Optimal thought and optimal fitness through reason, logic, science, passion, and wisdom.

Barefoot Resources

A. Articles

1. “Barefoot Walking Benefits Can Include Improved Balance And Posture” (Huffington Post, 23 Nov 2015)

Walking barefoot helps to improve balance, posture and prevent common foot injuries, according to an American researcher.

Patrick McKeon, a professor at Ithaca College’s School of Health Sciences and Human Performance in New York, says that the more people go barefoot at home, in the office or outside, the healthier their feet will be.

He believes that the small, often overlooked muscles in the foot play a vital but underestimated role in movement and stability, similar to the core muscles in the abdomen.

The researcher explained their importance by describing the cycle of feedback between the large “extrinsic” muscles in the legs and feet, the smaller “intrinsic” muscles in the feet, and the neural connections that send information from them to the brain.

When this cycle is broken, it can lead to overuse injuries that most athletes are familiar with.

https://www.huffpost.com/archive/ca/entry/barefoot-walking-benefits_n_8629098


2. Why kids should go barefoot more (and probably adults, too)” (Washington Post, 29 Feb 2016) by Lauren Knight

One major benefit of allowing a child to go barefoot is that it strengthens the feet and lower legs, making the body more agile and less prone to injury. It also enhances proprioception, the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement. In other words, going barefoot helps a child develop body awareness. Geary explains that the nerves in our feet are sensitive (the sole of your foot has over 200,000 nerve endings– one of the highest concentrations in the entire body) for this very reason; they make us safer, more careful, and better able to adapt to the ground beneath us. When barefoot, we are better able to climb, cut, pivot, balance, and adjust rapidly when the ground shifts beneath us, as it does when we walk on uneven terrain, or anything besides concrete and pavement.

Dr. Kacie Flegal, who specializes in pediatrics, wrote about optimal brain and nervous system development of babies and toddlers, stating that being barefoot benefits a young child tremendously. “One of the simplest ways to motivate proprioceptive and vestibular development is to let our babies be barefoot as much as possible.” She goes on to say, “Another benefit to keeping babies barefoot is the encouragement of presence of mind and conscious awareness. As the little pads of babies’ feet feel, move, and balance on the surface that they are exploring, the information sent to the brain from tactile, proprioceptive, and vestibular pathways quiet, or inhibit, other extraneous sensory input. This creates focus and awareness of walking and moving through space; babies get more tuned in to their surroundings.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2016/02/29/why-kids-should-go-barefoot-more-and-probably-adults-too/


3. “Toss the Orthotics: Why Your Feet Don’t Need Support” by Dr. Chloe Tillman

The Harvard Skeletal Biology and Biomechanics Lab recommendations are useful for switching if you aren’t sure how fast to go:

Start with walking around the house without shoes. This doesn’t mean sitting on the couch without shoes on, it means walking around the house while doing chores, cooking, cleaning, etc.

From there, try heading outside. Being barefoot outside can be hard if you’re not used to it because your skin is thinner and can’t protect from twigs and pebbles.

Once you’re able to manage that, walk no more than ¼-1 mile every other day or a week. Then increase your distance by no more than 10% per week. If you are still sore the following day at the end of a week of that distance, don’t increase. Take another day off and stay at that distance for another week.

Be patient and build gradually. This transition can take months for some people.

If you experience pain, not soreness, stop and give yourself a chance to heal or get help from a manual therapist.

Be aware of your gait. If your arches, the top of your feet, or anything else is hurting, be mindful of how you are landing. Foot or arch pain can happen if you land with your foot too far in front of your hips, land with a rigid foot, land too hard on your heel, of, if your toes are pointed too much (a habit that can carry over from shoes with a toe drop).

If you are running long miles, you don’t need to drop your miles a bunch. Add in forefoot or midfoot striking progressively to your usual stride and gradually increase the proportion of forefoot striking in comparison to your old gait over a few months. Use the 10% increase per week guideline the best you can.

http://drchloetillman.com/feet-support-and-orthotics/


4. The Harvard Barefoot Lab

To see the videos there, you will have to try different browsers. They show in Firefox for me, but not in Safari.

