I’ve been fairly lucky with my shoes over the years and haven’t had many issues with shoes being too uncomfortable or harming my overall foot health.
Shoes help people by protecting them from harmful sun rays, surfaces, objects, and weather. Shoes can also cause foot, ankle, and knee problems for people. Your shoe type and how you wear them will make a significant difference in how good or bad shoes are for you.
One person I know has been wearing shoes all of her life but they have had a negative impact on her life. She has had surgery and needed to wear orthotic shoe inserts to help with the problems caused by her shoes.
Everyone Loves Shoes, Right?
Most of the world uses footwear of some kind. It protects their feet, provides some comfort, and adds fashion for many. In general, footwear helps meet our needs, but some caution should be taken depending on your situation.
On the other hand, going barefoot can have some health benefits. But it is not practical or acceptable for most people to go barefoot around town or work.
The best thing to do is to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of wearing shoes. Find ways to keep your feet healthy and still wear the shoes you love. Let’s find out more about how shoes help and hurt our feet.
THIS CHART GIVES SOME IDEAS ABOUT USING SHOES AND GOING BAREFOOT
The Good News
Shoes have been helping people around the world for many thousands of years. People have used grasses, plants, leathers, and wood to protect their feet and provide some comfort.
At the same time, many civilizations have gone barefoot most of the time. So, in some circumstances shoes were not necessary, but in others they were important.
Shoes have been helping people in colder climates protect their feet from the cold since at least 9000 years ago, and probably longer. If the temperature is too hot or cold, shoes can protect feet from environmental and weather hazards.
Shoes are good for protecting our feet from the rain, the sun, sharp objects, and supporting our feet so they are less likely to get injured.
Shoes help stop cuts and scrapes, bacterial infection, disease-causing microbes, and fungus. They make it more difficult for the spread of health problems from person to person.
Some cultures consider the shoes to be unclean and they are to be left outside and do not enter the house.
Shoes have been performing the job of protection for thousands of years and will continue to do so far into the future I believe.
Shoes Relieve Stress on Joints
If you have any problems related to joint pain, you’ll likely want to find the relief that comes with a cushioning comfortable shoe.
Shoes can relieve some of the pressure put on the joints as we walk and run. Getting the right support for your arch type will play an important role in stress relief.
Shoes Help Support Arches
The arches of each individual are different and many shoes can help support varying types of arches. Some arches require additional support and orthotic inserts (Amazon Link) can be used in shoes to give the individualized support a person might need.
If you have high arches or low arches, shoe inserts might work to align and support your arch for good foot health. Find out more information from this article on back pain.
Shoes Help With Sports
If you like running as I do, you’ll likely rely heavily on running shoes to provide the cushion and support for your feet, so you can continue running and not receive any injuries.
When I was in little league baseball I wore plastic soled baseball cleats to better grip the grass and dirt.
When I was in scouts, my mom bought me hiking boots, so I could go on a week-long camping trip in the Sequoia National Park.
Later in high school, I purchase a pair of wrestling shoes, so I could practice and keep my grip on the slippery mats.
Even shoes from the past have helped their owner to run. The Anasazi people made a shoe from the Yucca plant and designed it so it had enough grip to perform well in slippery conditions.
Now runners, hikers, and other sports players rely on their shoes to perform well and give them the competitive edge they are looking for.
While shoes have been helping people for thousands of years, each individual is different and so are their foot needs. Shoes provide support and comfort, but shoes are not specifically designed for each person, so foot health is often compromised.
The Bad News
What happens over time when someone wears a shoe that isn’t healthy for their foot? They start to change the amount of pressure in different areas of the foot. Their feet and joints try to compensate for these unhealthy pressures, and this causes problems eventually.
Runners have a variety of shoe styles that they use because some evidence supports the idea that running barefoot can be healthy for your foot and having too much cushioning can weaken your foot. (Amazon Link)
While shoes are helpful, wearing the wrong kind and not giving your feet enough time with your shoes off, will likely cause problems.
Shoes Control Foot Position
If I walk for an hour in my deck shoe, it will not likely cause me any long-term problems. I’ve noticed that my deck shoes have no arch support and little cushioning.
