What do footprints tell us about our foot health?

What do footprints tell us about our foot health?

What do our footprints tell us about our foot health?

I have been doing a lot of walking on the beach at low tide this year and been reflecting on the footprints I leave behind. Whether clad in boots, my reliable Vivobarefoot Trackers, or whenever possible, savouring the sensation of walking barefoot, the varied imprints of my companions and I offer a fascinating glimpse into our foot health.


Arch Insights and the Importance of Barefoot Shoes

One of the first things that catches my eye is the arch of the foot visible in these footprints. A flatter foot leaves a more complete impression, indicating more of the foot's middle, making contact with the ground. Conversely, a higher arch, results in less of a footprint in the centre, with only a narrow strip of the outer foot sometimes making contact.


The topic of foot arches, or the absence thereof, is a frequent point of concern. Many parents worry about their children's flat feet or feet that appear to roll inward.

Thankfully, we often reassure them that this is typically not alarming. Many young children have flat feet because their arch muscles are still developing, a process during which most will eventually develop a normal arch.

On the flip side, a high arch can lead to stiffer feet, as discussed by Katy Bowman in 'Rethink Your Position.' She further identifies that this can mean ‘the ankles end up bearing quite a load’ making them more susceptible to injury. She recommends working to increase flexibility in the arch to better support the ankles. Emphasizing natural movement, barefoot walking, especially on textured surfaces, supports this flexibility.

This aligns with the philosophy behind barefoot shoes, which are designed to emulate walking barefoot, thereby encouraging the natural strengthening and flexibility of the foot's muscles. Food for thought if you are prone to turning and spraining your ankle. Interestingly, this was a common occurrence for me in my pre-barefoot days but something that rarely happens anymore.

Vivobarefoot Women's Tracker Winter Boots Obsidian

Vivobarefoot Women's Tracker Winter Boots Obsidian



Vivobarefoot Men's Tracker Textile Boots Obsidian | Happy Little Soles

Vivobarefoot Men's Tracker Textile Boots Obsidian


The Evolution of Barefoot Footwear

As with any muscle the arch needs to be used to develop and strengthen. This happens naturally through childhood play and lots of barefoot time.

Children's foot health

Barefoot footwear can also support this process and the advent of barefoot shoes with flexible soles has marked a significant shift in how we approach foot health.

Bobux Xplorer Go Sand

Bobux Xplorer Go Sand

These comfortable shoes, which serve as the perfect shoe option for everyday use, promote natural movement and can dramatically improve foot health.

Bobux Xplorer Go Sand

Bobux Xplorer Go Sand

Even for adults previously confined to traditional, structured shoes. In order to improve foot health for adults Bowman recommends stretching of the calves and legs and using a ball to massage the foot. I always suggest her books to anyone wanting a programme of foot exercises, particularly her ‘Simple Steps to Foot Pain Relief, The New Science of Healthy Feet’.


Beyond Arches: Natural Movement and Foot Health

Moving beyond arch health, footprints can reveal other aspects, such as the tendency for toe-walking in young walkers. In her excellent book, ‘Finding their Feet’, Bernie Landels notes that toe-walking is very common for the novice walker as they ‘totter around up on the balls of their feet’ and is something that most children grow out of by the age of five years. She states that the cause of it is often unknown but may be driven by sensitivities or primitive reflexes.

Another area that I remain fascinated by is the position of the big toe in relation to the rest of the foot and the impact of footwear choices on conditions like bunions. My mother, with whom I walk regularly, has terrible bunions and from a young age I was terrified of getting them as we are commonly told they are genetic. Fortunately, I now know that only a small number of bunions have a genetic link, and that the vast majority are attributable to poor footwear choices. When we wear shoes that are too narrow for us the big toe is pushed too close to the other toes which puts undue pressure on the base of the big toe. If we add to this a high heel which again pushes the weight of the body forward, you end up with a lot of pressure on this joint. A bunion is the bodies response to help itself support this pressure.

In my children, who were in barefoot shoes from a young age, the big toe is well spaced from the little toes, and you see a real gap as they walk, allowing their big toe to really work well as a stabiliser as they move. The alignment and spacing of the toes, particularly noticeable in those wearing barefoot footwear from an early age, highlight the preventative benefits against common foot issues.

Bobux SU Xplorer Go Navy

Bobux SU Xplorer Go Navy



Our footprints offer a wealth of information about our foot health, allowing us to really identify foot health issues and underscoring the significant benefits of walking barefoot. For situations where walking barefoot isn’t possible, then barefoot shoes, celebrated for their flexible soles and comfortable design, can be pivotal in encouraging the foot's natural movement and preventing various foot problems. For anyone interested in delving deeper into foot health, I would highly recommend the books in the reference list below, along with the many articles on our website. Meanwhile, let's embrace the journey towards healthier feet, propelled by natural movement and the unique advantages of barefoot shoes. Happy walking!


Katy Bowman (2016) Simple Steps to Foot Pain Relief, The New Science of Healthy Feet, BenBella Books Inc

Katy Bowman (2015) Whole Body Barefoot, Propriometrics Press

Katy Bowman (2023) Rethink Your Position, Propriometrics Press

Bernie Landels (2022) Finding their Feet, Indie Experts