Now wait just a minute.
|Photo: Podiatry Today|
No one ever says "The evidence is inconclusive whether living without a neck brace is better than regular use of one."
Ever heard someone say, "Until we have evidence that going barehanded is more beneficial, best practice will be to recommend regular use of gloves."
See where I'm going with this?
I was in a Twitter conversation today with a barefoot supporter who said of the lifestyle, "We just need hard science to back it up, not just anecdotes." Many barefooters feel this way. My response?
No, actually we don't.
Really, since when do we need scientific evidence to use an inborn part of our bodies? How in the world did our society's thinking about feet become so "bass ackwards" that footwear supersedes our natural condition when it comes to the scientific burden of proof?
The feet we were born with are the baseline, friends. Why should we be forced to prove that we should be able use them the way they are?
We don't have studies showing why we should go barefoot, but we really don't need them. Barefoot is what we already are.
The onus is on those who claim we can't go barefoot. If footwear makes feet so much safer against injury, prove it. If arch supports improve the long-term health of the feet versus feet that never wear shoes, prove it.
- Prescription glasses and contact lenses alter our natural condition and improve our sight.
- Orthodontics effectively straighten the teeth and assist with their proper alignment.
- Cochlear implants give hearing ability to those who've lost it or never had it.
- Hip or knee replacement surgery gives pain-free mobility back to those who suffer from degeneration in these joints.
These results are proven. What's more, doctor's don't recommend those therapies above if you have 20/20 vision, straight teeth, you can hear, and/or your joints are fine.
On the flip side, listed below are a few widely-accepted results of healthy people regularly wearing footwear (and, I think, reasons that "experts" are reluctant to approach foot health from the baseline of our human condition):
- Footwear -- even sandals -- raises the temperature of the feet, causing sweating and providing optimal conditions for fungal growth.
- Shoes often squeeze or rub the feet in harmful ways, exacerbating or causing conditions such as bunions, hammer toes, neuromas, corns, blisters, and more.
- The soles of footwear block the feet from feeling textures and objects on the ground below (exteroception), eliminating our natural safety mechanisms and altering our ability to sense where our feet are in space (proprioception).
So we have a good idea about why we shouldn't wear shoes. Despite those issues above and so many more, podiatrists and other experts around the world still recommend that people regularly wear shoes and "avoid going barefoot."
"BUT WAIT!," you may shout. "What if we do find a problem with the feet that needs fixing? What if someone goes barefoot all of the time and still has fallen arches, plantar fasciitis, bunions or something else that orthotics or surgery could help with?"
In those cases, yes, research to discover the best therapy would be warranted -- and those data exist. Even still, it seems to me that the goal would be to use whatever physical therapy, bracing, taping, orthotics, or even surgery that can help rehabilitate their feet so that that going barefoot can continue as the default condition.
"BUT WAIT ONE MORE TIME!," you may shout. "Those with peripheral neuropathy and Raynaud's clearly shouldn't go barefoot in certain conditions because it could create a health risk for them. Footwear is the only therapy that can't prevent serious problems."
Look, I get it that living barefoot isn't the end-all be-all for everyone. I get it that it truly isn't advisable for some select people to be barefoot in specific circumstances.
The bottom line is that the burden of proof lies with those who think footwear, orthotics, arch supports, braces, taping, etc. is inherently better for everyday living than our own two feet. While these things can provide therapeutic relief from specific medical conditions, they should not be considered for long-term, everyday use. What's more, everyday use of footwear has been shown to be detrimental and each person should think critically about whether remaining barefoot -- the human condition -- might be the best option until proven otherwise.