Why do we wear shoes?

in Jul 11, 2023

Before reading further, spend 30 seconds worth of brain energy asking yourself this question:

Why do I wear shoes?

…..seriously, do it. It’s a good exercise.

If you’re like me, you wear shoes to protect your feet from the environment. While I’m a huge advocate of spending time barefoot in a variety of environments, I also recognize that going barefoot requires a really high level of mindfulness about where I’m stepping to ensure I don’t damage by feet. Sometimes I want to go for a walk or a run without needing to analyze the terrain every step so I wear shoes.

Maybe you're someone who wears shoes as an outlet for self expression. Nothing wrong with that. Maybe you wear shoes to get noticed. Maybe you wear shoes to help you play a sport more effectively. Cleats on a soccer field are a major advantage and I personally wear shoes for pickleball to give me better start/stop speeds and to protect the skin of my feet from blisters.

Maybe you wear shoes because someone with an expensive degree that talks in complicated jargon terms told you some nonsense like this:

“your feet need support”

“your body can’t tolerate hard surfaces”

“if you don’t wear a stiff, cushioned shoe when running, your knees will break down”

…yes some professionals actually say that stuff and yes…it’s a load of crap at best, and in most cases, downright harmful.

Humans wear shoes for a variety of reasons and regardless of yours, I can almost certainly assume that you aren't wearing them to cause yourself pain. Nobody says: “I wear shoes to deform my feet and cause myself foot pain and suffering”.

That seems like an obvious one but the reality I see everyday is that the vast majority of people are unintentionally wearing unnatural shoes that damage their feet and eventually create problems at their ankles, knees, hips and low back. That big, nasty problem is why I’m writing Microdose for the Sole. I’m not here to convince anyone of anything. I’m doing this to make sure every human has access to truth so they can make better decisions about the footwear they wear and take better care of themselves.

For today, I want to briefly touch on two fundamental questions that allow us to better understand shoes:

1) What is footwear?
2) Why do humans wear footwear?

What is footwear?

Simply put, shoes are clothing for our feet. Humans wear clothing as a tool to protect us from the external environment. It might be physical protection from sharp objects that could cut or puncture our skin. It might be to protect us from temperature extremes like winter cold or from overdosing on UV rays of the sun (I personally think clothing is a much better way to protect our bodies from UV overexposure than smearing chemicals on our skin). We might also wear clothing to protect ourselves from the judgement or discomfort of others who might see us naked. Shoes are a very specialized form of clothing that we wear on our feet.

Our feet are loaded with sensory nerves, muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons. They're super complex because they serve two essential functions:

1) They are a primary sensor for the physical world around us
2) They are the literal foundation of our physical bodies

Feet are important and we should definitely protect them. Footwear is the tool humans use to do that.

As a final note here, I want to take a second to note the paradox of footwear: The very clothing we originally began wearing to protect our feet are the primary thing damaging them. Super weird.

Why do humans wear footwear?

As I mentioned above, humans wear shoes for many different reasons. Protection, fashion, athletic performance and probably several others I’m not mentioning here.

Personally, I wear shoes for a single reason: to protect my feet. Specifically, shoes for me are a tool that protect the sole of my foot from damage and I only wear footwear that accomplishes that with as little impact on foot function and ground feel as possible.

It wasn’t always that way. For most of my life I wore shoes as a form of self expression. I wanted to wear cool shoes to get noticed. I wore them for fashion reasons. In fact, I even got a job at a shoe store as a teenager so I could make money to buy more shoes and also get a discount on those shoes. I was a sneaker head and I collected cool shoes.

Despite my newfound knowledge collected over the past 8 years about the scam of unnatural footwear, I aim to never judge people who wear shoes as a tool of self expression even if I know they are damaging their feet. That said, I also think it’s important for people to understand the tradeoffs they are making with certain shoes so that they can be wise in their evaluation of which shoes they choose to wear. If someone understands the implications of unnatural footwear and chooses to wear them regardless of those consequences, that’s their choice. Who am I to tell anyone what they should and shouldn’t do?

The problem I see is that people are wearing unnatural shoes without understanding the true consequences (which often aren’t immediately obvious). Knee pain, low back pain, foot pain - if people knew these issues are heavily influenced by their footwear choices, they might weigh the benefits differently when deciding what shoes to wear.

If those cute/sexy shoes you love to wear create decades of pain, deformed feet and problems at joints upstream, maybe they no longer have the same appeal. My goal is to inform people so they can make wise choices and to shed light on the issues that come from wearing unnatural footwear.

If you find this information useful, please share it. Share it with your friends, family, clients, patients and anyone who is suffering from foot pain and is ready to make changes to take better care of themselves. If you want to contribute a testimonial or share your story on the weekly Microdose for the Sole, please email us at hello@SoleFreedom.ca. We love hearing from our community and sharing your success stories to inspire others.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for supporting our work and thanks for taking care of yourself.

Next weeks Microdose for the Sole topic: What is unnatural footwear?

Wishing you a wonderful week and lots of Love


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