Inserts and Orthotics

If you broke your leg, you wouldn’t wear a cast for the rest of your life.  The same concept can be applied to orthotics.  Unless you have a serious medical reason for having a shoe insert or orthotic, you should not be shoving anything but your feet into your shoes.

Here’s an article, the “Effectiveness of Hallux Valgus Strap” from 2011. The “hallux valgus strap” used at night to decrease bunions was tested and found to be ineffective.

If you’re having foot problems, you may be prescribed orthotics without any prescription on how to fix your problem in the long term.  Some orthotics may give you temporary relief, but if you don’t have a plan on how to treat the underlying issue, your problem will worsen, and your orthotic will become less and less effective as time goes on. Try these exercises instead, and get yourself a pair of flexible shoes that will allow for toe-spread.

Children’s Shoes

The best thing you can do for your children is to let them go barefoot until they become teenagers.  But, most institutions require that they wear some form of footwear.  Here are the healthy elements to look for in a pair of shoes for your little one:

  • WIDE TOE BOX: with enough room for all the toes.  The shoe should have more of a square shape in the front than a pointy shape (to prevent toe deformities).
  • 1/2-1/4 INCH TOE SPACE IN FRONT: Be sure there is enough room for growth and it’s very important that you check your child’s shoe-fit on a monthly basis.
  • FLEXIBLE SOLE: the stiffer the sole, the less movement your child’s feet will have, and this will hinder muscle development.
  • NO ARCH SUPPORT: it’s the job of your child’s feet to develop arches in the first years of walking.  Arch support will make the shoe stiffer and prevent muscle development.
  • ZERO DROP: Generally, children’s shoes that are very flexible, don’t have a heel lift.  If there is more padding in the heel than the rest of the shoe, the child will be forced to walk and run at unnatural angles and will develop an unnatural shortening of tendons (such as the Achilles).

When choosing a shoe, trace their footprint on a sheet of paper and compare it to the sole.  Be sure the foot tracing is completely overlapped by the sole.

Here are some great shoe options from recommended brands:

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Orgrimmar
Orgrimmar Baby First Walkers Soft Sole Leather”
VivobarefootUltraKEvaSlipOn
The Vivobarefoot Ultra K Eva Slip On (Little Kid/Big Kid) is lightweight, flexible, and cute.
Plae Girls Emme
Go Plae” Emme Shoe – Girls
“See Kai Run” – look for the label “Smaller” for younger children between sizes 0-T4
See Kai Run” – look for the label “Smaller” for younger children between sizes 0-T4

 

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Merrell Dock Glove Sneaker (Toddler/Little Kid/Big Kid) - You know Merrell makes a great shoe for adults, well, here's one for toddlers. It's a highly rated, great looking shoe.
Merrell Dock Glove Sneaker (Toddler/Little Kid/Big Kid) – You know Merrell makes a great shoe for adults, well, here’s one for toddlers. It’s a highly rated, great looking shoe.
"Robeez Rugged Rob First Walker" for toddlers age 3-24 months.
Robeez Rugged Rob First Walker” for toddlers age 3-24 months.
"Pediped Originals" Daisy Sandal (Infant)
Pediped Originals” Daisy Sandal (Infant)

See Kai Run Mason Moccasin (Infant/Toddler)
See Kai Run Mason Moccasin (Infant/Toddler)

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"Momo Baby" Girls First Walker/Toddler Ladybugs Mary Jane Leather Shoes are accepted by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) in spite of having a flexible sole.
Momo Baby” Girls First Walker/Toddler Ladybugs Mary Jane Leather Shoes are accepted by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) in spite of having a flexible sole.
"Tipsie Toes" looks to be a great brand that covers just about every element you'd want to see in a healthy shoe.
Tipsie Toes” looks to be a great brand that covers just about every element you’d want to see in a healthy shoe.
Crocs Kids' Crocband is great for casual wear.
Crocs Kids’ Crocband is great for casual wear.
Vivobarefoot Neo Velcro K Sneaker
Another great Vivobarefoot shoe – the “Reno K Sneaker” (Little Kid/Big Kid)

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Women’s Shoes

Scroll down for women’s shoes that are wide enough for your toes, (mostly) zero drop, and flexible enough to allow your feet to move naturally.

