The "Achilles heel" of the Barefoot Movement

May 07, 2021

The notion that barefoot footwear is a panacea for the majority of dysfunctions in the body is about as farfetched as claiming that pigs can fly.

The barefoot movement (defined here as the belief that barefoot and minimal footwear is better than supportive footwear) is by all means a useful and needed movement within the fitness and rehabilitative industries - in particular due to the pervasive and prolific use of highly supportive footwear.


There are populations that because of their age, physical condition, genetic predisposition, injury history, etc.. May in fact be intolerant to the stresses associated with a barefoot approach. In fact when dosed inappropriately, a barefoot approach has been the catalyst of certain injuries such as hairline fractures and various degrees of tendinopathy.

You may have heard the expression "exercise is medicine" or "movement is medicine".

These metaphors are quite accurate because exercise, like medicine, creates dose-dependent responses. Too little and we're not addressing the problem, and too much can lead to overdose. Exercise is the same. All facets of exercise are not inherently good for anybody - the dose and the context within which it happens is what determines whether it's appropriate or not. 

As an industry we must stop becoming over-infatuated with a given tool or belief system, and we must view these interventions for what they are, as context-dependent strategies.

We must ask ourselves... "How do these tools differ?", "Which of these tools best supports my client's desires & needs?"

We cannot have a  conversation about whether "barefoot running is good or not" without taking into consideration the context within which we're operating - in this case a person, their goals, history, and more.

Start with the client, and everything flows outwards from there.

The Exercise Mechanic Team


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