Our research asked how and why humans can and did run comfortably without modern running shoes. We tested and confirmed what many people knew already: that most experienced, habitually barefoot runners tend to avoid landing on the heel and instead land with a forefoot or midfoot strike. The bulk of our published research explores the collisional mechanics of different kinds of foot strikes. We show that most forefoot and some midfoot strikes (shod or barefoot) do not generate the sudden, large impact transients that occur when you heel strike (shod or barefoot). Consequently, runners who forefoot or midfoot strike do not need shoes with elevated cushioned heels to cope with these sudden, high transient forces that occur when you land on the ground. Therefore, barefoot and minimally shod people can run easily on the hardest surfaces in the world without discomfort from landing. If impact transient forces contribute to some forms of injury, then this style of running (shod or barefoot) might have some benefits, but that hypothesis remains to be tested. 

http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu

This website provides information on:

Human evolution and endurance running

Foot and lower limb biomechanics when running in shoes

Foot and lower limb biomechanics when running barefoot or in minimal shoes

Biomechanical differences between forefoot striking and heel striking

Tools to help assess potential benefits of learning to forefoot strike

Transitioning safely to forefoot striking barefoot or in minimal footwear

http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu


5. “Why Going Barefoot Is Best!” by Nancy of Craft Your Happiness

“Walking barefoot develops the muscles and ligaments of the foot, increases the strength of the foot’s arch …and contributes to good posture”.  Dr. Tracy Byrne, Podiatrist

“Natural gait is biomechanically impossible for any shoe-wearing person,” Dr. William A. Rossi 

“. . . most adults’ foot trouble would either not exist or would be much less bothersome if properly-shaped shoes had been worn during childhood or, better yet, if those people had gone barefoot . . .”  Dr. Thomas Hale, Hospital Director, NY

“. . . It is not enough that children’s feet be free from deforming shoes – foot health also depends upon going barefoot in order to develop agility and strength in the feet . . . . For toddlers, shoes should be worn outdoors only during inclement weather and indoors only for infrequent dress-up occasions . . . ” Dr. Simon Wikler, Foot Surgeon

https://craftyourhappiness.com/2015/06/03/why-barefoot-is-best/


6. “Barefoot vs common footwear: A systematic review of the kinematic, kinetic and muscle activity differences during walking” by Simon Franklin, Michael J.Grey, Nicola Heneghan, Laura Bowen, François-Xavier Li

5. Conclusions

We have systematically reviewed studies investigating differences in gait variables between walking barefoot and in shoes and highlighted how habitually shod populations react acutely to barefoot walking and how habitual barefoot walkers vary to those who wear shoes on a daily basis. Long term use of footwear has been shown to result in anatomical and functional changes including reduced foot width and forefoot spreading under load probably due to the constraints of the shoe structure. Walking in footwear is associated with an increase in stride length and greater dorsiflexion at foot-ground contact. Lighter and more flexible footwear appears to elicit reduced differences in gait kinematics to walking barefoot. A reduced initial vertical impact force and more even distribution of pressure across the foot is experienced when walking barefoot which is likely to be as a result of a larger contact surface area achieved via a flatter foot placement. Little research on barefoot walking has been completed in adults approaching older age where foot problems and gait deficiencies are most prevalent and thus investigation into this population is required to determine the impact of barefoot walking across the lifespan.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0966636215004993

7. “Conclusions Drawn from a Comparative Study of the Feet of Barefooted and Shoe Wearing Peoples” (J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1905;s2-3:105-136.) by Phil. Hoffman, M.D. (Also at Ohio Barefoot Hikers, Ahcuah, cdn.shopify, and summary at “One Hundred Year old barefoot running article by Dr. Hoffmann, way ahead of his time” (NJ Sports Medicine and Performance Center, 23 Sept 2021) by Marc Silberman, M.D.)

The shape of the foot and its range of voluntary and passive motion are practically the same in barefooted and shoe-wearing races up to the time of the use of footwear that compresses and splints the foot, usually about the end of the first year, after which, in shoe-wearers, there is progressive narrowing of the anterior portion of the foot and diminution in the range of motion of its phalangeal, tarsal and ankle joints.

The lasts over which the footwear of civilization is shaped are rarely modeled in the spirit of truth that would make them conform to the contour of a normal foot. The whim of society and the manufacturers’ enterprise alone regulate their shape. Society, apparently, agrees that the human foot as formed by nature is coarse, vulgar and unsightly, and this its width, especially at the toes, is entirely too great. It regards the small, especially the narrow foot, as the beautiful one. The dictum of fashion has greater influence than reason. Perhaps the statement that society admires the small foot is not exactly true, for society, as such, never sees the naked foot; but what it so commonly does admire is the dainty little shoe that hides its own handiwork—;the distorted, cramped, calloused and repulsive foot. Here beauty is less than skin deep, or at most lies no deeper than the calfskin product of the cobbler’s art. The manufacturer through ignorance and self interest fits the desires of his patrons rather than their feet, and places upon the market footwear that more or less crowds the front of the foot.

