The biggest support network of our entire Life, yet the one that receives the least notice and regard, are the feet. Comprised of 28 individual bones, and about 33 joints, the architecture of the foot has evolved for hundreds of millennia to traverse the variety of natural terrain provided by the earth.
It was not until the invention of footwear, and the subsequent industry built upon its manufacture, that the foot has begun to lose the natural function which has been a staple of human ability for eons. The late podiatrist Dr. William Rossi, pioneered the perspective of how the design of modern footwear is undermining the function of the foot, and the the resultant pathological consequences of conditions like osteoarthritis of the hip and lower back pain. Dr. Rossi described how the rigid, thick soled, and narrowed toe box of most modern shoes, inhibits the contact, perception, and articulation of the feet on ground surfaces. Dr. Rossi described how a minimum of two-thirds of one's life span, is spent in shoes, which are effectively cages, much the same as a cast is on a fractured bone. The effect this has is very similar to the experience in wearing a cast, where the deep muscles of the feet suffer atrophy.
It was this gradual realization that eventually led to a shift within the footwear industry, that led to the emergence of the minimalist shoe movement. Leading the way in this paradigm shift is an Italian company named Vibram. Made famous by their Five Finger (separate toe) shoes, Vibram is a company that has stayed true to its Italian tradition of offering the world footwear that is on the cutting edge of quality and performance.
The FiveFinger design has three fantastic qualities, that help reinstate the natural function of a barefoot-to-ground relationship:
- Thinner and more flexible sole, that allows the feet to pick up more of the ground's texture, and shape
- Sufficient space for the forefoot and a wide enough toe box that it allows the joints of the feet to articulate properly, without the confinement of standard (narrow toe box) fit
- Separate spaces for the individual toes, so as to allow every single one to articulate according to the demands of the ground surface
This has gained more traction over the last several years, to a point where research has been conducted to test their efficacy in restoring vital foot and ankle mechanics, which you can check out Here and Here
Now, of course as with anything else, it takes time to condition and allow the body to adapt to anything novel. As much as advanced Yoga postures are inaccessible to first time students, wearing the FiveFinger shoes should be approached in the same manner. A person cannot expect to be a lifetime runner of several miles per week while wearing the typical running/tennis shoe, to being able to transition flawlessly to the Five Fingers without allowing for some adjustment time.
I definitely made this mistake when I ambitiously put on my fresh FiveFingers a couple of years ago and went on my typical 30minute run. Because I didn't give my body time to adapt and adjust to the almost completely different running gait that is necessary for barefoot/minimal-footwear running, I suffered the painful consequences for nearly the entire following week.
As my running gait slowly adapted to wearing the FiveFingers, the soreness and pain I experienced after my first run in them, never returned again.
There are of course other great brands such as Vivobarefoot, and Xero shoes, that offer both function and style that will fit any social context.
In my Recommendations page, I have begun to compile a list of these brands and shoes that are available on the market now. This is my Amazon Affiliate page, where you can purchase any item of your choice, while allowing a small percentage of that purchase to support my efforts in bringing you more information. Using these links does not mean there is an elevated cost on your end, as the consumer. The price is exactly the same, but Amazon rewards me for bringing them customers. This is a page where I will only list those products that have personally helped me gain more balance in my own busy life, in this fast-paced, modern world.
Don't let another day pass with your feet stuffed into a prison that does more harm than good.
Please feel free to forward all question about either footwear or anything else I write about and endorse.
Thank you for your willingness to improve!!