If I continue to use these shoes every day, all day, then the results will be that my feet will start to adjust to the new shoe. I will start to feel my plantar fascia (the tendon that connects the heel to the ball of the foot) stretch or pull more than normal, and it will get painful.
I’ve noticed through experience that I need shoes that have at least some support if I am standing and walking for more than an hour.
Shoes control the position of your foot and natural walking positions are not available in most shoes. Your shoes control a foot’s angle, cushioning, pressure points, and arch support. Normally your foot would take on these jobs and help you develop strength and support in your feet and legs.
Do Your Shoes Have Arch Support?
Shoes are good at some types of protection but lack the customization required that some people need. Arches can help some individuals with problems, but might not help the general population who don’t.
For example, arch support help absorb energy in those with high arches, but may not absorb as much energy with those who have normal arches. Arches may help with balancing in those with flat feet, but not help with balance in other foot types.
Arch support in shoes doesn’t always make a difference. For example, when running, the shoe’s arch can sometimes dampen that energy return that the foot would normally give.
Arch support doesn’t always mean pressure relief. I think this is because the arches in your feet are meant to absorb energy. If you’re running and let the shoe arch do the absorbing, research testing shows that they are less effective than your own arch when barefoot running.
I think that a balance needs to be struck between strengthening our feet and using arches that meet our needs.
Shoes Don’t Always Protect
High heels are an example of shoes that cause harm over time. High heels and other shoes, that place the feet in an unnatural position for long periods, can cause increased pressure on the feet.
To have less of an impact on your foot you might opt for shoe heels that are less than two inches tall.
Some womens’ flats can hold the foot in a flat position, not allowing for a natural range of motion. This prevents the arch from doing its job and can lead to joint problems.
Flip-flops and sandals can lead some people to have problems too. They cushion the foot but are flat. This may not allow the foot to get stronger because the cushioning absorbs energy instead of the foot and there is less arch support during impact.
Shoes Can Squish Your Feet
When shoes squeeze your toes together you’re going to end up with foot problems. These shoes put your foot in an unnatural position and the tendons will start to stretch over time.
Your bones are pulled out of alignment and it can create what is known as a bunion.
Shoes Can Be Too Small
If you’ve worn shoes that are too small, even for short periods, you know how uncomfortable they can be.
The problem is they tend to squeeze your toes, place unhealthy pressure on your foot, and cause rubbing. These types of shoes eventually lead to foot problems including blisters and possibly arthritis.
Many people are trying to find the best-looking shoe, disregard the level of discomfort or problems that may be occurring.
It’s important to take time to measure your foot, as it will change over the decades. Find shoes that fit comfortably and give your toes plenty of wiggle room without slipping while you walk.
If your shoes are squishing your feet in any way it’s time to get a new pair. Your feet will thank you for it, just make sure it’s a shoe that helps your foot health and doesn’t do damage.
Your Shoes Might Be Too Soft
If you have shoes that are providing too much cushioning, the foot tends to have heavier impacts. This is because the foot is looking for signals to get the sense of hitting the ground.
As a result, the padding that should be helping your joints stay protected may not be adding as much help as you may need.
Should I Walk Barefoot?
People who have not worn shoes at all or very little tend to have strong and healthy feet, while people who have worn shoes all their life have much less healthy feet.
What is happening with these two groups of people? The difference is the shoes. People are not developing the foot health that they need to have the proper muscle strength and bone alignment.
If we wear shoes, some of the natural mechanics of the body are thrown off and this causes some issues with foot and body health.
We naturally have a stride that is somewhat changed when wearing shoes. If you’re prevented from using that natural walking position, your body may try to compensate in different ways.
You may walk with a posture that is different than when you are barefoot. The body will try to balance you as you walk and your balance in high heels and other shoes is altering your posture as a result.
When walking barefoot your foot will touch all surfaces of the bottom of your foot, except the arch. As you move forward, your toes are used to grip and push off while your other foot impacts the ground.
Shoes that hold your toes tight can throw you off balance because your toes aren’t allowed to spread and take some of the weight and distribute it a bit.
