A new breed of footwear store is emerging. The passionate entrepreneurs leading the evolution are runners, life-long footwear pros, biomechanics specialists and even medical professionals. More than a place to buy shoes, these are centers created to help people to be injury-free and improve performance, by providing education and tools to allow the feet to move freely. The shoes sold in these centers are not accessories – though many feature cutting edge design and engineering – they are tools. Likewise, the staff are teachers who are living the barefoot lifestyle and reaping the benefits in health and performance.
One such linchpin is certified pedorthist Kyle Roberts, who has recently opened the doors at Revolution Natural Running and Walking Center just outside of Milwaukee. A specialist in lower extremity biomechanics and footwear counseling, Kyle is dedicated to foot health as the root of full body health. He works to help people find the right solution for their footwear needs and to keep them injury-free, regardless of age, size, or ability level.
A three-time Iron Man and active marathon runner, Kyle puts his knowledge to use for himself as well as others. Kyle began working minimalist and barefoot running into his own athletics and lifestyle, and after nine months of research and sourcing, opened Revolution. We recently spoke with Kyle, who will be an exclusive, regular columnist on our site.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I come from a strong background of never being barefoot. As a pedorthist, you start by making orthotics for yourself, and they feel great. As things change, you make another pair, and so on and so on. For six years, I wore orthotics inside of heavy trainers. I’d only take off my shoes to go to bed. This is Wisconsin; I was wearing the orthotics as much for warmth as comfort.
Now I have learned that there is a huge benefit to developing the neuromuscular control in the foot. Every day is a new experience with barefoot and minimalist shoes, and I have enjoyed learning every day from doing it. There’s so much excitement about barefoot footwear and activities, and we’re working on helping people to control it – we’re helping people to know what to do with the barefoot inspiration.
Why did you open Revolution Natural Running and Walking?
I’ve been working on the concept for 6-9 months. After attending a conference on running injury-free, I knew I had to open the Center.
What is your philosophy on barefoot – is it a lifestyle or an athletic choice? Both?
It’s both. Being barefoot benefits athletes and non-athletes alike because it allows them to strengthen the muscles in the feet that have atrophied from years of shoe use.
The biggest challenge is convincing people that they need stronger feet takes some time. Many athletes don’t want to hear it – after all, many have worn heavy trainers for years and have performed well, even through injury. Many of my patients claim that they don’t even have time for going barefoot, which is where the lifestyle piece and minimalist footwear comes in. Finding ways to help my patients get out of stiff, heavy soled shoes is the first step to helping them get strong.
This movement goes to the health benefit. I advise our customers and my patients to:
- Run with less shoe
- Migrate to less shoe
- Don’t be afraid to be barefoot
- Know that small changes add up to be huge
As a pedorthist, and especially as someone who works with orthotics, how do you see minimalist footwear and barefoot motion working as a part of a holistic approach to foot and whole body wellness?
In my own athletics, I started to realize that less shoe / less heel is better. As a pedorthist, I’m always working with athletes and people who thought they needed orthotics. When we acknowledged that they didn’t need built up inserts and shoes, I noticed that there was no place nearby to send people for good minimalist shoes. So, I opened it myself.
What shoes do you wear for everyday and activity?
If I’m not barefoot, I’m wearing as little shoe as possible. In fact, I recently ran a marathon in Five Fingers. I mostly wear Vivobarefoot and the Vibram FiveFingers. I’m also bringing Inov-8, and even thin, cheap water shoes into the mix.
What do you think? Have you made the switch from wearing orthotics to minimalist? Leave a comment below! Check back regularly for answers and tips from Kyle, The Revolution Doc!