IF THE SHOE FITS
Your feet are your foundation, containing 1/4 of your bones (from the ankle down) and a lot of musculature, connective tissue and nerves. They relay information to the nervous system about the environment and how the rest of the body needs to respond, and yet, from a young age, we tend to encase them in shoes that restrict their ability to move. We can be more inclined to look for aesthetics over function and probably don't realise that most shoes have an elevated heel (including runners, children's and mens footwear). Add to that the tendency to seek out flat and level surfaces upon which to walk and the end result may be feet where very few of the muscles are working, and where potential strains and other problems are being created from the ground up.
What is happening (or not happening in your feet) resonates throughout the body. For a practical approach to foot care Katy Bowman's new book comes recommended. You can purchase yourself a copy by clicking on the book image below.
Foot Pain Relief by Katy Bowman
Don't just treat your foot pain--strengthen your feet to prevent it. Simple Steps to Foot Pain Relief will show you how to change the way you move your body to prevent pain, heal your feet, and halt damage to the rest of your body.
Bowman's simple, accessible, innovative program will help you naturally address lower-leg and foot issues such as: - Hammertoes - Bunions - Plantar fasciitis - Poor posture and alignment Bowman walks you gently through exercises to strengthen your feet, what shoes you should (and should not) be wearing, and how these choices affect your overall foot--and whole-body!--health. Simple Steps to Foot Pain Relief will teach you how healthy feet work optimally and help you put your best foot forward on the path toward moving with greater ease.
Minimal footwear provides a subtle, protective layer between you and the world so that the tissues of your feet can move the way that they were designed to.
SO WHAT MAKES A SHOE "MINIMALISTIC"?
They have a thin and flexible sole so that the tissues of the foot can respond to the surfaces they are moving across.
They have a neutral heel (often called zero-drop) which as well as allowing the foot to do what it was designed to do, minimises the compensatory habits of the rest of the body that have adjusted to the distorted alignment that positive heels encourage.
The upper needs to connect to the shoe. Otherwise the toes or front of the shin will have to grip to keep the shoe on while moving (thongs are notorious for causing foot problems, as the toes have to claw to keep the shoe on).
The toe box of the shoe needs to be spacious enough to allow the toes to spread out and respond fully to movement.
SO WILL CHANGING MY SHOES FIX EVERYTHING?
If you've been wearing heels for a long time your body has adjusted to that reality and it may take some time to move into different shoes safely. You would not wake up one morning, after never even going for a jog, and decide to run a marathon. I highly recommend that you read Whole Body Barefoot by Katy Bowman before making any changes. Katy suggests spending at least a month doing the supportive exercises (which we do in our classes and which are also outlined in her book) while continuing to wear your regular shoes before making any other changes. You could also slowly lower the height of your heels by utilising the "transitional shoes" that are now on the market. These offer smaller heels, say 2 to 4cm so that you can work your way down in stages.
WHEN WILL I BE READY TO MODIFY MY FOOTWEAR?
The links I give you here are based on my own experience finding minimalist footwear in Australia. It can be a little challenging but it is worth the effort. I hope that the following suggestions make your own journey easier.
When you are ready to start moving into different shoes
(I know you will have done your reading and your exercises and checked with your relevant medical professional before you get
to this stage) here are some suppliers that you could try.
A great Victorian internet provider is Sole Mechanics.
They offer a free postal return service which we've used many times and it was very efficient. They also have a store in Hampton.
The Happy Shoe Shop
In Geelong we have The Happy Shoe Shop who stock the Vivobarefoot range for women and men. They do also sell shoes with heels though - so make sure you ask for a minimalist shoe.
DON'T JUST TAKE OUR WORD FOR IT
Katy Bowman's husband has written a great blog post about 'minimalising' his shoes (there are power tools involved). You can read about that here. There are also many articles, free podcasts and DVD's available on Katy's blog about the minimalist approach. You can access her website here.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE
Please don't buy minimalist shoes thinking that they, on their own, will fix everything - because there are many stages on the road to wellness - and to skip the foundations is to risk injury and disappointment.
It is far more satisfying to take your time and feel the benefits that accumulate. They really are limitless, and as you unwind the habits of years gone by and build new ones every step counts towards your renewed vitality. You could start your journey to more barefoot time in the comfort of your own home just by taking your shoes off for short periods.
Try walking on different surfaces in bare feet. Perhaps even invest in a pebble mat and notice how your feet feel as they sense and yield to the surface beneath them. Gradually lengthen your barefoot time as you determine how you feel. It's free, and if you combine it with our foundation exercises you may be amazed by what just taking that small step can do.