Barefoot Technology, Does Your Foot Qualify?

Image by (Photo: Tom Schierlitz) Read more: How We're Wrecking Our Feet With Every Step We Take -- New York Magazine This is a trompel'oeil painting applied directly to the feet. Nice as it looks, you can't buy it. Makeup by John Maurad and Jenai Chin.

I have had several patients and friends ask me about a new movement in the shoe industry called "barefoot technology". 

What shoe manufacturers have claimed to do with the new technology is allow the foot to move in its most natural state. Adam Sternbergh writes about barefoot technology in his article "You Walk Wrong" published by New York Magazine. He makes a reference to one study that compared feet of 2,000-year-old skeletons and the feet of three different population groups today. The study showed that before the advent of shoes there were not nearly as many foot issues such as bunions, heel spurs and stress fractures. The sole of the foot contains thousands of nerve endings whose job is to evaluate terrain and communicate with the brain in order to maintain balance. Wearing shoes dampen the communication between the feet and the brain causing the brain to compensate functional movement patterns in order to keep us standing, walking and running. It is this compensation pattern which causes so many of the foot problems we see today. 

When the joints of the foot do not move properly both the knee and the hip can become compromised. The foot is designed to lock and unlock, and the calcaneus is the key. When the calcaneus goes into eversion, the foot bones are likened to a bag of bones causing the foot to absorb the impact of our body weight on the ground and adapt to different terrain. If the calcaneus does not have the ability to evert during the gait cycle then the foot remains rigid causing the tibia to remain in an externally rotated position. When the calcaneus inverts, the bones in the foot lock allowing humans to transfer forces from their legs, through their feet, and into the ground propelling them forward. If the calcaneus is not moving properly then tibial rotation issues will occur resulting in meniscus injuries, early osteoarthritis, runner's knee and patellar tracking issues.

Traditional shoes are made out of rigid material which can cause the muscles in our feet to become inhibited. The muscle inhibition changes the gait cycle of the foot which has an effect on the rest of the body. Barefoot technology is a way to encourage the natural communication between the feet and the brain which will allow for proper movement patterns throughout the body. Barefoot technology is innovative but like many technologies not for everyone. The natural formation of a person's foot can determine if they are a candidate for barefoot technology. The technology allows the buyer to feel the terrain better due to the minimal material used for the sole. The increased sensations in the foot allow for better control of intricate muscles. When someone decides to start wearing barefoot technology shoes they must remember several things. 

• Not all foot types qualify for barefoot technology. It is best to seek the advice of a specialist to see if your foot is functioning properly. I feel that in general a high arched foot has no business wearing a barefoot technology type shoe.
• If the joints in your foot are not moving properly prior to wearing barefoot technology shoes you could begin to notice pain in the heel, calves, or second toe.
• There are many intricate muscles in the human foot that are not being used fully when wearing traditional footwear. Therefore it is important to start wearing the shoes for only a few hours a day working your way up to a full day.
• Soreness should be expected due to the muscles in the foot working properly. Consider this boot camp for your foot, it will hurt for a bit but in the long run it will be worth it.

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