Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hard-soled Shoes are BAD for Your Feet!

Because I am the mother of a small child, the subject of shoes comes up quite a bit. I constantly see children clomping around in thick- and hard-soled monstrosities that were never meant for humans to put on their feet. The shoe industry goes right along with the worst advice imaginable: To wit, that children's feet need "support." That concept is false. Period. Children's feet do not need "support." They need flexibility that will help them develop a nice, healthy arch and, consequently, healthy ankles, knees and legs in general. Hard-soled shoes create flat feet, as well as other leg, ankle and knee problems. I see children falling on their faces because their feet don't flex, making them trip and stumble. Obviously, this development is not healthy, and I am surpised that more podiatrists are not coming out and criticizing these clunky and ill-conceived shoes, which are found everywhere. I don't have the data to back up my suspicions, but it would seem likely that all these thick-soled shoes are causing an epidemic of foot problems, which, to be cynical, I suppose is good for business.

What is the natural state of a human's feet? In most places and eras, human beings have spent a great deal of the time barefoot or wearing thin-soled shoes made of leather. Their feet have developed naturally. You would not find Native Americans, for instance, clambering around the cliffs with blocks of wood on their feet. Yet, here we are with millions of children plodding about in this most unnatural and uncomfortable manner. At this time, it is difficult to find soft-soled and flexible shoes anywhere in stores, but they can be sought out on the net, with difficulty for older children. There are famous, old-fashioned sneakers for little kids that maintain their soft but protective soles up to size 10. After that, they start to become clunky again. It will require parental demand to create the old-fashioned protective but flexible shoes and sneakers, so get to it!

As you can see from the below article, at least one foot organization, the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society, gives the right advice on this subject, recommending that children wear flexible shoes which protect their feet but nonetheless allow for proper development. AOFAS also recommends that children go barefoot "in a protective environment." Of course, we do not want children stepping on glass or metal or other harmful material, but going barefoot on safe and soft grass is extremely pleasant and healthful as well. Now, get thee back to nature and get your precious feet back!
American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society
A Guide to Children's Shoes

Most children learn to walk at about the time of their first birthday, although some learn months earlier or later. As your child begins to walk, you may have your first questions about what shoes he or she should wear. A growing child will need new shoes frequently and more questions will arise....


Make sure the insole is made of absorbent material. You may want padded insoles. Most children do not need a special arch support. All toddlers younger than 16 months have flat feet and only fully develop an arch by the age of 6 to 8 years.

Outer Sole

The outer sole provides traction, cushioning, and flexibility to the shoe. Some very sticky and thick outer soles can make young children clumsy and cause falls and should be avoided.


Toddlers do not need heels on their shoes. Flat outer soles make it easier to begin walking. Older children can wear shoes with heels, but they should not be too high (bigger than one inch) as this can cause the foot to slide forward, cramping the toes against the shoe....

Pre-Walking Shoe

Certain types of shoes are appropriate for your child's age.

Babies and crawlers do not need shoes. They only need booties, warm wide socks to keep their feet warm, or pre-walking shoes that do not bind their feet. The shoe should be flexible rather than providing a rigid support, and it's very important that the shoe be shaped like the child's foot.

Your child can go barefoot in a protected environment such as indoors.

Toddler Shoes

Shoes for toddlers, age 9 months to 3 years, should allow the foot to breathe since their feet perspire a great amount. Avoid synthetic materials that don't breathe.

For children 9 to 18 months, choose a high top shoe which will stay on the foot better than an oxford or a low top tennis shoe. A leather or canvas tie shoe is more secure, will stay on the foot, and will fit fat little feet better. The sole of the shoe should be smooth like the palm of your hand. A smooth sole means less friction so the shoe won't grab the floor, possibly causing your child to fall. Choose a light-weight shoe, since children use a lot of energy walking at this age. Toddlers can go barefoot in a protected environment such as indoors.

School-Age Children's Shoes

Style and shoefit is important for school-age children. At this age, they can choose from a variety of options including athletic shoes, sandals, hiking shoes, etc.