Most shoes make it almost impossible for toes to work properly. Most shoes tend to curve up at the end, so you can walk more easily, thus preventing your toes from going through the motions that will help them with healthy bio-mechanical movement.
Shoes prevent our feet from naturally getting stronger and using the arch to absorb impacts with the ground. That’s why some shoes have been made with thin soles and fabric to give some protection to the foot, yet allow it to function naturally.
Some studies seem to indicate that walking or running barefoot allows the foot to send signals of exactly what’s happening as we walk to our brain and allow us to place our foot more precisely on the ground. This results in even better shock absorption than a thick sole could.
Walking without shoes, possibly in your socks for short periods can help strengthen your foot. If you’re not used to walking barefoot, take it slow and walk for short periods. If your foot starts to hurt, then you may want to use your shoes with arch support until your feet feel better.
If you want to run barefoot you’ll want to start by walking barefoot. Running barefoot is not recommend without lots of research first. But walking barefoot for short 5-15 minutes periods can help your foot to begin the process of walking naturally.
This will help with foot health, even with pains you’ve been experiencing as a result of wearing shoes. When your foot is strengthened and aligned properly, it may start to fix some of the problems that shoes may have caused.
Try doing light exercise barefoot. You can use an exercise mat and do lots of various exercises from the comfort of your home. Your feet will move naturally and gain some health benefits.
Lifting weights is not recommended or anything that’s putting too much stress on the arches. Your feet may not have had the chance to do heavy exercise without shoes, so you’ll need to put little stress on them.
Over time your foot will naturally strengthen and you can do more. As you practice walking and exercising barefoot, you can also help your feet while you wear shoes. Try switching the shoes you wear every day or every couple of days.
Change Up Your Running Shoes
If you run, try switching your shoes every day to strengthen your muscle and prevent injury. Your muscles will need to adjust to the differences in shoe support and strengthen your foot. (Amazon Link)
Try to find shoes that are similar in the way they support your feet. Huge differences will take time for your feet to adjust to, so take it slow with any new shoe that’s very different.
Try not to push running too hard if the shoe types are very different. Muscle development and bone alignment take time to occur. If you are running in a cushioned shoe and then a thin-soled shoe, your foot will need a while to adjust.
Don’t forget to give your feet time to heal if an injury occurs. Resting your feet between runs or between walking barefoot will allow for your feet to have time to recover and heal if needed.
Change up your Shoes
If you want your feet to get stronger and healthier, it might be time to assess your shoes.
Look for shoes that are old. If they are over five years old, their soles have most likely started to degrade. If they once provided arch support, the foam is likely unable to be as effective.
Look for shoes that are too small. Get rid of the shoes that are too narrow or too short. They will cause problems over time. If you feel bad about getting rid of perfectly good shoes, donate them so someone can benefit from them.
Look for shoes that place your toes or feet in unnatural positions. These are shoes that can be particularly hurtful for your foot health. Decide your feet can look beautiful naturally.
Buy shoes that have wider toes boxes. Buy shoes that support your arches. Buy shoes that can help you transition from heavy reliance on sole cushioning to less shoe cushioning, but that also gives your foot more ability to move naturally.
I bought a pair of trail runners (Amazon Link) that are working well for me but took about two months for my feet to get used to them. I usually use them for walking and hiking, with some lite jogging.
It helped me to walk in these shoes slowly over time, helping to aid with my foot strength. They have a thin layer of cushioning, a wide toe box, and are zero-drop shoes so that the foot has a more natural range of motion.
Now reward yourself by taking a trip to the beach for all your hard work. The sand is a great place to walk barefoot and strengthen those feet.
Thanks for visiting Helpshoe.com
Which shoes are best for plantar fasciitis?
The best shoes for plantar fasciitis are shoes with arch support, that fit your arch type, and cushioning for your heel and the ball of your foot. Having plenty of cushioning and support will help reduce pain.
Are zero-drop shoes good for my feet?
Zero-drop shoes help people walk and run more naturally and efficiently. Many people claim that it helps with the prevention of injuries. It helps people naturally land on the midfoot where the arch is located. Research shows it may help prevent some knee injuries.