Shoes: good support or coffins for your feet?

Shoe Coffin

I will preface this post by saying the best thing I ever did for my feet, my posture and my pain was to stop wearing traditional shoes.  I am very hypermobile and have very high arches in my feet and throughout my athletic life I have been slowed down by foot pain and blood blisters on the balls of my feet and big toes (sorry for the details).  I had tried all different types of shoes, orthotics and tapes, so in 2008 I decided to start working in only socks most of the day and never turned back.  Going barefoot taught me a lot about my own body and how I was creating my own hip and back pain.  The feedback I was getting from my feet helped me become aware that I was standing entirely on the outsides of my feet and how that related to the tightness and aching in my hips.  From the ground up, I progressively became aware of how one part of my body was affecting the other and I have been able to successfully strengthen my feet, loosen my hips and eliminate almost all of the chronic issues I was having.

You will find the Why Feet Hurt video at the bottom of this post.

Being a physical therapist, seeing 14 people a day with different body and foot types, has allowed me to test my posture and movement principles within myself and on my clients.  I have helped a lot of people discover how their feet affect their bodies and their bodies affect their feet.  I have learned that how you hold your upper body can be the root cause of your bunions and how you use your hips can dictate if you pronate or supinate in your feet.  There is very much a trickle up and a trickle down effect on posture, alignment and movement.  The shoes you choose will affect all of the above.

Let me walk you through the path I have taken to create strong feet and good posture as it relates to my shoes.  The first fact that you need to consider is that we are all born and built to function barefoot; you were not born with Nikes on.  The second fact that you should know is that your body adapts to the forces you put on it; so your body will compensate and adapt to the shoes you have chosen throughout life, usually in a negative way.  These compensations and adaptations happen over years and typically catch up to you sooner or later in the form of pain or deformity in your feet, knees or back; so your body is built to function one way, but you have forced it to function in another.  If you truly want to restore normal functioning, it takes time, concentration and persistence to undo the strongly engrained movement patterns and weaknesses in your feet and body.

I started by taping up my feet in a way that compensated for all my weaknesses; the tape performed the mechanical action my weak muscles weren’t able to provide.  The results were incredible.  I felt 20lbs lighter.  My toes straightened all out instead of bunching up and I could feel my feet become levers to push me forward when I was walking.  To top it all off, it got rid of my foot pain.  I started taping up most of my clients’ feet and 75% of them found the same result.  The trouble was the tape job only lasted about two days and became impractical to tape all the time, but it motivated me to strengthen my feet and made me further realize how traditional shoes were causing my problems.

The foot is built to bear weight on the heel, the lateral portion of the sole, the ball of the forefoot and the toes, just like what you would see in a foot print on the ground.  The front of the foot is supposed to be able to flex and extend just like the ankle can flex and extend.  You should be able to wave goodbye with your forefoot, but shoes don’t permit foot flexion, only extension.  Your feet are built to literally lightly grab the ground and lightly contour to the surface you are walking over to help provide balance and support to the body, but shoes prevent your feet from doing any work by artificially lifting you away from the ground and providing a gripped, stable base.  Shoes can make certain activities easier for your body, but they can be a coffin for your feet.  Imagine what would happen to your hands if you wore mittens all the time that didn’t let you make a fist, grip or use any dexterity.  They would eventually deform and your fingers would curl up, just like most toes do in shoes.


Foot should bear weight like a tripod and have lengthwise tension for support

People have come to believe that they need the support that shoes and orthotics provide and some people do, but they need the support because of the shoes they have been wearing their whole life, not because they are meant to have something physically pushing their arch up from below.  You can become very dependent on your shoes and orthotics, and can progressively need to get stiffer and more supportive shoes over time as your feet get weaker and weaker.  This is the path many people choose because it can demonstrate the most immediate comfort, but I warn you that it leads to balance and pain issues later in life.  I encourage people to learn how to use their feet in conjunction with the rest of their body to naturally build arches and strong feet; this process takes time, but pays dividends in the long run.  If you are older, and your feet have already developed large bunions and hammer toes, your best option may be to compensate for your feet with supportive shoes and orthotics, but most people could benefit from shedding their traditional shoes even part of the time and go for a barefoot walk.

