The Minimal & Barefoot Shoe Directory

Sometimes you just have to say ENOUGH! I’ve been working on this guide for months and have decided to publish it unfinished and largely unproofed. In the coming weeks, I’ll be changing out images, checking links, adding reviews, etc. And,

I’ll need your help! What companies/brands am I missing?

This blog started out as the Ultimate List of Shoe Lists, where I sought to publish a list of minimal shoe lists, but that aim took a back seat as the blog evolved. What I did not set out to do was create a comprehensive directory of mostly pure minimal shoe companies. Yet, that is what the first part of this blog has become.

Research for this blog lead me to make distinctions between passionately pure minimalist & barefoot shoe companies, niche companies of primarily one style of minimalist shoe, and traditional shoe companies that offer a limited number of minimal shoe styles in an otherwise large inventory of conventionally made shoes. The List of Minimal & Barefoot Shoe Lists that appear in the second part of my blog include shoes from all of these types of companies.

In this directory, generally, you will not find traditional shoe companies/brands with only one or two barefoot shoe styles. However, since two of my favorite shoes are from a traditional shoe company, Merrell, I’ll include their minimalist offerings as reviews.

What do I mean by Minimalist Cred?

When I think about minimalist cred, I consider Katy Bowman’s original four evaluation criteria plus Ray Mclanahan’s toe spring. In some cases, I relied on companies’ website descriptions, in other cases I had experience with a companies products; in others I used my best judgement based on how the shoes looked.

  • wide toe box
  • zero drop heel (no decrease in elevation from heel to toe)
  • zero to minimal toe spring
  • thin & flexible sole
  • well attached upper as applies to sandles and clogs/slides/mules

Other minimal shoe qualities that I often see in descriptions of shoes are anatomical shape, light weight, and breathable material.

Miscellaneous stuff

All websites are in English, but some of the companies are outside of the US.

I include brief reviews for some shoes that I own.

After alphabetical arrangement is a preliminary attempt to categorize shoe companies that offer vegan styles and kids‘ sizes and those that offer shoes that are primarily athletic or sandals. This section is a work in progress. As is the whole damn blog.

I am seeking feedback on any aspect of this directory!

Presenting….

The Minimal & Barefoot Shoe Directory Arranged Alphabetically

Afoot Sandals

Headquartered in Sweden; custom made on demand; ships world wide; natural, sustainable, organic materials – vegetable tanned leather, organic hemp, organic beeswax and metal; grounding properties; Price range: $113 – $340.

Minimalist cred:  zero drop heel; wide toe box; thin & flexible sole, no toe spring

Ahinsa

Made in the Czech Republic from EU sourced materials; ships worldwide; all shoes are vegan; ethical work practices; ecofriendly; designed by physiotherapists; independent quality checks for every shoe; Price range: $105 – $217.

Minimalist cred: wide toe box; zero drop heel; thin & flexible sole

Altra Running Shoes

Award winning; fully cushioned; gender specific; founders are elite athletes and running store managers; free shipping; 30 day satisfaction guarantee; Price range: $90 – $220.

Minimalist cred: wide toe box; zero drop heel

***I consider Altra the gateway shoe for transitioning to more minimal styles. It combines the foot-health benefits of a wide toe box and zero drop heel with a comfortable cushioned sole. The Superior trail runner is my go-to shoe for long rocky hikes or when I have to walk a few miles on concrete or asphalt. It is the shoe that I recommend to clients, when they are ready to begin their transition. Michele McGinnis, FootLove Yoga

ANI

Vegan, ecofriendly; participates in Souls 4 SoulsPrice range: $65 – $75.

Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; thin & flexible sole

BAR Shoes

Handmade in Germany

Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; wide toe box; flexible soles. Price range: $46 – $265

Bedrock Sandals

Manufactured in Richmond, CA; 1% of sales for the Planet; adjustable strap system

Minimalist cred:

Be Real

Running shoes; made in the USA; ecofriendly; slip resistance in water

Minimalist cred: wide toe box; zero drop heel; thin & flexible sole;

Drifter Leather

Greece; ships worldwide; handmade, handcut custom fit on all shoe orders; small family business

Minimalist cred: thin & flexible sole; well attached upper

And here are the Men’s Drifters

Earthrunners

Sandals manufactured in Sonoma, CA; crowdsourced feedback; eco-conscious; inspired by Tarahumara running sandals; conductive laces ground you electrically

Minimal cred: zero drop; thin & flexible sole; heel strap

Feelmax

Headquartered in Finland; 1mm thickness outsole

Minimalist cred: wide toe box; zero drop heel; thin & flexible sole; well attached upper;

Fit in Clouds

foldable ballet flats with split-sole construction;

Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; thin & flexible sole

Fitkicks

Ships world wide; comes in activewear, slippers & foldable sneakers

Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; thin & flexible sole

Furoshiki Shoes

Wraps around entire foot

Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; thin & flexible; zero toe spring

Hoss

Made to order and hand crafted in the USA; unisex; vegetable tanned suede;

Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; thin & flexible sole, zero toe spring;

Into the Wild

Handmade moccasins; locally sourced; can have rubber soles added

Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; thin & flexible sole; zero toe spring;

Joe Nimble

Hand crafted in and ships from Germany

Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; wide toe box

Kigo

Made from red ketchup bottles, black food trays, and brown beer bottles; certified by the Green America’s Green Business Network as an environmentally and socially responsible business

Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; wide toe box; thin flexible sole; low toe spring

Leguano

German designed by a group of movement specialists and barefoot professionals; moisture wicking; quick drying; durable, slip resistant sole provides protection from most sharp materials, including broken glass

Minimalist cred: minimal to zero drop heels; wide toe box; thin & flexible sole.

Lems

American-run company, 100% family owned

Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; wide toe box; thin & flexible sole, low toe spring

***Lems Primal 2 are the demo shoes that I use in Footlove Yoga workshops and in movement sessions with clients. I remove the insole from one of my Lems and one from a traditionally shaped shoe and lay them side by side. I then ask my client which insole is shaped more like my foot? Of course, they point to Lems. I then prepare to stand barefoot on the traditional insole and ask my client what they think is gong to happen? They are always correct in predicting that my toes will spill over the sides of the narrow toe-boxed insole of the traditionally lasted shoe. They immediately get that this shoe is too narrow for a healthy foot and gait. I then stand on the Lems insole, spread my toes, and demonstrate how a healthy, naturally shaped shoe should be. I love my Lems. 

Last winter, I failed (again) to secure a pair of warm minimal winter boots. On a 5 degree day, I decided to try my vegan Lems Boulder Boots with heavy wool socks. I walked about 1.5 miles to the clinic through snowy streets. While I can’t say my feet stayed warm, they did not get nearly as cold I as anticipated. I suspect because of the wide toe box and flexible sole, my feet were able to move and create more blood flow than if they were casted into traditional winter boots. While not waterproof, they accept an application of water seal and thus have stayed dry in snow and rain. Michele McGinnis, FootLove Yoga

Luna Sandals

Company founded by the famous barefoot Ted; designed, tested, assembled and made in Seattle

Minimalist cred:

OESH

Shoes made for women, by a woman; wider toe box and more narrow heel; pronounced like the sound in ‘ocean’…a one syllable o sound with a silent e

Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; wide toe box; thin & flexible; zero toe spring in some models

OTZ Shoes

Inspired by the craftsmanship of the 5,000 year old shoes discovered on the mummified remains of a prehistoric man called “Ötzi, the Iceman;

Minimalist cred: thin & flexible sole

Sanuk

Some styles made from yoga mats

Minimalist cred:

Unfortunately, I am unable to save images from Sanuk’s site.

Shamma

“We make sandals that are not over-engineered or floppy. They don’t force your toes to hold on for dear life. Sliding around in your sandals unable to feel the ground is not comfortable, a performance fit is!”

