I believe the default state of the human body is pain free. Said another way, if we care for our physical bodies by using them in alignment with biology, the result is a body that functions remarkably well and permits us the freedom to explore movement (and life) as we wish.
If the default state of humans is pain free, why do so many humans suffer from foot pain? After 8 years of nerding out on feet, I’ve come to a simple answer: unnatural footwear.
Today’s Microdose for the Sole is about unnatural footwear. A seemingly innocent piece of clothing that 99% of people are wearing and something I now understand to be the primary cause of foot pain (as well as a major contributor of issues upstream at the ankle, knee, hip and low back).
As a physical therapist, I witnessed first hand the profound impact that persistent foot pain can have on ones overall quality of life. Just ask someone with a serious ankle sprain or excruciating plantar fasciitis. It sucks. Foot pain can rob you of your movement independence and the ability to participate in activities that bring you joy. To give you an idea of how big of a problem foot pain has become in shoe wearing populations, an APMA (American Podiatric Medicine Association) survey of 1000 people over the age of 18 found that 77% reported experiencing foot pain and half of those who experienced foot pain said that they had to modify their activities because of the pain.
When you understand the fundamentals of foot health (which are super simple) and learn that 99% of people are wearing footwear that is actively damaging their feet, it makes a lot more sense that 75%+ of people suffer from foot pain.
Today I hope to simplify the concept of unnatural footwear so you can better identify it and protect yourself from it.
Specifically, I want to answer these questions:
1) What is unnatural footwear?
2) What features define unnatural footwear?
What is unnatural footwear?
In microdose #2 we defined footwear as specialized clothing that humans wear on their feet to protect them from the environment. Now let’s define the word unnatural. Unnatural: contrary to the natural course of nature, not conforming to human biology.
One would think that clothing for our feet would be designed around the shape and function of the human foot but in reality, most shoes aren’t. That means instead of shoes conforming to our feet, our feet must conform to the shoes.
What I've found to be the truth: when we expose our feet to unnatural shoes, the result is unnatural foot function. When we switch to shoes that allow our feet to move naturally, we give ourselves an opportunity to restore natural foot function.
What features define unnatural footwear?
From a foot health perspective, I look at 4 features in footwear: shape, profile, flexibility and sole thickness.
Next week (Microdose #4) I will unpack natural footwear in terms of those features. Today we’re sticking to unnatural shoes which are:
- Not shaped like feet
Image source: Softstar Shoes
Footwear company marketing departments and foot “experts” trick us into thinking we need fancy features in our shoes. Turns out these features actually hinder us from maintaining healthy feet. We’re told we need a stiff, supportive, cushioned shoe and we even pay huge sums of money to get those features.
The truth is that the less technology you have in your shoes, the more you need to use the technology that nature built into your feet. With shoes, less is more. Less shoe, more foot. My path to better foot health started with weaning myself from unnatural shoes. By doing so, I immediately began allowing my body to restore natural strength, mobility, and stability at my foundation.
Simple ways to detect unnatural footwear:
Shape: take out the sockliner (insole) and put your foot on it. Is the sockliner narrower than your foot? If yes, the shoes are unnatural.
General profile: Is the heel higher than the toes? If yes, the shoes are unnatural.
Inner sole profile: Is there artificial support built into the shoe? If yes, the shoes are unnatural.
Flexibility: Is it hard to twist and fold the shoe? If yes, the shoes are unnatural.
Sole thickness: Does the shoe have a thick, padded sole? If yes, the shoes are unnatural.
In future microdoses I will explore more nuanced elements of footwear.
I hope this Microdose provides helpful, practical information that helps you defend yourself from the harmful effects of unnatural shoes.
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.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for supporting our work at Sole Freedom and thank you for taking care of yourself.
Next weeks Microdose for the Sole topic: What is natural footwear?
Wishing you a wonderful week and lots of Love