The footwear industry has started to shift towards a less is more mentality when it comes to athletic shoes.  There are a handful of companies starting to produce their version of a “barefoot shoe.”  These are extremely light shoes that protect your feet from sharp objects, but don’t provide a lot of cushioning or support; they let your feet do the work.  Most traditional running shoes have an elevated, cushioned heel, a stiff mid foot section and a relatively thinner sole in the forefoot.  Compared to going barefoot, running shoes are high heels, they promote heel striking and make it challenging to use the front of your foot properly.


Traditional running shoe

Nike was the first major company to work on making a more minimalist shoe with their Nike Free line.  The Free is extremely light and has slats in the sole that allow more movement to occur in the foot, but it still has the elevated profile of a traditional running shoe.  The heel is significantly higher than the forefoot and the shoe facilitates more extension in the forefoot, but still doesn’t allow the forefoot to flex.  I view this shoe as a good transition shoe towards barefoot, but mechanically it won’t help you very much.

Nike Free 5.0

Vibram developed their Five Fingers shoe back around 2006 to really start the barefoot movement and have been the leaders ever since.  Their shoe is the closest thing on the market you will get to walking barefoot, but they also look like you are wearing monkey feet.  To their credit, they have developed a handful of new lines with more style over the past five years, but you will still end up in a conversation about your shoes everywhere you go, if you wear them out.  Personally, I love mine and wear them for walks, hikes and short runs in the spring and summer.  They have been a key ingredient to strengthening my feet and I recommend them to almost everyone confident enough to wear them in public.


Vibram Fiver Fingers Bikila

Terra Planna has the best selection of practical, nice looking bare foot shoes with their Vivo Barefoot line.  I use these as work and casual shoes.  They have a flat profile and a wide toe box to give your forefoot room.  The sole will protect your feet, but you feel what you are walking over.  These shoes made me change how I walk.  Not having a cushioned heel on them made me realize how much I heel strike then slap my foot as I walk.  My heels got sore and you could hear me coming as my feet slapped the floor.  I learned to lean forward slightly and land more on my mid foot….my heels felt better, my feet got stronger and the slapping stopped.  Unless you live in New York or London, these shoes can be hard to come by, but check out this link for their online store.


Terra Planna Vivo Barefoot

Merrell has recently teamed up with Vibram to make a super light hiking, athletic shoe.  They have a similar sole to the Five Fingers shoe, but are a bit more rugged and don’t have the toe slots.  If you love the Five Fingers, but don’t like the monkey feet look, these are your next best choice.  These shoes replaced my Nike Frees as my casual shoe of choice.  I believe New Balance has since come out with a similar shoe as well as a number of smaller companies have been building their own brand of minimalist shoes.  You can see them all at Bare Foot Running Shoes


Merrell Glove

Another type of shoe gaining popularity in the alternative footwear world are the shoes with a negative heel and cushioned rocker bottom.  Sketchers has been promoting their Shape Ups shoe recently, but it is simply a cheaper version of the MBT shoes that have been around for years.  MBT stands for Masai Barefoot Technology, but these shoes are far from a barefoot experience.  They can be a very good learning tool to teach back dominant people to use their butt and hamstrings more when they walk, but they won’t do wonders for your feet.  If you have a very anteriorly tipped pelvis and swayed back, these would be good walking shoes for you.  Once you figure out how to walk in them comfortably, I encourage you to also try a truly flat barefoot shoe to incorporate your feet into your new walk.

Long story short, there are more options out there for you than simply stiff, elevated shoes, and orthotics should not be the default prescription for foot and back pain.  I will talk more about orthotics in another post, but to generalize people that pronate (flatter feet) tend to do better with orthotics and people that supinate (high arch) tend to get worse.  I encourage you to learn about your body and make an effort to get your feet stronger whenever you can.  Please look through the videos and blog posts listed in the instructions manuals to the right for instruction on foot strength, posture, barefoot walking and running.

Where do you go from here?  Read some of the related articles below for more information about how to deal with your body as a whole.  You will find videos of exercise progressions to help you discover your body.

Related Articles:

 

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62 Comments ↓
  • Ray

    This whole article sounds very interesting and challenging, as I have high arches as well. I will "wear" my bare feet or almost bare feet more often, as I am now. I will go looking locally for some Barefoot Running Shoes.

    • TJ

      On days that dress shoes are (unfortunately) required, the Achilles Shield vertical insole is extremely helpful http://www.verticalinsoles.com they actually rise up to at least protect against back of heel pain. glad I found them

  • Jeff

    It seems like just about every subject you’ve addressed in your site has been a topic of conversation during our physio sessions. I like that you go more in-depth here and it gives me an opportunity to re-visit old conversations about proper form/posture/movement/etc.

