Honestly, the best shoe for your foot is none at all. Human feet are perfectly well-suited to walk barefoot—in fact, that is what they have evolved to do! So putting shoes on your feet is, in general, bad. It’s bad for your knees, your tendons and your spine. The problem is, we are used to wearing shoes—so much so, that it hurts to walk without them. If walking barefoot around the city seems too gross to you, there are some shoe choices you can make to simulate barefoot walking. Here are the shoes to avoid, and the shoes you should replace them with:
Stay Away From:
1. Pointed Toes
Cramming your poor toes into a point causes overcrowding, which is a key player in causing bunions and hammertoes. These are both extremely painful conditions that have to be surgically corrected.
2. High, High Heels
The stiletto’s list of crimes is very long. The higher the heel, the more stress on unnatural pressure points along your spine. Standing in high heels slides your feet forward, forcing you to redistribute your weight. Wearing heels destroys your body’s natural alignment, causing injury to leg muscles, osteoarthritis of the knee and low back pain. All this, in addition to the risk of ankle injury should you fall off your high heels. Women should in general never wear a shoe with a heel higher than 2 ¼ inches, and definitely not for more than three hours at a time.
3. Running Shoes with Thick Heels
All athletic shoes have built up heels, but some are worse offenders than others. A study has shown that people who wear expensive running shoes—those built up to “protect” your feet with all kinds of extra material and springs—actually increase their odds of injuring themselves by 123%! Expensive shoes often increase plantar pressure, the force produced by the impact of the sole hitting the ground.
Instead, Check Out:
1. Vibram FiveFingers
These shoes actually look like gloves for your feet, with a little holder for each toe! They work as a tougher sole for your feet without interfering with your foot’s natural motion during activity. They strengthen muscles in your feet and lower legs that you probably didn’t know were weak, all while allowing the thousands of neurological receptors in your feet to inform you about your surroundings. ($75 at www.vibramfivefingers.com )
2. Vivo Barefoot
This “unshoe” protects your feet with a minimal sole, avoiding the damage that thicker soles cause our balance and posture. It is thin, but it is puncture proof, so your foot is completely protected. The Barefoot also allows all the nerve-endings in your feet to receive stimulation, enhancing your body’s sensory perception. ($160 at www.terraplana.com)
3. Nike Free 5.0
If you are looking for new gym shoes, consider these. These are some of the first running shoes designed to have minimal impact on your natural running style, while still providing the traction and protection that we have come to need. These do still offer cushioning, which covers up your foot’s natural sense of the ground, but it is significantly less than what is normally sold in a Nike shoe. ($85 at www.nike.com)