My more technical book on the feet. Can we unlock whole-body movement when our feet have been bound for decades? With over 20 exercises (for more than just the feet!), Whole Body Barefoot is a must-have for anyone hoping to restore lost foot function and improve their health. Side effects may include stretching your calves on random objects throughout the day.
“A must-have book for anyone with feet.”
—Ben Greenfield, athlete and author of the New York Times Best Seller Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health and Life
Awards: Best Fitness Book 2015, Paleo Magazine
From Whole Body Barefoot
Sample exercise below!
THE FLIP-FLOP FLAW
Maybe you’re a flip-flop lover feeling pretty relieved because your flip-flops seem minimal—flat, wide, and flexible. They’re also “open”—an important component of the “natural” argument, as they allow for greater sensory input in the form of air pressure and temperature. It’s true, flip-flops are SO CLOSE! But flip-flops fall short of being minimal-for-the-purpose-of-natural-gait in a vital way—they don’t connect to our feet. We have to work our muscles unnaturally to keep them on. (Unfortunately, this toe-gripping action is necessary for slides, mules, and many slippers, too.) After a while, the toe-gripping motor pattern leads to shortened toe muscles (and a loss of parts that allow movement) which can then affect things like balance and foot arch strength, and lead to toe contractures, a.k.a. hammertoes. New flip-flop research also shows that “working to keep the shoe on” changes many things about your gait, which means they end up affecting more than the feet.
I know, I know. Gripping doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but gripping—when you’re walking—is more than just toes bending in different places. Those bends end up changing which parts of the foot push into the ground. Those bends end up translating into mechanical input at the level of the nerves and skin and can create many problems not filed under “musculoskeletal.”
Let me show you.
When you wear shoes that don’t hold themselves on your foot, this is how the grip translates into buckling parts and pressures:[image p. 26]
The “grip” to keep footwear on curls some toe bones up and some down, drives the end of some bones into the ground, creating higher-than-normal pressure (which is what can lead to toe contracture/metatarsal injury over time), and drives the ends of some bones up into the top of the shoe (which can lead to corns and calluses over time if there’s something for the toes to rub on overtop). I won’t even mention the tension down the front of the leg—because you’ll find it yourself during the Top of the Foot stretch in the exercise section. (If you want to try that right now, go ahead. I’ll wait.)
To keep your natural stride (and shoe) on and enjoy the feel of the sea breeze and sunshine on your skin, or the grit of dirt and the freezing cold air of a Canadian fall, opt for something that looks more like a Greek sandal. You know, all strappy and minimal but still fully connected to your foot. If you look around, you can find uppers that are very minimal as far as mass goes, but engineered in a way that keeps the shoe on without you needing to tighten your toes.
Try an exercise from Whole Body Barefoot!
- Stand with your feet forward, ankles pelvis-width apart.
- Press the front of your foot into the ground.
- Slowly lift your heels away from the ground without overly moving your pelvis forward.
- Keep your ankles straight (don’t let them drop outward, as in top left photo) and continuously press the ball of the foot into the floor.
- Toes should be lift-able throughout the entire exercise.
- Lift and lower your heels, working up to twenty times. Do this multiple times a day (unless you’re doing a lot of uphill hiking, in which case you can practice this exercise “in the real world.”)
- Eventually work up to doing this exercise one foot at a time.