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Running & Exercise

Interested in working out those intrinsic foot muscles? Try these! With the exception of the Luna Mono, the Leadville Trail sandals are the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to my feet. Yes, you can run in them. I used to take them to the gym with me, but they're definitely best suited for the trails. I ran the Megatransect in these. Luna also makes a covering if you need that extra bit of protection from the elements, but there is no better feeling than going all natural in a pair of Lunas.
Interested in working out those intrinsic foot muscles? Try these! With the exception of the Luna Mono, the Leadville Trail sandals are the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to my feet. Yes, you can run in them. I used to take them to the gym with me, but they’re definitely best suited for the trails. I ran the Megatransect in these. Luna also makes a covering if you need that extra bit of protection from the elements, but there is no better feeling than going all natural in a pair of Lunas.
Lems are the ultimate in minimal comfort. They're lightweight, (6.9oz), zero drop and only 8mm of outsole plus 3mm of insole - that 11mm of stuff under your feet means you're going to feel just enough ground to make your feet smile.
Lems are the ultimate in minimal comfort. They’re lightweight, (6.9oz), zero drop and only 8mm of outsole plus 3mm of insole – that 11mm of stuff under your feet means you’re going to feel just enough ground to make your feet smile.
Vibram Women's KSO
The shoe’s official name is “Vibram Women’s KSO Evo Cross Training Shoe“, but you can run in it too. It has less cushion than my Luna sandals, but if you need to strengthen your feet, this will also do the trick.

The Vivobarefoot Women's Ultra II is supposed to be a "water shoe", but I've run a 25K in these over some serious rocks. They held up relatively well. They are a decent width for toe-spreading.
The Vivobarefoot Women’s Ultra II is supposed to be a “water shoe”, but I’ve run a 25K in these over some serious rocks. They held up relatively well. They are a decent width for toe-spreading.
Narrow feet will probably feel alright in the Merrell Women's Vapor Glove 2 Barefoot Trail Running Shoe. It's a zero drop shoe with practically zero padding. I'd highly recommend trying these on in the store, especially if you have really wide feet like me.
Feet will probably feel alright in the Merrell Women’s Pace Glove 2 Trail Running Shoe. It’s a zero drop shoe with practically zero padding. I’d highly recommend trying these on in the store, especially if you have really wide feet like me.

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Casual

At 13.5mm, it's a bit more cushy than your average Merrell, but this Jungle Glove Lace Slip-On Shoe, is zero drop.
At 13.5mm, it’s a bit more cushy than your average Merrell, but this Jungle Glove Lace Slip-On Shoe, is zero drop.
Introducing the Altra Women's Intuition Everyday Fashion Sneaker. This is one of many Altra Zero-drop shoes (and it also comes in black). Altra shoes are actually a fabulous brand with the exception of stack height. In this model, your foot will sit 23mm above ground. Remember, the higher the stack height, the less flexible your shoes will be. But your toes will love these and there is minimal arch support.
Introducing the Altra Women’s Intuition Everyday Fashion Sneaker. This is one of many Altra Zero-drop shoes (and it also comes in black). Altra shoes are actually a fabulous brand with the exception of stack height. In this model, your foot will sit 23mm above ground. Remember, the higher the stack height, the less flexible your shoes will be. But your toes will love these and there is minimal arch support.
The Lems Womens Boulder Boot is good for winters. I have a pair of these. They're really comfy and combined with a nice wool or fleece sock, you're set for the winter. These are zero drop and very light weight (9.9oz).
The Lems Womens Boulder Boot is good for winters. I have a pair of these. They’re really comfy and combined with a nice wool or fleece sock, you’re set for the winter. These are zero drop and very light weight (9.9oz).
Ahnu Women's Serena Flat are just okay. Note that they do have a heel. Besides that, they're probably not a bad shoe if you're looking for something to hit the bars in.
Ahnu Women’s Serena Flat are okay. Note that they do have a heel. Besides that, they’re probably not a bad shoe if you’re looking for something to hit the bars in.
Jana Thong Sandal
I got married in these, so needless to say, I think they’re great (except for the heel). They’re cute and comfy. My toes do spill over the edge a bit, but it’s not noticeable for anyone (including me). On a side note, if you do get married in flats, be sure your dressmaker knows. I mean tell your dressmaker several times, because I thought I told mine, and they still hemmed my dress too long! I had to pin it up so I can dance/walk/etc…

