The Appalachian Mountain Club’s Outdoors webzine has a new article, Barefoot in the Park, which points out that training should include the feet and that shoes do not allow the muscles of the feet to get a proper work out.
Pilates instructor Aliesa George offers exercises to strengthen feet for those out of shape. While some of these exercises may appear unnecessary or even silly to one who goes barefoot regularly, they could be very helpful to someone who relies on shoes too much. Her book “Fantastic Feet!” appears to a good resource for further development.
My wife’s foot was crushed in an accident a number of years ago. Following reconstructive surgery, she used similar exercises to strengthen her foot. She started walking barefoot as a continuation of that exercise. Then she started hiking rugged trails barefoot. She received positive comments during a follow up visit with the orthopedic surgeon. When asked what she was doing, she said she was hiking barefoot. The surprised Doctor told her he should start telling his patients to walk barefoot instead of using braces and orthotics. He then said that what she was doing was working and to keep it up.
My personal experience bears this out as well. I hiked wearing boots in my youth. I was told, and was convinced, that I needed sturdy, high topped boots for support. I twisted my ankles several times wearing high topped boots. Wearing boots and shoes all the time caused other problems as well. To alleviate those problems I started going barefoot whenever possible. First, I had immediate relief from the hot feet, shoe and foot odor, and athlete’s foot. (I haven’t had athlete’s foot in the last 30 years.) Going barefoot expanded into hiking. As I hiked more, my feet and ankles grew stronger. I have not twisted an ankle hiking barefoot yet.
The AMC Outdoors article is short, concise and addresses the subject well. Read it, heed it, and start exercising those feet.