Minimalist cred:

SKORA

SKORA is the result of a 12-year journey to craft a better running shoe; rounded outsole edges;

Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; wide toe box;

Sockwa

Micro-thin 1.2 mm thick durable plastic sole;  main office and design studio is located in Ventura County, California; 1% for the Planet

Minimalist cred: thin & flexible sole;

Softstar

Handmade to order in Oregon, USA; sustainable practices; grounding properties.

Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; wide toe box; thin & flexible heel; well attached upper; zero toe spring

SOM

Sense of Motion Footwear; eco-consciously handmade in Colorado, USA;

Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; wide toe box; think & flexible sole

som1

Norwood

TadeEvo

Manufactured in Southern Poland; high flexibility in both torsion and bending; no artificial system of stabilization; designed to emulate barefoot walking; free shipping worldwide.

Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; wide toe box; thin & flexible sole

Tieks

Unique split-sole and flexible midsole flats that fold and fit in a purse; non-skid rubber outsole patches; crafted from luxurious Italian leather and textiles; associated Gavrieli Foundation has contributed $10 million in funds to women entrepreneurs, who they believe are key in the broader fight against global poverty.

Minimalist cred: zero drop heel; thin & flexible heel; no toe spring

Tune Footwear

Modern barefoot shoe for men at work;

Minimalist cred: zero drop; wide toe box; thin & flexible sole.

***I’ll be contacting Tune to inquire about this puzzling bit on their website:

“An offset heel such as the one you see to the below promotes HEEL STRIKING, a major cause of ankle, knee, hip, and back pain. Making heel-first contact during your stride isn’t natural from a biomechanical standpoint and it sends the kinetic energy created at impact up your bone structure. As a result, you can experience serious joint pain. A better alternative is a flat shoe that won’t impede your natural stride.

Stay tuned…

Unshoes

Adjustable, continuous strap that doesn’t run between the sole and footbed; sandals & moccasins

Minimalist cred:

Vibram Fivefingers

Minimalist cred: zero drop; wide toe box, think & flexible, no toe spring

Vivobarefoot
Wildling
Xero Shoes
Zemgear

Subdirectory of Minimal & Barefoot Shoes Arranged by Style

Athletic/Running (primarily) – Altra, Be Real,

Kids (offers kid’s sizes): SoftstarTadeEvoZeazoo

Sandals (primarily) – Afoot Sandals,

Vegan – AhinsaANIBAR Shoes, Joe Nimble, OESHTadeEvo, Tieks,

List of Minimal & Barefoot Shoe Lists

Multipurpose Shoes

Shoes: The List by internally recognized biomechanist Katy Bowman of Nutritios Movement. This list was posted on Katy’s blog in 2012 and updated August 2016.

Shoes: The (Summer) List by Katy Bowman, posted June 2015. Updated June 2017.

Shoes: The (Winter List) by Katy Bowman. Posted in 2013 and updated Winter 2015/16.

Correct Toes Approved Shoes from Correct Toes. Posting date/updates unknown.

Footwear highlighted here accommodates Correct Toes, encourages natural foot and body movement, optimizes foot strength and promotes proper toe alignment. Generally the shoes on this list have the following features: wide toe box, shaped like an actual foot, zero drop heel, no toe spring, and flexible sole.

Natural Foot Approved Shoes from Correct Toes. Posting date/updates unknown.

These shoes do all of the above except, they are not wide enough to accommodate Correct Toes for most people.

Barefoot and Minimalist Shoe Guide

This barefoot shoe guide is an attempt to provide a list of both self-proclaimed barefoot brands that offer stylish lifestyle options, as well as other (non-barefoot) brands that still offer minimalist shoe styles.

Boots

Winter Boots List by Barbara Loomis

Restorative Exercise Specialist Barbara Loomis compiled a list of 2016 winter boots she likes. Obviously, which boot you choose depends on your Winter climate and your current foot health. She looked for boots that are flat, flexible, have wide toe box with minimal to no toe spring. Not all of the boots meet all of the criteria, but at least they’re headed in the right direction.