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Business

I found this shoe at Walmart. The Women's Casual Mary Jane Slip-on Shoe is wide, and very toe friendly. It's a bit on the stiff side and just barely has enough heel to keep the shoe on your feet. That's a no-no for most occasions, but I only use it for interviews and special occasions. For about $10 at Walmart, I'd say it's a step in the right direction. It's not a bad looking shoe and is nice and squishy on the bottom, so it's quite comfortable if you're just interested in giving your feet a break.
I found this shoe at Walmart. The Women’s Casual Mary Jane Slip-on Shoe is wide, and very toe friendly. It’s a bit on the stiff side and just barely has enough heel to keep the shoe on your feet. That’s a no-no for most occasions, but I only use it for interviews and special occasions. For about $10 at Walmart, I’d say it’s a step in the right direction. It’s not a bad looking shoe and is nice and squishy on the bottom, so it’s quite comfortable if you’re just interested in giving your feet a break.
If you absolutely must wear a heel, you'll do your feet best with a thong style. Don't get shoes that have material covering your bunion or a strap over your forefoot (because most shoes that do that will cause you more pain and make your bunion problems worse). Don't get shoes or sandals that have a mini-strap for your big toe. In all instances I've found, that strap is angled poorly and will cause you more harm and make your big toe worse. Your best options are in the thong styles. Don't be ashamed of your bunion because it's not your fault and it's not your genetics either. In most instances (with exercise and the right footwear) you can heal it anyway, so don't worry too much about it. This is the Style&co. Women's Jodii Platform Wedge Thong Sandal. I don't wear heels anymore, but if I did, I would wear this maybe on my wedding anniversary.
If you absolutely must wear a heel, you’ll do your feet best with a thong style. Don’t get shoes that have material covering your bunion or a strap over your forefoot (because most shoes that do that will cause you more pain and make your bunion problems worse). Don’t get shoes or sandals that have a mini-strap for your big toe. In all instances I’ve found, that strap is angled poorly and will cause you more harm and make your big toe worse. Your best options are in the thong styles. Don’t be ashamed of your bunion because it’s not your fault and it’s not your genetics either. In most instances (with exercise and the right footwear) you can reverse much of the damage. This is the Ralph Lauren Women’s Reeta Wedge Sandal. I don’t wear heels anymore, but if I did, I would wear this maybe on my wedding anniversary.
Naot Women's Juneau Dress Sandal
Naot Women’s Juneau Dress Sandal: I generally don’t go for shoes that don’t have a heel strap, but this one seems like something you can pop on at the office and not think twice about them. You’ll see it has a nice wide base to prevent “toe spillage”.

The Lems Women's nine2five shoe is a minimal barefoot shoe. This shoe will provide the space toes need to heal from bunion surgery or bunion prevention and management. They're also a nice business style that will work well with any pantsuit.
The Lems Women’s nine2five shoe is a minimal barefoot shoe. This shoe will provide the space toes need to heal from bunion surgery or bunion prevention and management. They’re also a nice business style that will work well with any pantsuit.

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Men’s Shoes

Scroll down for men’s shoes that are wide enough for your toes, zero drop, and flexible enough to allow your feet to move naturally.

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[su_column size=”1/3″]Exercise

Mens Primal
Lems Primal 2 is a zero drop shoe with a lot of flexibility, and a spacious toe box.
Vibram Men's Kso
According to Vibram’s website, the “KSO” is the most popular five-finger shoe and it is getting a 2016 relaunch! Have a look. There is so much to love in a five finger shoe.
While I wouldn't generally recommend a higher-build sole if you're running on trails or uneven ground, this is a good option for hitting flat terrain. The Altra Men's One 2.5 Running Shoe is zero drop, and features something called "InnerFlex midsole flex grooves". That means the shoe is more flexible at the ball of your foot than it otherwise would be without the grooves (which will allow your foot to move more naturally).
While I wouldn’t generally recommend a higher-build sole if you’re running on trails or uneven ground, this is a good option for hitting flat terrain. The Altra Men’s One 2.5 Running Shoe is zero drop, and features something called “InnerFlex midsole flex grooves”. That means the shoe is more flexible at the ball of your foot than it otherwise would be without the grooves (which will allow your foot to move more naturally).

