Are you new to barefoot-inspired footwear? If you have been wearing traditional shoes your entire life and are eager to experience a stronger, more responsive degree of movement, then SOM Footwear has the sporty and casual styles to please your every step. We have organized several tips and strategies for knowing what to expect from our shoes and how to get the most out of them when you first put them on.
What is barefoot-inspired footwear?
Barefoot-inspired shoes are designed to put your feet first and simulate what it would feel like to walk barefoot while enjoying the added protection for tackling harsher terrain. Traditional footwear has elevated heels that tilt the angle of your feet, tapered toe-boxes that squeeze together tour toes, and thick arch support systems that unnaturally bend the resting posture of your soles. We believe these over-engineered “features” of traditional athletic and casual footwear do a disservice to foot health by forcing feet into unnatural shapes that worsen balance, weaken endurance, and lessen our connection to our daily movements.
SOMs are designed in four key areas to restore your true step and put you back in touch with how you move:
Zero Drop Soles
All of our shoes use flat, zero drop soles, placing your feet level with the ground no matter stationary or in high-activity. When all points of the foot, from heel to toe, have equal contact with the terrain, not only does stability and balance improve, but by not having the forward-leaning tilt that elevated heels force upon our bodies, posture will straighten to a natural, up-right position.
Our wide toe-boxes give one of the greatest gifts toes could ask for…space. While traditional tapered shoes squeeze toes into an arrowhead shape, leading to rubbing, sweating, and blisters, SOM’s toe-boxes are spaced to fit the natural shape of the human foot: narrow at the heel and wide at the front. Room for toes to breathe not only benefits foot health, but strengthens our ability to walk longer without feeling sore.
Barefoot shoes are about natural movements, and just like our wide toe-boxes, by not forcing feet over the arch support hump of traditional footwear, your feet are always bending and moving how they were originally intended: flat to the ground and spread out. In addition to reshaping the foot, other shoe brands over-cushion their shoes’ interiors, creating insulated barriers between the body and the environment around it. We use a removable 2mm innersole, which can be switched out with a custom orthotic.
Our 8mm thick, polyurethane soles provide protection against rocks and uneven surfaces while maintaining flexibility for full-range of motion. However your feet want to bend, SOMs will not stand in their way. Traditional footwear can put so much rubber and tread beneath their shoes, they feel like they’re competing with Frankenstein's Monster for the most exaggerated step. Clomping feet cannot flex if they stumble or notice a change in the terrain and adjust.
Just like insulated arch support, the more padding and thickness between your soles and the ground, the less connection you have with where you’re stepping, like wearing pillows on your feet.
In SOMs, your feet are in control and aware of where they stand.
Your First Week in Your SOMs
Now that you’ve read about how SOMs are different, how will they feel when you first put them on? If you have worn traditional athletic or casual shoes your entire life, you will notice the changes right away. The minimal feel and flat design will be a completely new experience for your feet, which is why the first week is critical in taking it slow and allowing your feet time to adjust. Below are four helpful steps to take when your pair of SOMs arrive.
Don’t over-tighten the laces.
Lace up your SOMs comfortably, but do not over tighten. Our lightweight shoes are meant to disappear on your feet, and over-tightening the laces can put unwanted pressure across the top of the foot. If over-tightening is the only way to keep them from slipping off your feet, they are likely the wrong size, which leads into the next step.
Try out your SOMs indoors to ensure they are the right fit and size.
We use American standard sizing and have multiple ways to reference your size with our shoes, from a sizing chart to printable sizing outlines. While we recommend customers go with their usual shoe size when ordering, every foot is different, and sometimes the fit could be improved. Check our exchange and return policies for complete information on how we handle each. We don’t accept returns that were worn outside, so try on your pair indoors, on a clean surface, to see if they will be right for you.
Take it slow and allow your feet to adjust.
The size is right, and it’s time for your first SOM journey, but it’s important to not do too much too quickly, especially if you’ve never worn a barefoot shoe before. You have never moved in shoes without elevated heels, tapered toe-boxes and cushioned arch support, so to immediately jump into a five-mile hike will put unwanted stress on your feet as they adjust.
TAKE IT SLOW.
Walk around the block. Take on short distances in the beginning, and your feet will become stronger and more familiar with this natural way of walking. It won’t take long for that five-mile hike to be in reach.
Important Note for Runners
If you're planning on running in your SOMs, note that barefoot shoes are not designed for heel-strike running and will lead to discomfort if running is not adjusted to a front-foot style. For more information on running in SOMs, please check out Is SOM Footwear a running shoe?
Barefoot Shoes Are Not for Everyone
We want people to be comfortable in whatever footwear they choose, and while we believe putting as little between your feet and the ground is the truest way for strengthening feet and improving overall foot health, we acknowledge that our shoes are not for everyone. Some need arch support or thicker soles or lots of cushion in their footwear, and we wish them success in finding that perfect pair for them. Every person is unique and deserves shoes that represent this fact.
No matter what’s on our feet, staying active and exploring nature are the most crucial tasks any shoe can provide for us.