Monday, October 11, 2010


               Barefoot Shoes For Children and Adults

Having dealt with Chronic Lyme disease and associated problems...for over 20 years, I have learned...and am still learning about the many different factors that can affect our overall health. Taking care of our feet isn't just about focusing on an isolated part of our body but proper foot care plays a role in relieving the stress on other parts of the body as well as on the foot itself. See
I am finding that the more I realign myself with nature's laws, the healthier I become. It's not an overnight process but I am finding it to be a fascinating and exciting journey....and even though I'm getting older in years....I feel as if I am becoming younger. We don't have to get sicker, duller and more boring as we age. I am seeing it as a chance to spend more time learning, growing and sharing with others
Three Ways Wearing Shoes Harms Our Feet And What We Can Do About It
By Podiatrist Dr. Michael Nirenberg

Our feet need to be healthy and strong to endure high impact activities, such as aerobics, running or other sports, and the daily abuse of walking. When our feet weaken, they are at risk of injury, such as a fracture, tendonitis, or plantar fasciitis.

The purpose of shoes is to protect feet and provide warmth. Beyond these basics, some shoes are a fashion accessory, while others supposedly help us run faster, walk better, tone our legs, or even alleviate foot ailments.

Comparing the feet of people who did not and currently do not wear shoes with those who wore shoes and currently wear shoes provides insight into the consequences of wearing shoes.

1. Shoes Weaken Bones in Our Feet

According to renowned anthropologist Erik Trinkaus of Washington University, humans began habitually wearing shoes 40,000 years ago. He reached this conclusion by examining the toe bones of people who lived in the range of 10,000 to 100,000 years ago and found that at 40,000 years ago, the bones became less robust. That is, when humans began wearing shoes the bones in our toes (digits 2 to 5) became less thick and strong; or in other words, the toe bones became more delicate and smaller.

Bones adapt to the loads placed under them. In response to increased loads (or forces), bones become stronger and thicker. Conversely, if the loading on a bone decreases, the bone will become weaker and thinner ( Wolff’s Law ).

Wearing shoes changes how we walk and how weight (or the ground’s loading force) spreads out across the bottom of our feet. Trinkaus describes our toes as being large and robust for most of human history, but suddenly with the wearing of shoes, they became “wimpy.”

Essentially, shoes limit the peak force on our toes by distributing loading across the entire forefoot and shoes eliminate the traction role of our toes. The result is weaker bones, leaving them at increased risk for fractures or other problems.

Shoes don’t just limit the peak forces on toes, they change the way our feet work. The actually working of our feet is referred to as the foot’s biomechanics and within shoes, our feet function differently. Essentially, shoes alter the foot’s natural motion.

2. Shoes Limit and Alter the Normal Motion of Our Feet

Changing the way our feet work, can lead to problems. Earlier we discussed how supportive shoes obviate the need for many foot muscles to the point where, during normal walking, they are not used. Muscles that are not used weaken. Weak muscles on the bottom of our feet increase pronation motion (Headlee et al). Up to a point, foot pronation is normal. Too much pronation or over-pronation can cause foot pain, problems, and deformities.

Sebastian Wolf at the University of Heidelberg compared foot motion of children 8 years old when barefoot and in shoes and found significant differences in biomechanics. Wolf found that shoes impaired the foot’s normal motion and shoes limit the normal widening of the forefoot while walking.

Interestingly, Wolf found that the foot’s need to widen while walking was more limited in the average commercial children’s shoe than in a much thinner, more flexible shoe even though the width of both shoes in the forefoot was identical.

Previously, the culprit for many foot ailments (such as Morton’s Neuroma or hammertoes) has been the tight-fitting shoe. Based on Wolf’s findings, perhaps we need to add to add to “tight-fitting,” the inflexible shoe and the thick-soled shoe.

In October of 2009, foot and shoe data from the prestigious Framingham Study of 3,378 subjects over the years 2002 to 2008 found past shoewear use in women was associated with hindfoot pain. Meaning, even if a woman’s shoe is not causing foot pain now, it could later—even after the woman has long stopped wearing the shoe.

Specifically, the Framingham study states:
“Young women should make careful choice regarding their shoe type in order to potentially avoid hindfoot pain later in life.”

The Framingham study faults the use of high heel shoes and encourages women who persist in wearing these types of shoes to perform stretching exercises to decrease the likelihood of foot pain occurring later.

