A picture is worth a thousand words . . .
Healthy feet (Fig.1) – allowed to live naturally
Deformed feet (Fig.2) – the result of a lifetime of shoe-wearing
Any questions? Keep reading below…
Published Medical Papers
THESE EXCERPTS from published medical journals support the claim that going barefoot can contribute to good health, while wearing footwear–especially over time, can have detrimental results related to overall foot health.
This list is by no means comprehensive or exhaustive.
In chronological order:
- Dr. Phil Hoffman, 1905, in “Conclusions Drawn from a Comparative Study of the Feet of Barefooted and Shoe-Wearing Peoples.”
Hoffman notes, “It is very significant that in the one hundred eighty six pairs of primitive feet examined, I did not find a single foot associated with the symptoms of weakness so characteristic and common in adult shoe-wearing feet, which are weakened by the restraint the shoe exerts over function.”
Samuel B. Shulman. “Survey in China and India of Feet That Have Never Worn Shoes,” The Journal of the National Association of Chiropodists, 49, 1949, pp. 26-30.
Simon J. Wikler, 1961, Take off Your Shoes And Walk – In this book Dr. Wikler supported going barefoot for better health, especially for children. The book is out of print. The link offers a “fair use extract” of the book, mostly from the first three chapters. An excellent resource for parents.
Dr. William Rossi, D.P.M., “Why Shoes Make ‘Normal’ Gait Impossible”
Dr. William Rossi, D.P.M., Other articles
Steel F. Stewart. “Footgear — Its History, Uses and Abuses,” Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, 88, 1972, pp. 119-130.
Steven E. Robbins and Adel M. Hanna. “Running-related injury prevention through barefoot adaptations,” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 19(2), 1987, pp. 148-156.
Steven E. Robbins, Adel M. Hanna, and Gerard J. Gouw. “Overload protection: avoidance response to heavy plantar surface loading,” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 20(1), 1988, pp. 85-92.
Steven E. Robbins, Gerard J. Gouw, and Adel M. Hanna. “Running-related injury prevention through innate impact-moderating behavior,” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 21(2), 1989, pp. 130-139.
Steven E. Robbins and Gerard J. Gouw. “Athletic Footwear and Chronic Overloading,” Sports Medicine, 9(2), 1990, pp. 76-85.
Steven E. Robbins and Gerard J. Gouw. “Athletic footwear: unsafe due to perceptual illusions,” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 23(2), 1991, pp. 217-224.
Udaya Bhaskara Rao and Benjamin Joseph. “The Influence of Footwear on the Prevalence of Flat Foot,” The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 74B(4), 1992, pp. 525-527.
Steven E. Robbins, Gerard J. Gouw, Jacqueline McClaran, and Edward Waked. “Protective Sensation of the Plantar Aspect of the Foot,” Foot & Ankle, 14(6), 1993, pp. 347-352.
Steven Robbins, Edward Waked, and Ron Rappel. “Ankle taping improves proprioception before and after exercise in young men,” British Journal of Sports Medicine, 29(4), 1995, pp. 242-247.
Alex Stacoff, Jürg Steger, Edgar Stüssi, and Christoph Reinschmidt. “Lateral stability in sideward cutting movements,” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 28(3), 1996, pp. 350-358.
Dr. William Rossi, DPM, “Children’s Footwear: Launching Site for Adult Foot Ills–Its Time to Advocate Shoelessness for Kids,” Podiatry Management, October, 2002
Drs. Najia Shakoor and Joel A. Block, 2006, in Arthritis & Rheumatism entitled “Walking Barefoot Decreases Loading on the Lower Extremity Joints in Knee Osteoarthritis.”
Paul Mumford, internationally respected Personal Fitness Trainer, interviews Dr. Steven Bloor, UK Podiatrist, inan article in Ultra-Fit Magazine June 2014, “It’s Time to Get Naked.”
Collection of research articles – On PFBC website
Links to studies on barefoot activities
Why the Best Shoes for Kids Might Be No Shoes at All – By Pam Moore, in Parent.co, science & wellness section (April 26, 2017). Citing numerous authoritative studies, the article lays out the scientific support for encouraging children to go barefoot, noting that optimal foot development occurs in the absence of shoes.
Why we walk on our heels instead of our toes – by Alexis Blue, in Phys.org (December, 2016). An article about a research study from the University of Arizona published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. In addressing the mechanics of walking and running, the study also explores the question of why barefoot runners often use a different stride that would feel unnatural when walking.
Biomechanics of Foot Strikes & Applications to Running Barefoot or in Minimal Footwear -By Daniel Lieberman, PhD. Official site of his research on varying foot strikes while running (ongoing updates).
Ticking Time Bomb: Children’s Shoes Cause Health Problems Later in Life For Adults – Fitness expert, Dr. Phil Maffetone, describes the long term health concerns that result from early shoe wearing by children (2015).
The Real Cause of Plantar Fasciitis – James Speck explains this poorly understood condition and describes how shoes can also play a major role in the development of this condition. The article also clarifies why the healthy human foot does not need artificial arch supports (2013/2016). (Link to same article also found here.)
Can Barefoot Activity Alleviate Knee Pain and Arthritis? – -A blog post by Michael Nirenberg, DPM, on research supporting the benefits of going barefoot for better knee and joint health (2011).
