Feet = Foundation
During upright movements, the entire body relies on the feet to function as a solid yet adaptable foundation. For the body to generate large amounts of force, balance itself, or move, the feet must provide a stable base through which force can be transferred. Trying to build a skyscraper on a weak foundation? Good luck!
Function of the Foot
The human foot is an incredibly complex piece of machinery. As a brief summary, your feet function as a:
• Flexible & adaptable shock
• Rigid & strong propulsion system
• Sensory feedback system used gather
& send information
• Stable base that adjusts in real time
to keep the body balanced
Anatomy of the Foot
The Human Foot has...
100+ Muscles, Ligaments
200,000 Nerve Endings
125,000 Sweat Glands
The 3 Arches
The image above shows how the three arches of the foot can be visualized. Arches made from blocks are somewhat unique within the engineering world, as they function particularly well under compressive loading (think of a stone bridge), but if pulled into tension they fall apart. In the foot, arches are important both because of this compressive strength AND because they can become flexible when the arch is relaxed.
Twisted Plate Model
While the specifics of the foot are very complicated, it’s important to have some understanding of the larger picture. A simplified way to visualize this larger picture is to imagine it as a twisted plate, as shown, & as three arches. This visualization allows you to see how forces are generally absorbed as well as transferred through the foot, as the arch untwists to absorb shock & retwists to become rigid again.
The Problem with Modern Footwear
If you can take away one thing from this manual...
MAKE SURE THE TOEBOX OF YOUR SHOES IS
WIDE ENOUGH FOR FULL TOE SPLAY.
Many foot dysfunctions are caused primarily by wearing narrow shaped shoes. Force distribution, arch shape, Big Toe function, heel position, etc., are all affected by restrictive toeboxes.
Supplying an artificial arch prevents the foot from activating fully and can weaken musculature through atrophy. Decreased function & weakness changes how forces are distributed through the foot & causes other areas to overcompensate.
Most shoes curl upwards at the toes, which keeps the toes in a lifted position. The tension/length ratio of the tendons & muscles is affected by this positioning, & this can lead to dysfunction.
The distribution of forces is altered, the range of motion of the calf & achilles is generally decreased, & gait/stance can change too.
The Benefits of Bearfoot Shoes
Allowing your toes to splay and move freely is by far the most beneficial thing you can do for your feet. Giving your toes some room to move will allow correct force distribution during loaded movements, improve balance & will promote natural development of the foot’s arch.
The distribution of forces in the foot are natural & balanced, allowing for full range of motion for the
calf & achilles.
Allows the feet to fully engage the musculature & enhances natural sensory feedback much better than stiff, thick-outsole shoes.
Less is More!
As you’ve probably noticed, the reocurring theme throughout this manual is less is more. The best way to get full optimization of your feet is by letting them do what they were designed to do without the help of artificial supplementation. Shoes are meant to help protect your feet from the environment around you, anything more will do more harm than good.