Beyond altering the normal motion of our feet, wearing shoes can actually change the normal structure and shape of our feet.

3. Shoes Deform Our Feet

Overwhelming evidence shows that wearing shoes deforms our feet. Foot deformities can potentially cause pain and other problems.

Udaya Rao at the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Kasturba Medical College, Karnataka, India compared flatfoot deformity in children (age 4 to 13) who wore shoes with those unshod. He found the incidence of flatfoot was 8.6% in those who wore shoes and 2.8% in those who did not wear shoes.

Further, Rao discovered that flatfoot occurred most often with children who wore closed-toe shoes and less often when children wore sandals, slippers, and least in those children who walked barefoot. He concluded that shoe wearing in childhood is detrimental to the development of the foot’s normal arch.

Simon Mays in the Physical Journal of Anthropology published a study on bunions. Bunions are painful protrusions of bone on the inside of our feet and are associated with the big toe drifting toward the other toes. Mays states that the majority of bunions result from wearing shoes; few are hereditary.

Mays says bunion deformities are rare in non-shoe wearing populations until the people start wearing shoes. Then the incidence of bunions rises sharply.

Further, Mays says that incidence of bunions in a population is related to the type of shoes worn. In populations wearing more constrictive Western-style shoes as opposed to loose-fitting footwear, the incidence of bunion deformities increased.

Kristiann D’Aout compared barefoot and shoe-wearing populations and found differences in both foot shape and the peak pressures under the foot. Barefoot peoples have wider feet and exhibit more equally distributed peak pressures. Shoe-wearing peoples had narrower feet and showed higher focal pressures at the heel, big toe and ball of the foot. These higher peak pressures put the foot at more risk for injuries, such as metarsalgia, capsulitis, fracture or tendonitis.

Further, Dr. Bernhard Zipfel at the University of the Witwatersrand has dedicated his academic career to the evolution of the human foot. Zipfel’s research paper “Shod versus unshod: The emergence of forefoot pathology in modern humans?” concluded that shoes were a factor in the development of foot pathology.

Ways to Protect Our Feet from Shoes

Dr. Lynn Staheli, Director of Orthopedics at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Seattle asserts that, optimum foot development occurs when barefoot.

Clearly, in general, shoes are not good for the development of our feet. The best shoe merely protects feet from the environment.

When it comes to toddlers and children, the best advice I can give parents is try to have their children go barefoot as much as possible. I cannot emphasize this enough!

Of course, going barefoot is not without risks. Parents must find areas where it is safe to walk without shoes. Further, when possible have your child walk barefoot on uneven terrain to encourage his or her feet to use as many muscles as possible.

During times when children must wear shoes, choose the most flexible, barefoot-like shoe you can find. If my child had to wear a shoe, I would put them in a soft shoe or even a sandal or flip-flop before a big, stiff well-padded running shoe.

For the shoe-wearing adult who has healthy feet and no concomitant medical problems (i.e. diabetes or poor circulation), to stop wearing shoes suddenly, would likely cause foot pain and problems.

These adults should start by SLOWLY transitioning to less supportive, more barefoot-like shoes. They should look for shoes with a wide toe-box (wide around the toes) and less stiff, more flexible shoes. Some shoes that help simulate barefoot activity while providing some degree of protection include, Vibram Five Fingers, Nike Free and Terra Plana’s Vivo Barefoot.

In addition, adults transitioning out of stiff, supportive shoes should do foot strengthening and stretching exercises. Years of wearing supportive shoes will have weakened many of the small muscles in the arch, ball and toes of the feet, and these muscles need to get strong again. Gradually, these adults should begin barefoot activity.

Lastly, persons with foot problems, such as impaired sensation (i.e. diabetics), poor circulation or other problems or deformities should not go barefoot or try barefoot-like shoes without first checking with their podiatrist.
Where Do Podiatrists Stand on Shoes?

The American Podiatrist Medical Association (APMA) has issued a statement on going barefoot, entitled “Podiatrists Urge Americans to Think Twice Before Going Barefoot.” You can read the APMA’s statement by clicking HERE.

Final Thoughts on Shoes and Foot Problems

Podiatrists are quick to point out that there are people who have never worn shoes and suffer from foot pain and problems, including flatfeet, bunions, hammertoes and other problems. This is true.