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Mens Mariner Sonora
Men’s Mariner Sonora is another zero drop lightweight shoe. I really can’t say enough good things about these shoes. If you suffer from bunions or hammer toes, both your doctor and your feet will approve of these.
Altra Men's Instinct
If you’re looking for something more built up, this is a decent option. The Altra Men’s Instinct Everyday Fashion Sneaker offers some degree of style for a comfortable relaxing day at the office (not to say that you’re actually relaxing while at the office, but if you’re on your feet a lot, this might be a better option than a barefoot shoe). It offers a very wide toe box , is zero drop, and has a minimal amount of arch support.

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Another great shoe for your toes and feet is the Men's Nine2five Mocha. It's zero drop, light weight, and flexible!
Another great shoe for your toes and feet is the Men’s Nine2five Mocha. It’s zero drop, light weight, and flexible!
TuneFootwear
Check out TuneFootwear.com. It looks relatively new, but my husband may be getting a pair of these soon. They are zero drop, barefoot feel business and casual shoes. They look and sound like a great option from everything I’ve seen.

 

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Foot Resources, Info, and Books

Here you’ll find books, articles and links for the health of your feet!  Throughout your whole life, you’ve been misinformed on how to keep your feet healthy.  These foot resources will help you become an informed owner of healthy feet!

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Newborn FootprintsDr. Gangemi wrote this great article with concern to children and foot health. He goes into detail about children’s shoes and discusses how the public has been grossly misinformed by the American Podiatric Medical Association with concern to what kind of shoes your children should be wearing.


born to runI was lucky enough to read “Born To Run” when I started running back in 2011. It motivated me to run in minimalist shoes. Since I was already a beginner runner, I didn’t need to worry too much about slowly making the transition (I was already taking things pretty slowly back in the day).

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Harvard University Skeletal Bio Lab

If you’re interested in more of an in-depth look at the science behind running, check out the Harvard University Skeletal Biology Lab.  This great website provides evidence-based resources about the biomechanics of endurance running, and how the feet of ancient humans hit the ground before the invention of the modern running shoe.


BAD ShoesIf you’re looking for learning more about the history of high heals and an in-depth look into the psychology of wearing shoes that will inevitably deform your feet, this book won’t do you wrong. Just be sure to ignore some of the inaccuracies about flip-flop wearing and advice in support of using orthotics and shoe inserts.


FixFlatFeet.comThe website FixFlatFeet.com is a great find if you have flat feet, but even if you don’t, it was written by a Physical Therapist and packed with information about how shoes destroy your feet.  The author, goes to great lengths to provide easy to understand, and research-based information.  He has also documented his journey in treating his own flat feet.  It’s a real joy to read and a breath of fresh air.

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Shoe Parts (men’s)

Shoe parts
Figure 1

Presenting the modern men’s dress shoe.  With the exception of exaggerated high heels, the men’s shoe parts are as harmful as women’s dress shoes.

TOE BOX: The toe box is the portion of your shoes that cover your forefoot (ball of foot and toes).  It is generally made from very stiff material and looks the shoe in figure 1.  The most popular of these shoes have a crowding effect on your toes (see figure 2).  This shape will eventually force you to form bunions, flat feet, and hammer toes (to name just a few).

Bunion Making Shoe
Figure 2

SHANK: The shank is a strip of curved metal that is placed between the outsole and the insole.  Its purpose is to support the arch of your foot.  Without this piece of metal, your foot would have to support itself (as it should).  Wearing an arch support all day long will restrict the intrinsic muscles of your foot and make them weak.  A variety of foot problems develop when the muscles are too weak to provide support.

INSOLE: the insole that comes with a shoe is intended to provide some cushion to your feet.  Insoles that are store bought can also be added and provide extra cushion.  You don’t need a lot of extra cushion if you have healthy strong feet.  The extra cushion can also make you think it’s okay to strike the ground with your heel first, and heel striking is harmful for your joints (no matter how much cushion there is).

