Minimalist shoes are gaining ground not just in the athletic department as running shoes, but also as walking shoes and boots for work. The purpose of minimalist shoes is to give our feet maximum amount of freedom to move and function as if we are walking barefoot. It’s added benefit is that it provides underfoot protection. The goal of its creation is to reduce initial joint impact and allowing your feet to move more naturally to reduce the risk of foot injuries. Simply put, minimalist shoes and boots are designed to get to walk, run, hike and climb the way nature intended. We’ll discuss some of the inherent benefits of using minimalist shoes and boots.
Walking with your feet carrying the least possible weight can give you many benefits. Chief among these is faster movement. You can walk or run faster with less weight bearing your feet down. You also achieve greater freedom of movement with a lightweight pair of shoes. It also greatly reduces braking or unintentional stopping or slowing while walking or running due to sudden friction between your shoe sole and the ground. Lightweight shoes also reduce muscle strain due to added effort in lifting your shoes and developing unhealthy foot positions.
Low Elevation for Greater Ankle Flexibility
The majority of the shoes in the market have raised heels and thus, high heel-to-toe drop. The raised heel structure can be found in most shoes: from dress shoes, to athletic shoes and many types of casual shoes. Heel-to-toe drop is the term used to define the difference in height between the heel and the front of the shoe. Wearing shoes with raised heels can be liked, to standing on a ramp facing downhill – and you do this for a great part of the day.
The conventional heel-to-toe drop measurement in running shoes is at around 10-12 millimeters. Minimalist shoes and minimalist boots have lower heel-to-toe drop measurements than running shoes, having less than 6 millimeters. This enables you heel to get closer to the ground along with the rest of the foot, giving you the sensation close to that of standing barefoot. Low heel-to-drop measurement in minimalist work boots can give you maximum comfort even with prolonged running. Not only do they redefine your fashion sense, they also give you a boost of confidence by having fee and flexible foot movement.
Prevents Foot Pain
Minimalist shoes not only have low heel-to-drop, they also have thin and flexible soles that have the right amount of cushioning. This contributes to the barefoot-like sensation. When used as running shoes, minimalist shoes are better than conventional running shoes at providing that ground feel. When you run like you are barefoot, you use your toes more than your heels, which lessens the pressure on your metatarsal bones, posterior tibial tendon and calf muscles. This prevents the development of injuries that underlie foot pain: tendonitis, Achilles tendinitis, stress fractures, plantar fasciitis and neuroma.
Minimalist shoes are also great for nearly all types of foot structures, including unconventional ones like flat feet. Thus, people with flat feet can walk comfortably with better ground feel and without unnecessary pressure on the arches. The adjustment to the arches can be done gradually, allowing for more freedom in adjusting the gait and manner of walking.
Gives More Room for the Toes
Most of the conventional footwear in the market are designed with narrow toe boxes. The most common design is the bullet-like shape of shoes, wherein they are tapered in the front. This design does not match the natural shape of our feet.
Podiatrists recommend shoes that have a wide or anatomically-shaped to boxes to give the toes enough room to spread out. This natural positioning of the toes, which is much like when we are barefoot, is important in stabilizing the arch. While a wide toe box may not be a fashionable design, feeling good with your feet is more important than looking good wearing conventional shoes on them.
Minimalist shoes also keep the toes more engaged due to their less pronounced toe springs. The toe spring is the upward curve in the front of the shoe. Conventional shoes have pronounced toe springs because of their rigid design and they don’t have the natural flexibility of the foot. The minimalist shoe design comes closest to replicating natural toe movements when walking or running. This is because the flexibility of these shoes allows the toe springs to flatten out and your toes feel closer to the ground, nearly matching the natural feeling of walking or running barefoot where your toes press down and engage the ground.
Protection and Freedom of Movement
Walking barefoot nowadays is no longer safe, but the shoes we wear don’t give that natural movement and sensation akin to walking barefoot. Thus, minimalist shoes and boots can give you the best of both worlds protection from outside elements and the natural sense of movement for your feet.
One of the flaws in the conventional shoe design is the supposed arch-support system. This is the little bump on the insole of the shoe that is supposed to fill up the space underneath the arch of the foot. Our feet’s natural design has an arch support coming from both ends the heel and forefoot. The support should not come from underneath, like what most shoe designs are created with. Also, the natural arch varies greatly with every individual, and these bumps do not fit properly to most natural arches.
Conventional shoes are not very flexible and have limited room for bending. Freedom of movement is essential for our highly mobile lifestyle. The design of minimalist shoes puts flexibility as its top priority to keep up with the multi-directional bending and flexing of the feet.
Minimalist Shoes Promote Stronger Feet
Regular use of minimalist shoes has been shown to strengthen foot muscles. The main reason is due to the balanced use of the foot muscles and the even distribution of load and work among the different bones and muscles located in the feet. Again, less strain and increased efficiency of movement greatly reduce occurrences muscle strains and microfractures, which help strengthen the feet gradually.
When it comes to running, minimalist footwear promotes natural running movement of the feet by allowing you to land on your forefoot and midfoot as opposed to your heel. Landing more towards the front of the foot can help helps improve calf muscle strength and promotes arch stability and strength. Minimalist footwear allows you to achieve shorter and quicker steps that provide more effective forward movement and promote better shock absorption.
Switching from traditional running shoes to minimalist shoes takes time and acclimation, so there’s no need to rush things. There may be minor aches and pains during the transition, but this is a common experience. It is highly suggested to gradually increase the number of steps taken and distance covered during running to have a good acclimation of your feet.
There are many benefits that minimalist shoes can provide not just for our comfort, but also for our mobility and foot health. Our feet are naturally designed to highly mobile and flexible, and our footwear should be able to keep up with it. Minimalist shoes offer the closest possible structure in providing the best comfort and protection for your feet. When you have total freedom of movement, you feel more relaxed and develop healthier feet.