A few words with....
Ian Bea is the proud owner of Vivobarefoot Brussels, a minimalist footwear store franchised from Vivobarefoot UK.
An engineer by training, he is passionate about fitness and healthy living and through his ‘Barefoot Awareness’ workshops he encourages everyone to ditch their conventional footwear and realise the benefits of barefoot shoes.
This month we catch up with him at his store in Brussels to ask him what all the fuss is about....
What made you decide to start promoting and selling minimalistic shoes?
I found out that a lot of aches and pains that I had been experiencing during sport and movement were caused by badly designed shoes. I looked at my old conventional shoes and told myself, this is all wrong. I found that by going to minimalist shoes or simply being barefoot, a lot of those aches and pains were resolved. I figured if I was having this problem, probably many other people are too. So, I decided to establish Vivobarefoot Brussels. I want everybody to have healthy feet.
Why is it important to wear ‘flat’ shoes or to go barefoot more often? A lot of us have heard that you always need ‘a good supportive shoe’…?
Our feet evolved over millions of years to be the best locomotion technology for our bodies. Being barefoot lets the feet use all of its complex parts. Strong, healthy feet are all we need to move effectively and efficiently. Anything that we put it in alters the foot function in one way or another. Support is unnecessary unless one is unluckily born with bad anatomy. Putting good feet in unnecessary support weakens them. The solution is simple and it’s here.
What exactly are a minimal shoe, a barefoot shoe, and a zero drop?
A minimalist shoe or a barefoot shoe is the same thing to me. It’s a shoe that has the least interference with the foot function. A good minimalist shoe needs to have the following characteristics:
a) Lets you feel underfoot. (thinnest possible sole for the purpose)
b) Neutral foot position (that’s the zero drop)
c) Unrestricted movement
d) Environmental protection (heat, cold, cuts)
e) Grip (more or less of it depending on objective)
Some people might say why bother with shoes at all? Why not go barefoot all the time?
Well unfortunately there is still such a thing as sub-zero and desert-like burning temperatures. There’s broken glass and tough pointy objects one cannot always see. And there’s also social acceptance and hygiene : )
What makes Vivobarefoot stand out versus other brands?
I like Vivobarefoot shoes because I find that they can fit a broad range of people (including myself!). I also like their work on innovation, their sustainability principles, and their social responsibility projects.
What does your average customer look like?
They come from diverse backgrounds in education, in profession, and since we are in Brussels, from all nationalities. But the main thing that all my customers have in common is that they are concerned with their wellness. They too have figured out that what they put on their feet affects their entire body and they want to do something about it.
Would you recommend that people run in more minimal shoes?
Definitely. 100%. Everybody started out being able to run barefoot. But years and decades of putting their feet in bad shoes have made their feet weak and deformed.
Everybody can regain their foot capability and strength to run barefoot or in minimalist shoes. However, depending on the state of ‘damage’ or weakness of one’s foot, I recommend starting cautiously but with determination.
So how should you get started? What is a good way to transition in to more minimal footwear?
The most important thing is to start with an open mind. In our Barefoot Awareness Workshops, we explain more about feet and shoes, what exercises are great to start with, and practical steps people can take every day to make the journey back to healthy feet a pleasant one.
Are minimal shoes also suitable for children?
Yes absolutely. With children there is nothing to ‘fix’, nothing to re-educate. Give them the shoes and off they go and play and enjoy foot freedom for the rest of their lives.
How can people find you or connect with you?
Any last words...?
Yes - Change happens when you do something about it RIGHT NOW.
I encourage everybody to try even just one of our barefoot shoes. It might just change your life!