Barefoot Shoes – Supporting Evidence for Us Minimalist Shoe Advocates

Barefoot ShoesSo I just had a epiphany and realized that I am the Barefoot Golfer and I haven’t even written a post on barefoot shoes! Are you kidding me? Well then, it’s about time for a barefoot shoes post, so here it is.

Barefoot Shoes & Running

I don’t want to begin this post with outlining the supporting evidence for barefoot running on injury prevention and running efficiency since that would be boring in the light of all the information already out there specific to running in barefoot shoes.  Just do a Google search or a little scientific journal search and go nuts on information   All that information is one of the reasons I wanted to try out a pair of Vibram Five Fingers about 3 years ago since I was getting some knee pain anytime I would run for longer than 15 minutes.  As soon as I tried my new pair on, boom…no more knee pain, although it did cause some significant calf pain for a little while as I got used to them.  Now that also could have been because I immediately went out a ran a 30min 8km the first time I even tried the shoes on, so that is my idiot fault.  Anyway, since then I have not looked back and have diligently researched all types of minimalist shoes for athletics, golf, formal wear, business casual wear, and casual wear.  Lesson from my experience though: barefoot shoes are awesome, but if you are used to wearing boats as shoes all the time, take the transition to barefoot shoes slowly 🙂

Barefoot Shoes & Walking

Ok, so here is the deal, in reality I have never truly enjoyed distance running, I have always been a sprint type of guy, and think I will continue on that path (doesn’t mean I won’t randomly run a 10km a few times a year though).  I also enjoy nice long walks, jumping, and lifting heavy weights.  Since I don’t do much jogging, I guess I shouldn’t be that interested in the research on barefoot running right? Good point; however, I haven’t been able to find much information out there about walking in barefoot shoes.  Everyone seems to be under the impression that walking in barefoot shoes would simply provide the same benefits as barefoot running, but is that true?  The other question I always had was what is the proper walking gait in barefoot shoes? Heel, mid, or forefoot strike?

I am still haven’t found much information with regards to barefoot walking gait.  I have however personally tried all options listed above, and I have settled mainly on a midfoot style strike where I land a bit to the outside of my foot/heel and roll forward and in towards my big toe as my stride progresses.  For me, this strike pattern seems to reduce the impact forces I feel, and provide an ease and comfort in my stride.  It also allows me to maintain a solid walking pace which I found to be an issue when attempting a forefoot strike walking pattern.  There’s my personal opinion on that, although I don’t have any supporting evidence.

I was perusing twitter this morning and came across a link to a new article on barefoot style shoes and their effect on knee osteoarthritis.  The interesting thing with this study was that it measured how barefoot style shoes affected the impact forces seen at the knee joint.  Here is a link to the article if you want to read it.  This was a 6 month study in which the participants (who all had osteoarthritis of the knee) wore what is called mobility shoes at least 6 hrs/day.  The mobility shoe had a flat sole, and the sole was designed with cut lines to allow it to flex with the natural motion of the foot (See pic).

To me this looks like a lot of shoe, but given the flat flexible sole, it apparently mimicked barefoot walking sufficiently for the purposes of this study.  At the end of the study, the results showed that there was a significant reduction in medial compartment loading at the knee, and participants reported a subjective reduction in knee pain of 34%.  While there were some limitations for the study noted (small participant group, no objective measures of condition improvement, etc) it still shows that there is likely some type of benefit for the use of barefoot shoes when walking.  In the end, this isn’t surprising to me, and I am a bit disappointed that there was no measure of gait pattern.  The authors did however mention that the reduction in impact forces was likely due to altered gaits used in barefoot vs shod walking, but no more specifics were mentioned.

Barefoot Shoes & Golfing

Unfortunately, it is not always appropriate to golf totally barefoot, particularly in Vancouver, unless you want your feet covered in mud, so I did my due diligence and found a great pair of minimalist golf shoes.  They are called Barefoot BERBS and you can only get them through their website.  Oh ya, and they are basically waterproof, which is a must in Vancouver.  I have also tried TRUE Linkswear, and they are also very comfortable depending on the model you try; however, the most comfortable styles are quite expensive compared to the BERBS.  Another bonus of the BERBS is that they have actual soft spikes strategically positioned on the sole for better grip, something that no other barefoot golf shoes has.

Sincerely,

The Barefoot Golfer

Cleveland Golf

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