In this microdose for the sole, I’m focusing on the second most important feature of natural footwear - flat.
Specifically, I want to share my thoughts about how flat shoes recalibrate the lower body and shed some light on the consequences that come with wearing ramped, supportive shoes. Questions I aim to answer: What is a flat shoe? Why are flat shoes better for humans? What are the consequences of ramped, supportive shoes?
Flat describes the profile of a shoe and has two components: 1) The heel to forefoot height differential, 2) the footbed surface profile
Shoes with an elevated heel disrupt our natural posture and create joint position alterations that are unnatural and can cause problems upstream in the body over time. Imagine a tower of Jenga blocks sitting on a flat surface. Now imagine placing a wedge under one side of the foundational block and see what happens. The tower either falls over or you have to rearrange a bunch of the blocks upstream in order to counteract the wonky foundation.
The same thing happens with ramped shoes. By elevating our heels above our forefoot, we alter the load distribution of the foot, disable full use of our ankle mobility, tilt our pelvis forward, increase load on our knees, disable our glutes, and compress the joints of our low back (among many other postural alterations). All of that from simply elevating the heel of a shoe!!!!
The simple truth: The human body is adapted to stand on flat ground. Wearing natural shoes that have a heel and forefoot at the same height offers our body a chance to function naturally. A ramped shoe is unnatural disables our ability to move naturally and efficiently.
The second part of flat describes the footbed of a shoe (the interior base of a shoe which our foot rests upon). A flat footbed is free of artificial support. While shoes with an “arch support” are marketed to us as beneficial, the reality is that they stiffen and weaken our feet by deactivating the muscles that create and hold a stable arch. Arch support in footwear also prevents pronation of the foot which is a key element needed for the foot to effectively buffer impact forces. If your feet can’t absorb impacts, your joints upstream will have to (often resulting in knee and low back pain over time).
Anytime we do things in opposition to natural function, we face consequences. The consequences of wearing ramped, supportive shoes can be profound and include issues like bunions, plantar fasciitis, knee pain, restricted ankle mobility, achilles tendon pain, back pain, and more. Switch to flat shoes and you offer your body a chance to restore natural function and you protect yourself from the issues listed above. Small change, profound benefits.
As a reminder, the 5 Fs of natural shoes are: Foot shaped, Flat, Flexible, Feel, Fixed.
Sole Freedom exists to offer a wide variety of natural footwear brands and styles to our customers and to design a great experience filled with education.
Thank you for reading and for taking care of yourself by wearing natural footwear.
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Wishing you a great week ahead