Are Shoes Bad for You?
Shoes Deform Feet
Having danced on pointe shoes as a professional classical ballet dancer for over two decades, it has taken me several years of intense research and practice to get my own damaged feet back to near-normal again. Like ballet pointe shoes, most shoes on the market today are not designed for the natural shape of human feet. My findings are worth sharing with anyone who has children and/or suffers from feet damaged by fashion shoes (which is most of us). I shall also clear up some myths propagated by the shoe industry and point your feet towards better, alternative shoe makers.
Side Effects of Shoes
Like ballet pointe shoes or Chinese foot binding, Western shoes for men and women can seriously deform your feet because their design follows an unnatural shoe last shape. A good posture cannot be achieved unless the base-foundation—i.e., the feet and ankles—are strong and healthy. The type of shoes you wear directly affects the health of your entire body. When the foundation is crumbling, the entire building crumbles and eventually collapses.
Why do we Wear Shoes? Don't be a Push-Over
The original function of shoes is to protect the feet from rough ground and weather. The bigger and broader your base, the stronger and more grounded and balanced your stance will be. If your toes are squashed together and not allowed to spread out as they are designed to do for maximum support and balance, then the weight of your body is being shifted backwards mostly onto the heels in tight, narrow flat shoes. In high heels, the weight is shifted on the forefoot. In both cases, ill-fitting shoes not only cause permanent damage to the feet, they also make you prone to being very easily pushed over when you are are standing or walking. Don't be a push-over!
Deformities Caused by Shoes
In the Name of Culture
In the aristocratic circles of China old women used to break little girls’ toes, fold them under and bind them to prepare them for a “privileged” life at the palace, as one of the Emperor’s wives. Crippled for life, hardly walking, and certainly not being able to run away from the Emperor, these young girls were assured a future life of wealthy slavery.
Chinese Foot Binding
How much self-abuse is still being practiced today in the name of culture, fashion, image, fame or prestige? Corsets, wired bras, garters, hairpins, earrings, ties, belts, buttons, bags, piercings and tattoos, are used to appease the consumer's lack of a healthy self-image and deep-seated feelings of insecurity. Okay, I'll admit it's fun to dress up for a special occasion—but wearing high heels as a norm? High heels are, in a different way, as silly and damaging to your body as the kind of abuse women imposed upon themselves centuries ago, like waist tightening until they could no longer breathe and gracefully fainted at every occasion.
In the Name of Fashion
The Truth About High Heels
- The entire body weight is carried too far forwards, mostly onto the ball of the foot. As a result the ankles, knees, hips and spine are out of alignment. You are, in fact, diminishing the weight baring capacity in the foot.
- Increases pressure on the forefoot.
- Creates unnecessary tension in the calf muscles.
- Shortens the Achilles tendons which hurt the shins when walking without high heels. Short Achilles tendons also prevent bending the ankles and knees deep enough for efficient running and jumping.
High heels project an image of vulnerability. That image has got women where they are today: the weaker sex, at the mercy of a more able-bodied man who helps them wobble out of taxis, on their stilettos, clutching onto his arm and a handbag.
Side Effects of Wearing High Heels
- Morton’s neuroma – a thickening of tissue around a nerve between the 3rd and 4th toes, which can cause pain.
- Bunions – bony growth on outside of the big toe joint.
- Hammertoes – toes are bent at the middle joint through lack of space.
Elevated Above the Rest
If you can do a proper "relevé" (rising up very high on the ball of the feet), then you don't need high heels. Just walk along normally on natural shoes or flip-flops and then, when you know you might be observed by some interested (and interesting) party, just pretend you want to grow taller to see something far away and bingo, you're up there on your perfect relevé, giving you the exact look high heels create without the pain or harm done to your feet. It's good practice too. I often do it, standing in queues at the airport, to rise above the crowd. Silly? So be it.
Watch the following video, which illustrates the full movement range and potential in a human foot.
What your Foot is Capable of - Football, by Juliette Kando
The Shoe Test
When you go out to buy your next pair of shoes consider the following: Before trying to squeeze your foot into a new shoe, hold the sole of the left shoe against the sole of your bare right foot (or vice versa). Now judge for yourself if the new shoe’s surface area would take the shape of your whole foot. Spread the toes - the toe part of any shoe should be wider than the ball area. A well fitting shoe has enough room for the toes to spread while weight bearing in walking, jumping and running. Such a shoe is hard to find.
Buy Shoes that Fit
The Shoe Industry
Shoes will hurt until you “break them in." Sorry, you are not “breaking in” a shoe. If a shoe hurts when you first try it on, it is the shoe that is breaking your foot with severe long-term damage in the form of bunions, hammertoes and poor stability.
Here is Another Myth
A shoe salesman will tell you that good shoes have to "support" the feet, or your feet will "spread." Ask yourself: Why? Your feet do not need support if they are allowed to do their job unimpaired. The only reason the shoe industry condones such nonsensical information is to make people's feet so uncomfortable that they need to keep buying more new shoes. Wake up!
Needless to say, but I'll say it anyway: When buying shoes for children the above considerations should be taken even more seriously.
From the Experts
Elegance and Style
If most mass produced shoes are still not made for comfortable walking, then people resent walking. Yet everyone seems to be into elegance and style. What they fail to understand is that elegance and style is not made in a shoe but is the result of how well you can carry your body with grace, fluency, good timing, and an appropriate physical response to what is going on around you. So it figures that nothing you put on your body for the sake of elegance and style will work unless your body itself is elegant and stylish to begin with. True elegance and style can only be achieved with physical intelligence. Elegance and style are in your body, not in your shoes.
Building You Up from Scratch
As soon as you start wearing better shoes you should, within a fortnight or so, have changed the way you use your feet to create a good foundation for better posture and balance. "Are Shoes Bad For You?" is the 3rd article in a progressive series of over 30 episodes I have written so far on physical intelligence, body awareness, and weight loss to build you up from scratch. You can find them on my profile.
Please feel free to ask questions and share your views in the discussion below.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.