Running & Athletics

12 Best Minimalist Running Shoes, January 2017

5,088 runners reviewed these minimalist shoes with an average score of 84/100

10 Best Minimalistic Running Shoes Reviewed, 2017

Searching for Minimal Running Shoes? Take a look at the top rated shoes of 2017, Pros & Cons and what to be aware of before buying them in a store!

Advertisements

Self-Help for Hammertoe Deformity

IMG_3956

Extension at the MPJ; flexion at the PIJ

Hammertoe deformity (sometimes written as hammer toe) is a condition of one or more of the lesser toes, characterized by extension of the metatarsophalangeal joints (MTPJ) and flexion of the proximal interphalangeal joints (PIJ). To find your MTP joints, lift your toes off the ground – it is that junction at the base of the toes. Lifting them off the floor puts them into extension. PIJ is the next joint along the toe, which in hammertoe deformity is often flexed or in the position of making a fist with your toes.  Sometimes the distal or last toe joints are also extended, which I could demonstrate by lifting the tip of the toe of my foot anatomical model.

Not only can hammertoes be painful, many who have them are self-conscious wearing sandals or going barefoot because of how their toes look.  If you have hammertoes or suspect that you developing them, here are some things you can do.

Evaluate and update your footwear

It is widely accepted that hammertoes are made worse by narrow shoes and high heels. I use italics because most of my clients don’t consider their narrow or high. Here is a simple test for narrow. Remove the insert from your shoe, stand on it, and spread your toes. If your toes spill over the sides, your shoe is too narrow. Period. The great majority of shoes have positive heels, which means the heel is at a higher elevation than the toe of the shoe. Technically, this is a high heel that changes your geometry and therefore your gait – thus where/how your land on your feet, when standing, walking, or running. Look for shoes that are zero drop, meaning there is no drop in elevation of the shoe from heel to toe.

Another ubiquitous shoe feature to avoid is toe spring – that perky lift at the toe area of a shoe. Toe spring is a feature meant to facilitate toe extension phase of walking/running. It is a necessary evil in most shoes because their stiffness undermines our natural ability to extend our toes in gait. The problem is that toe spring keeps your toes in constant extension, which is unnatural. You can see how constant extension would be unwanted in a condition like hammertoe deformity, where your toes are already prone to chronic contraction in extension. In the image below, you can see significant toe spring in the Altra  on the right (a shoe that otherwise has good features like a wide toe box and zero drop heel) compared to the shoe on the left from OESH – a woman owned company that makes anatomically- and biomechanically-informed shoes for women. Not only is there no toe spring, they also have zero drop heels and toe boxes wider than your typical shoe – all features to seek in a hammertoe-defying shoe.

toespring_comparison

Toes spring in the shoe on the right

Shoes like flip flops, some sandals, clogs, slides, mules – any shoe that has a loosely attached upper and requires flexion through the first or proximal interphalangeal joint in order to keep them on your feet mimics and may reinforces problematic biomechanics of hammertoe deformity. Try walking in a pair clogs without scrunching your toes and you may find that you’ve kicked your shoe halfway across the room. If you are already experiencing hammertoes, you might consider decreasing the amount of time you spend in these types of shoes.

Train your toe flexing muscles

Some studies have shown a strength imbalance between toe extensors and toe flexors with extensors being stronger, pulling the MP joint into extension. It is thought that toe flexion at the first toe joint is in response to this imbalance. Natural Sports Podiatrist Dr. Ray McClanahan has a good video on this, where he shows passive stretching exercises. In addition to passive stretching, I suggest that you also add the following resistance stretching exercises as part of your everyday training.

Since it is thought that the MP joint is overly strong in extension, training greater strength in toe flexion is desired. From a seated position, cup your hand over your toes, curling your fingers over the tips of your toes to rest on the bottom side of your toes. Hold your toes firmly in place while attempting to curl your toes into a fist.

  • Variation 1 – completely resist flexion of your toes for up to 7 breaths.
  • Variation 2 – allow your toes to flex but against firm resistance – repeat up to 10 times.

