Stephen C. Bloor Barefoot Podiatrist In the United Kingdom
Interviewed by:Paul Mumford, an internationally respected Personal Fitness Trainer.
Excerpts of the interview
I believe, just like the rest of our bodies, our feet are more healthy if given plenty of fresh air, exercise and sunshine.
One of the most important functions of our feet is to sense the surface on which they are placed. The many thousands of highly specialised sensory nerve endings in the skin of our feet have evolved to expect intimate skin contact with the ground. There are touch, pressure and vibration mechano-receptors which function to give vital information to our brains so our brains know precisely what we are standing on and how are feet are interacting with that surface. The sensory information is necessary for optimal muscle function and postural alignment. The better the quality of that information, the more effectively our muscles can work to enable us to walk and run as efficiently as possible, thus reducing the risk of musculoskeletal injury.
The big problem with footwear of any type is they interfere with that sensory perception of the ground. Muffling and distorting the image our brains receive of our interaction with the ground.
Is it OK to bunch them all together in socks and shoes or is there a real benefit in allowing them to move independently and spread? Why is it so important to have strong toes?
Though the scientific research hasn’t proven this conclusively yet, I believe that it makes sense from an evolutionary & a biomechanical perspective to maximise the number of bones & joints moving, as well as muscles contracting & relaxing for the best proprioceptive feedback. From experience in my clinic over the last four years I’ve found people who wear Vibram FiveFingers seem to have less foot injuries than those wearing minimalist shoes with toes all bunched together. There is evidence that separating the toes increases the intrinsic muscle activity in the ball of the foot. Having strong muscles in the forefoot helps to protect against injury.
Now that we know footwear can be harmful to our bodies, we should inform & educate the population about the risks of shoe wearing & encourage people to make healthier lifestyle choices. At the very least we can teach people that they have a choice. The biggest hurdle is challenging social convention. The general population need to become more accepting of seeing a bare human foot in public. Just as a bare hand is normal for human beings, so should a bare human foot be!