A few months ago I was contacted by Hunter House publishers and asked if I’d be willing to review a new book called “The Barefoot Book: 50 Great Reasons to Kick off Your Shoes.” The book, authored by Daniel Howell, Ph.D., is basically a thorough overview of the reasons why a person should consider adopting a barefoot lifestyle. It’s not a barefoot running book per se, though the topic is discussed, but moreso a treatise on all of the things that shoes do to harm us, and why going barefoot is better.
There’s a lot to like in this book – although I’m not a full-time barefoot kind of guy myself, I respect Howell for his devotion to the cause. Though it at times borders on idealistic, his discussion of the anatomical problems that shoes can cause are well done, his descriptions of the proper form and function of the foot are very readable and non lecture-like (he’s an anatomy professor like myself), and I agree with a lot of what is written in the book. Though I don’t go barefoot full-time, I do spend as much time as possible barefoot when at home, and generally prefer my shoes to be zero drop or nearly so when I run or go out and about, so we share common beliefs on those fronts. I also appreciate his discussion of the dangers of children’s shoes – as a father of three young children I encourage and allow them to be barefoot as much as possible, and am continually frustrated by the lack of anatomically shaped and non-heel-lifted children’s shoes. This is a problem in dire need of attention by shoe manufacturers – we need shoes that aren’t going to ruin our kids feet!
Howell does have a chapter in the book in which he discusses footwear for those occasions when shoes are an absolute necessity (he covers things like huaraches, moccasins, Vibram Fivefingers, Vivo Barefoot, etc.), but it’s clear that he views even these as necessary evils. As a result, I would not recommend this book for someone who is interested in minimalist running and has no interest in being barefoot. However, if you’re open-minded and have an interest in barefooting, or even if you just want to learn a bit more about problems with the design of modern shoes, then Howell’s book is well worth a read.