How We Feel about Shoes
If you come to our office there is a good chance you will not find us wearing shoes. If you come to our house there is an even better chance we won’t be wearing shoes. Don’t get me wrong shoes definitely serve a purpose. They offer protection from hot surfaces and sharp objects. They keep your feet clean and free from infection. Shoes are an essential component of modern life. That being said, shoes can also do a pretty good job of weakening the muscles in the feet and destroying the arch of the foot when depended on too heavily. I will even go as far as to say that the more you spend on arch supports, customized orthotics, and shoes with top of the line shock absorption technology the more your foot will suffer.
Many Americans today have resorted to a “quick-fix” mindset in order to keep up with their fast pace lifestyle. Unfortunately, the quickest fix is usually a bandaid for our problems rather than a solution. Ibuprofen, arch supports, and expensive stabilizing shoes are all examples of ways in which people are essentially quieting the problem instead of solving it. The American shoe industry is a 3 billion dollar industry. I have known many people, myself included, who have invested hundreds of dollars into running shoes that offer motion-control or stabilizing technology. The result is a shoe that restricts the natural motion of your foot which, over time, weakens the muscles in your feet and further contributes to injury, pain and dysfunction. If you are a runner who wears the latest technology of a stabilizing or mobility control running shoe this most likely results in over-striding or “heel-striking”.
Heel-striking is when you strike the ground with your heel first instead of your forefoot as you were designed. The result is increased forces at the ankle, knee and hip and ultimately the spine. Heel-striking is a direct result of wearing shoes that raise the heel above the forefoot. The chunkier the heel the worse it is for your foot. Unfortunately, most running shoes are still designed this way to some degree and contributing to numerous running injuries.
You’re probably thinking…what shoes are the right shoes? Shoes are not inherently bad. Shoes are a necessary part of life. We recommend flat shoes whenever possible. Flip flops and heels should be avoided as much as possible. If you are a runner, minimalist shoes are the best. Minimalist shoes have zero-drop meaning the heel is not raised at all and this enables the natural motion of your foot. DISCLAIMER: DO NOT SWITCH TO A MINIMALIST SHOE COLD TURKEY! This is a common mistake people make and it will result in pain and injury if you do not gradually make the switch between your over supportive running shoe to the less supportive “barefoot” shoe. The 10% rule should be applied here. The 10% rule means to start off by wearing your minimalist shoes for 10% of your total run and then switch back to your old shoes for the remainder of your run. Increase by 10% each week until you achieve 100%. You can increase or decrease the recommended % at your own discretion but listen to your body and adjust accordingly. You should have some soreness in your feet for using different muscles but not pain.
In order to adjust the weakness and dysfunction already present in your feet from years of wearing over-supportive shoes the best advice I can give you is to go barefoot as much as possible when at home. This will help to strengthen your feet and restore optimal mobility.