The mechanics of a human foot are pretty mind-blowing. We could bore you with facts and details but instead, just conjure an image of a robot attempting to walk. A big part of the reason for its shuffling, ungainly gait is that a human foot is both a complicated set of bones and muscles, and a receiver/transmitter that senses information and sends it back to the brain – a combination that’s tough to replicate. Yes, your feet are pretty amazing. And it’s pretty much guaranteed that you take them for granted.
But what if you weren’t just taking them for granted, but unwittingly making your feet less amazing? Still amazing, but with the shine taken off them somewhat. And what if you were sleepwalking into doing that merely by slipping your feet into modern footwear? That’s the premise of new documentary short Shoespiracy, commissioned by barefoot shoe manufacturer Vivobarefoot.
The video, which you can watch below, features opinions from professors, doctors, footwear designers and the man who did more to popularise this idea than anyone else – Born To Run author Chris McDougall. If we can take the liberty of summarising their opinions, it’s that feet are amazing but they’re being shoehorned into rigid and heavy shoes that aren’t even the right shape for a foot; this leads to weak feet, which in turn causes numerous related issues.
In the documentary, shoe designer Mike Friton, formerly of the Bowerman Lab and then Nike, zeroes in on the influence of athletics coach Bill Bowerman on the development of running shoes in the 1970s. Ordinary people were coming to him to learn how to run, but they were having trouble with their achilles tendons and calves, the most likely reason being that they normally wore dress shoes with heels. To address this problem, Friton says, Bowerman took the advice of doctors and designed heels into running shoes. From that point on, the argument goes, shoes have added more and more fixes to address a fundamental flaw in the design, rather than changing the design.
Vivobarefoot, on the other hand, designs shoes shaped around your feet, with ultra-thin soles that give you a better feel for the ground. There’s no raised heel or cushioning in Vivobarefoot’s shoes, but there is plenty of space in the toe box to allow your toes to splay naturally. In a perfect demonstration of the theory of shoes causing weak feet, many people find that walking or running in barefoot shoes can be hard to begin with. That means it’s important to transition into them gradually, allowing your muscles to strengthen, and Vivobarefoot says there are clear benefits to be had if you go through the process.
If you want to dip your toe in the barefoot waters, you can find out more about the contributors, the research and Vivobarefoot at shoespiracy.tv and there’s also a chance to win an all-inclusive one-week trip to Namibia to experience hiking, bush camping, game observation and more. All you have to do is decide whether there are 26 or 260 bones in the human foot. Spoiler: the answer’s in the documentary.