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Letting Those Piggies Breathe: 2 Years of Barefoot Living for Foot Health and Improving Your Life

Updated: 1 day ago


Sketches of feet with and without shoes
Sketches of feet with and without shoes

A couple of years ago I realized that my feet were not happy. Not happy at all. I needed to address my foot health in order to improve my life. I am a pretty active guy. Who had reached the point where my foot health was negatively impacting my desire to live an active lifestyle. I had always expected my feet to simply hold up while running, biking, or hiking, because it is what feet do. They just get you there. Sadly, I learned the hard way that when they are mistreated, feet don't "just get you there." Something had to change.


My Wake-up Call


All was well with my world… until it wasn’t. I started experiencing stinging and burning pain between the 2nd and 3rd toes on my left foot. It got so painful, I finally ended up at the doctor to figure out what was going on. Turns out, I have naturally narrow feet, due to my weight and build. I had been spending most of my time in Converse, specifically because I liked that they didn't slosh around. They hug my feet nicely. As a side effect of snug shoes, my feet bones were getting squeezed closer and closer together. Over time my foot became so narrow that my bones were pinching a nerve causing intense pain. My feet matched the image in Sketch A.

The Proposed Solution and My Response:

The doctor suggested an on-going injection schedule to relieve pain, foot supports in a good pair of tennis shoes, and directed me to really limit my barefoot time. While it's his professional opinion, it wasn't a done deal solution for me. I am a curious guy, so I did some digging into what good foot health ACTUALLY means to see if I could find a more holistic option.


Take a Closer Look at Your Feet and Overall Foot Health

In my curiosity, I learned that our feet are amazingly complex structures made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Years of wear and tear, ill-fitting shoes, and neglect can lead to foot problems that can impact our ability to move and enjoy life fully.


Which led me to ask: What if I had never put shoes on? What happens to people who live their entire lives barefoot? Turns out those people have nicely splayed feet and toes and have feet like Sketch B.

What did I do?


My first priority was to get the pain to stop. I bought some Yoga Toes (Amazon Affiliate Link) thinking it would help to gently start separating the bones, and I felt like my feet were getting ripped apart. I could only keep them on for just a few minutes at first. It was INSANE, which let me know exactly how out of alignment my toes really were. That was around 2 years ago. I can now wear them for as long as I like without issue. I also stopped wearing ill-fitting shoes and started stretching exercises to loosen up the muscles, tendons and ligaments so that the bones could stay separated. Otherwise they would simply pull back together. It meant a full-stop to wearing shoes like in Sketch A. I now rock Vibram 5 finger shoes (Amazon Affiliate Link) for times when I need something substantial.


How Long Did it Take? With the Yoga Toes, stretching, and a refusal to put narrow shoes on again/ living a mostly barefoot life, I was able to stop the nerve pain within a month. It was just gone. In fact, I don’t know when it actually left. I simply realized one day that I was no longer in pain. That was a great day! After the pain stopped, I slacked off on using the Yoga Toes and active stretching because… I’m human. However, I did stay barefoot 90% of the time for the next 2 years. I luckily live in Florida where the weather and culture supports bare feet living, and I purchased foot friendly shoes for when I needed to cover my feet.


After a few months of easy living, I started hiking barefoot and eventually running barefoot. I can now run many miles barefoot on gravel roads, hiking trails, and city sidewalks. I haven't had any nerve pain since. As I've learned more and more about my feet and foot health in general, I've reincorporated my Yoga Toes and stretches into my normal routine's rotation, even if it isn't a daily practice.


Working on Your Foot Posture and Health

I’m now using the Yoga Toes a couple of times a week and actively taking notice of and working on how I stand and move on my feet. As a result, my feet/toes are gloriously splaying out like nature intended, getting closer and closer to Sketch B!


I created a video of my foot, ankle, and calf massage here for you to see how to work it out between sessions.



References:

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Steve Wooten
Steve Wooten
Jul 27, 2023

Feel free to ping me on the site or through chat if you have any questions or feedback.

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