Review: Whole Body Barefoot

In keeping with the spirit of New Year’s resolutions and self-improvements, the first book I started in 2019 was a book on health and fitness.  

Whole Body Barefoot, by biomechanist Katy Bowman, is a quick, simple read, but the implementation of her ideas is rather less so. I read the book in three days, and while Bowman’s ideas were scientifically-supported, her writing was simple, clear, and succinct.

She writes about transitioning to minimal footwear without causing damage to the rest of the body through that change. She argues for making the transition out of the stiff, confining, unnatural footwear that most of us have worn all our lives–what she refers to as “casts” for our feet.

Our modern lives, she says, are spent mostly in sitting or walking on unnaturally hard, flat surfaces, which affects our posture, pain level, and capacity for movement. In order to switch to barefoot shoes, we have to rehabilitate our feet, our stance, our posture…the way we move our whole body. We also have to introduce more movement to our lives.

Our feet need variety in texture and terrain. Bowman points out that in most cultures in most times, people have walked over rocks and roots, in mud and sand, and over mountain and river. Now, our lives are spent largely walking on flat, tiled floors or the hard pavement of the concrete jungle. What we need is to walk in the actual jungle…or on the dirt path or gravel trail, as we have access to.

Using Bowman’s exercises and techniques to correct my stance, I’ve already realized how much strain my MCL (medial collateral ligament) has been under for who-knows-how-long. Small wonder that it has been in nearly constant pain these last few years. I’ve also noticed that when I follow her instructions, a natural arch forms in my feet, which have needed orthotic arch-supports since I was a little kid.

Bowman’s book is short and simple, and her ideas are clear, making it easy for anyone to learn her techniques. Her ideas could have a large impact, however, which makes it more than worth the time and effort.

For anyone looking to make small but impactful steps towards greater health and wellness, Bowman’s little book points the way to a great path.

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