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Less IS More! Go Barefoot

November 3, 2009

duck feet

Try this exercise today: Put your right shoe on your left foot and your left shoe on your right foot. Seriously, do it. Feels goofy doesn’t it? But after a while it might start to feel “normal” right? In fact, your body is so amazing that your feet would eventually deform to resemble your backwards shoes!  Isn’t that just like what we’ve been doing to our children for years? Ever since we were old enough for our parents to jam tiny Nikes on our feet we’ve been sporting shoes.  Unfortunately all this did for us was force an environment for our foot to adapt to. Now it isn’t so uncommon to see weak flat feet, deformities like bunions and hammer toes, or just plain weak and atrophied legs and feet.


Since we are not genetically designed to have our feet trapped between rubber, glue, and fabric all day, shoes have left our feet soft, untrained, and have created faulty movement patterns.  Believe it or not we were born into this world naked and our genes planned for us to use our feet to walk, run, and play without using a crutch like a shoe.  Does this mean that I think we should walk around pieds-nus everywhere we go? Of course not! I’m just as guilty as the next person for having too many pairs of shoes and it’s just not possible in our industrialized society to go barefoot everywhere. However, I will give you some tips that have helped me develop strong feet, tendons, and balance:

  1. Beware of shoes with “proper” arch support, rigid orthotics, or high-heels (sorry ladies). Instead, pick up shoes that are flat and provide less support so that they place a demand on your feet to grip, push and pull when you walk. Rather than help you solve your problem, shoes with arch supports prop you up and lead to weak, atrophied foot musculature. High heels go without saying
  2. Try running/walking shoeless or with shoes that allow your feet to perform in a more natural manner. Traditional running shoes that have elevated softened heel supports impede our natural gait and can result in a shortened Achilles tendon and calf muscle. Also, athletic shoes promote heel striking instead of using the balls of your feet and this leads to knee, hip, and spine subluxation and eventual joint breakdown.  Several brands that I have used and are great are Inov-8 And vibram five fingers which are very cool for exercise, play, and for fun. They promote stimulation of the muscles in your feet and lower legs that will not only make you stronger and healthier, but improve your balance, agility and proprioception. These shoes need to be introduced gradually though since they have much less support than your common footwear.
  3. Go barefoot as often as possible! Whenever I get home, walk on the beach, play in the yard, I always go barefoot. Your feet need some tough love too just like the rest of your body. This will be helpful to strengthen not only the muscles and structure of your foot, but also help toughen up the skin on your feet to allow you to walk outside without whining like a sissy. If our ancestors could see us now, they would probably point and laugh at how soft we’ve gotten.

So take my advice and start giving your feet the sufficiency that they need build a strong and healthy balance. Even if you already have bunions, flat feet, or hammer toes it’s never too late to improve them. As always, the more we go towards what makes sense in nature, the healthier we become.

Your health coach,

Dr. Ryan Hewitt

To learn more about how to strengthen flat feet and barefoot running visit  Mark’s Daily Apple

8 Comments leave one →
  1. November 4, 2009 4:48 am

    Cool post. Like many, I read Born to Run and decided minimal shoes or even completely barefoot was the way to go for me. Now, after only wearing minimal shoes or going barefoot every hour of every day, that was one of the best decisions I ever made. I wear the Vivo Barefoot Aqua’s (just reviewed them, if you’re interested )around town and the Vibram Five Fingers KSO model when I trail run. I recently had back surgery for a severe disc herniation that was partially caused by running with big, heavy, padded, high-heeled running shoes (Asics Kayanos). While it’s still difficult for me to sit for extended periods of time, I am able to run thanks to a barefoot running form (knees always bent, softly landing forefoot first, slight lean forward, kicking back, etc.).

    It’s great so many people have been inspired to run barefoot, but horrible that they don’t realize how much their feet and leg muscles have atrophied. Far too often the result from an exuberant barefoot run is extremely sore feet, calves, and even stress fractures. To try and help people understand why they need to ramp up slowly, and to give myself a program to follow (rather than just tips and tricks most people provide), I created what I call the “12 Step Program to Run Shodless” . I posted it on my blog, Running Quest, along with a form that can be printed out stuck to the friedge (link: ). I’d love to get your thoughts on it.

  2. ShoesAreBoring permalink
    November 13, 2009 6:52 pm

    Yes, those of us who were kids or teenagers in the 1960s and 1970s already new this. Today’s young people do not know 1) just how common going barefoot was then, (it was considered ‘cool’ and in style, at least for young people), and 2) that going barefoot a bit more each day early in the spring will make it possible to easily go barefoot on the hottest pavement and the roughest surfaces by the time summer comes, with no pain or injury. It’s like lifting weights – you don’t just put 300 pounds on the bench press when a couple of years ago you maybe tried it once, and you barely did 150. You gradually work your way up to it. And you guys have no idea – there were barefoot people (more women than men, statistically) shopping, walking around town, any public place on a nice summer day, even in places like New York City. And guess what? The world did not end, and nothing happened. Then the shoe companies did a marvelous job brainwashing the nation during the 1980s, inventing a shoe type for every possible reason that did not exist before, and associating certain shoes with famous athletes. Soon going barefoot went out of style, and we seem to have collectively forgotten the relatively recent past, and have to learn this stuff all over again. And, contrary to what has become an urban myth, it’s not illegal to go barefoot anywhere, or drive barefoot, or do anything barefoot. Those signs you see are made up by store owners, originally to keep hippies out. No more legal weight than “jackets required” in some restaurants. Their private property, they can make up their own rules, but it’s not a law.

  3. drhewitt permalink*
    November 18, 2009 9:41 pm

    Thanks for your comment Clynton. I just got my copy of Born to Run in the mail and I can’t wait to read it! I also checked out your 12 step program to run shoeless and I love it. I will refer my patients and others who are interested in barefoot running to your blog. I will post some feedback on your site. Be Well! Dr. Ry

  4. November 24, 2009 4:36 am

    Thanks so much for taking a look at my 12 Step Program to Run Shodless! Glad you liked it and think it will be of value to your clients, too. Let me know how it goes!

    You are in for a real treat, reading Born to Run. Fascinating and fun. I can’t wait to see posts about it.



  5. November 18, 2010 8:32 am

    you can always trust those high tech running shoes developed by adidas or nike, they are expensive but they are very good **’

  6. January 24, 2011 3:46 pm

    ;;` I am very thankful to this topic because it really gives great information -,”

  7. February 6, 2011 3:00 pm

    ~.; that seems to be a great topic, i really love it *-*

  8. March 29, 2012 6:56 pm

    wow, ive had it wrong all along

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