    RE: Shoes. i tossed my orthodics a while back, and just purchased the New Balance "Minimus" (running shoe). Comparing to my old (commonplace) New Balance runners, the new ones feel like i’m wearing a sock! Much more comfortable and provides a greater range of motion & mobility for my feet.

    Thanks Brent! I look forward to how your site develops. JR

  • Jo

    Hooray for Vibrams – I grew up barefoot, wore shoes literally about once a week, and then was forcibly moved to Europe and discovered that some people even had things they called slippers that were like shoes for inside – a perverse habit indeed.

    Five fingers are my favourite shoe and I like my monkey toes. I wear them for anything from kayaking to hiking, and I keep hoping they’ll bring out a range that allows for a bit more toe curl if I want to grab something off the ground.

  • Brent

    I agree Jo….as good as the five five fingers are, if they want them to truly be a barefoot experience they should allow the forefoot and toes to flex more.

    I’ve been designing a shoe to do just that, but stopped until I get this website developed a bit further…..so I can teach people how to use them properly.

  • Alison Setton

    Awesome site Brent – it really complements everything I have been learning on my ‘quest’ to improve my posture/stay uninjured. Both David and I are wearing minimalist shoes, rolling around on various sized balls for ridiculous amounts of time, doing a run clinic for minimalist running, going to core strengthening classes (Fitness Table) and stretching and doing drills. All to help ‘undo’ some of the damage from just ‘living’. It is an interesting journey and you helped to launch us along it! Thanks so much, and I’m sure we’ll see you again soon.

    PS – can we order Vivo "Ra" shoes through you? David can’t seem to get them in Vancouver, and a place in New York was out of stock…

    PPS – it seems relatively easier to find ‘nice’ work-suitable shoes for men – any suggestions for women, or should we just wear flats?

  • Brent

    I believe there is a guy in East Vancouver that runs a Cross Fit studio that is selling the Vivo’s….I will try and track him down. I think the best way to get them in Canada now is to order them online….check out the Terra Planna link on the Helpful links page. Terra Planna also has some nicer women’s shoes….again look at there vivo barefoot site…same link

  • Ask Burlefot

    Came across your article searching for high arches and shoes. Two months of Summer is coming to an end and it is back in those tight shoes for ten months. I’m having problem picking good shoes because of high arches and recently also a sprained ankle pain (that occured months before the pain) after some too tight shoes (shrinked when washed).

    Anyway, I’m a little confused by some saying that sandales and flat shoes are bad for you, while I personally feel better in my feet when walking barefoot or in sandals. Concrete or hard surfaces are not the best, but I notice that when walking I walk differently. Without thinking I roll much more when landing on my heel, and not just slap down as you described. Although it is easier to damage your feet/toes in sandals I don’t see this as a great problem. Again, it depends on how carefully you walk. You do it aytomatically. Just try to kick a football with and without shoes, and you’ll notice you can do it without much thought:-)

    • Brent

      If you have high arches and a wide forefoot i would try Merrel’s line of MConnect shoes or Vivo Barefoots line. As for sandals I think they are just fine for your feet as long as they fit well/snugly….in fact they are probably better for you than most running shoes in the long run. Most of the barefoot shoes get impractical when it starts getting cold but I believe you can get Merrel ones with a Gortex liner now.

      • Jess

        What about people with toes close together ? What to get in sandals?

  • Great post. Thanks for sharing this and keep posting.

  • Catherine Mallorie

    Hey Brent! Great to read your site though, ironically, it came up when I was looking for best shoes for hypermobile feet, having recently decided to go BACK to orthotics after a year trying to work with a physio and a barefoot approach. To my deep regret this brought me to the point where my big toe joints have begun to really give out and walking in my Vivo boots over stony ground damaged the underside of my big toe joint so much I was limping. And that was with an arch support inside them! The Vivo soles are just too thin to cope with the continued excessive pronation rocking onto the big toe joints – despite all my work on small gluteal muscles and core strength with my physio. Do you have ANY advice? There’s hardly anyone in the UK doing this kind of work and I’m at a complete loss what to do now…

    • Brent

      Hi Catherine
      Sorry to hear about your feet. If your toes are that sore I would move away from the super thin soled Vivo’s and consider Merrel or New Balance’s line of minimalist shoes that have a thicker sole with a thin layer of cushioning. It is important that the toe box of the shoe is wide enough for your forefoot and that there isn’t much of a heel drop. The New Balance minimus zero is good for that as are some of the Merrell M connect line…..they have both come out since I wrote this post.

