The negatives of wearing flip-flops can be found all over the internet. Anti-Sandal prophets claim they don’t keep your foot in place, leading to tumbles, twisted ankles, and broken bones. They say shoes should be flexing consistently where your foot bends and sandals bend too much or not at all. They say sandals rub as the wearer walks, creating friction that can lead to blisters. They say the thin layer or rubber will protect you from stones or glass, but not nails. In an article on CNN which states the above opinions, it also recommends that sandal wearers purchase sandals with deep heel cups, high arch support, and comfortable toe support.
Here is my argument on the complete and utterly contrary option to be as minimalist as possible, wearing barefoot-like shoes only when necessary, sandals when desired, and barefoot as much as humanly possible. Many physicians and specialists love to blame improper footwear (or lack of footwear) on the most common foot injuries and conditions. Boldly I will say this; many of them are the real problem. Homo sapiens (aka humans) reached anatomical modernity about 200,000 years ago and have been exhibiting full behavioral modernity for around 50,000 years.
The oldest discovered sandals were found in Fort Rock Cave, Oregon with carbon dating of the bark indicating an age of at least 10,000 years old. Furthermore, athletic shoes haven’t been around for nearly as long. The first athletic shoes had a canvas upper and rubber shoe, developed in the 1830s. Modern sneakers, with high heel to toe drops, plenty of support, and excessive padding weren’t even developed until the 1960’s. Doing some math there, that gives humans over 190,000 years of anatomical modernity without any form of shoe or sandal support or protection. The incredible evolution of the foot that must have occurred during that amount of time is one of the most extraordinary traits humans possess.
Standing on two feet is what helped humans evolve greater intellectual thinking, reasoning, and mental ability than any other creature on planet earth. Why are we now using this intellect to over think the power of natural selection by conditioning individuals that a world of shoes and support is the answer?
According to a survey released by the Institute of Preventative Foot Health (IPFH), their National Foot Health Assessment for 2012 concluded some saddening results. They found 17% of Americans had “fair to poor” foot health, with 78% of Americans having one or more of the foot issues listed in the survey. The most common injuries were (in order from most common to least common): Ankle Sprains, Blisters, Calluses, Foot Fatigue, and Cracked Skin. If one were to go to a physician or podiatrist, I can almost guarantee (unless injury was sustained by a direct cause) the source of injury stated by the health professional would be relating to footwear. Sandals and improperly fitting footwear are the go to solution in healthcare. Especially with high arches or flat feet, a custom (or over-the-counter) orthotic will be prescribed.
No conclusive scientific evidence has ever proven that any form of insole is actually beneficial to the foot or helps prevent or correct injuries/improper foot alignment. To be fair, no conclusive evidence has shown being barefoot or any other type of footwear helps either. What I will do here is let you make your own opinion and use your own reasoning to create an answer for yourself.
It is a fact that exercise and resistance training helps the body prevent illness, disease, and injury. We workout our whole body, yet consistently neglect our feet. Foot strength is simply not a priority. Yet, these are the very things we base the portability and sustainability of our lives upon. By inserting out feet into these things called shoes, we are forgetting all about them. Shoes and orthotics support our feet themselves, leaving our feet to become lazy and dependent on them. On the contrary, we should be strengthening our feet, providing a foot that supports itself without the need of a crutch. An example I see is when older individuals stop walking for themselves, their lives quickly deteriorate. They stop using the muscles and joints in their lower body, thus muscles atrophy and joint strength diminishes. The same goes for your feet. By not using our feet, rather putting them into a tight fitting padded box, we are neglecting out main mode of transportation and support. Our feet are the roots of our human tree and if a tree didn’t have roots it would fall over. Be like a tree and expand your roots, strengthen your roots, and add a natural sustainability to your life.Going back to some of the most common injuries that the IPFH found, many of these may actually be able to be prevented by being barefoot (or the lesser alternative of minimalist footwear).
The most common injury was ankle sprains, typically caused by the rapid shifting movement when your foot is planted. This shifting most often occurs when the ankle rolls outward and foot turns inward (6). Being barefoot could decrease the incidence of this by improved reaction time caused by better sensation of the mechanoreceptors on the feet, improved ankle strength, and the foot being lower to the ground. Blisters and calluses are often caused by footwear because of repeatedly being rubbed. Being barefoot will cause blisters as well. Luckily, after a short amount of time, blisters will form calluses – in this case a good thing. Calluses are just a build-up of hard skin, which are normal to have to begin with. Calluses will lead to stronger skin on the bottom of the foot and natural protection of the elements.
Finally, Athlete’s Foot and Foot Fatigue round out the top 5 most common foot injuries. Here, being barefoot can be of great help. Although Athlete’s Foot is caused by being barefoot in warm, wet places, the fungus associated with the issue only grows while your feet are in your shoes with no air flow. This fungal skin infection simply cannot grow or reproduce in an airy, cool environment such as that while barefoot or in sandals. Foot fatigue is probably the easiest one here to fix by being barefoot or wearing minimalist footwear. The solution is straightforward: strengthen your feet. You can do foot strengthening exercises or by not wearing shoes your feet will be able to strengthen naturally.A popular argument for cushiony shoes are that because of our hard packed pavement and concrete jungle we live in, our feet need the support and cushioning on these surfaces that shoes provide. I disagree completely solely on the fact that if our ancestors could survive walking and running on densely packed earth, warm surface temperatures, and uneven terrain complete with pebbles and stones, I can walk on a smooth side walk barefoot any day.
Moreover, the obstructions like glass and nails cover the earth that many suggest we need shoes for to protect against, I provide you with a solution: look where you are walking with those wonderful things we call eyes to avoid dangerous objects in your path. And honestly, how many nails are sticking upward in the streets ready to penetrate your foot? With more and more shoe companies advertising a barefoot-like, minimalist, flexible shoe most like our bare feet, why do we need something almost as good as being barefoot when we could just… I don’t know… be barefoot?Always remember, barefoot is best, flexible sandals can help protect feet from jagged and rough ground, and minimalist shoes are a great option for them when the above aren’t allowed.