Can Barefoot Running & Walking Fix Flat Feet? -A blog post by Michael Nirenberg, DPM, on going barefoot and counteracting flatfootedness (2010).
Barefoot Running, the Scientific Merits – NPR broadcast with additional related links (2010).
A Softer Ride For Barefoot Runners – People who run long distances without shoes cushion the blow with their gait, by Lizzie Buchen in Nature, international weekly journal of science (Jan, 2010). [NEW]
Golden Arches: Human Feet More Flexible Than We Thought – Research suggesting that feet don’t need arch support (2013).
The Wonder of the Bare Foot on Naturally Deposited Ground and Better Shoes for Man Made Conditions – Research by Steven Robbins, MD (2013, but periodically updated).
Footwear Use – Myth and Reality – Authoritative responses to common myths about feet and going barefoot – by Steven Robbins, MD (2015).
How Shoes Hurt You & Why Barefoot is Better – Quit Sitting website. The article begins, “Ever wonder why so many people have knee and hip pain when the foot is obviously more fragile? Shoes can protect your feet, but they often cause more problems up the chain.”
Identification of an immune-responsive mesolimbocortical serotonergic system: Potential role in regulation of emotional behavior – (2007) Groundbreaking research suggests that nonpathogenic bacteria found in soil are important for a normal immune system as well as for psychological balance. (Bare feet obviously have a greater opportunity for such exposure.) See also “Mycobacterium vaccae” in Wikipedia.
Altering gait by way of stimulation of the plantar surface of the foot – 2011 Study suggests that when feet numbed by shoe wearing receive stimulation the brain and body work better, resulting in better balance and stability and fewer falls for the elderly.
Surprise! 16% of Podiatrists Recommend Barefoot Running – by Dr. Michel Nirenberg, from America’s Podiatrist (October, 2013). The article begins, “As one of the first podiatrists to recommend barefoot running, I was surprised to see the results of a recent survey conducted by the well-respected Podiatry Management magazine.”
The Barefoot Athlete: Movement From the Ground Up – By Dan Edwardes (March, 2015) , reporting on his teaching opportunity at the world’s first Barefoot Training Summit, in Delhi, India, hosted by Dr. Emily Splichal of Evidence Based Fitness Academy.
Dos and Don’ts of Barefoot Walking, learn how ditching your shoes can reduce pain and prevent future injuries – A Prevention magazine article by Natalie Mackenzie (May, 2012) providing a primer for the general public on barefoot walking. Directed toward those still contemplating its benefits and limits.
Thoughts On A Proper Child’s Shoe – A web article by Dr. Mark Cucuzzella MD FAAFP, which begins, “As a family physician, I firmly believe that children should play in their bare feet or in activity shoes that complement natural foot development and proper biomechanics of movement.”
Going Barefoot, Strong ‘Foot Core’ could help prevent Plantar Fasciitis, Shin Splints and other common injuries – Ithaca College Newswise interview with Dr. Patrick McKeon of Ithaca College School of Health Sciences (Nov. 17, 2015)
How Norms Requiring Shoe Use Caused Humans to be Sedentary – Abstract by Dr. Steven Robbins, MD (Nov. 2015) Author’s conclusion: “The ideal solution would incorporate barefoot weight-bearing outside of the homes. …The sole-less pseudo-shoe may allow all the benefits of barefoot weight-bearing without confronting social norms and the need for body art through foot decoration.” [NEW]
Why Running shoes do not work: Looking at Pronation, Cushioning, Motion Control and Barefoot running – By Steve Magness, on the Science of Running website. An excerpt from his book, The Science of Running (2014). The author begins: “Running shoes are built upon two central premises, impact forces and pronation. Their goals are simple, limit impact forces and prevent overprontation. This has led to a classification system based on cushioning, stability, and motion control. The problem is that this system may not have any ground to stand on.”
FAQ section of this website (entries related to “Health”)
The Major Health Benefits of Going Barefoot (Really!) – Article by the Khalsa Medical Clinic, Beverly Hills, CA
Resources by, or featuring, Dr. Emily Splichal, noted Podiatrist:
- Videos: Dr. Emily Splichal Videos – Link to a series of informative videos on various foot-health related topics
- Website: Evidence Based Fitness Academy – Research-based curriculum for health and fitness professionals with a focus on foot fitness and barefoot training
- Blog: From the Ground Up, Are You Barefoot Strong?
Barefoot Parks – A website describing environments (currently mostly in Europe) specifically designed for going barefoot.
You Walk Wrong – 2008 New York magazine article by Adam Sternbergh on the problems with shoe wearing and the benefits of the alternative–going barefoot.
Why Do Feet Stink? – An informative article featured on the Health, How Stuff Works website.
Health Benefits of Going Barefoot – Testimonials from SBL members
Barefoot Babies – By Kacie Flegal, D.C., in Natural Child Magazine. How keeping little feet in the buff encourages a strong foundation for optimal brain and nervous system development
Can Our Feet Become Dependent On Supportive Shoes? – By Dr. Nirenberg, in America’s Podiatrist. While not directly about bare feet, this article points out some negative consequences of society’s often assumed need for “supportive” footwear (2009)