http://www.bsmpg.com/hs-fs/hub/52884/file-5411032-pdf/docs/1905hoffman.pdf

8. “Growing-up (habitually) barefoot influences the development of foot and arch morphology in children and adolescents” (Scientific Reports volume 7, Article number: 8079 (2017)) by Karsten HollanderJohanna Elsabe de VilliersSusanne SehnerKarl WegscheiderKlaus-Michael BraumannRanel Venter & Astrid Zech

The development of the human foot is crucial for motor learning in children and adolescents as it ensures the basic requirements for bipedal locomotion and stable standing. Although there is an ongoing debate of the advantages and disadvantages of early and permanent footwear use, the influence of regular barefootness on foot characteristics in different stages of child development has not been extensively evaluated. A multicenter epidemiological study was conducted to compare the foot morphology between habitually barefoot children and adolescents (N = 810) to age-, sex- and ethnicity-matched counterparts that are used to wearing shoes. While controlling for confounders, we found that habitual footwear use has significant effects on foot-related outcomes in all age groups, such as a reduction in foot arch and hallux angles. The results indicate an impact of habitual footwear use on the development of the feet of children and adolescents. Therefore, growing up barefoot or shod may play an important role for childhood foot development, implying long-term consequences for motor learning and health later in life.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-07868-4

9. “Form determines function: Forgotten application to the human foot?” (The Foot and Ankle Online Journal 9 (2): 5, 30 Jun 2016) by Mick Wilkinson, PhD1* and Lee Saxby, BSc1

There has been and continues to be much debate about the merits and detriments of barefoot and minimal-shoe running. Research on causes of running-related injury is also characterised by equivocal findings. A factor common to both issues is the structure and function of the foot. Comparatively, this has received little attention. This perspective piece argues that foot function and in particular, how foot structure determines function, has largely been overlooked, despite basic principles of physics dictating both the link between structure and function and the importance of function for stability in locomotion. We recommend that foot shape and function be considered in the interpretation of existing findings and be incorporated into future investigations interested in running mechanics, injury mechanisms and the effects of footwear on both.

Fundamental physical and mechanical laws and evolutionary biology provide a context to understand structure and function of the human foot, and how both might be compromised by inappropriate footwear. The characteristics that a foot ought to possess to perform load bearing, cushioning and stability roles are observed in the feet of habitually-barefoot populations. Likewise, deformed structure and impaired function have been observed with habitual shoe wear. Future studies on factors related to both performance and injury, and acute-and chronic biomechanical investigations of barefoot-versus-shod running, should attempt to examine data in light of measures of foot structure. Furthermore, care should be exercised in footwear choice, particularly in children, where the effects of conventional footwear on locomotive patterns and foot function have been demonstrated. Interpreting research in light of physical laws and from an evolutionary perspective, might add clarity to a field of investigation that is characterized by equivocal findings.

https://faoj.org/2016/06/30/form-determines-function-forgotten-application-to-the-human-foot/

9. “Articles and Studies

B. Context

There is much more out there in the world than people grasp. Many fail to really, explicitly grasp that their knowledge is a small subset of facts the world contains, some of their “knowledge” is wrong, and the world is primary, our knowledge is not. 

1.  “Infected or Cured?- Hookworms Used to Treat Autoimmune Conditions” by Heather Flynn

2.  “HOOKWORM THERAPY FOR AUTOIMMUNE, ALLERGY, AND ASTHMA RELIEF” by Dr. Doni

Interesting stuff I’ve know about for years. I’d have to dig into it to see what the latest science is. Note that sometimes, it seems from some articles I have seen, hookworms can also cause IBS. Look it up.

C. Injuries

Injuries with (mostly) shoes on: 

1.   “Sports Injury Statistics

In the U.S., about 30 million children and teens participate in some form of organized sports, and more than 3.5 million injuries each year, which cause some loss of time of participation, are experienced by the participants. Almost one-third of all injuries incurred in childhood are sports-related injuries. By far, the most common injuries are sprains and strains

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/sports-injuries/sports-injury-statistics

Consider these estimated injury statistics for 2009 from the Consumer Product Safety Commission:

Basketball. More than 170,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for basketball-related injuries.

Baseball and softball. Nearly 110,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for baseball-related injuries. Baseball also has the highest fatality rate among sports for children ages 5 to 14, with three to four children dying from baseball injuries each year.

Bicycling. More than 200,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries.

