Flexible shoes

in Oct 18, 2023

Hi everyone. This week we're discussing the third F of natural footwear - Flexible.

The human foot is a marvel of engineering and a complex mechanical structure.

Each foot is loaded with joints, muscles and ligaments which allow it to move in a variety of ways and buffer the world around us so we can maintain stability as we move about.

Each foot contains 26 bones and 33 joints. That means our feet are designed to move....a lot. A joint only exists if motion is required at that area of the body. If motion wasn't required, no joint would be present.

When we take a highly mobile body part and jam it into unnatural footwear, we end up creating stiff feet. If the shoe is rigid, it will prevent natural motion of our foot joints and the consequences of this can materialize as symptoms like plantar fasciitis, tight ankles, achilles pain and perpetually sore feet. 

Think about it like this: if you wore a cast on your wrist for 6 weeks, your wrist would end up being really stiff when the cast was removed. A classic example of the S.A.I.D principle (I highly recommend reading the blog about the SAID principle if you haven't already). For the same reason, when we wear stiff shoes all day, the joints of our feet end up becoming stiff over time.

If the joints of our feet stop moving, the muscles that cross those joints no longer have a purpose. They weaken, get smaller and unplug because of disuse. Without motion at joints or foot muscle working to support and stabilize motion, our feet essentially become solid blocks of bones.

Consequences of immobile, weak feet:

- Increased risk of foot injury

- Decreased capacity to absorb impact forces at the foot (which means more loading of the ankle, knee and spine)

- Reduced balance


The problem is that we don't often connect knee pain, tight ankles, achilles tendon pain, or low back pain to stiff/weak feet so we don't fully appreciate the consequences of unnatural shoes that are stiff.

One of the key features of natural footwear is flexibility. Flexible shoes allow the joints of our feet to move and the muscles of our feet to continue working. This improves our balance, mitigates joint loads upstream at the knee, and makes us more resilient during movement because our feet can fulfill their natural function.

How can you tell if a shoe is flexible? Bend it, twist it, fold it. Natural shoes are easy to bend and twist. Unnatural shoes aren't.

Summary: Natural shoes are flexible and allow full motion at the 33 joints inside each of our feet. Feet that move naturally protect joints upstream from excess motion and loading and offer us a more stable foundation for movement. 

Healthy feet are mobile and are able to adapt to the world around us.

Choosing flexible shoes is a one time decision that preserves your foot mobility and strength with every step you take.

Share this with someone who is suffering with foot pain and help them understand that flexible shoes are an important part of the process of healing their feet.

Thanks for reading.


Until next week,




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