COUNTER: The heel counter is a stiff piece of plastic or other material used to prevent “over-pronation” and to keep your foot from slipping out of your shoe.  If you have healthy feet, your foot should naturally prevent you from over-pronating.  Most shoes have a stiff counter that can not only prevent your foot from moving naturally, but cause blisters even after just a little bit of walking.  If you must wear shoes, be sure to look for a very flexible counter (since it’s a requirement to keeping your shoes from falling off your feet.)

VAMP: the vamp is a strip of leather (or some other material) just below the laces.  It goes over the forefoot to keep your foot from sliding into your toebox.  When combined with a high heel, your foot will be forced to slide forward into the shoe, and the vamp will hold it back, thereby constricting its movement and circulation.

OUTSOLE(S):  The bottom layer of your shoe.  There are typically two or more outsoles.  They can be made from cork or leather, but they are generally very stiff.  In the average men’s shoe, they will prevent your foot from moving or feeling the ground.  If you’re out on the city streets, you don’t want to feel too much ground, but you don’t want to have an outsole that prevents your foot from moving at all.

TOE SPRING: The toe spring is the curvature created by the outsole below the toe box.  It’s the shoe part that gives your toes a little ‘lift’.  The intention of this lift is to allow you to walk more naturally without having to bend your foot, because if you are wearing a very stiff shoe, you won’t be bending your foot.  The inability to bend your foot as you walk will force you to lift your legs higher (or swing them outward) so you don’t drag your toes on the ground.  Toe spring forces your toes into a higher position than the rest of your foot.  When this happens, all the tendons, muscle and fascia underneath your foot are stretched out, while everything on top of your foot is shortened.  There are many problems this can pose for your feet such as hammer toes.  The tendons that go all the way to the tips of your toes are pulled back when your toes are elevated (like little puppets on a string), and this can eventually lead to hammer toes.

HEEL: A piece of material at the heel of the shoe.  There are many purposes humanity has ascribed to the heel.  It can provide added height and prevent the shoe from wearing down, or prevent the shoe from sliding too far forward into the stirrup of a horse’s saddle.  It may also act as a shock-absorber.  The most common claim is that it relieves stress on the Achilles and/or plantar fascia, but in reality, all it does is shorten these tissues and cause you more problems.  If you do not have a medical reason for an elevated heel, you should not be wearing one.  Most shoes have some degree of heel (including athletic shoes and men’s shoes).  When you’re out buying shoes, look for the “drop” measurement.  The “drop” is the difference in height between the heel and the forefoot.  That means you can actually have platform shoes that are 5 or 6 inches high with zero drop.  I wouldn’t recommend such shoes, but shoe drop has nothing to do with the height of the outsole.  A “zero drop” shoe is what you’ll want to look for.  Unfortunately, you’ll have a hard time finding something without a heel.

In conclusion, industry needs to change the form of shoe parts, and make a wider variety of healthier options available for everyone.  Money talks.  Let’s make an effort to buy from companies that recognize our feet for how they were designed.

 

Flat Feet (pes planus)

Flat feet (pes planus) occur naturally in babies and is a deformity of the arches in the adult foot. Arches are formed as a child begins to walk and the foot muscles become stronger.  Children who are made to wear stiff shoes may not develop enough muscle required to create strong arches.

Most adults acquire flat feet by wearing shoes that do not allow adequate movement.  As an adult, the condition can become very painful and debilitating.  According to one study, at least 11% of people from age 18-25 will sufferer from this condition.

There are two primary types of flat feet known as the “supple” and “rigid”.  The supple flat foot is when you have an arch in your foot while sitting, but it flattens to the ground when you apply weight or stand up.  A rigid flat foot will remain flat against the ground even if no weight is applied.  Rigid flat feet are not very common and may not respond to corrective exercises.  Supple flat feet are the most common and can typically be corrected with specialized exercises over the course of several months.