Football. Almost 215,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for football-related injuries.

Ice hockey. More than 20,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for ice hockey-related injuries.

In-line and roller skating. More than 47,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for in-line skating-related injuries.

Skateboarding. More than 66,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for skateboarding-related injuries.

Sledding or toboggan. More than 16,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for sledding-related injuries.

Snow skiing or snowboarding. More than 25,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for snow boarding and snow skiing-related injuries.

Soccer. About 88,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for soccer-related injuries.

Trampolines. About 65,000 children ages 14 and under were treated in hospital emergency rooms for trampoline-related injuries.

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/sports-injuries/sports-injury-statistics

2.  “Traumatic Occupational Injuries

Most recent traumatic injury data show:

27% of the 888,220 nonfatal work injuries resulting in days away from work in 2019 were related to slips, trips, and falls1

229,410 injuries due to contact with objects and equipment in 2019 were so severe that they resulted in time away from work1

In 2019, 1,270 U.S. workers died in work-related crashes involving motor vehicles (24% of all deaths)2

Workers less than 25 years of age have higher rates of occupational injuries treated in emergency departments than other age groups3, 4

An estimated 2.4 million workers sustained work-related injuries and were treated in emergency departments during 20193

In 2019, the rate4 of emergency department-treated, work-related injuries was estimated at 156 per 10,000 full-time equivalent workers

Male workers accounted for approximately 64% of the work-related injuries treated in emergency departments

The three leading causes of work-related injuries treated in an emergency department were contact with objects and equipment, overexertion and bodily reaction, and falls, slips and trips without a fall

3.  “What are the most common occupational foot injuries?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports at least 60,000 foot injuries are responsible for keeping people from work every year. The average cost of one of those lost workdays is $9,600, and 80 percent of foot injuries are caused by objects that weigh 30 pounds or less.

https://www.ishn.com/articles/105700-what-are-the-most-common-occupational-foot-injuries

4. “Footwear (or lack thereof) Injury Cases

This is a collection of cases in which the choice of shoe, or going barefoot, was implicated in a negligence injury lawsuit. Most of these cases are from the appeals court level, since those cases that are not appealed are rarely published.

The Shoe Injuries section contains only those cases in which the type of shoe was specifically mentioned in the case. In some cases it is also mentioned as possibly contributing to the injury, usually by the defendant arguing that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent through their choice of footwear. Of course, practically every other slip and fall (or trip and fall) case occurred when the plaintiff was wearing shoes, but in the vast majority of them the shoes are not mentioned.

Here is a PDF that summarizes the high heel and platform shoe injury cases. Here is a PDF that summarizes the flip-flop injury cases. Here is a PDF that summarizes the sandal injury cases. And here is a PDF that combines the previous three PDF files.

The Barefoot Injuries section contains those cases in which the injured person was barefoot, even if the bare feet may have had little to do with the injury. This list is pretty much a complete list of barefoot injury cases. Most barefoot injuries are either outdoors, or indoors at a pool or locker room.

In many respects, this is an asymmetric list. A barefoot case appears on the list if the word “barefoot” (or “barefooted” or the words “bare feet”) appears in any sort of injury decision. So this is a pretty much complete list of all cases in which bare feet are even mentioned. However, the word “shoes”, or “sandals”, or similar words appear way too often in decisions to be able to get a complete list of cases. Furthermore, the type of shoe in a fall is rarely even mentioned, so none of those cases appear here, either. Thus, the “Shoe Injuries” section is necessarily incomplete, and can only be a small sample of cases.

Probably the most important thing to get out of this list is that injuries happen for a whole host of reasons, and seem to have very little to do with the actual footwear involved. Furthermore, whether somebody wins their case or not usually depends on, not the existance of the potential hazard or the injury, but what facts are available to prove culpability (on either the plaintiff’s or defendant’s parts).

So the logical conclusion is: “Obesity, cancer, heart attack, dementia, traffic accident, crime are things to worry about — but no! Be scared of going barefoot! Be very scared! Ignore the other things and go on as business as usual! Do whatever you want, just don’t go barefoot!! Ahhhhhh!”

D. Books

1.  Whole Body Barefoot: Transitioning Well to Minimal Footwear by Katy Bowman

2.  Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement by Katy Bowman

3.  The Barefoot Book: 50 Great Reasons to Kick Off Your Shoes by L. Daniel Howell

4.  Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine by Randolph M. Nesse and George C. Williams


You could also look up those authors to find articles they’ve written or podcasts they’ve been in. 

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