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Fargo-Moorhead Foot Health with Ryan Bothun of Bearfoot Athletics

Ryan Bothun, Co-Founder of Bearfoot Shoes

Photo Courtesy of Ryan Bothun

Bearfoot Shoes, Ryan’s co-founded local company, specializes in promoting proper foot function to help people move better through functional footwear and other foot health products. The Bearfoot team has expertise in biomechanics, injury prevention, rehabilitation and physical fitness. World-renowned biomechanist, coach and inventor, Chris Duffin, co-founded the company along with Ryan. Chris’ approach was developed as he worked with some of the top medical professionals in the field!

Why is it important?
“The feet are our primary base of support and the platform through which we perform most of our movements. The function, control and strength of your feet and your ankles can impact the joints up the chain of your body such as the knees, hips, back, etc., as they compensate for any dysfunctions below.”

“The feet are far more important than people tend to realize, as aches and pains that are present elsewhere in the body can be caused by issues in the feet.”

“Caving of the feet can cause the knees to compensate and change their alignment, which in turn can affect the hips, which could potentially affect back pain, We like to look at the body as an interconnected system instead of focusing on one piece of that system.”

3 Things You Might Not Know

  • “Many foot problems are caused by footwear.”
  • “Dysfunctional feet can lead to pain elsewhere in the body.”
  • “Feet can be trained, strengthened and made more resilient, just like any other part of the body!”

We tend to treat our feet differently than the rest of the body, either by ignoring them completely or by coddlling them so much that they weaken and atrophy. It is time that more people think of them as something we can train strengthen and improve.”

– Ryan Bothun, Co-Founder of Bearfoot Shoes

Tips For Your Toes! (Or, Your Foot Health)

  • “Gradually spending more time barefoot will strengthen your feet.”
  • “Toe spacers can be a great tool for relieving pain or recovering your toe alignment after being cramped in tight footwear. They feel great after wearing ski boots all day!”
  • “Perform some basic foot stretches: fingers in between your toes for toe splay, stretch toes in dorsiflexion (up), stretch toes in plantar flexion (down).”
  • “Do not overwork your feet. Train them gradually like any other part of the body. Tired is okay, pain is bad, and you need recovery.”

Local Care

“The vast majority [of these tips] can be practiced at home with zero equipment, which is the beauty of working on your foot health. If you need a place to walk or move around beyond the home, go outdoors or to the gym.”

Ryan owns Apex Fitness, located in Moorhead. Although Ryan says just about any space will do for your exercise, you could try out Apex! Here’s what he likes about it:

  • Has the basics for being active: treadmills, bikes, free weights, resistance machines and more.
  • Also has special tools and equipment designed for better movement beyond the typical equipment, an example of this is the Kabuki Strength barbells, which are designed to be more ergonomic than standard barbells.
  • 24/7 facility is kept clean and is meant for beginners through competitive lifters alike. Plus, for any competitive lifters out there, they have a set of competition-approved calibrated plates!

Q. What are some things you personally do for your Foot Health?

A. I personally train the function and strength of my feet constantly by wearing minimalist footwear. Minimalist shoes are essentially shoes that have removed any artificial supports, artificial cushioning, etc., and have a very wide toebox, so that your feet can function as naturally as possible.

I am also a huge proponent of physical exercise in general, and I pair this with my foot health by occasionally performing movements that challenge my balance and my control over my feet. Examples include single-leg exercises such as lunges… occasionally balancing on different objects or beams while barefoot, and doing simple things like sitting as deep as possible into a bodyweight squat and trying to reclaim ankle mobility.

If you’re interested and want to try out what Ryan suggested here. head to to get yourself a pair of functional footwear!

Who To Follow:

  • Interested in a whole-body approach to body mechanics, rehab and training? Ryan recommends Kabuki Strength, another company founded by Chris Duffin. Find them @kabukistrength on Instagram and at

Written by Geneva Nodland

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