Being exposed to nature and our incredible outdoor elements is like nothing else. The breath of clean crisp air, having that warmth of radiating heat from the sun piercing the skin or maybe even the smell of rain whilst the drops start to appear from the sky. The catching scenery to the eye that is never the same or that stress relief when you no longer hear the engine noises from passing cars. It’s all awakening to the senses which is so important for the body but also the mind. Being outdoors is my stress relief being so good for your mental health and providing a sense of achievement when you make it to the end of the journey.
My passion for being in the outdoors stemmed from a young age and followed me throughout high school attending an all-girls school which sparked my initial interest in hiking and activities outside. Being in a small school surrounded by strong and confident women enabled me to feel empowered and try something new. This involved being exposed to weekly sporting matches, great Victorian bike rides, various outdoor educational camps which brought new skills, and learning how to set up a tent in my back yard before leaving. All consisted of learning new talents, moving outside our comfort zone but also may laugh's and newfound confidence. Unfortunately, being outside and having previously been told to wear orthotics for flat feet followed many injuries from ankles, knees, and low back which at times stopped me from doing what I loved on many occasions.
I’m sure many of you can relate and if not I’m sure plenty of you have had a similar experience walking into those grand adventure retail stores with the ‘best’ equipment and hiking shoes. Only to be fitted and steered to purchasing a sole stiffer than my iron whilst being told it will help my feet not get tired. You will see the thick heel of cushioning which is sold so you ‘don’t feel the rocks under my feet’ and then the heavy amount of ankle support which is supposed to stop me from twisting my ankle. At the time I thought this was great, my family always helped me purchase the best and often the more expensive pair of walking shoes to make sure I was going to be in the best shape for any activity I was about to undertake.
Me wearing my Vivobarefoot Primus Lite in Japan
Many years later and a Chiropractic degree under my belt I have grown to value the body functioning and movement being such a key component of that. One of my main passions is assessing the health of individuals' feet and the effects this has up the chain of the body. Including how weak feet can contribute to poor ankle stability, tight claves, reduced hip mobility, and increased low back pain all resulting in poor posture and reduced function of the body. When observing the feet, it’s important to understand the value of movement to create strength. Our feet have just as many nerve endings, muscles, and joints that our hands do. We use our hands every day with no problems yet why do we constantly get told to support our feet?
Through movement, we create strength resulting in healthier and more stable structures in our body. The foot just like our wrist joint in the hand is designed to move and we rely on it every day. From little things like carrying our handbag, lifting the heavy pile of clothes into the washing machine that you forgot to do two weeks ago, or even as simple as drinking that lovely glass of red wine on a Friday night. We constantly rely on those structures to be strong enough to perform these activities hundreds of times in a day without the need to wear a glove or wrist band to support it. So why should this be any different for our feet?
Vivobarefoot Tracker FG in Botanical Green
// Barefoot lightweight hiking boot
About seven years ago when I decided to transition my feet to a healthier state, I found VIVOBAREFOOT. A UK company that produces footwear focused on light, flexible, wide fitting shoes to allow the feet to move and be in a natural state to strengthen. A slow transition was made to rehabilitate my foot health and regain strength which I had lost from so constant support.
With a newfound confidence and foot health, it was incredible how the body responded and moved when I was outdoors again. My feet never felt sore and tired after a long day of walking, I didn’t trip over surfaces and my postural aches and pains reduced. I gravitated to the VIVOBAREFOOT brand because they had a great range of lifestyle, performance but also outdoor shoes which included their waterproof Tracker boot suitable for long hikes and wet or cold conditions and their breathable Primus Trail which was great for any daily off-road or on-road activities.
When it comes to being in nature how common is it to approach an unknown, daunting, and sometimes scary surface that puts you and your body in a compromising situation? From fallen trees to climb over, the wet slippery rocks that you have to catch yourself on and those pesky uneven surfaces that can fall from under your feet at a rapid rate. To this, we need one of our most underrated senses and that’s balance. Balance comes from our vestibular system located in the inner ear. It receives movement and proprioceptive feedback that feeds our brain information about where we are in space. To adjust quickly in circumstances where the terrain changes a thin flexible sole that will move with our foot helps to send the correct information to the brain about its need to adjust or move. If the outer-sole is too heavy, padded, or cushioned the feedback system is dulled resulting in slower response times.
Moving to a minimal hiking shoe is designed to replicate the foot being in its most natural state, and what a more fitting combination when it comes to being outdoors in nature with a footwear brand such a VIVOBAREFOOT. These guys understand the foundations of the foot need to be strong, healthy, and natural to function well. Overall in a shoe closer to the ground your 200,000 plus nerve endings in the feet can fire and function. It’s useful for that sensory feedback to the brain about feeling and sensation under the feet, allowing us to be more in touch with our surroundings in nature. The foot's ability to move in a shoe helps with weight distribution and loading so whether you’re carrying a heavy pack or on your feet all day the foot if it is functioning correctly won’t get that tired and fatigue feeling as quickly.
Vivobarefoot Primus Trail FG Charcoal
// Barefoot Trail Shoe
I’m sure many of you may have concerns with a hiking shoe that steers away from everything you have ever been sold, but I can assure you that long hikes throughout Indonesia, Japan, Europe and more have been made more enjoyable by having a light shoe with flexibility so you don’t have to wear the shoes in with associated blisters. The wide fit of the range facilitates the foot to splay naturally and not get locked up. A wide-cut around the ankle of the hiking boots prevents the talus (main ankle joint) from being locked up so it is not only taking the even load from the foot when moving but also allows for you to adjust when standing on uneven surfaces.
Having comfortable footwear or clothing with long hikes or walks can affect your perception of the overall experience. I value having comfortable shoes and healthy feet to move through and make every outdoor adventure that much more enjoyable!
If you want to get your foot health assessed and start your journey to regaining foot movement and strength visit Sole Mechanics in Hampton Victoria. In-store, we have the technology to assess the current state of your foot whilst finding footwear including lifestyle, performance, and outdoor styles from VIVOBAREFOOT and other brands that will help you embark on a new journey.
Sole Mechanics at 481 Hampton St, Hampton VIC 3188