When in Cornwall with my friend Polly at the end of August I wondered why she was sitting on the floor to eat her dinner and why she wanted to go barefoot on our walk from Lostwithiel down the river to Fowey. She explained this was all due to Katy Bowman, her podcast and her philosophy of natural movement and going barefoot. Convinced, I ordered two pairs of minimal shoes, which I’ve been wearing ever since, and two of Bowman’s books: Whole Body Barefoot: Transitioning Well to Minimal Footwear and Move Your DNA: Restore your Health Through Natural Movement.
Whole Body Barefoot is filled with explanation about how modern shoes with heels tip the body forward and force us to be constantly correcting ourselves in order to stay upright, putting us into an unnatural position and one that isn’t good for our bodies. It compares how our ancestors walked, using the many bones and muscles in their feet, and contrasts this with the way modern shoes clamp our feet into an often squished and stable position where they move very little as we are cushioned from the lumps and bumps of the ground beneath. Bowman explains how to change to minimal or ‘barefoot’ shoes and how to transition into them safely, through preparing your legs and feet through strengthening exercises, ones I was glad to find I was already doing at Pilates three times a week. She also cautions against going straight into wearing barefoot shoes for hours on concrete, advise I am now heeding after my heels started complaining. After a month of wearing these, I can report that it is liberating to be able to wiggle your toes in your shoes and to feel the ground beneath your feet. It’s made my dog walks even better.
I went onto to read Move Your DNA, which argues that we’ve designed out movement from our homes and lives, turning us into desk-bound couch potatoes, whose bodies have forgotten how to move properly. Bowman says we need to replace a lifestyle where exercise happens two or three times in a week in an hour-long burst, if you’re lucky, and instead teaches that we need to focus on how we move every day – changing how we sleep, walk, stand and sit. It’s fascinating to hear how far Bowman has taken the doctrine, getting rid of most of her furniture so she sleeps on the floor, she and her family now sit on the floor, and she has even changed her hallway into an uneven surface like one you might find outside in the natural world. I’m certainly not going that far, though I am attempting to sit on the floor when watching TV.
These two books were a great way to kick-start some ‘September resolutions’ and Bowman’s approach is one that I imagine will become more and more popular as we realise that what we are doing to our bodies on a daily basis is harming them and is storing up problems ahead.