In my first post about the trouble with wearing heeled shoes, I talked about the how it puts our foot in an animal-like position which leads to sore feet and wear-and-tear throughout the body since we were created to walk upright on two feet, not down on all fours.
To follow-up, let’s look at some suggestions of types of shoes to wear (or not) for better health and function.
The closer a shoe is to the original design of our foot the better. In other words, the less a shoe does TO our feet, the better the shoe is.
Unfortunately, even shoes that are portrayed as health or fitness shoes oftentimes are not even close to our foot’s original shape. What’s more, the longer our feet have been in shoes, the more they have conformed to the shape of the shoes. Shoe-shaped feet are sore feet. Sore feet walk you to the podiatrist for orthotics to reshape your feet. Vicious cycle.
Have you seen pictures of someone who has lived his life without shoes? The front part of the foot (forefoot) tends to be wider than the back part (rearfoot) of the foot. Those of us who have worn shoes for most, if not all, of our lives, have a narrow forefoot probably due to wearing shoes that curve in at the front called the toe box.
Now, I’m a fan of cute little silicone baking molds for fun-shaped cakes and cupcakes. My Aunt Rose is a fabulous cook and has many specialty culinary tools which include a rose-shaped bundt pan. She made a beautiful rose-shaped cake when we visited once, and it looked so lovely I almost hated to eat it (almost). Thanks Aunt Rose!
As much as I like rose-shaped cakes, I want my feet to be, well, foot-shaped. Take a look at how shoes mold your feet.
A footwear challenge
1. Measure the width of your foot just behind your toes.
2. Measure the width of your shoes at that same point.
3. Compare measurements. Which is bigger?
If your foot width is bigger than your shoe width, your foot is probably already being molded.
Another thing to consider is what your foot is feeling when you walk. Can it feel anything through the shoes you wear?
Wearing gloves makes it harder to feel things with our hands, and similarly wearing shoes make it difficult for the nerves in our feet to sense the ground. This can lead to decreased nerve function (the nerves quit working) which might not seem like a huge deal at first…who cares if my feet can’t feel too well, won’t hurt as much if I step on a rock right?
But the problem is that you might not know if you’ve injured your foot, and pretty soon the nerves might be so insensitive that they can’t even tell you if you’re standing or walking straight. It’s a recipe for falls.
Keep in mind that lot of man-made surfaces we have to walk on are a lot harder than the ground, so some foot protection is usually necessary.
When minimal protection is needed, why not try a shoe with a flexible and thinner sole to let your feet feel? It’s a great way to wake up the nerves, increase blood flow, and improve your balance all at the same time!
Give your feet time to adapt to moving and feeling again. Going straight from a rigid, supportive shoe to a soft, flexible shoe is like having a cast removed – it takes time to build the muscles up, and due to that weakness it’s easy to injure your newly-released feet, so take it slow.
The best place to start is to take off your shoes in the safety of your own home for gradually increasing periods of time. Slippers are okay as long as they are well-attached to your feet. Socks with grips on the soles can be an option too.
Barefoot is good if your home is very warm as the feet should never feel chilled. For what to wear outside, here are a few ideas of some types shoes to try.
Happy Feet Tips
- Wiggle your toes
Up, down, spread apart, one at a time, all together. Help out by using your fingers to “show” your toes how to move by going through the motions with your hands at the same time. You may even need to physically move your toes with your hands at first if they don’t seem to want to move on their own.
- Massage your feet
Give yourself a foot rub with your favorite oil or cream. Ahhhh.
- Hold hands with your feet
Interlace your fingers with your toes for a nice toe stretch
- Gradually build up to longer times without shoes or with minimal shoes
Only go shoe/sock-less if it is warm enough to be going without your feet covered as whole body warmth and circulation is also super important to health (see this post)
- Try the calf stretch as shown here
- Use some toe spacers (shown below) or something similar that you can wear day or night to help stretch the tiny foot muscles within your feet called the intrinsic muscles