What if you discovered that walking barefoot not only saves your children’s feet from poor foot formation as they grow but also helps improve overall health for them and you as an adult? There have been several studies supporting both areas of concern.
It’s gotta be the shoes, right? That was a line in a circa 1989 humorous Nike commercial where avid basketball fan and film director Spike Lee was confronting Michael Jordan on where he got his vaunted basketball abilities.
But when it comes to poor podiatry health in our culture, it is the shoes, and it isn’t so funny. From a review published in Pediatrics, August 1991, VOLUME 88 / ISSUE 2 by the Department of Orthopedics, Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, Seattle; and Department of Orthopaedics, University of Washington, Seattle, comes the following abstract commentary:
1. Optimum foot development occurs in the barefoot environment.
2. The primary role of shoes is to protect the foot from injury and infection.
3. Stiff and compressive footwear may cause deformity, weakness, and loss of mobility.
4. The term “corrective shoes” is a misnomer.
5. Shock absorption, load distribution, and elevation are valid indications for shoe modifications.
6. Shoe selection for children should be based on the barefoot model.
7. Physicians should avoid and discourage the commercialization and “media”-ization of footwear. Merchandising of the “corrective shoe” is harmful to the child, expensive for the family, and a discredit to the medical profession. (Source)
In an article published in the October 2002 edition of Podiatry Management, revered podiatrist Dr. William Rossi proclaimed that the notion of foot problems from wearing unusually poor fitting or outgrown shoes was misguided because almost all shoes for children are and have been inappropriately designed footwear for children.
Most shoes, even those designed to give more support for young children and toddlers, are not designed to match the foot’s natural design. Dr. Rossi’s basic premise is that most footwear causes most foot problems.
He died at the age of 93 in 2003, but his legacy continues through his writings that have enlightened others with the details of why most shoes don’t match the mechanical needs of our feet.
As we grow older, the more fashionable the shoes, the worse the mismatch. Almost all shoes do not have the same flex point as our feet. That and other factors cause internal foot malformation and malfunction.
From Dr. Rossi: Children’s footwear today is made, fitted and sold by the same naïve rules as a half-century and more ago. (…) The consequences? No shoe-wearing American or European adult owns a normal or unspoiled foot anatomically or functionally. By “normal” or “natural” is meant in comparison to the pristine feet among the estimated one billion people of the world that go through life unshod. (Source)
Biomechanist Katy Bowman, author of Whole Body Barefoot: Transitioning Well to Minimal Footwear may have come across some of Dr. Rossi’s writings herself. But her approach is more positive and balanced.
She slips through accepted footwear and barefoot extremist perspectives, finding points where both sides are right and delivers a guide to a gradual transition to minimal footwear, not necessarily smaller, but more able to mimic natural foot movement and flexing while offering some protection.
More importantly, she explains most shoes create poorly developed feet, which also affects our spinal and pelvic alignments that in turn can create other seemingly unconnected health issues.
Both Bowman and Rossi point out the complexity of the foot’s structure. One human foot contains 26 bones; 33 joints; more than 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. With both feet, the number of bones contained is about one-fourth of all the bones in the human body. (Source)
Even the foot’s arch is oversimplified. It is not one solid piece of material, but several bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons with their full natural strength and flexibility combining to form an arch.
Shoe arches are misplaced and shoe bound feet can easily form “flat feet”. Using flat shoes helps minimize the damage. The current healthy shoe movement is toward minimal footwear. Here are some examples.
featured image feet anatomy source