Shed Your Shoes!
Three generations of feet - My 20 month old granddaughter, Claire, 19 year old daughter, Rox, and my own 54 year old feet standing on our indoor cobblestone foot playground texture path made of various stones to stimulate and massage the many muscles and nerves in our feet. Feels so good! Notice Claire's feet are widest at her toes, not at the ball like the adult feet that have been confined and conformed to shoes.
How I love beautiful high heel stiletto shoes! Well…to look at! I no longer wear them...I’ve kept a few of my all time favorite stilettos in my closet to remind me of the pain and malformations my feet were going through by wearing them most of my life.
This is one of my favorite pairs of stilettos that I keep in my closet. One can see how wearing shoes like this is going to inflict some major foot problems!
After experiencing ongoing severe foot, knee, and back pain a few years ago, I started to research why this was happening to me and what I could do to remedy these painful problems. I always say, "God doesn't make mistakes!" I've learned that whenever my body is in pain or not functioning correctly, it's something I'm doing to cause the problem. It didn’t take me long to figure out the source, as I’ve always known that wearing tight fitting shoes, and ones with very high heels, would eventually cause problems.
If you don’t know me, I’m the girl who promotes taking back our lives by living a more simpler, natural life. One where we live like our ancestors did. We haven’t had a television or microwave in our home for almost ten years. And we certainly don’t miss those items! We have more time to live and enjoy all that life has to offer…including making real whole food from scratch!
Back to the heart and “sole” of this blog! (I know, I just had to include that!) Shedding our shoes! When you have worked a long day and enter your home, what’s the first thing you do? Take off your shoes? Yes, it’s the right thing to do to keep our homes a bit cleaner…but we take off our shoes because it feels so good to release our feet from the captivity of our shoes and even socks! I believe it’s an inborn instinct we have to prefer to be barefoot! Even watching my 20-month-old granddaughter who truly dislikes wearing shoes, has taught me that we are born with the instinct to go barefoot. Society has us believing that our feet must be protected in the latest styles at all times. These poorly designed shoes are altering the anatomy and mechanics of our feet. This weakens those precious bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons in our feet.
Rox and I feeling the beautiful texture and temperature of the cool moss on a fallen log in the woods! This wakes up those nerve endings in the bottom of our feet and keeps our body alive and alert to change. Rox's feet have wonderful spread out toes as she has never worn high heels or shoes with narrow toe boxes. My feet are getting wider and my toes are beginning to spread out. Fifty plus years being confined in very tight shoes will take time, but over the past few years great healing changes have taken place!
Let’s look at the design and science behind our amazing feet! Each foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and tendons. The 52 bones in our feet make up about 25 percent of all the bones in our body! Why so many located in one small region? Because our feet take on so much force throughout the day, and that radiates throughout our entire body. How our feet respond to their environment determines how our overall body reacts. Our feet have an incredible job to do each day. We need to allow them to function as they were designed to function. Once I stopped listening to the mass media always promoting footwear that had some kind of raised heal, supports, highly padded, and narrow toe boxes, and started feeding my feet what they needed: Freedom to truly move, Feel Texture, Terrain, and Temperature – my entire body started to heal. It’s been a few years for me without the standard 21st Century shoes, and only wearing barefoot minimalist shoes or just going barefoot whenever possible. No turning back for me!!
Claire enjoying the texture of sand between her toes. Such a wonderful workout for her developing feet!
Think back to being a child...running barefoot whenever possible! That's an inborn trait that we posses from birth. Caring for a child's feet will benefit their health, mobility, and well-being throughout their entire lives. According to the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, the 26 bones in our feet are not fully hardened (or ossified) until the ages of 12–18. In fact, children's feet are composed of relatively soft and flexible cartilage that will gradually convert to bone with age. While children's feet are developing, the soft cartilage centers are fusing together. With that said, the foot is at risk from injury and deformity due to ill-fitting footwear. Any foot abnormality can have an ill effects further up the body and permanently alter posture and walking style. Since I've transitioned to this natural way of moving, I've seen my feet actually changing as time goes by. My toes are splaying nicely, my large toe joints are moving back in place, and a bone on the top of each foot that became arched has now basically moved back into correct form. Both Rox and I have witnessed our knee, joint, and back pains have disappeared!! Truly amazing to watch these transformations taking place!! Now that warm weather is here, encourage your children, the entire family for that matter, to go barefoot whenever possible! You'll find us running around our village and local parks barefoot. Rox and I keep a pair of barefoot sandals or shoes in our car, to slip on before entering a store or restaurant. Always best to follow restaurant or store policies about wearing shoes! Otherwise, we’re almost always completely unshod, when the weather permits.
