In Swimrun Life Magazine

ÖTILLÖ Swimrun Catalina2020, Photo: Pierre Mangez

Let’s compare wetsuits and shoes!

We wear a wetsuit which provides just enough protection for the time of year in order to maximise range of motion for ease of swimming and running, and to maximise our connection with nature and the elements.

Just like the optimal thickness of your wetsuit is contingent upon your conditioning to handle cold water, the thickness of the sole you wear is contingent upon the strength and function of your feet. And just like wearing a dry suit would limit your ability to condition to cold water, constantly cushioning and supporting feet weakens them and limits their ability to handle impact forces. Wearing thick soles for vigorous activity on dramatically undulating surfaces may help you get over the rocks quicker but it is potentially dangerous because of the increased lateral ankle forces as mentioned earlier. Thick soles make even less sense for day to day walking. Would you wear a dry suit for a warm swimrun? Why wear heavily cushioned shoes to walk around town or to hike off road?! You wouldn’t wear a wetsuit when you don’t need to! 

Modern shoes, especially athletic styles cause the problems they are trying to correct

They squash and weaken feet, then control and support them. Cushioning does not protect you from concrete, it tricks you into thinking you are walking on soft surfaces. This has the opposite effect as desired, increasing impact forces into shin, knee and hip due to the way it increases leg stiffness and encourages overstriding. Barefoot and minimalist shoe walking has been shown to reduce pain in those suffering from knee osteoarthritis. We tread more softly when we can feel the ground.

Wearing footwear which provides just enough protection without limiting sensory feedback day to day allows us to achieve the gains in balance and foot strength and to take our stronger, prepared feet into more vigorous pursuits. This is why there are VIVOBAREFOOT styles for everything from day to day lifestyle to waterproof hiking boots and trail styles (best for swimrun) to the thinnest most proprioceptive soles for all out performance, when conditioned to handle it. All the styles function to protect and condition feet whilst maintaining maximum sensory feedback and range of motion for the particular task at foot.

A runner’s performance is built on a foundation of health – including that of the foot which is engineered to stretch and recoil when allowed to move naturally. A lot of the energy for a runner to move efficiently comes from these natural energy storage and release mechanisms. You could say our foot acts as the natural and free carbon-fibre plate and foam beneath our legs.

At VIVOBAREFOOT we believe millions of years of natural R&D have already packed your feet with all the energy return you need

A growing body of evidence also suggests that as the cushioning in a shoe increases, so does the proportion of runners who alter running mechanics3,4 in ways associated with injuries.5-7 

So it’s a viscous cycle, weak feet require cushioning but it’s the cushioning which weakens feet. 

Runners wear highly cushioned footwear while landing on increasingly poorly conditioned feet. A lifetime of cushioned, padded supportive shoes are likely contributing towards the compromised feet that send people hobbling to excessive cushioning and expensive orthotics ‘solutions’.

Children who grow up barefoot have been shown to have wider, stronger feet than those who grow up regularly in shoes.8,9 And foot muscle size and strength can be restored when adults revert to walking in minimalist shoes.10

In an era when so many are becoming increasingly disconnected from the planet, our movement and each other, giving our feet the chance to connect with the ground is no small thing. We take around 300 million steps in our lifetime – enhancing every step has a dramatic impact on our lives.

We are on a journey to make as little shoe as possible, because we think the evidence shows that less shoe is better for you and the planet; our barely-there footwear lets your feet do what they were designed to do – be feet. 

Swimrun is all about connecting with nature, each other and ourselves. The more we can feel the ground under our feet, the more we feel connected and the richer the experience! 

 To enhance everyone’s experience with VIVOBAREFOOT, we have created VIVOHEALTH, a simple assessment tool and online courses to guide your transition to supernatural health. 

The Barefoot Fundamentals are aimed at everyone wishing to get off on the right foot with their transition. 

The Barefoot Movement Coach is an accredited course aimed at trainers, coaches and medical professionals featuring in depth theory and practical assessments for use with clients.

A comprehensive Foot and Ankle course is next, followed by a Running course with the ability for everyone to get their technique checked. Breathwork, Mobility and more courses are in the pipeline – watch this space. For those close to London, we run 1-2-1 barefoot movement sessions in the Covent Garden store. 

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