Look for reasonably priced, flexible, well-ventilated shoes that allow plenty of room for growth. If you have a great deal of difficulty finding shoes that fit, or if your child develops calluses, sores, or other foot problems, consult your physician....


jzenou said...

Check out MBT (Masai Barefoot Technology) shoes. I just bought a pair last month and they are the BEST shoes on the market bar none.
Expensive but worth every cent. I bought mine at a Foot Solutions store.

Bob Prost said...

have a Tarsal Tunnel nerve entrapment in my foot.
Both of the podiatrists I have seen have recommended
hard orthotics or insoles. I was questioning this for
awhile now. It seems to me that a hard orthotic would
compress the Tibial nerve in the foot even more. I've
read on message boards that some have gotten Tarsal
Tunnel nerve problems after using custom orthotics.

My shoe of chose is either the Crocs sandals which
have a soft arch support or the Birkenstock shoes that
also have a softer insole and good arch support. Crocs
are very inexpensive and are good for summer ware. The
Birkenstocks are a bit more expensive. The Birks
insoles mold to your feet and in my opinion are far
superior to hard insoles.

Anonymous said...

I have been practicing Chinese internal martial arts for health for the past 7 years. Two years ago, I switched from the raised sneakers to flat ones. I never have any discomfort as I did with my ankles. There is a trend in Athletics to wear flat, flexible shoes. The idea is that your feet then can adjust to the floor or ground.

P.S Your site is fantastic. I am reading Suns of God, an amazing book. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I feel better then I have in Years.

Acharya S said...

Could you elucidate about why you feel better than you have in years? Thanks!

moonbaby said...

Hello Acharya,
I am a mother to seven children. And I hear eactly what you are saying. I am barefooter now, and there is a nice barefooter organication on the net. My children running all day long around barefooted too, the only time they wear shoes is when we go shopping, because I don't like to be escorted of the premises by police. We live in florida so all day every day barefooting is possible here. By the way you soles get tough from walking barefooted and it is almost impossible that you step into glass or other things, you just have to keep your eyes open where you step, and glass often does not lay in the street with points up in the air. My kids running around since they are born with no shoes and so far I had only three incidence where my kids stepped on nails, but those incidence did not need any strong medical attention, besides some cleaning and a band aid.
Here is the link to the barefoot organication and they is also a Yahoo group.
it also gives you some barefooter facts.

Love and Peace

P.S. I love all your blogs

Acharya S said...

Thanks for all the good info, moonbaby.

And for reminding me of the important health issues I would like to address at some point in my life!

Anonymous said...

try yola shoes - you can get them in stead and simpsons. Theyare sequinned dolly shoes, and are ideal!!! fit all feet!

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info im doing a speech at school about changing our monster shoes! Your information has really helped my progress and is just what i need!

Jason said...

I developed arch problems when I got some bad orthotics and MBT's were the worst shoe I could possibly buy with that kind of problem as they have you standing on your arch all day. I then switched to Z-Coils for a year and Spiras for a year to rehab my damaged feet. I still have major foot problems (scar tissue build up in the arch) and am going to try going back to Birkenstocks and Danskos.

Katy said...

Hello, do happen to know any problems that the school shoes you talked about cause? Such as maybe back pain or something or rather? I need this information ASAP please if you have it.
Thank you

Acharya S said...

I'm not a shoe expert, but it may be that such shoes are hurting various body parts.

source outdoor said...

I'm not sure if i've taken a risk losing some credibility or respect by exposing my toes at this Law firm i work for. But i have to say, it's a battle of leverages between comfort and professionalism. For now, i will stick with my closed shoesm Dreaming of a day when i can wear sandals to work!!!

Rebecca said...

Hi. Just happened upon your blog while looking for some info to support my identical claim. Thanks for the info. I'm a personal trainer and yoga teacher and have a son who is just about to take his first step. We've only put him in moccasin-like shoes so far and intend to for much longer. Thanks for posting the information from the AOFAS.