This news story originally appeared at Gym Exercise Health on 24 January 2022

Barefoot Transition – A new perspective


Numerous injuries occur to the foot and lower leg.  Hammer toes, bunions, neuromas, ankle sprains, plantar fascitis, shin splints, stress fractures and many more!!  In the past 50 years, injury to the foot and ankle have risen significantly.

Shoe companies have tried many different products in that time to aid their clients.

  1. At first, the belief was that pavement and stiff artificial surfaces were un-natural so we had to add extra cushioning to our feet (we still have it: think Nike Air, or Shox!!).  Injury levels rose.
  2. Then the belief was too much cushioning allows too much movement of the foot.  Thus, motion-controlled shoes came about to slow, stop, or limit motion in certain directions.  Injury rates continued to rise.
  3. Now there is an evolution towards barefoot and minimalist shoes to allow more motion of the lower leg.  Injury rates continue to rise… what gives?

All the above beliefs are correct.  Artificial surface, too much movement, and too little movement all stand the risk to create injury.  However, you can have the best fighter jet in the world, but if the pilot isn”t skilled at the controls it”s gonna crash and burn.  We need the right footwear, but first we need to get the pilot trained.

You weren”t strong ENOUGH: Injury occurs when we aren”t strong enough to do what we ask of our bodies.  This is different for everyone, it is relative to what you ask your body to do.  Walking on soft ground, running on pavement, sprinting barefoot on grass, and running 3 miles in minimalist shoes require different levels of strength.

Strength does NOT come from our footwear, it comes from our body.  All the little muscles around the lower part of the leg act like a marionette for the foot… tendons are the strings to work each little piece and part. If these muscles lack strength, the foot is a stiff clump of bones that slams into the ground… INJURY!! The muscles of the lower leg are very small, as such they are really good at positioning the joint but not absorbing impact.  We must ALSO have strong hips/knees to absorb the impact when the foot touches the ground.

Can I hear you running?  Does your foot smack the ground?  You need stronger knees/hips to absorb the ground softly and quietly.  We need strong ankles, knees, AND hips for a healthy foot!!

Being weak leads to being stiff: When a muscle is not strong enough for our activity but we use it anyway, our body starts to lay down extra connective tissue to stabilize and support the muscle/joint complex.  This extra connective tissue is also termed scar tissue or restricted soft-tissue.

Get mobile, free the past restrictions: Now that scar tissue was laid down, the muscles stay weaker and stiffer than their potential.  Read here for details on how scar tissue can make you weak and stiff.  Well applied manual therapy is often necessary to fully rehabilitate once an injury has occurred.  Manual therapy is included in most if not all of our rehabilitation protocols at Stay Active Clinic.

Get Strong: The muscles of the lower leg are great for positioning the foot and ankle.  Use the foot drills to strengthen these muscles.  The hip and knee are great at absorbing impact and creating movement of the body.  Make these strong by using squats, lifts, and single-leg strength moves with good technique to prevent future overload and scarring.  Stay Active Clinic uses these in most if not all rehabilitation and performance protocols.

Footwear: Now that you have a strong body and are ready to be active you MUST have the right footwear.  Talk to a footwear professional to find the best fit for your strong stable body that will support your activities!!

In conclusion, let”s rely less on footwear and more on our own body to be strong enough for our activity… be it weekend hikes, marathon training, or general health/fitness.