There are instances where supple flat footedness cannot be corrected with exercise.  Those instances may include trauma that healed improperly or with a great degree of scar tissue or nerve damage, and disease that affects bone or other tissues of the foot (including neurological diseases and disorders).  You should always consult with your physician before trying new exercise for the purpose of resolving a medical condition.

If you are still reading this page because you are concerned that you have flat feet and want to learn everything you can on the subject, I’d recommend hopping over to a great website called: FixFlatFeet.com.  It’s packed with some of the most interesting things about the condition and was written by a reputable physical therapist.

Bunions (Hallux Valgus)

Bunions (or Hallux Valgus) occurs when your big toe creates and angle greater than 15 degrees in the direction of your first metatarsal. There are two primary factors that contribute to bunions:

  1. Poorly fitting shoes.  The entirety of Western society wears a style that resembles the ancient practice of foot-binding.
  2. Physical activity in poorly fitting shoes.  The more active time spent in shoes that bind feet and misguide toes, the more misshapen feet will become.

There are many studies out there telling you not to blame your shoes, blame genetics!  These studies fail to include these important variables such as cultural style, exercise habits, and the rearing practices of test subjects (elements that also get passed down for generations).  In other words, some families or cultures might favor a more constricting shoe shape than others.  Some families pay little attention to how their children’s feet are growing (and a shoe that is too small for a child’s foot has the potential to deform their feet).  Some families don’t have the money to buy new shoes for their children, and those children may be forced to wear smaller shoes for longer than they should.  These variables can be passed down for generations while actual genetic components have little or nothing to do with deformity.  The research studies primarily include people from cultures that wear shoes from the moment they can walk (and unfortunately, the style of those shoes prevent healthy moment and growth of children’s feet).  That means there are no healthy-footed subjects, nobody to compare with unhealthy feet.  They’re all unhealthy.  Nobody within these cultures knows what a healthy foot is supposed to look like (that includes almost every researcher within Western society).

You can barely find a single shoe that will fit a healthy foot in any department store.  You may think you have a “wide toed shoe”, but in reality, your shoe is only wide enough for the ball of your foot, then tapers all your toes together in a stylish point at the tip (see dashed orange line in figure 1).  That shape will eventually malalign your toes and cause pain, and/or long-term damage (such as a bunion or bunionette).

MensShoeToeBox
Figure 1

You can take responsibility for the health of your feet, and you shouldn’t need to spend a lot of money to do so.  There are links listed on this site to shoes that are inexpensive, practical, and stylish.

Numb Toes And Poor Circulation

Someone asked me about my sandals.  “Aren’t you always cold on days like this?  I have numb toes right now!”  It was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit outside and I was wearing split-toe socks about as thick as a regular pair of socks with my sandals.

“No”, I replied.  “My feet don’t get that cold anymore.” …And they don’t.  My toes no longer go numb since I started wearing sandals year-round from about 2014.

She seemed shocked by this news and told me her toes go numb all the time.  She was wearing a pair of pointy-toed shoes with a 2″ heel.  I told her that her shoes looked like they are too tight and the heel is too high.  She said, “but I can wiggle my toes, and wouldn’t the blood go downward into the toes because they point downward?”  I told her it doesn’t quite work like that, but I failed to give her a better explanation.  I didn’t know how to explain to someone so tied to her heels and pointy toes that her shoes are hurting her feet.  I really love this person too and I wanted to be able to help her understand, but I knew that there isn’t much I could say that would have any effect.  I want to share this story here because I want to help her and other people who might find this information.  There is much more work to be done to change the health of feet for the vast majority of shoe-wearing societies.

Shoe Forces
Figure 1

Let’s say this is an example of your shoe (see figure 1).  With every step you take, your foot will follow the direction of force (purple arrows).  The only thing keeping your toes from sliding into the front of the shoe is the top part of the shoe (the laced part in this picture).  You may not be aware of it because you’ve spent so much time in shoes like these, but without the lace portion of the shoe, your toes will slide further down and crunch up at the toe.

You don’t need to wear sandals all the time to increase circulation to your toes.  Many people are in jobs that require them to wear shoes.  But, you shouldn’t need to wear heals unless you’re a model, and if you’re a model, you’re probably not wearing them around the clock, so take them off as much as you can, and exercise your feet to prevent circulation issues.