Educational Articles

Definition of a Healthy Shoe

Posted By Robyn Hughes, ND

Disclaimer:

The above content is for educational or informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or augment professional medical instruction, diagnosis, or treatment. Read full disclaimer here.

Essential Footgear:

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Comments
April 16, 2015
Doug Laine

I have found your article interesting but contradictory to my experience. I have bunions. Walking in flat flexible shoes results in foot pain in the big toe joint. As the ball of the foot under the big toe flattens, the toe rolls sideways, and then flexes uncomfortably as I continue through the step resulting in sharp pains in the joint. I am pain free with stiffer shoes that have high arch supports. I’d love to hear of a cure or remedy to my foot problem other than special shoes if you know any. Thanks for your time.

April 16, 2015
Natural Footgear

Greetings, Doug,

Thank you for your message. And thank you for sharing a bit about your own foot health considerations. In our experience, we’ve found that the products and info we offer on our site are helpful for most people, most of the time. Of course, everyone is unique in terms of their foot health history and needs, and we’re not able to offer you any additional thoughts or advice without the benefit of a full health history interview and physical examination. Our general thought, though, is that if you’ve found an approach that’s working for you, it’s probably best to stick with it.

Kind regards,
Marty Hughes, DC

March 30, 2018
Jane

I have bunions and need wide toe box shoes. I have had no trouble finding casual shoes that are appropriate, but I need a dress shoe because I am dressed up a lot and walk a lot. I don’t see anything like that on your website and haven’t been able to find anything in the stores. Any ideas?

March 30, 2018
Natural Footgear

Hi, Jane,

Thank you for your comment. Yes! I have the perfect thing for you. It’s the Ahinsa Ananda Ballerina:

www.naturalfootgear.com/products/ahinsa-ananda-ballerina-black

Please give it a look and let me know if you have any questions. I’m happy to help out however I can!

Kind regards,
Marty Hughes, DC

February 21, 2021
Ben

I would love to actually be able to have a pair of shoes that match the description. Unfortunately, I have wide feet. I have tried shoes that are advertised as wide toe box or as “running wide,” but as my midfoot is wide, anything other than a shoe actually marked as wide (EE, EEE, etc.) just causes pain. With Altra and Xero shoes, for instance, I could take the laces out entirely and they would still cause pain after some time. Could you please suggest some shoes that are actually wide? Thank you.

February 21, 2021
Natural Footgear

Greetings, Ben,

Thank you for your comment. I can certainly appreciate how frustrating it must be to try to find footwear that conforms to your wide foot. I wonder, have you tried Vibram FiveFingers? The upper of these toe shoes is rather expansile, and I have seen them work well for other wide-footed folks in the past. Just a thought! Otherwise, you might consider wearing foot-healthy sandals as much as possible during the warm weather months. In terms of closed-toe options, Altra (at least at the time of writing this comment) now offers some knit upper options that are rather forgiving to those with relatively wide feet. If anything else comes to mind, I will certainly let you know!

All the best,
Robyn Hughes, ND

February 21, 2021
David MacPhail

Your critique of bad shoe features is good. But your article lacks sufficient detail. It would be helpful to have sketches that show what heel lift (drop), toe spring, and width requirements look like in terms of a specification for shoes. It is also important to define the conditions under which foot splay is maximal (late midstance). Another common bad feature you don’t even mention is the concavity of the sole under the met heads. This feature reduces the tension of the plantar ligaments making the forefoot more malleable. Finally, what proponents of minimalist footwear and makers of minimalist shoes need in order to gain traction in the market are agreed-upon criteria on which to design, fabricate and assess minimalist shoes. Until such time as this happens, opinion will rule the day and the door will be left wide open for a minimalist shoe to be anything and everything.

February 21, 2021
Natural Footgear

Hi, David,

Thank you for your comment. This article is intended to provide a high-level overview of what constitutes a foot-healthy shoe. For an article that goes into greater depth about the beneficial features to look for in footwear, I recommend that you check out this one:

www.naturalfootgear.com/blogs/educational-articles/how-to-shop-for-shoes

For an article that focuses more closely on conventional footwear flaws, you might want to check out this one:

www.naturalfootgear.com/blogs/educational-articles/problematic-shoe-design-features

To your point about minimalist footwear and minimalist shoemakers gaining traction in the market, I would say that there is already plenty of traction there! Your point about different manufacturers favoring or emphasizing certain aspects of minimalist shoes is duly noted, though I do believe that most companies producing minimalist footwear would generally agree that a minimalist shoe ought to be lightweight, have a low stack height and relatively little cushioning, and be sufficiently flexible in the sole (while not including any “motion control” elements). The companies that also realize the importance of incorporating an anatomical toe box are the ones that produce pure magic—and these are the companies that we are happy to promote and support.

If you have any follow-up thoughts or comments, please do send them our way!

All the best,
Robyn Hughes, ND

February 22, 2021
Louis

What kind of shoes would you suggest to somebody who walks up to a marathon distance, on very rocky, hilly terrain on a daily basis for up to 4 months? I cannot see how a very thin and flexible sole would protect my feet from bruising. I do believe and know from experience that a wide toe box and a zero drop shoe will promote a healthy gait and optimal foot mechanics, but my feet refuse my switching to a minimalist sole and complain loudly by day’s end. What would your recommendation be?

February 22, 2021
Natural Footgear

Hi, Louis,

Thank you for your comment. What you’re describing sounds like a remarkable experience! Are you hiking the Appalachian Trail or tackling some other such long walk? A lot of long-distance walkers find that, with sufficient time and training, they are able to tolerate the thin, flexible soles of minimalist footwear for long durations, though it’s certainly not something to jump into full-speed. Indeed, it’s important to first build a sufficient base (aka foot resiliency) by slowly ramping up your minimalist shoe wear-time to allow key foot adaptations to occur. This helps reduce strain on foot tissues and structures, and it helps you avoid overuse injuries.

If need be, you might consider adding two helpful and unobtrusive foot pads within your minimalist shoes: Tuli’s heel cups and Pedag metatarsal pads. These pads serve different functions, but they both help to enhance foot comfort, which is so crucial on long walks like the one you’re describing.

In terms of specific shoes for the kind of endeavor you’ve described, I personally would have no qualms using any of the athletic shoe models we feature in the men’s and women’s shoes collections on our site:

• Men’s: www.naturalfootgear.com/collections/mens-shoes
• Women’s: www.naturalfootgear.com/collections/womens-shoes

Please let us know if you have any additional questions; we’re happy to help out however we can!

Kind regards,
Robyn Hughes, ND

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