The two long bones of the lower leg, the tibia and fibula, are connected to the ankle bone to form the ankle.
The five irregular bones of the mid-foot form the arches of the foot, which serves as a shock absorber. The mid-foot is connected to the hind and forefoot muscles and the plantar fascia. The forefoot is composed of five toes and the foot has three arches.
Fallen arches can result in tendonitis and contribute to the development of bunions, shin splints and pains in the knees and hips. Due to the way our bodies are connected, they can even affect the lower back, neck and shoulders.
The human body, including the human and foot and human legs, evolved in order to provide us with the optimum mode of transport and that is what our body is designed for. Our body was not designed to wear shoes! Shoes can limit the flexibility of the foot and can lead to higher incidences of flexible flat foot, bunions and hammer toes.
So we can benefit greatly by going barefoot sometimes! Going barefoot can awaken muscles that have atrophied in our shoes, it can awaken nerve-endings and our balance system. It can mean that we develop a stronger body, have less joint pain, have better posture and more mobility.
By feeling the ground under our feet, we can wake up the vestibular (balance) system of the brain and use muscles in our feet we never knew we had. Using them can also help to tone all of our leg muscles.
Practising yoga and Pilates in bare feet can help improve so many foot conditions. As the muscles in the feet strengthen, it can help with plantar fasciitis, bunions and even arthritis as the foot develops greater strength, flexibility and blood flow.
Going barefoot can also give reflexology benefits. Reflexology is the process of stimulating nerves on the bottom of the feet to stimulate the immune system, reduce inflammation and pain, reduce blood pressure, reduce stress and tension and to stimulate many other healing processes in the body. Studies have shown great reflexology benefits to going barefoot and stimulating the soles of the foot.
Walking barefoot results in a more natural gait, allowing for a more rocking motion of the foot, eliminating the hard heel strike, thereby generating less force in the heel and the lower leg.
One of the biggest changes I see in people when they have been practising yoga and Pilates for some time is the improvement in their balance. Standing on one leg or raising up onto the toes and closing your eyes is a great way of testing your balance. The stronger the muscles in the feet, the easier it is to balance. Being able to balance can help not only with other sports, but also with everyday tasks and makes us far less susceptible to slipping and falling over.
So take those trainers off and try going barefoot sometimes. See the difference it can make!