      Also I would watch my video on the toe spreader tape job and give that a try….people with hypermobile feet tend to LOVE it. It is not sustainable to do it all the time but it is a good way to offload a sore foot and have a built in crutch to help develop some strength in your foot.

      I also find glute med strengthening to only a temporary help if you are not aware of the posture of your mid mid. If you overly extend your torso to the point that you are leaning backward, it will really impact how your feet strike the ground as you walk. Try reading/watching my Why Hips Hurt post/video and then look into the series of videos about neutral spine. Effectively strengthening your feet is a whole body process…..there are some progressions of videos outlined in my How to Strengthen your feet post too. That’s as specific as I can be not having seen you….good luck. Hope this helps

  • Origin Athletics

    We are located at :
    http://www.originathletics.com
    Origin Athletics – Pro Shop
    1980 Clark Drive
    Vancouver BC
    V5N 5R8

    We carry the most extensive line of VivoBarefoot Shoes and ProKinetics insoles. We also offer foot analysis software and proper training. The Pro Shop is located inside MadLab School of Fitness/ CrossFit Vancouver.

    Having the right barefoot shoe can make the world of a difference. Proprioception is key, and Vivo has highest grade of proprioceptive footware. In order for your feet to work correctly they need the most exposure. Minimalist shoes are on the right track, but unfortunately still do not allow enough exposure (a thin coffin, but still a coffin non the less). The coffin of shoes available limits the stress given to the tissue on the bottom of the foot; the lack stress means there is little to no adaptive response and stimulation (the foot never develops). When on surfaces occurring in nature, the foot will work correctly. Promoting the most proprioception, will allow the foot to adapt and develop. People experience a number of issues transitioning only because the exposure can be too high for most folk coming from under developed feet. We also spend little time on naturally occurring surfaces. The mechanics of your feet on flat ground completely change. We have not evolved to walk on flat surfaces. No wonder your feet hurt.

    The ProKinectics are like no other insole. They alter the mechanics of the foot without overworking or reorganizing soft tissue like other insoles. Your foot musculature may be underdeveloped, but it doesn’t need to be shifted; the foot knows what it needs to do. Flat surfaces confuse the foot. We now only alter mechanics of force application and bone structural load to adapt to the flat surface. At a fraction of the time and cost with traditional insoles, you can devote more time to redeveloping your feet for activity.

    The science of all of this can be overwhelming and there is definitely a lack of framework within the community. The combination of VivoBarefoot and ProKinetics encourage essential bio-mechanics and maximize proprioception. Get on your way to Happy Feet.

    Regards,

    Origin Athletics

    • Brent

      thanks for that….I haven’t tried the Prokinetics, but I’ll look into them. I have been told about your place by a few of my clients….one of these days I’ll swing by

  • Lisa

    After having been sedentary for 5 years working online, I started exercising again…mostly walking. Combined with eating very healthy and the walking, I’ve lost 20lbs…which is great…but it’s taking a toll on my feet. The soles of my feet are kinda wide and I have a slightly high arch. The pain is everywhere, heels, balls of feet, arches and even my big toes. I don’t want to stop exercising because I feel so much better now…but I can’t keep going with this foot pain. I’m barefoot most of the day except when I go out somewhere. I tried soaking my feet in Epsom salts, but that didn’t help at all. Any suggestions on a good walking shoe?

    • Brent

      Having not seen your feet, my best suggestion is the Merrell M line of minimalist shoes or the New Balance Minimus Zero. If you have a wider forefoot the Merrell shoe is probably better, if you feel you need a bit of cushioning and you forefoot is a bit narrower, the New Balance ones are probably better. If your feet are killing you….try the Toe Spreader tape job….you can find my video on this site and YouTube (check my Plantar Fasciitis post). Tape your feet 1-3x/week for a few weeks to help retrain your feet and give them some support. Also check my post on how to strengthen you feet.
      Good luck

  • I appreciate you for sharing such informative post and videos! I am using Nike shoes and undoubtedly saying that these are the most comfortable, sturdy, and long lasting shoes I have ever had.

