What Are the Benefits of Wearing Barefoot Workout Shoes?
At Jack City, we’re superfans of barefoot running shoes—and we bet you will be, too. Wearing minimalist footwear (like barefoot athletic shoes) can help improve posture and alignment, and that’s only the beginning. Check out our guide to the benefits of barefoot shoes today!
If the best part of your day is removing your shoes, this blog is for you. Minimalist footwear has become increasingly accessible here in the United States; several brands have even developed their own lines of “barefoot shoes.” These low-key kicks are well-loved in many circles, but they’ve become especially popular amongst athletes—our own Jack City coaches included! We spoke to our team about their own relationships with minimalist barefoot footwear, and they were happy to share their thoughts with you all.
First of All, What Is Minimalist Footwear?
The term “minimalist” gets a lot of traction these days, but it has a very specific meaning when referring to athletic footwear. In fact, the concept of minimalist footwear has actually been a somewhat contentious one in the athletic community. As it’s gained popularity, many have argued over what defines a minimalist shoe.
Rather than leave it ambiguous, a team of pros at Laval University worked with 42 experts from around the globe to clear up this question of definition. The results, which were published in The Journal of Foot and Ankle Research, showed a comprehensive index of criteria that revolved around five important aspects:
- Stack Height
- Heel-Toe Drop
- Ability to Stabilize or Control Motion
Technicalities aside, minimalist footwear is generally recognized by one major aspect: it allows you to enjoy a feeling of being “barefoot” despite wearing shoes. These shoes are designed to include less cushioning than regular footwear; they also feature a roomier toe box and thinner soles. They are often used for athletic walking or running.
Are Barefoot Shoes Good for Your Feet?
Lots of professional athletes swear by their minimalist running footwear—our team members included! These days, the Jack City crew is frequently discussing the many benefits of barefoot shoes.
Our own Tim Perry explained it to us perfectly, saying, “A few years ago, I started walking around barefoot as much as possible to increase the small muscles of my feet and it has benefited them tremendously. After getting advice on barefoot shoes and making the switch my feet have felt great and I have not dealt with lower back pain. It’s hard to ever want to go back…If I were to go back in time and teach myself, I would tell myself to go barefoot whenever I could and invest in barefoot minimalist shoes.”
Some of our favorite benefits of barefoot shoes include:
- It Can Strengthen Your Feet
Barefoot shoes give your feet a lot more room than they’re used to. While traditional sneakers and running shoes pad and protect your feet with lots of material, they also restrict natural movement and alignment. By transitioning to minimalist footwear, your feet will have the chance to align themselves naturally—and grow stronger in the process.
- It Gives Your Big Toe More Room to Move
Why do thumbs get all the glory? Your big toe is just as important—it plays an enormous role in your daily movements. Without it, balance and pivot-action would be a lot more challenging! Many athletes love barefoot shoes because it brings their big toes closer to the ground and gives them more wiggle room. This helps anchor their movements.
- It Lets Your Bones Breathe
Bone health is crucial—and your feet contain lots of bones. Yet we continually stuff our feet into tight, unnaturally shaped sneakers or running shoes. This is not great for the bones; over time, it alters their natural structure. Barefoot shoes don’t crush your bones or press your feet into an unnatural shape. Instead, they allow your bones to grow and form the way nature intended.
Our own Preston Grayem can speak to this experience personally. As he accounts, “It was during this first year that I had noticed my other shoes were starting to not fit anymore, not just in width, but in length. Later when trying to buy new “normal” shoes, I had grown in almost two shoe sizes.”
- It Allows You To Move As Nature Intended
Many athletes prefer minimalist shoes because they believe this type of footwear is much more natural. We agree! After all, humans aren’t born wearing shoes; back in the day, hunter-gatherers managed many athletic feats while barefoot. This ideology can apply to modern-day athletics, as many of our coaches and partners prefer to work out barefoot or while wearing minimalist shoes because they find it more natural.
Says our own Rachel Weber, “I now work out barefoot 90% of the time. I love gripping the floor and feeling all the bones and joints in my ankle and feet when I’m doing any movement. There is something really empowering about it.”
Matt Nader agrees, saying, “The human foot contains 33 joints. Modern footwear is essentially a cast that immobilizes many of these joints, eventually fusing them together. People’s feet are becoming narrower and less mobile, which is inhibiting their ability to generate force through their feet. I like to do as many workouts as I can barefoot. When that is not possible, a minimalist-style shoe paired with toe socks is the next best thing.”
- They’re Kid-Friendly (and Recommended)
Minimalist footwear isn’t only for adult athletes. Several minimalist footwear brands have a line for children! This shoe style is perfectly safe for children and teens to wear—in fact, many parents feel it is a better option. By putting your little ones in barefoot shoes, you are giving their feet the chance to develop naturally and without external restriction.
What Are the Best Minimalist Footwear Brands?
As more athletes become interested in wearing minimalist running footwear, an increasing amount of brands have developed their own lines of barefoot shoes. Our favorite is by far VIVOBAREFOOT!
VIVOBAREFOOT has been making minimalist footwear for nearly a decade. Today, they ship their beloved barefoot shoes worldwide and have several lines for athletes to choose from. We love their high-quality products and extensive collections; customers can choose from Outdoor, Active, and Everyday shoes. They even feature a fully vegan shoe line.
Our Jack City coaches agree—several of our crew members rock VIVOs on the regular! Says Alicia Parker, “I am a huge fan of VIVOBAREFOOT as I believe the shoe wears like iron. VIVOBAREFOOT sells a wide range of shoes from hiking [and] running [to] casual shoes, making it a one-stop shop to find all footwear. Besides the products, VIVOBAREFOOT provides amazing content and education in regard to foot health, sustainability, events, and more. Not opposed to trying another brand…but I love the brand Vivobarefoot has created.”
Put Your Minimalist Running Footwear to Good Use!
Ready to try your own barefoot workout? You’ll be in great company at Jack City. Our crew is always here to talk fitness, athletic footwear, and goals—and we’re waiting for you to join the party. All you need to do is sign up to become a partner. To do that, simply ring (208) 999-1111 or shoot us a message online. We’ll invite you to our Boise gym for a FREE fitness consultation with our team. You can also use this time to explore our site, meet our stellar coaches, and even peek into one of our famous classes. Once you’ve signed up, you’ll have instant 24/7 access to our entire facility.
We can’t wait to see you and help you meet your goals!