What if I told you that I read an incredibly funny book that is sophisticatedly written, based on real scientific data, easy-to-understand, and practical enough for daily use? You’d probably think I was crazy, but I’m not! Whole Body Barefoot is such a book, and I would strongly encourage every bipedal human being on the planet to pick up a copy.
I am guessing that you might be wondering what this book is all about. As the title indicates, it’s about our feet, but it’s more than that. Whole Body Barefoot holistically describes the relationship between our feet, spinal column and several muscles in our body. As a Personal Trainer who just recently attended a fascinating conference on the feet, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book.
I knew this book was going to further my understanding of the human foot, but what I didn’t expect was for Katy Bowman to be so funny. Her sense of humor energizes you and keeps you reading. My favorite moment was when she wrote, “we are to our ancestors as Chihuahuas are to wolves.” This statement made me laugh out loud. You too probably. I mean I understand that we sit too often, don’t exercise enough, eat for all the wrong reasons and then blame others, but Chihuahuas? This is simply hilarious and spot on.
Another moment of giggling came when Bowman once again poked fun at mankind for being so far removed from its ancestry by stating “your shoes are affecting more than your outfit.” Seems to Bowman that people are far more concerned with how they look than the stress they are placing on their body.
Take high heels for example. They are worn by men and women (wingtips are an example of heels for men) and they are usually worn when we are trying to look our best. Unfortunately, anytime you wear heels you change the way you would normally walk, run, or jog when compared to a more level shoe. Think stacking three dominoes under a small book. If you did so, the book would no longer sit level, it would be slanted slightly. The same happens to your body when you wear heels. You may not feel it, but your body is making compensatory skeletal adjustments from your ankle to your head (easy to understand diagrams are presented in the book to help visualize this concept). Nerve conduction and cardiovascular circulation are also affected by the shoes we wear.
I truly admire anyone who can make me laugh and learn at the same time, especially when it comes to my favorite subject of all, the body. I also enjoy someone who has the ability to take sophisticated and sometimes confusing terms or principles and break them down into practical bits of information that are applicable to daily life. Whole Body Barefoot does this time and again, and it’s one of the most important reasons I adore the book the so much. It gives you a lot of information that you can begin using right away to make a difference in your life. I know that I will be passing this knowledge on to my clients too.
Pronation is a great example of Bowman’s ability to educate. You may have heard your doctor or someone in a high-end shoe store for runners milling over this term. Pronation is when you take the sole of the foot and turn it outward, although usually not voluntarily. You can do this while standing, walking or running. When you do so, the weight of the body now rests on the inner edge of the foot. Bowman calls this phenomenon “schmear.” She coined the term herself and she uses it to discuss pronation in relation to its effect on the knee, hip, pelvis and on up the chain. Again, we are forced to understand that any malfunction at the foot effects the entire body.
With all of this new information provided, you are probably wondering how you might strengthen your feet and make them healthier. No worries. Over 50 pages of Whole Body Barefoot are dedicated to stretches and exercises for the feet. My favorite stretch is called Passive Toe Spreading. Start by crossing one leg over the other and placing fingers between toes. Once hands are interlaced with toes, hold for one minute. This stretch will mobilize the muscles, bones, and connective tissues in your feet. Heel raises and hiking on natural terrain (in the appropriate footwear) are great for strengthening the feet. There’s even an appendix with shoe recommendations for men and women. You will also find suggestions for further reading should you be so inclined.
When we understand our feet better, we understand our body better and when we understand our bodies better we have a chance of living better. Everything I learned in this book from the effects of high heels and pronation on the body to how to strengthen and stretch my feet are important factors that we should all be familiar with if we want to live our best lives physically. Pick up a copy of this book if you are interested in furthering your fitness journey because if you aren’t strengthening your feet then you run the risk of harming your entire body. I know that I will be using these concepts immediately in my daily life. Thanks to Whole Body Barefoot I can do this with a smile on my face.
“What you wear on your feet is a whole body issue and not limited to the feet at all.”