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The Benefits of Barefoot Shoes

How wearing barefoot shoes can benefit not only your feet, but your entire body - and add a lil spark of joy to your life every single day.

Xero shoes in a tree benefits of barefoot shoes

Table of Contents:

If you’re on this site, you’ve probably heard of barefoot shoes. Maybe you’re a seasoned barefooter, or maybe you’re just curious about the benefits you’ve been hearing about and considering making the switch. It can understandably be a confusing topic, given that “arch support!” and “cushioning!” have been marketed to all of humanity for the past 50-60 years. We’ve been told over and over (by shoe companies and our friends!) that our feet need quality, supportive shoes to avoid injury and walk or run comfortably. And for the most part, we’ve blindly believed that advice.

But does science back this up, or does it actually give us evidence for the benefits of wearing barefoot shoes?

Think about this:

  • Your foot is one of your body’s most complex structures, boasting 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

  • You have about 8,000 nerves in your feet. (That’s more than anywhere else on your body!)

  • The arches of your feet are beautifully designed to provide shock absorption, stability and flexibility.

  • Your feet have built-in padding! There are stores of fat located on the bottom of your feet, providing protection and distributing your body weight perfectly.

Your body is flippin’ amazing.

With this info in your mind, picture the brilliant and meticulously designed anatomy of your foot… and now put it in a shoe.

natural foot vs shod foot benefits of barefoot shoes

Image: @Vivobarefoot

The mobility of all your joints is immediately limited, your toes are squished together and unable to splay out for stability, the muscles in your arches don’t need to work because they are being held in place by arch support, and those thousands of amazing little nerve endings are shut off from external stimulation.

If you’ve ever had to wear a cast, you know that it only takes a matter of weeks for the casted muscle to atrophy. So if you’ve been wearing shoes with arch support for years, chances are your feet need to beef up a bit. Or maybe a lot a bit.

(Don’t go too crazy if you decide to transition - take it slow and be kind to your body as you give your feet time to adjust to the new demands you’re placing on them! Read my suggestions on how to transition here.)

Once you’re ready to start strengthening your feet and switching to barefoot shoes, you can expect these benefits:

Strengthening of foot muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

After years of walking around in foot coffins (aka regular shoes), it’s gonna take some time to rebuild the strength and functionality that you were born to have. Be patient, take it slow, and read this guide on how to make the transition. Since your body was designed to adapt to the demands you place upon it, your feet will absolutely be stronger and healthier after you've invested some time and effort.

Increased foot flexibility and mobility.

When your feet are free, you’ll naturally develop more foot flexibility as you move around without restrictive footwear! Your toes will feel so happy with all the extra space they were meant to have in the first place.

Enhanced balance and stability.

This is BIG one, especially for those of us who are moving into our older years. Once your feet are up to par and unencumbered by unnecessary cushioning and elevated heels, you are much less likely to lose your balance and fall - and if you do, you’ll have a greater chance of catching yourself. (I’m still trying to convince my mom to make the switch - c’mon, mom!)

Improved proprioception and body awareness.

With barefoot shoes, you’ll be more aware of your body and how it moves around in the world. This will, again, decrease your likelihood of accidentally falling. And you'll feel like a badass.

Promotion of a natural and efficient walking or running gait.

Did you know that the shoes we wear truly affect how we walk and run? Cushioned and raised heels really do alter the way nature intends for us to move! And yes, the raised heel on the bottom of your running shoe totally counts. Wearing barefoot shoes will actually make your body more efficient - meaning less energy spent on a walk or a run - meaning you can walk or run much longer before getting fatigued.

Reduced impact on joints and lower risk of injuries.

When there isn’t much man-made padding between the bottom of your foot and the ground, you’ll naturally be more mindful of how hard you slam your foot onto the pavement with each step. It’s worth noting that even though the cushion of a traditional shoe does provide a bit of a, well, cushion, the impact on your knees and hips is still the same. This amounts to inevitable injuries over time.

Prevention of foot deformities and pressure points.

Bunions, anyone? Contrary to popular belief, bunions are NOT hereditary! Though you may have some predisposing factors such as a wider angle between your first and second metatarsils (foot bones) and/or hypermobility, that doesn't mean you will develop bunions. The footwear you jam your tootsies into day and in and day out throughout your life is what shapes your feet. One lovely benefit of wearing barefoot shoes is that you can actually reverse some of these unsightly and painful effects. You may not be able to completely reverse your bunions, but I have seen some people make dramatic improvements. (There are also tools like Correct Toes and Toe Expanders to help expedite the process. And here's an identical but less expensive version of toe spacers!

