As soon as I discovered the “5 finger” shoes I knew I had found my shoe! It made so much sense to me. I had been struggling with side stitches every time I went running for a couple of years and I couldn’t understand why. I almost never wear heels. I only buy flat shoes with very little to no arch support.
So when I went running in my first pair of funny 5 finger shoes, it felt like home and the side stitches were gone.
It was 7 years ago and yet I still remember that first run. My calves hurt a little the next day, it’s true, but not too bad. Then they never hurt again. I wasn’t used to an elevated heel so my legs had no problem adapting to the flatness of the shoe. I ran exclusively in them until last year (when I added a New Balance Minimus to my quiver). The one thing I don’t love about the 5 fingers is that I tend to stub my toes when I run, which doesn’t happen in other minimalist shoes without the individual toes.
I loved them so much that I tried to convince everybody to wear them, my friends, my clients, my husband.
My dear husband tried so hard to go to a minimalist, zero-drop shoe. But he kept getting injured, his left calf especially. After a few years I stopped insisting and he slowly made his way back to a more traditional, more built-up shoe. Not fully though, he acknowledges the value of letting his feet do some of the work they’re supposed to do.
Yes it was a hard lesson for me, so idealist and passionate, to accept that not everybody likes or tolerates flat shoes, especially while running.
My mother’s mother-in-law, and her sisters, 3 women in their 80s only wear heels. Every day. And not 4mm heels. Real heels, the kind I only wear every other year to go to a wedding. But apart from the fact that they like it, they don’t have a choice.
They cannot NOT wear heels.
Now in their 80s, they’ve spent a lifetime shortening the back of their legs (calves, hamstrings) and their low backs. If they try to wear flats now, it hurts!
My mother also spent several years fighting some weird nerve pain in her left leg. She went to all kinds of specialists and doctors, they said, no heels! So she tried that, but it made it worse. Finally somebody realized that she needed short heels. She’s never worn high heels, but medium ones. Now she has to have some lift under her heels, not much, but at least an inch, otherwise it hurts her legs, feet and hips.
Our bodies are all different, our histories are all different, so we have to honor that and find whatever works best for us.
That said, I still believe it’s good to air on the side of minimalism and let our feet actually do what feet are supposed to do.
What should you look for in a shoe?
- A soft sole that allows you to engage your toes I the pushing off phase of walking.
- A wide toe box (no pointy shoe where your toes are all scrunched together) to let your toes spread and be stable.
- A flat sole, (as flat as possible), without arch support.
I know, you’re going to tell me that you need arch support or your feet will hurt.
Do you really need them or are your natural arches so weakened from years of having insoles that they can’t function anymore?
Built-in arch supports are like crutches. It’s good to have them sometimes, for a short period of time. But you wouldn’t keep using crutches after your foot is healed? You know it would weaken your leg and atrophy your muscles.
So what do you think arch supports are doing? Just that.
If you spent more time barefoot you’d be surprised at how your feet would change and how resilient and strong they would become.
Of course be moderate: If you’re wearing orthotics I’m not telling you to ditch them and never wear them again (even though you could try, some people have done it happily). But start weaning yourself off, an hour a day, then 2 hours. Don’t get discouraged if you have some foot pain, back off a little and then try again, maybe more slowly. We’re all different and yes some people really do need orthotics, but it’s such a small minority that you’re most likely not part of it.
And you know what’s really good at helping your feet? Rolfing!
Because we rebalance your feet, and everything on top of it. We open your feet, get rid of a lot of restrictions and holding patterns, it’s a perfect time to try letting them do their work without crutches.
Some brands for minimalist shoes, or shoes that let your feet do the work:
Soft star softstarshoes.com
If you’re ready for a change of alignment in your body, start with your feet. Recently one of my clients told me: It’s amazing how much change happened in my back just by opening up my feet.
Even if you’re not willing to wear funny-looking 5 fingered shoes, just yet, I can help you and your feet!