Modern Shoes Are Pretty Terrible For Our Bodies

There are few things more liberating than kicking off your kicks in the backyard and letting the piggies roam the grass. However, if you look at an old person’s shoes in the developed world, they’re more akin to a medical device. This is odd because when you look to cultures that have maintained connections to their past, they can walk in the most minimalist of sandals, if not barefoot, for miles and miles. What gives? A possible cause: we’ve been babying our feet our entire lives with modern, thick-soled shoes. 

WikiJournal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010. ISSN 2002-4436. - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29849183
Blausen.com staff (2014). “Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014”.

Have you ever seen an x-ray or diagram of the human foot? It’s crazy looking. It just looks like an array of bones no bigger than a knuckle, all crammed into close quarters. According to Arthritis.org, the foot contains 26 bones (a quarter of our body’s bones), 30 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. All of these allow the foot to move and flex in every direction. Crazier still, that fairly compact apparatus is intended to carry hundreds of pounds around, and even allowing it to leap into the air…? This seems like a body part we should be striving to strengthen above all else. Instead, what do we do? 

  • We prop up the arches so they don’t have to hold up themselves.
  • We cram the toes together so they can’t feel the ground beneath.
  • We raise up the heel so the Achilles tendon is disengaged, so then we have to support the ankle to keep the whole thing steady.

What? Why? 

Shoe Heels Have a Purpose, But It’s Super Dumb

Now in the defense of the shoes of the last several hundred years, heels on the shoe a purpose — to KEEP BOOTS IN STIRRUPS. Oh, and to make derrieres appear pronounced. Those are really the only two functions of a heel on the shoe. The rest of their functions are purely aesthetic. However, having this heel has completely changed the way modern humans walk and run. Instead of walking with the ball of the foot doing its job of absorbing the initial impact of walking or running, the pronounced heel has taken that job — a role it was never meant to have. Growing accustomed to making initial contact with each step heel-first, the ball of the foot is bypassed and the additional shock rattles it’s way up in chain reaction through the ankle, knee, hip, and back — all because of this device meant to keep people on horseback. Look at our genius. 

Fortunately, many have begun to question our need for a heel and atrophy-inducing cushioning in our shoes. A whole industry of “barefoot” style shoes has taken off—dozens of companies all vying for who can make the best minimalist shoes that let the foot move and feel as its designed. The results? I’m going to level with you—most look like rubber socks. But you know what? Maybe that’s what we need. At the very least, we all need to spend as much time barefoot as possible.

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Ken Lane
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