  • Tamara

    I must wear steel toes at work. Months after I started in this position me feet started hurting, the pain was so bad I could hardly walk. Went to Dr and my facia was torn due to no support and concrete. Orthotics were recommended. In the beginning it gave me much relief, but now my feet are hurting again with all the support. What would you recommend?

  • Judith Cornish

    any ideas or help for someone with severe mid=foot arthritis in my right foot. The only shoes I can walk in at all are rocker soles. Skechers have stopped making Liv Fearless shape-ups which were great. I think I need a lot of ankle support too. I am trying to lose as much weight as I can to help ease the load. My foot gives me significant pain and walking or any standing for too long is a challenge – hate it as I’m an active person! No-one wants to perform a fusion operation.

    • Brent

      if you have a high arch. I would try taping your foot up with the tape job from this post http://whythingshurt.com/blog/post/84/Plantar-Fasciitis-an-illustrated-explanation-of-why-your-foot-hurts/ twice a week or so and sleep with it on….it will help hold the bones in your foot in a better place and offload them when you are standing…..it should immediately feel better with it on….if it doesn’t then take it off.

      Skechers stopped making their rocker shoes but the MBTs should still be available they are just much more expensive. Have you tried going the other route and tried a zero drop shoe like the New Balance minimus zero? I would try that and tape your foot for the first while.

      hope that helps….good luck

      • Judith

        thank you so much for your prompt reply. Will certainly try the taping!!

  • ray mcclanahan

    Thank you Brent for presenting this good education to so many who need it. At Northwest Foot and Ankle, we help folks regain their foot strength by re-aligning their toes and forefeet as nature designed them, along with natural footwear selections.
    This is done with Correct Toes silicone toe separators, in appropriately wide footwear(hard to find). If you are not familiar with Correct Toes, I can send you a sample pair for your own experimentation. You have many allies in your work, and we are eager to help you get the word out.
    Dr. Ray McClanahan

    • Brent

      Thanks Ray….I am interested in seeing your product. You can send some to my clinic if you like. You will find the address on my website http://www.EnvisionPhysio.com (the Granville office). All the best!

      • ray mcclanahan

        Thanks Brent! We will be sending out a pair of Correct Toes for your personal experimentation, with your most natural forefoot position. Please let us know how your experience is. We appreciate your work! Ray

  • LaThe ura

    hi there! I was searching for more info on negative heel shoes, good or bad and stumbled on your page. The info has been great. I’m curious to know more about negative heel shoes and why they are bad. Not skechers or rocker shoes, but Kalso earth type shoes. I have several pairs and have found them to be really comfortable and I feel my posture is better with them, but now I’m wondering if they are doing my feet harm? I think I have a high arch. I don’t have much pain in my feet though sometimes I do have twinges hear and there. Used to have lots of pain under my big toe and at the ball of my foot near the big toe. That was years before wearing earth shoes. I do periodically get hip pain right in the joint when I walk. Would you say feet have anything to do with shoulder pain/bursitis? Curious about how that could be related…

    I’d love to hear more about negative heels. Thanks again for all the great info on your site. I’m looking forward to reading so much more.

    • Brent

      To be honest I have never seen or tried the Kalso shoes but I looked at the website and the shoes look good. I think negative heeled shoes are good for some people and bad for others based on their pelvis and torso posture. Have a look at my Why Hips Hurt post…I generally find that people that have more of the "Back Gripper" posture do better with negative heel shoes. They tend to help tip their pelvis back into a better position and help them use their glutes and hamstrings more properly. Conversely, I find the "butt gripper" posture types can do worse with negative heeled shoes because it can further tip the pelvis back and lead to more compression in the hips. It is partly about your feet, partly about your overall posture and partly what you have been used to for the past 10-20 years.

      There are better and better shoe options coming on the market every few months it seems….definitely since I wrote this post. The Earth shoes look like a good option for some.

      General rules:
      -make sure the toe box is wide enough for you forefoot
      -don’t have too much cushioning so you can’t feel the ground at all
      -wear a variety of different shoes and be barefoot sometimes so your feet become adaptable to different surfaces
      -get shoes that are light and breathable if the weather permits

      Hope that helps!

  • Debbie

    Any suggestions for those of us with FLAT feet and bunions?