Researchers at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, published a study titled “Shod Versus Unshod: The Emergence of Forefoot Pathology in Modern Humans?” in the podiatry journal The Foot. This study examined 180 modern humans from three different population groups (Zulu, Sotho, and European), comparing their feet to one another’s, as well as to the feet of 2,000-year-old skeletons. The researchers found that, before the invention of shoes, people had healthier feet. Among these modern subjects, the Zulu population, which are most often found barefoot, had the healthiest feet. While the Europeans who persistently wear shoes, had the unhealthiest. One of the lead researchers, Dr. Bernhard Zipfel, when discussing his findings, stated that the American Podiatric Medical Association does not “actively encourage outdoor barefoot walking for healthy individuals. This flies in the face of the increasing scientific evidence, including our study, that most of the commercially available footwear is not good for the feet.” Are you ready to rethink shedding your shoes yet?
We were designed to go barefoot and not place our feet into casts each day making them unable to move and feel the earth. In my quest to find the cause of so many foot and body ailments I came across this incredible study that was done over 100 years ago! This made me convinced that going barefoot or wearing barefoot/minimalist shoes was indeed the only way to go! In 1905, an orthopedist named Dr. Philip Hoffman published a powerful study in the American Journal of Orthopedic Surgery, comparing the feet of barefooted and shoe-wearing people. (See a few of Dr. Hoffman’s incredible pictures below.) Dr. Hoffman found that those people who spent their lives barefooted displayed wider feet with wider toe beds and fewer foot abnormalities. Those who wore shoes displayed narrower feet and toe beds, and a great deal of foot malformations and impairments. Interestingly, those who had been barefoot most of their lives and then started wearing shoes experienced substantial, rapid changes in their foot structure after only a few weeks of wearing shoes. Dr. Hoffman found that of the 186 pairs of primitive feet examined, he didn’t find a single foot associated with symptoms of weakness that we often see in adult shoe-wearing feet.
Notice how wide apart the toes are! I bet this person had really good balance!
Amazing pictures that show how our feet take on the shape of the shoes we force our feet into each day. Look at the angle of the toes!
Specimen B is the foot of a child that hadn’t worn shoes. Specimen A is the same child that wore shoes for only three months…look how quickly this child’s foot anatomy was altered. The big toe is already turning in and the two small toes are growing closer together. Amazing proof to the detriment of wearing poor fitting shoes.
Thought I would include this astonishing photo from a 2011 aerial video taken of one of the world’s last uncontacted Amazon tribes on the Brazil-Peru Border. Notice their beautiful wide feet! No shoes worn in this village!
In 2000, Tim Brennan, a young industrial-design student at the Royal College of Art, was suffering from chronic knee and ankle injuries, as he was an avid tennis player. His father taught the Alexander Technique, (nice name!) a discipline that studies the links between kinetics and behavior; which is basically the connection between how we move and how we act. Brennan’s father persuaded Tim to try playing tennis barefoot. Tim was a bit skeptical at first, but gave it try and found that his injuries disappeared. So he set out to design a shoe that would mimic being as close to barefoot as possible: no padding, no arch support, no heel. His prototype consisted of a thin fabric upper with a microthin latex-rubber sole. You may be thinking this sounds very similar to what Native Americans wear. It was Tim's modern version of the 600-year-old moccasin. Brennan took his shoe to Galahad Clark, heir to the Clark family. Yes, the English shoe company C&J Clark, otherwise known as Clark's, founded in 1825. After some modifications, they came up with a very flexible leather shoe with a three-millimeter sole made of rubber and puncture-resistant DuraTex. This was the beginning of the Vivo Barefoot Company. (One of our favorite barefoot shoe companies!) During an interview, Clark said, “There are no gimmicks. It's a back-to-basics philosophy: that the great Lord designed us perfectly to walk around without shoes.” (I like the way he thinks!) It says a great deal when this well known shoe guru states, “Shoes are the problem. No matter what type of shoe. Shoes are bad for you."
So, it seems the evidence is clear… our feet go through alterations as we continue to wear shoes that are not designed for our natural movement. It’s time to shed our shoes! But first ask yourself this; “If it only takes a short period of time for our feet to begin to deform when improper shoes are worn, then how does a person who has worn shoes for decades shift to going barefoot and wearing barefoot/minimalist shoes?” This will take time. As we have always gone barefoot whenever we are in our house, (I’m a clean fanatic…no shoes ever in this house!) this helped our movement towards healthy feet a great deal. We gradually worked our way to going barefoot or wearing barefoot shoes by walking outside on different textures, terrains, and in different temperatures for longer periods of time each day. We didn’t start out running as our feet just weren’t strong enough and we wanted to avoid causing any harm to our feet. Be sure to take your time. Your feet have basically been in casts for many decades. Slow and steady wins this race towards healthy, happy feet! We made sure to stretch our feet and message them daily. Spread the toes apart using your fingers to assist you. Eventually, you’ll be able to spread your toes without any help, like you do when you spread your fingers apart…just using your brain! Once you start walking and running longer distances barefoot or in barefoot shoes, you’ll notice that your gait is smaller and this actually decreases the force and impact on your joints. I noticed that my knee, foot, and back pain started going away over a short period of time. I’ve met people who have had bunions, arthritis, and plantar fasciitis see remarkable improvements in their feet. Many saw complete recovery from these abnormalities.