One of the newest trends in research is for people to rely on “comfort” as a good indicator for what a good shoe should be. I understand, if you aren’t comfortable wearing a particular type of shoe, you probably are less likely to wear it. The problem with this mantra is comfort is usually not the best indicator for what is healthy or functional in life. Oreos are comfort food. Lay-Z-boys are comfortable recliners. But neither are going to improve your health, and in fact can have a large detrimental effect if you spend too much time in either. Think about your shoes as the same way. Spending time in comfortable shoes may feel good, but it is most likely taking away from the optimal functioning of your feet.
A common complaint I get from people is they are unsure of walking on harder surfaces when they are transitioning to optimal footwear or spending more time barefoot. Yes, initially you have to dose the amount of time you are walking barefoot on the sidewalk or at the mall in more minimal shoes. Spending anywhere from 10-70 years with little clouds under your feet is going to affect how your feet feel when they have to start working again. This is where the knowledge and professional advice of a physical therapist comes in. If you went to the gym and tried to deadlift 500 pounds your first time at the gym, you might get hurt and think deadlifting is bad for you and for everyone. The problem in this scenario is obvious, you did too much too soon. If you started with 50 pounds, and progressively increased the weight as your body can tolerate, you can reach that 500 pound goal without getting hurt. The same is going to go for your shoes. Start with 10 minutes a day in your more minimal shoes or barefoot, and progressively increase day by day and week by week.
My goal with shoe wear is to wear as little as shoe possible. Humans operate best this way. Until shoe companies can produce a product that is scientifically proven and tested to change this, I have a hard time arguing against this concept of less is more for shoes. People are born barefoot, and should try and utilize this to the best of their ability throughout their lifespan. If you have questions or thoughts about these concepts, please feel free to reach out to me and we can continue the discussion. Thanks!
Tom Broback, DPT, CSCS
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