    • Brent

      I find people with flatter feet will benefit from orthotics, but I still push them to work on foot strength and progress to more minimalist footwear…..it depends how bad your feet are. Flat pronating feet are usually lazy feet that are part of a whole chain of events in the body i.e. flat feet are not just a product of something happening solely in your feet. There is a big role of how well you stabilized your hip in the socket and how you support your torso….these both effect how you will load weight onto your feet. Just trying to stick an orthotic under a flat foot will at most address half the problem.

      I would start by reading Why Hips Hurt and a assess your overall posture, watch the weight bearing tripod video and some of the steps on here http://whythingshurt.com/blog/instruction_manual/15/3-FeetAnkles/

      As for the bunions, make sure your footwear has wide toe boxes, consider taping or some toe separators and then focus on your standing and walking posture. I will get more specifically into that in a future post….there is a strong correlation between trunk posture and bunions.

      Have a look back in a few weeks and I will try and add a follow up article to this one because there seems to be a lot of interest.

      hope that helps

      • Debbie

        Thanks very much. I will check out your suggestions, and also check back here for your next article.

  • Thud49

    I’ve learned more about my feet in an hour on your website than I have from a multitude of specialists over 2 decades!
    I’m 49, female, and had bunion surgery at age 32 – thinking all of my problems were solved. I work in a medical lab, so wear sneakers all day. About 3 years ago I started having pain in the ball of my left foot, between my 3rd and 4th toes. I went to a chiropodist, who said in addition to very high arches and hypermobility, he thought it was a Morton’s neuroma, so I ended up with orthotics. Tried them for almost a year with no improvement. Tried another chiropodist, and another pair of orthotics – again, no improvement. Within the last six months I’ve had an MRI (no Morton’s neuroma) and an x-ray (normal) and now I don’t know what to do, or where to go. I have pain in the ball of my foot daily, mornings are grim, and have now ditched the orthotics and am wearing a little metatarsal pad sleeve that feels pretty good. I feel this impacting my quality of life in a huge way, I’m in the worst shape of my life as it’s just slowing me down as the years go by. I’ve googled post-bunion-surgery and ball of foot pain, wondering if it’s a mechanical issue, and it led me here. Even though the pain is in my left foot, I look at my right foot – my big toe looks like it’s becoming a hammer toe and when I stand up my big toe doesn’t even touch the ground – I can slide a piece of paper under it easily! So I’ve wondered if it was a botched bunionectomy. From watching your videos, I think I’ll go barefoot more often, buy some tape and some barefoot shoes and get my feet truly working again. Would I benefit from the services/advice of a physiotherapist? Thank you so much for your stellar website, it seems to tick the boxes of so many of my symptoms.

  • Lukas

    In my oppinion, the best choice is this type of shoes- Schuhe stock online , just because they are good for your feet, not expensive and even fashionable. Try, I believe you will not regret :)

  • poul

    I believe like with any equipment, whether shoes, wrist supports, or belts, they are all aids to improve your performance. They aren’t the make or break of the actual physical event rather a piece of added assistance to get you there safer and more effeciantly and effectively.
    what do you think

  • poul

    best site for shoes reviews : http://www.xbestcrossfitshoesx.com/

  • Emily

    Kuru shoes have been the best shoes for me, which means I’m all for shoes with support. Thankfully, they seem to have saved my feet instead of killing them! http://www.kurufootwear.com

  • Paul McC

    Hi Brent, I have flat feet and have had issues for a rew years now where my feet ache as soon as I put then inside shoes. I used to use othodics to correct for my flat feet as my knees were playing up. Trouble is using the orthodics make my feet ache even more. I can stand barefoot without my feet aching for quite a while but as soon as I put themin shoes they start driving me nuts. I am involved in martial arts and sometimes train for extended periods but never have probelms with my feet aching (the floor has rubber mats mind you). As soon as I put shoes on here comes the aching. My job can involve standing for in safety shoes for 10 – 60 minutes , or longer , at a time. It gets to the point where I have trouble concnetrating on my work due to the discomfort. I have tried a number of podiatrist but non eo fthem seem to be able to help. Best suggestion I have been given is just that my feet are worn out! Do you have any suggestions.

    • Brent

      Hi Paul

      I would simply try a pair of shoes that have a zero drop heel and a toe box that is wide enough for your forefoot without the orthotics. Try the vivobarefoot or Merrel glove shoes. I little bit of cushioning is fine, but you just want your foot flat in relation to the ground like you are when you are barefoot. There is lots of choice in running shoes but not that much for casual/work shoes.

