Years ago I read a Tim Ferris article that turned me onto Vivo Barefoot shoes and I haven’t looked back. Finding comfortable shoes that allow your feet to do what they need to do isn’t as easy as you’d think.
It was an image like the one below that surprised me. It shows how wearing regular western shoes physically changes the shape of your feet. This can result in all kinds of problems, but the main one is that it stops your feet from working in the way they’re supposed to work.
Proprioception is the body sensing itself and its surroundings and responding in an appropriate way.
If you’re running barefoot you’ll very quickly switch from landing on your heels to landing on the ball of your foot. The reason is that it hurts to land on your heels when there’s no padding between you and the earth. It makes total sense and you adjust without thinking about it.
Once you put half an inch of rubber between your feet and the ground you’ll happily bounce along on your heels but you’re no longer feeling the ground and you can’t respond in the same agile way as you can barefoot.
If you’re interested in the history of the running trainer check out Christopher McDougall’s amazing book Born To Run. Essentially all running shoes used to have flat soles until some bright spark figured that you could have a longer stride if you could reach out land on your heels. Modern trainers allow you to do that, but many times at the cost of bad technique.
Bass Drum Technique
If you’ve checked out my bass drum technique lesson you’ll note that I’m playing in socks.
For many years I bought trainers specifically for drumming and I’d choose ones with big thick soles. The reason for this was that it actually hurt me to play with thin soles. I used to play into the head and the pedal and I’d end up with bruised feet if I wasn’t careful.
After a while I came to the conclusion that it probably wasn’t a good thing that I could only play in certain shoes (trainers don’t look good with black tie!) and that it was probably down to having bad technique.
The solution was to learn to play barefoot so I could feel what the pedal was doing and respond accordingly. It’s the same argument for not wearing ski gloves while trying to play with sticks.
I started wearing Vivo Barefoot shoes after reading the Tim Ferris article and I haven’t looked back. I’ve had various pairs over the years and I wear them for everything from everyday walking around, to running, to drumming. The soles are very thin and flex in all directions. It’s a bit like walking around in slippers.
I remember going to the shop in Covent garden to pick up my first pair. I arrived in some thick-soled Nike trainers which I considered to be comfortable. I tried on the Vivo shoes and was surprised at how much of the ground I could feel. I bought them and left the store and after an hour of walking around my feet started to feel a bit tired and achey so I sat down.
I was dreading setting off walking again as I expected it to feel very uncomfortable having no padding. I was pleasantly surprised to discover it felt like my feet were being massaged. There’s something great about being able to feel the ground beneath your feet and once you get used to it it’s hard to go back.
Here’s my new pair of Vivos (left) and the ones I’ve worn every day for the last year. If you want to check out what else they have available head over to http://www.vivobarefoot.com/uk