention to them. Notice how you walk and run. Research and educate yourself and see what's best for you. Maybe you realize you are already wearing minimal footwear. Perhaps you do not want to give up your regular shoes but are willing to do some toe yoga instead. Or maybe your feet are already happy as they are. That's ok too :-)
Curious to learn more?
Continue watching other talks from the Barefoot Movement Conference by Irene Davis on the benefits of barefoot/minimal footwear, Kris D'Aout on how footwear can help us regain balance and strength, and many more.
Book recommendation: "Ready to Run: Unlocking Your Potential to Run Naturally" by Kelly Starrett