Drop your toes

Katy Bowman of Nutritious Movement, one of my teachers, is famous for saying “drop your ribs” to get her clients to pay attention to when they are thrusting their ribs forward thus shearing their vertebrae, chronically extending their spinal muscles, and undermining intra-abdominal pressure. I see a similar phenomenon in my clients with hammertoe deformity, where they are chronically lifting their toes. I usually see it in balancing exercises, ankle exercises, and in the wear and tear on the tops of their shoes.

I pay attention to this and remind my clients, ad nauseam,  to “drop your toes.” Eventually, they start noticing how they habitually contract their toe extensors and, problematically, how they use toe extension muscles more dominantly than the more appropriate muscle on the shin (tibialis anterior) when dorsiflexing an ankle.  I work with them to learn to relax their toes and the top of the foot with some specific ball and sensing exercises and to control toe extension in ankle ranges of motion.

Stretch your calves

Research shows that study participants with hammertoes also have less ankle dorsiflexion – the position of your ankle, when walking up a steep hill. In some cases, this could be due to soft tissue limitations in the calves. Thus daily calf stretching and strengthening may be beneficial. From the calf stretch pictured below, I like to slowly rise up onto the ball of my foot to full plantar flexion (standing in tippy toes) and very slowly lower down to eccentrically load my calf, meaning it gets stronger while it is stretching.

calfstretch

Calf stretch

If your hammertoes reside in the Yakima Valley of Washington, you can find me at the clinic of Dr. Kara Lolley, where I help you move, move more, and move more of you.

Namaste, Michele

The Inconvenience of Movement

preventionMag

The July issue of Prevention Magazine featured a 12-page spread on Katy Bowman’s Nutritious Movement. I spent two years studying with Katy and in October 2015, I began working for her organization. While Nutritious Movement has had an influence on how I practice and teach yogasana, it’s greatest impact has been on my own personal life-driven movement practices.

I first heard Katy talk about the relationship between convenience and movement in the context of stacking her life. The idea is that convenience always equals less movement. Think about it. Taking an elevator instead of stairs is convenient but requires less movement. Tossing your clothes into the dryer instead of hanging them is convenient, but requires less movement. Parking close to your destination is convenient, but requires less movement. Driving one mile for a quick errand instead of walking is convenient, but requires less movement. Katy came to the realization many years ago that convenience was not convenient to her health and was in fact debilitating her.

Influenced by Nutritious Movement, I began to notice the big and small ways that choosing convenience robbed me of movement. One of the striking things I discovered was how often I am tempted to ask my partner to hand or bring me something instead of getting if for myself. I had no idea how precious I had become! So I began to intentionally choose movement over convenience. Every day, I am faced with countless decisions to either take a shortcut and “save steps” or to seek opportunities to increase my movement. For instance, at Costco, where I park at the farthest away space, instead of asking for a box, I have my purchased goods placed directly into my cart, which requires me to unload them one at a time into my car; and then several trips into my house. When I return my cart, it is not to the closest stall, but all the way back to the store. These are simple steps that don’t take much time and add up. 

In the Prevention Magazine article, Katy shares numerous ways she chooses movement. For instance, she places her everyday dishes in the lowest cabinets (under the counter) so that she has to squat each time she wants to get a glass, dish, or bowl.

I’ve compiled my own growing list of “inconveniences” that have added movement to my life that in aggregate over days, weeks, months, and years will provide incalculable benefits.

