Barefoot running has received a large growth in numbers. Many things such as the book Born to Run, research by Dr. Lieberman, and a large chunk of marketing dollars from the big shoe companies such as Merrell and Vibram have helped to convince people that barefoot running isn’t just something for hippies who like to go against the grain. Even in our small community here in Southern Utah we sometimes spot people running barefoot or in VFFs (I’ve yet to see anyone else run in huaraches).
While minimal footwear is typically geared specifically for barefoot runners the benefits of allowing the foot to function properly doesn’t have to be owned exclusively by runners. I personally began wearing minimal footwear first and then subsequently became interested in running. With this in mind I wanted to outline a few different groups of people besides runners that can benefit greatly from minimal footwear and barefoot activity.
1. Hikers/Backpackers: Traditional hiking boots are incredibly stiff and have a very high heel. I put my old hiking boots on the other day just to see what it felt like after so long. I felt like I was wearing high heels. If having a raised heel throws off your posture, imagine how much worse it is with a heavy pack! Wearing minimal footwear in the woods can also help increase awareness which is never a bad thing while adventuring.
2. Massage Therapists, Nurses, and other health professionals: I remember when Crocs first came out. Most of the people wearing them were nurses. These people are on their feet nearly all day and they want something that is comfortable. At first minimal footwear may seem like it makes your feet tired and achy while standing in them for long periods of time. Just like running your feet need to get stronger gradually. Once they do minimal or barefoot is by far the best for standing.
3. Retail Clerks, Factory Workers, etc.: Anyone who stands for their job. The same applies from the above paragraph.
4. Mail Carriers and Shipping: Mail carriers drive, walk, and repeat that all day. They would be doing themselves a favor to release their feet of bulky shoes.
5. Athletics: Some activities such as ballet and gymnastics strengthen the feet but think about the added benefits other athletes could get from at least doing some barefoot training. One major thing is balance. As the muscles in the feet get stronger they become better equipped to keep your body grounded. I can’t think of many sports that don’t rely on good balance.
Of course the benefits of minimal footwear and barefoot activity can be enjoyed by anyone. What barefoot activities are you going to do this weekend?