Every school day, students walk through the hallways with shoes, sandals or slippers. The new trend of going barefoot is starting to become popular among many athletes, walkers and runners.
Shoes and bare feet are two very different things.
Shoes provide support, tread and cushion to the people wearing them. When developing a shoe, the designer will try to make a shoe fit comfortably and easily around the standard foot. The tread on the bottom of the shoe provides more protection. Tread also helps the wearers propel themselves forward more efficiently.
“I wear shoes throughout most of the day,” said David Salisbury, senior. “It’s very relaxing to have protection and comfort at the same time. No one ever knows when there maybe a nail or rock on the ground that has the potential to pierce the bottom of their foot.”
Vibram Fivefingers are shoes that mix the two styles of shoes and bare feet, but people classify them as shoes. They form around the foot like a sock but have the sole of the standard shoe. Although there is tread on the bottom, the natural feeling can still be felt through the toes.
“They aren’t the prettiest shoe or sock out there, but they are amazing for outdoorsy people,” said Brian Morgan, senior and owner of a pair of Fivefingers. “Vibram really came out with something special and unique.”
Athletes who want to make the transition to barefoot may want to consider using Fivefingers. They help the foot adapt to the barefoot style.
Fivefingers join the benefits of both bare feet and shoes. Shoes have tread and protection while barefeet have a natural feel to them. Fivefingers provide athletes with both but do not replace them completely. Bare feet and shoes have certain irreplaceable characteristics.
The foot was man’s way of travel for a good few millennia. According to sportsmedicine.about.com, shoeless athletes increase their running efficiency by 4%.
The foot is sensitive compared to the sole of a shoe. To compensate for this, an athlete’s body will adjust its running form. Their stride will open up and try to make the impact of stepping easier on the foot.
“When I take off those shoes, my hips start to take the lead while the body follows,” said Bilo Hoese, avid barefoot runner and senior.
Apart from running, almost any sport can be played with or without shoes.
Athletes playing soccer can still dribble and shoot without shoes on. They could possibly play longer and run more efficiently barefooted. On the other hand, shoes would probably give the sportsman more speed and a harder shot. A student who participates in ultimate Frisbee, football, basketball or lacrosse would likely find themselves in the same position.
“Sometimes I will play barefooted and other times I will play in shoes,” said Sam Sarakbi, junior. “It usually depends on the condition of the ground, like whether it is too muddy, too rough, or just right.”
Some experts say that wearing shoes will weaken necessary muscles and tendons. There is evidence that extra support results in poor foot biomechanics and increases risk of injury.
Other experts believe that the right shoe could correct the human foot and reduce risk of injury.
There are still many studies that need to be conducted in order to find out all the effects of wearing shoes, Fivefingers or going barefoot. Whether or not athletes care, the change in footwear will help them experience an activity in a whole new way.