Foot deformities and problems are not always due to wearing shoes, and can occur due to a myriad of reasons: congenital, ligamentous laxity, rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, structural factors within the foot (metatarsal head shape, first ray hypermobility), over-pronation, trauma, diabetes, polio, vascular problems and the list goes on.

When it comes to foot deformities and foot problems, shoes are one possible factor. Shoes may be part of the problem for a particular person or the whole problem
See the following link for article references and live links
Dr. Nirenberg's website

Barefootin With Soft Star Shoes
                                         Soft sheepskin innersoles. Keeps feet warm in winter and the natural wicking properties of sheepskin keeps feet cool in summer and shoes stay odor free.It's the next best thing to being barefoot. There are a few other brands of barefoot shoes but so far Soft Star Shoes are the only ones I have tried . I bought my first pair a couple of months ago and I like them so much I have already ordered another pair  They have different styles and sizes for adults, toddlers and older children.


  1. "When it comes to foot deformities and foot problems, shoes are one possible factor. Shoes may be part of the problem for a particular person or the whole problem" - I do agree with this. Not all shoes are supportive and comfortable to wear, but there are some especially barefoot likes Vibram or Kigo-- These are light and very comfortable to wear. Plus, it also provides health benefits to our body. - Health Benefits|Choosing The Right Shoes

  2. I boycott anything made by Nike. They are famous for mistreating labor over seas.

    I have flat feet which runs in my family and just started to get an arch back by wearing supportive tennis shoes so I don't think I really want to go barefoot it just breaks down my arches more and does not feel good. It seems like an easier way to come in contact with ticks as well.

  3. I also have flat feet. When I was younger, I was able to walk miles in my barefeet without any discomfort. However....when I got Lyme disease, I could not walk barefoot at all. It was very uncomfortable to even stand without wearing arch supports. So....because of that I thought that I would have to wear heavy arch supports forever.

    Before I discovered Soft Star Shoes and Earthing, I noticed that I could stand and walk barefoot around the house now without having any pain at all. I attribute this to the years of treament for Lyme disease. I have read that Lyme can weaken ligaments, tendons and muscles which hold all of our parts together. I used to have a very sore hip before I was treated for Lyme and now that doesn't bother me either.

    I have also read that if it hurts to walk barefoot then you shouldn't but if it doesn't hurt, it is usually safe to walk without shoes that this practice can actually strengthen your arches and feet as a whole

  4. I forgot to mention your concern about ticks. I also think about this issue. The interesting thing was that this year (I live in a clearing in the middle of the woods)I only saw two ticks the whole spring, summer and fall so far. One was a deer tick and one was a dog tick and they were both on my cats. I usually see ticks all through the warmer seasons and get bitten once or twice. This year it was amazing...almost not ticks. I also only walk around the yard in short mowed grass and would never walk into the woods barefoot. Supposedly ticks don't like the short grass where it is dry and hot...they like the woods. So...this year my barefooting worked, was very pleasant and I am hoping that next year will also be good.

    Maybe if we reintroduce more and more natural practices, our immune systems will be in better shape and be better able to resist disease....

  5. I mentioned your excellent blog on this active thread on earthing: There is an online book on earthing called Return to Nature.

    Did you buy the shoes with rubber or non rubber soles. How important do you think that is? The shoes certainly look good!

    I have ordered a bed sheet from as earthing makes sense to me!

    happy blogging


    Is an active thread on earthing where i mention your excellent blog.

    On soft star shoes , did you buy a pair with rubber on non rubber soles? Is that important in terms of earthing?


  7. So far I have bought four pairs of Soft Star Shoes. Two of the pairs have all natural suede soles and the other two pairs have the T Rex thin rubber soles that are meshed to the suede sole. These very thin rubber soles would probably not be good for earthing but they are still soft and pliable so that the feet can move and excercise in a natural manner....which is also very important.

    I wear the moccasins with the T-Rex soles when it is damp or wet out and I wear the all natural suede soles when it is dry. I feel that the natural suede soles without the rubber meshed to them...are the best for earthing...altho it would probably be difficult to determine the amount of conductivity to our feet through the shoes. I do feel good when walking in them. You can feel the uneveness of the natural ground (not pavement)through the shoes...and well...I can just sense that that must be a beneficial aspect of these shoes. The shoes also stay on very well due to their unique design.AND.....the sheepskin innersoles are wonderfullll!