      • Paul McC

        Hi Brent. Thanks fo rthe response. I have been loolking the last few days for a safety shoe with a no heel but to no avail! I have tried experimenting with cutting some old shoes inserts and putting the front half in my shoe to build up under the ball of my fall in an attempt to bring my foot level in the shoe. This feels better, but I will trial it for a few days and see how it goes. I’m also working on building up the muscles in my feet using your videos. This seems to help me be more aware of how I walk as well. Hopefully all these things will help to at least reduce the aching and discomfort.

  • Jenny

    I have high arches, toes that are not as flat as they should be & knock knees which makes me pronate on my shorter leg. The Podiatrist recommended Birkenstock Madrid sandals as the best shoes. After reading your interesting article, now I’m not so sure. I’ve been having knee & hip pain which could be from the Birkenstocks or from my speed walking shoes, Asics GT1000 (anti pronation). I’ve been walking around the house in socks (it’s winter in South Africa) & it feels marginally better. I just wanted to know what you thought of Birkenstocks – good or bad.
    Many thanks

    • Brent

      To be honest, I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other on Birkenstocks. I don’t particularly like them for myself, but know some people swear by them. My on fence answer is good for some people and bad for others. I think lighter is better and flatter is better for day to day shoes. A 4mm or 8mm heel drop is better for runners, but I would shy away from the anti-pronation shoes and just buy simple neutral ones.

      • Jenny

        Hi Brent
        Thanks for your advice & a really helpful column. I’d never heard of ‘barefoot’ shoes before. I recently purchased another pair of the Asics at a cost of about $120. This is my 7th or 8th pair of the same style & I’ve never had problems before. Must be old age creeping in. I’m 65 & do roughly 150km speed walking a month. My new mission is to hunt down a pair of Merrells or Nike Free which seem to be the only 2 brands we can get around here.

        • Hiking is a great pastime hobby for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy being close to nature. thanks share the post Hiking shoes for women

      • Viv

        Hi Brent, This is very informative, Thank You. I found your blog when searching " does RA ( rhuematoid arthritis ) in feet ease with bikenstocks ? ". I have very high arches and supination. I also have RA in my feet occasionally. The birkenstocks killed me for about a week, but was told to persist. Now , I only get relief from RA foot pain if I wear them. I have a funny feeling they are the actual problem as I never had any issues barefoot prior. Interestingly , I have also been recommended and have purchased asics for supination and yes, they are lovely and springy to wear but I suspect , as you suggest , I would be better off with my original neutral asics. I hope this might help anyone else with a similar issue.

  • Joscelyn

    Any recommendations for those of us that STAND for hours at work?

  • Linda Porter

    Hi I have alot of foot, hip,lower back pain. I have high arches, narrow feet, a medium sized bunion on right foot,a callous on the bottom of my right foot in the middle of the ball, also broke my ankle 25yrs ago had surgery on it,cramps in the top of feet and sides of the leg, sever heel pain at times I just can’t walk, when I walk it kills my hips, I keep getting sciatic. I’ve lost 250 pounds I’m at 155 at 5’4, 50yrs old. So I really want to tone up and exercise but my feet kill me. I have to recover after every "walk on purpose" I do. So I have spent alot of money on shoes and orthodontics that other’s felt I should have. I have very cold hands & feet a dr called it something can’t remember so I need socks.I want to exercise but I hurt so bad I don’t feel I accomplish much. Can you help? Thank you

  • Lucas P

    Thank you, this is a very nice article. I also always had problems with my foot. Any shoes I bought were wrong. :( Luckily my friend recommended this site to me: http://www.rosenbergshoes.com.au
    The shoes there are just nice. I bought 3 pairs already and they are all great.

  • I had a pair of Nike Free and thought they were the best as they were so lightweight as if I am walking around barefoot! After wearing too many high heels, I’ve changed into wearing flats however, they still do not find solace as they tend to keep my arch painful. Thank you for such great post.

  • Les

    Good reading, I have foot pain oa in right 2 nd toe at mtj , and a neuroma in left foot, I know how to tape them to support but like u said can’t tape all the time, bare foot is very painful ? Any tips to help me get stronger feet please les

  • Joey

    I just got a pair of skechers go walk 2 flash with the go mat in them.. love em! They drop the heel so it’s more natural like barefoot. It does have nice cushioning which I prefer because I mostly walk on streets which are hard. If I walked in grass, dirt etc I would be okay with hard shoes because the earth would provide the cushioning.

