In Swimrun Life Magazine


VIVOBAREFOOT have been proud sponsors of ÖTILLÖ® Swimrun since 2017.

When founders Galahad and Asher Clark first experienced a Swimrun on the Isles of Scilly, their trepidation quickly evaporated into the stunning scenery and the natural way of moving through one of the most beautiful spots on earth. We have supported and embraced ÖTILLÖ® and swimrun ever since. 

A swimrun is a key event at the VIVOBAREFOOT Tribe’s biannual get togethers in Bantham, Devon. Most of us join in, those new to open water swimming are supported by more experienced swimmers. We swam for 3 hours straight in October 2021, longer than most people had ever swum before. It was a magical experience connecting with nature and each other, we recommend everyone who can to try a swimrun!

Do we recommend wearing VIVOBAREFOOT for Swimrun? 

Participants frequently ask ÖTILLÖ® and VIVOBAREFOOT if we advise everybody to use VIVOBAREFOOT for the races. This is no doubt in part because of our partnership. The simple answer is no we don’t! Not if you are new to VIVOBAREFOOT. 

Whilst VIVOBAREFOOT immediately improve balance and physical function, we advise around six weeks to two months daily use before building up to more vigorous activities. Getting your technique checked and improving mobility, helps to ensure feet and whole body are strong enough to handle the forces involved in running and swimrun. 

Research shows wearing VIVOBAREFOOT for day to day walking increases foot strength by 60% in 6 months. But this says more about the lack of function of normal shoes than it does about VIVOBAREFOOT. There are no magic gizmo’s other than puncture resistant soles and grip to maximize safety and performance on different terrains. Where have the developments of billion dollar shoe manufacturers got us if going back to natural footwear improves balance and strengthens feet?

Let’s take a step back and consider what shoes are for…

The purpose of footwear is:

1.     Puncture resistance – protection from sharp things

2.     Thermal protection – from the hot and cold

3.     Grip – specific for the sport and terrain

And crucially, to fulfill the above requirements without limiting the foot’s full range of motion or dumbing down sensory feedback.

The issue with most shoes today is they fail dramatically on this crucial point above! 

To achieve full function of the foot, footwear must be:

  1. Thin for maximum sensory feedback (proprioception), crucial for movement skill
  2. Wide to enable the big toe to function for stability and balance
  3. Flexible, without arch support or toe spring, to allow full range of motion for increasing strength

Narrow toe boxes squash big toes, eventually permanently, limiting their ability to do their job of controlling our bodyweight as it moves over foot. Bunions anyone? Bent big toes are associated with knees going in the wrong direction, towards each other, when we run. And this is one of the major causes of knee patellofemoral  pain. With its function limited to that of a bystander, our big toe and shock absorbers get weaker and weaker… and our movement skill is compromised, likely increasing foot pain and whole body injury potential.

Arch support further weakens feet and reduces running economy by limiting the function of the most efficient spring in the human body.

Cushioning increase forces, the thicker the cushioning, the higher the lateral forces on the ankle and the more likely you are to injure it when things go wrong. If you think about it, it is nonsensical to jump on dramatically undulating surfaces in shoes with thick soles. Very carefully roll your ankle out to the side on a ~2cm thick sole and stop as soon you feel any pain, this will be long before you reach your max range. When we stumble and we roll to the side in a thick sole at high speed, our ankle cannot handle the forces of our maximum range and we sprain it or worse. When barefoot or in footwear which mimics the barefoot state, we can roll our ankle to its max range and jump on its side without twisting our ankle. Its not impossible to twist your ankle barefoot, but it’s certainly a lot harder. So, whilst we don’t recommend swim run in VIVOBAREFOOT straight away, there are caveats to wearing shoes with thicker soles as well.

Want to know more?

Next week we will continue this story.

More about VIVOBAREFOOT here.

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