Barefoot shoes are designed to create barefoot-like conditions for your feet. These shoes are lightweight, very flexible, with no elevated heel and with wide toe box giving your toes much-needed wiggle room. This kind of shoes do not squash your feet, on the contrary, they enable your feet’s natural motion, allowing them to move and rest naturally. Absolute freedom and joy for your feet. In this article, we take a look at the most important features that determine the way you will feel in barefoot shoes.
The philosophy behind barefoot shoes is based on creating a barefoot-like feeling for your feet. Barefoot shoes are one of today’s must-haves, but one must be very careful when choosing barefoot shoes as the wrong choice may not be as health benefiting as one might wish. This is especially true when choosing barefoot shoes for children as their feet are still growing and shaping.
Barefoot shoes belong to a special category of footwear and cannot be compared to traditional footwear. Unfortunately, very few standard shoe shops (especially high street retailers) stock a full (or any) range of barefoot shoes for customers to try on. Therefore, you must keep in mind specific criteria when choosing barefoot shoes (different from those when buying standard ballerina shoes or running shoes).
Features of barefoot shoes
There are many different kinds of barefoot shoes available, but unfortunately one can find fake barefoot shoes (with barefoot only in their name with no barefoot qualities at all). Therefore, it is important to be able to distinguish between real barefoot shoes and fake ones. Real barefoot shoes have the following features:
1. Thin and flexible sole
The sole of a barefoot shoe must be flexible in all directions so your foot will have the freedom to move as nature intended and keep your muscles engaged in the right way. The sole must be 3-6 mm thin to authentically simulate barefoot-like conditions for your feet. With the sole this thin, you will feel the ground better (anything you walk on, grass, pavement or gravel), and get an improved sense of balance, all due to the right stimulation of receptors located on your feet. In barefoot shoes these receptors are more connected with the ground, so your body can respond better to all of the received stimuli and aid your movement patterns better.
2. Zero drop heels
The height difference between the heel and the toes is zero; the whole foot must be leveled. This way your feet are enabled to work naturally and keep your body alignment correct while walking or running. Frequent wearing of shoes with elevated heels can damage and shorten your Achilles heel.
3. Wide toe box (the front part of the shoe)
Barefoot shoes must have a wide and an anatomical toe box (the front part of the shoe) to allow enough room for toes. Shoes with narrow toe boxes disable foot muscles to engage properly which consequently leads to their weakening.
4. No orthotics /foot inserts
No cushioning underfoot is required (usually found in running shoes) because it limits the contact with the ground. The most amount of impact should be on the forefoot not on the heel. Barefoot shoes do not have orthotics/foot inserts, your feet are not unnaturally supported so they are allowed to move and work naturally, the same way as with no shoes on.
5. Lightweight construction
Barefoot shoes should have a lightweight construction but with a firm vamp protecting your toes while still feeling free.
Barefoot shoes for children
When choosing shoes for children, parents must be extra precautions as children are not able to consider everything by themselves, such as shoes are too tight or too loose, there is not enough room for toes etc. Research shows an alarming number – two-thirds of children wear the wrong size of shoes and half of these children suffer from deformities as a consequence. Children up to 10 years old cannot evaluate and tell you whether the shoe fits right. Therefore, it is important to know your child’s feet to be able to choose correctly. Before buying barefoot shoes, measure both feet first (yes, both feet, as feet are seldom identical).
How to measure a foot?
Place a piece of paper on even ground (avoid plush carpeting or pebbly surfaces)
Place your foot flat on the paper (you must be standing, not sitting, during measuring)
Put your weight in on your the foot as it makes it the foot longer
Take a pencil and mark the heel and the furthest point from the heel – the longest measurement
Use a ruler and measure the difference between these two points
Do the same for the second foot (difference might be +/- 0.5 cm)
The number you get is your foot size (not your shoe size, as standard shoe sizing may be misleading)
If you have an option to compare your measurement with an actual insole of the chosen shoe, do it. Compare the numbers (the length) and then step on it (to compare the width), your foot must not outreach in any direction.
Additional room number
Long story short – an “additional room number” measures the empty space between your longest toe and the shoe itself (the front point of the shoe). This is a very important number when buying barefoot shoes, especially for children. Take your foot size (the number you got when measuring both of your feet) then add 12 mm (the ideal “additional room number”). The total is the final number you are looking for. The “additional room number” can be up to 18 mm, but the shoe must still fit perfectly around your ankle.
Your feet should have enough room not only in the front but also on the sides. The width of the shoe must be at least identical to the width of your foot. Ideally, the width of the shoe is 0.2 cm – 0.5 cm wider than your foot.
To wrap it all up, when choosing barefoot shoes, you should use your foot size (not your shoe size) plus the “additional room number”. Always check the inner length of the shoe – not only the number – as it may vary depending on the manufacturer or different types of shoes. Every type of Lenka Barefoot shoes has its chart with sizes and inner lengths so you can choose easily the right size for you.