Barefoot walking has been associated with e.g. reduced back pain, improved blood circulation and good night sleep. The main purpose of barefoot shoes is to provide feet with protection against cuts, abrasions, frostbite and parasites. In the following lines you’ll find my experiences of using Feelmax® “Panka” barefoot shoes for the first ten days during which snow melted and grass became green.
After few days, it’s time to wear Pankas again. Ice has started to melt and streets are wet and quite slippery. During my walk to the office it drizzles but to my surprise socks remain dry. However, legs got wet because Pankas do not have heels like in my normal shoes. From now on, I will fold my legs of my trousers when I use Pankas. My way of walking has already changed. Heel strike is weaker, gait has become more flexible. Small stones did not cause painful stings in my heels. Couple of kilometers walk today.
Heel strike has continued to weaken. During my less-than-a-kilometre walk to the office my feet did not get cold although the streets are still icy. I’m eagerly waiting for a chance to try Pankas on grass and forest trails. At the office I noticed that Panka-walking is virtually silent, almost as if one was walking with socks. I managed to sneak into my wife’s office and got rewarded with an excellent shriek.
Panka-walking in the city centre of Oulu. Walking feels quite natural already. In the city centre thin soles feel a bit unsafe. I keep looking for broken glass and other dangers of urban environment. Although Continental rubber composite sole is thin manufacturer promises that it is very durable. I asked about the protection the shoes provides to my feet from the manufacturer and they replied very quickly to my email. Sharp objects like nails and broken glass can penetrate the sole. On the other hand people running with Pankas have ran over broken glass with no problems. Customer service told that they haven’t got any reclamations concerning problems caused by sharp objects.
Only today I realized that Pankas have pads. They bring a bit more thickness to the mentioned 1.3 mm. In the store I also tried Feelmax® “Osma 2” barefoot shoes that have slightly thicker (2.5 mm) rubber sole. I eventually chose Panka’s because I wanted as authentic barefoot experience as possible.
My heel strike has almost disappeared on flat surfaces. On the up and downhills - the few that we have in Oulu area - I hit the ground always with the ball of my foot first. Today, I found myself walking on asphalted bikeway instead of nearby sweep of lawn, newly uncovered by vernal sunshine. I took a couple of trial steps on brown-gray grass - felt like walking on cotton wool.
Today, I’m taking my first longer Panka-walk. When I’m on a forest trail, I notice myself trying to spot all possible small stones, twigs and pine cones to step on them to get more lovely massage for my soles, which now feel vivid and strong. I notice that stride length has decreased along with the change in gate style. Consequently, pedometer needs to be calibrated. I was pretty sure, that 11 km walk with Pankas would cause some pain, but afterwards my feet feel rested and ...revived! Not a slightest sign of stress.
Again, Panka-walking to the office in the morning and back home in the evening. I assume, that I’ve started barefoot walking in just about the right way. There has always been one or two days break between the Panka-walks. There are certain exercises (video) that can be used to strengthen the feet for barefoot experience, but I’ve never felt that I needed any.
|Panka's construction is extremely light|
Although Panka-like barefoot shoes can be readily used in office work environment, they are not suitable for construction or industrial sites where feet must be protected from e.g. falling hammers and wrenches, and dangers of getting squashed between moving things. On the other hand, due to their lightness, Pankas are a nice option as evening shoes for camino and other hikes.
Along with the use of barefoot shoes, I’ve been increasingly going barefoot at home and in the garden. My feet have grown stronger and more ...aware, so to speak. Today, for some reason, I wore regular jogging shoes for a while. It felt like my feet were treated by some medieval device, like some horrible torture gadget from the time of Spanish Inquisition.