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What even are barefoot shoes?

GROUNDIES Urban Barefootwear Barefootshoes

As you write to us, whether via e-mail or our social media channels, we keep seeing the same questions and misunderstandings regarding barefoot shoes. This is understandable given that the term barefoot shoe is an oxymoron: going barefoot while wearing shoes at the same time isn't actually possible.

A frequently-asked question: do you have to wear the shoes barefooted, without socks? The short answer is: socks are allowed! When they hear the term 'barefoot shoe', lots of people immediately think of conspicuous toe shoes.

The 'barefoot' in barefoot shoes has much more to do with the feeling provided by the shoes, which comes as close to barefoot running as is possible while wearing shoes. Barefoot shoes seek to restrict the foot's natural freedom of movement as little as possible. This is why you'll often hear the term 'minimal shoe'. In order to be a clear as possible, we'll explain below what exactly makes a good barefoot shoe.

GROUNDIES Urban Barefootwear Barefootshoes

Zero drop

The 'heel drop' of a shoe refers to the height difference between the area at the front of the shoe and the area under the heel of the foot. Barefoot shoes come without heel drop, so the heel of the foot is not lifted up or otherwise elevated. The sole has the same thickness along its entire length. This means that the whole foot is flat against the ground, the same as when going barefoot.

GROUNDIES Urban Barefootwear Barefootshoes

Thin soles

Barefoot shoes have a very thin sole. The wearer of the shoe should be able to feel the ground beneath their feet. Similar to the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet have a huge number of nerve endings which provide information about their surroundings to the brain. This information, so-called 'sensory feedback', influences our sense of balance and spatial orientation. The thickness of a GROUNDIES sole is only 6.3mm.

GROUNDIES Urban Barefootwear Barefootshoes

Lightness and flexibility

The flexibility of the sole is just as important as its thickness. The mobility of the shoe is determined by the material of the sole. The material of the upper should be just as light and flexible.

GROUNDIES Urban Barefootwear Barefootshoes

Wide toe box

Most conventional shoes get narrower towards the front - not just fashionable ladies' pumps, but also totally normal sneakers. This doesn't match the shape of our feet and means that the toes are squashed into an unnatural shape. As a result, freedom of movement and stability are limited. The toe box of barefoot shoes is particularly wide and shaped to match the foot. This allows the toes to grip the ground and naturally spread out while walking.

GROUNDIES Urban Barefootwear Barefootshoes

No support

Traditional shoes usually include some kind of cushioning, padding or inlay. The intention is to support and make things easier for the foot as it works. This support certainly seems positive at first glance. If the foot doesn't have to do any work, however, it grows weaker over time. It remains in 'sleep mode' when walking, even while it's in motion. Barefoot shoes deliberately leave out any kind of support. The means that the foot (re)learns to support itself. It grows strong and powerful over time.