Your Shoes are Making You Slow, Weak, Stiff, and In-Pain! Part 2
By Brian Copeland
Revised October 2, 2016
In this article:
- Meet Your Feet
- Flat Feet vs. High Arches
- Pronated Feet vs. Supinated Feet
- How to Identify Bad Shoes
- The Worst Shoe Hall of Shame
- What to Look for When Buying a Shoe
- Which Shoes to Buy – Every Day Shoes vs. Specific Needs Shoes
- Recommended Product for Foot Exercise
Shoe Hall of Shame List
These shoes should be immediately thrown away or given to someone you don’t like.
Skechers Shape Ups
These Sketchers not only violate ALL of the elements of a healthy shoe, they radically change the normal healthy gait of the wearer which down the road will lead to severe dysfunction.
Plus the claims of toning your legs as you walk are preposterous. You will no more get slender toned legs wearing these than you would wearing tin foil on your head to keep the aliens out.
Masai Barefoot Technology
We have 3 balance systems:
- Visual – peripheral visual fields help us to find balance.
- Vestibular – the inner ear contains very complex reflexes that help us find equilibrium.
- Proprioceptive – the nerves in the bottom of the foot sense pressure from what we are stepping on and can signal that we are on an uneven surface or that we didn’t step down on the stairs correctly.
Well as we age people lose their peripheral vision. You can maintain and even improve this using the Vision Gym from Z-Health. Also the inner ear reflexes get worse as we age. You can also maintain and improve these reflexes, thus balance, using the Balance Gym from Z-Health.
For someone who does not do specific visual and inner ear balance exercise what is left to create balance?
That’s right, the nerves in the feet. Being barefoot or in close to barefoot shoes will allow the greatest amount of balance but these orthopedic shoes are the fastest way for grandma to fall and break some bones.
What to Look for When Buying Shoes
For exercising and generally walking around in casual shoes, aka not your going out on the town shoes, here is what you want to look for.
- Light weight
- Zero to very little heel
- Zero to very little arch support
- Flexes and bends through the entire sole of the shoe – you can grab it with your hands and bend anywhere
- No heel cup
- Wide toe box so your toes are not jammed
- Very thin sole so you can feel the ground
Which Shoes to Buy – Every Day vs. Special Needs
The good news is that barefoot-like shoes are becoming more popular and are easier to find than they used to be. If style is your focus you will need to look a little harder though.
Classic sports shoes such as these Onitsuka (Asics in Japan) Tiger Mexico 66 look stylish on both men and women and also are great for exercising and general recreational sports. You can dress them down with shorts or dress them up with a nice pair of jeans. Not dressy enough for a suit but unless you wear a suit every day these are some great every day shoes.
Here are some more to search for online:
- Onitsuka Tiger Tai Chi – amazing barefoot shoe, not quite as stylish
- Merrell makes a selection of minimalist barefoot like shoes
- Vivo Barefoot from Tera Plana has a large selection
- Feiyue – a Chinese minimalist kung fu shoe that is super cheap, although the soles can wear out quickly
- Vibram 5 Fingers – I can’ bring myself to wear them and they won’t fit everyone but some people really love these shoes
- Puma has some classic sneakers for those with narrow feet that are light and flexible
This is certainly not an exhaustive list, just something to get you started.
But What About…?
Here are answers to some questions that I get asked a lot including ones that I had myself when I first made the switch to a minimalist shoe.
But Brian I can’t wear a minimalist shoe in a dress/suit/stylish event/dancing/etc.
No worries I don’t wear my minimalist shoes all of the time. They are my every day shoe when I’m at the grocery, exercising (when I can’t be barefoot that is), or dressed casual. If you need to be dressed up go ahead. When you don’t need to be dressed up get out of those oppressive shoes and get barefoot or in minimalist shoes.
Brian what shoes do you recommend for XYZ sport?
I play soccer and I wear soccer cleats. They are stiff through the midsole, have a minimal heel cup, are fairly light weight, fit snugly (for quicker change of direction on the field), and of course have cleats appropriate for the 4G artificial grass that I play on.
As you can see they meet very few of the requirements for healthy feet but they are necessary for the type of traction, protection, and performance that I need for my sport.
So for your sport figure out what is more important and find the most minimalist shoe that gives you the sports advantages that you need.
Brian I work on my feet all day on a hard surface, what can I do?
This depends on the current strength, suppleness, and orthopedic health of your feet but for me I would wear my Mexico 66 with perhaps an insole that gives a little cushioning. Then again for some people the cushioning would make their feet more fatigued.
I will tell you this for sure. If you are moving from a stiff shoe with lots of support to a minimalist shoe then you need to make a gradual change to allow the muscles and tissues of the foot to strengthen. Going from a 12-hour shift in Dansko clogs to a 12-hour shift in minimalist shoes with no transition will make your feet incredibly fatigued.
Instead try ¼ shift in minimalist shoes for the first week. Then the second week try a ½ shift and by the end of the month you can probably wear minimalist shoes all day with no problem.
Brian I work on the docs and need steel toe protection, what can I do?
I’ve never seen a minimalist shoe with steel toe protection so stick to your boots! Maybe find the lightest ones you can.
I am an avid hiker what shoes do you recommend?
Check out Merrell’s selection of outdoor minimalist shoes. There are also lots of other ones coming on the market all of the time that have amazing grip, are water friendly, etc.
What shoes should I wear around the house?
None! Go barefoot or wear socks. Let those feet move in the most natural way.
Foot Exercises for Healthy, Strong Feet and Ankles
Whether you currently have foot pain, weak ankles, or stiff feet or you want to get them as strong and supple as possible to prevent those issues you must be doing the foot, toe, ankle exercises in the I-Phase from Z-Health.
I-Phase contains my all-time favorite mobility drills which can be loaded for athletes who need really injury resistant ankles and quick footwork.
I do these drills several times per week and I count my lack of sports-related injuries to the drills in the I-Phase.
- The strength, suppleness and mobility of your feet are directly related to the health of your other joints particularly the knees, hips and spine
- Stiff, heavy, clunky shoes make your feet stiff and clunky
- Minimalist shoes make your feet strong, supple, and more injury resistant
- Foot exercise should be part of your regular exercise program, the I-Phase from Z-Health is the best one I’ve ever seen
Until next time,
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