  • Kelsey

    Have you ever heard of Gravity Defyers? I was wondering what you think of them since I have heard a lot of great things and I know a lot of people who love them.

  • merry

    In the process of dealing with foot pain, I’ve recently been diagnosed with hypermobile joints and a normal to moderately high arch (and a Google search led me to your site). I’ve been told that years (nearly 60) of walking with unsupported arches (and barefeet while at home) are responsible for the arch pain in my dominate foot. I’m not dealing with plantar fasciitis. In terms of dress shoes, I have the best results with Sanitas, which seem to have more arch support than Danskos. But, since my arch pain seems rather persistent, I’m still experimenting with shoes. What are your thoughts about MBTs for people with hypermobile joints? And if they seem a good option, then with or without orthotics?

    • Brent

      I’m not a huge fan of MBTs especially with orthotics in them. Have a read of my Why Hips Hurt article and if you think you fall into the back gripper category with a short tight back, ,long butt and tipped forward pelvis….that is the only group I think MBTs are good for. They can help activate the glutes in walking. For what you describe I still suggest less is more in a shoe….find a wide toe box and no heel. If the arch really hurts, try to find someone to do IMS (dry needling) on your calf and consider the toe spreader tape job (you can find the video in my plantar fasciitis post)

  • lauren

    Thank you for the information because i am sure i will get the good benefit from this information

  • Wendy

    I have hypermobility syndrome, particularly active in my pelvis – such that my sacrum and hips can twist or move simply from wearing the wrong shoes. I do wear an SI belt and am working on strengthening exercises. I also have sway-back and anteriorly-tipped pelvis and rib cage. Do you recommend Something like the Skechers given the mobility issues? Are the merrells a good choice, I like those better than Skechers simply for style and brand. Also, with summed coming I’d like to be able to wear skirts or dresses and am looking for "girlier" options – I’ve heard keen Mary Janes are a possibility. I’m assuming this doesn’t quite fall under your area of interest, but wondered whether you have any ideas? Thanks, this is a great site.

    • Brent

      I would check out the vivobarefoot.com site. they have some good minimalist girly options

  • Kate

    I just had surgery in April on my foot to resection a bone coalition. The shoes I wore before surgery have a lot of support in them because my foot was really flat. Now I can’t stand shoes hardly because it makes my foot hurt but walking barefoot is usually pain free. I’ve resorted to wearing flip flops because it is the minimalist thing I own. I have no idea what shoes to wear anymore and I need good shoes to run in for college.

    • Brent

      try on the New Balance Minimus Zero shoe for walking around or the Merrel glove….if you are going to move to running try something with a bit more of a heel drop like the Nike Free, but if you just had surgery….stick to walking for a while!

  • Hanna

    Hi Brent,
    All of my family have at least some feet problems. I’m 15, and I want to keep my feet healthy throughout my life. I am barefoot 80-90% of the time and I grew up that way. However, I believe I have slight hammer toes (I think so, but that’s self-diagnosed and definitely minor), I also have hypermobility which causes me knee, ankle, and foot pain. I am wondering your best recommendation to help train my feet and ankles to work in a healthy and proper way. Thanks!

    • Brent

      If you haven’t read this article yet start here:
      http://whythingshurt.com/blog/post/76/How-to-strengthen-your-feet-advice-and-tools-to-get-you-started/

      In a nut shell the best things to do are to work on the posture of your trunk when you stand and walk, spend time barefoot, where a variety of different types of shoes to get your feet used to different things, but most of the time stick with zero drop flat shoes and make sure the toe box is big enough to not squish your forefoot. I will be changing up this site and putting a lot of the videos on YouTube in the coming months, but you can see them now in the members section.

      hope that helps

  • Deborah

    Hello stumbled upon your website as I am trying to find information on how to heal my feet. Years ago I was diagnosed with plantar facisist. So got orthotics and supportive shoes. But they did not work for me. Friend suggested I go bare foot at home and buy minimalist shoes. Tried that and all my foot pain went away. Until about 2 years ago. I started getting foot pain in my arch. Worst on concrete. I have flat feet, pronate and walk like a duck. So wondering where do I start? What should I try and heal first? Any advise would be greatly appreciated.

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