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.
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).
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) 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 (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:
- Poorly fitting shoes. The entirety of Western society wears a style that resembles the ancient practice of foot-binding.
- 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).
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.
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.
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.