Heightened foot sensitivity to textures, temperatures, and contours

Nature gave us all those nerve endings on the bottom of our feet for a reason! Once you initially de-shod, the different sensations of the ground may feel overwhelming. Thankfully, barefoot shoes do provide a bit of a buffer. The thinner the sole, the more bumps and rocks you’ll feel beneath your feet. So if you’re a newbie (or a “newb” as my 10-year-old son would say), start with thicker soles to get used to all the changes.

Restoration of the connection between feet and the natural environment.

The closer your feet are to the earth, the more aware your body will be of changes in the terrain. All your senses will be heightened and you’ll be able to respond more quickly and safely to an unexpected bump in the road. (I used to be a chronic ankle-sprainer, and have yet to suffer a sprain since I’ve switched over!)

Lightweight, flexible, and durable design.

The low weight and bulk of barefoot shoes make them perfect for people on the go - whether you’re boppin’ around town or traveling the world. And because you don’t have to worry about replacing your shoes when the cushion on the bottom starts to wear out, a pair of barefoot shoes could last you years and years, making them an incredibly sustainable option for a simple, low-waste lifestyle.

Promotion of proper foot alignment and posture.

Our feet are literally the foundation of our whole body, and adding even a tiny bit of a raised heel affects the alignment of every part of us. Wearing traditional shoes over time can cause pelvic floor and core issues (because the heel lift messes with pelvic tilt and encourages rib thrusting, and an array of injuries related to how we’re moving our body outside of nature’s design). A raised heel also encourages us to stand with more weight on our forefoot rather than our heel. If you look at the bony structures of our feet, it’s clear that our big fat heel bone was designed to bear the majority of our weight rather than the tiny little bones down by our toes.

barefoot vs shod foot alignment benefits of barefoot shoes

Potential alleviation of foot pain and discomfort.

Though the transition to barefoot shoes can be a long one with lots of ups and downs, for me, I went from years of frustrating chronic foot pain to having strong and supple feet that don’t cause me an ounce of trouble anymore (plus I can run again! And I’m stronger than I’ve ever been now in my 40’s). I can’t emphasize enough the need to take your transition slow, but once your feet achieve full strength and functionality, it will all have been worth it, I promise.

Potential improvement in overall body mechanics and performance.

Because the natural results of wearing barefoot shoes are increased foot strength and better body alignment, all of your daily movements are going to become optimized. You’ll be surprised at your old, nagging aches and pains that disappear as your body becomes accustomed to moving around in the world as it was designed to! And if you’re an athlete, be prepared for improved performance. (Graham Tuttle is a great resource.)

Embracing a more minimalist and sustainable lifestyle.

One of the super cool things about barefoot shoes is that they all have the same qualifications for how they should fit your foot (no raised heel, thin sole, flexible, strapped securely to your foot, etc). Which means that if my dog escapes her leash while I’m wearing my Mary Jane’s, I can sprint away to catch her without worrying about my footwear flying off or slowing me down. It also means that one pair of shoes or sandals can be suitable for a variety of activities. In the summer, Earth Runners are my go-to for almost every event: walks, runs, hikes, bike rides, casual dates, etc. This is an amazing benefit of barefoot shoes if you’re interested in a minimalist lifestyle, because it means that you really only need a few pairs, tops.


I could go on and on about the benefits of wearing barefoot shoes, but my true hope is that you’ll consider trying it out yourself. If you’re curious to learn more, hop on over to my post on How To Transition to Barefoot Shoes for a step-by-step guide.

From healing old injuries, to being able to run around on the playground with my kiddos, to feeling strong and confident as I move about the world, I will never look back. It’s one of the most transformative lifestyle changes I’ve ever made, and I hope that becomes true of you, too!

Your Barefoot Guide,


PS. Leave a comment below and let me know what benefits of wearing barefoot shoes you’ve experienced, or what changes you’d love to see in your body if you haven’t gotten there yet!



Hey, I'm Kim!

I'm so happy you're here.

I believe that your feet are the foundation for full body strength, and living a barefoot lifestyle is key to moving through your years with joy and freedom.

Join me as we live our best barefoot lives together.


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