Shoes weren't around when humans first began to walk the earth. In some places, they still aren't used much. But an important question that many people who wear shoes their entire lives don't often ask is: how do these shoes change the natural movement of my feet?
Depending on the shoes, the answer could be: quiet a lot. Many shoes available in American stores do a number of things to the movement of the foot, typically by adding materials of various thickness into the body of the shoe.
For example, many shoes today, especially athletic shoes, are advertised as providing "arch support." Interestingly, arch support shoes, or arch-supporting orthotic inserts, are prescribed to people with high arches, and people with low arches. But no matter who is wearing them, nor what problem they say they are treating, arch-support shoes are really just "arch-paralysis" shoes.
The arch of the foot is full of ligaments and tendons that bare much of your weight as you walk. When the foot comes down, heel first, then the outer ball quickly followed by the inner ball, the foot does a motion called pronation. During pronation, the arch sinks slightly toward the ground (though not all the way), and the ankle rolls in very slightly as well. Think of it like a wave of force that moves through your foot. This movement leads the force of the step naturally into the ball of the foot, propelling you forward for the next step.
But when there is a big piece of rubber and plastic keeping your arch from pronating, that force gets sent through other parts of your body, like your outer ankle and knee. Just like I spoke about in my video on common walking issues, any misalignment in your walking posture can cause problems all the way up to your head and neck.
So does this mean you should throw all your shoes in the trash? No, of course not. Wearing shoes while you are out and about is perfectly fine. But what you need to do is make sure you take those shoes off once you are at home, and move on your bare feet. In the following weeks I will be releasing videos showing you all kinds of foot health exercises and stretches, which you should be doing barefoot for maximum movement and flexibility.
When it comes to buying new shoes, try to find ones that are as flexible as possible, especially through the midsole where most shoes are too stiff. Your feet should feel great in your shoes, almost like you aren't even wearing any. That's how you know you've got shoes that are good for you.