  1. I no longer own a couch or cozy living room furniture. When I wish to sit, I have to get down onto the floor, which is not convenient and requires me to mobilize ankles, knees, hips, and spine. It demands a combination of concentric and eccentric muscle actions to lower me down to the ground and bring me up to standing; and is a realistic test of strength to weight. The benefits of sitting on the floor go far beyond lowering down to and rising up from.
  2. I sleep on a three 3 inch pad on the floor. Again, because it requires me to get down onto the floor and back up again, I’ve added more movement and loads to my parts.
  3. I do quite a bit of computer work, so I had a standing work station built. Prior to making my living as a movement practitioner, I was a research librarian and spent 10+ hours a day sitting at my computer. Now, when I have to be at the computer for long stretches, I either stand or sit on the floor at a sit/squat desk. If you are standing for work, here are my top 25 movements at my standing work-station.
  4. One of the best changes I’ve made to my domicile is adding a squatting toilet. I use Nature’s Platform, which sits directly over my toilet. It provides more realistic squatting loads than that gimmicky foot stool called the Squatty Potty. Nature’s Platform differs from a true squat toilet in that you have to climb up onto it rather than lower to a squat from standing – the way you would do if you were toileting over a hole in the ground/floor, but once you are in a squat on the platform, the experience and benefits are much richer than using a foot stool to hike up your legs.
  5. Over a year ago, we downsized to one car and I walk as many of our errands now as I can. It does take some planning and there are far too many times that I don’t plan well and end up driving to errands that are walkable to save myself time. But I do try to think about where I need to go each week and how I can prioritize walking to get there.
  6. I grew up in Tennessee, where we had no shoes. Just kidding. We had shoes, but I chose not to wear them whenever I could get away with it – all the way up through college. Katy reawakened my love of barefoot living, causing my great neurotic shoe purge that while traumatic has been amazing for how, how much, and how much of my feet move.
  7. And I use my arms more. On my barefoot or minimally shod walks, I carry things in my hands and arms – like my day pack. Instead of using a cart at the grocery store, I carry two hand baskets (when they are available). Instead of using a motorized lawn mower, I use a non-motorized push mower and basic hand tools like clippers, loppers, and hand saws to trim what needs trimming around the garden and yard. Katy is a big advocate for hanging (like from monkey bars and tree branches), but I got bored with hanging, so I started rock climbing again.
datal

Michele, Datil, NM

If you are inspired to add more movement to your life, but you’ve been sedentary and would like to ease in slowly, I am certified by Nutritious Movement to teach the corrective exercises that Katy features in the Prevention Magazine article. These exercises will prepare your body for the loads required for squatting and getting on & off the floor with grace; adding more steps to get you to and beyond the recommended 10,000; and using your arms for lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, dragging, climbing, digging, chopping pounding, swinging, reaching mantling, scraping, ripping, hoisting, throwing, hauling, heaving and all those other wonderfully nutritious movements your upper body has been missing.

Namaste, Michele

 

Foot Love Workshop Exercises – October 2015

You can find variations of some of these exercises in world-renowned Biomechanist Katy Bowman’s books & DVD included in her Healthy Foot Kit.

Healthy_Foot_Kit-1

Standing Exercises

All standing exercises should be done in Tadasana aka mountain pose with your feet pelvis-width distance apart, pointing forward, which means the outside edges of your feet should form a straight line (you can line up the edge of one of your feet on a yoga mat to check that it is actually straight and match the other accordingly); and your hips back so that they are stacked over your knees, ankles, and heels and not drifting or thrusting forward. Keep your weight back in your heels. I call this Smart Tadasana Alignment.

Toe Spreading

Lift your toes (this is called extension), spread them away from each other, and place them down onto the mat. Repeat several times throughout your day. You can improve your ability to actively spread your toes by passively spreading them using toe socks.

Short Foot Exercise

A full explanation is linked, but the short of it is to draw the base of your big toe towards your heel, without flexing or curling your toes. It’s OK if they grip the floor. This action lifts your arch, thereby shortening the length of your foot, and strengthening the arch-supporting muscles. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 3 times for each foot. Try to do 5 sets of 3 repetitions per day, holding for 5 seconds each rep. You can perform the short foot exercise any time your standing in yoga postures and as you get stronger, you can do it while balancing. The Short Foot Exercise is comparable to the Strong Yoga Foot.

Balancing

Any single leg balance will strengthen your extrinsic and intrinsic foot musculature. Once you are skilled at balancing on a firm surface, you can explore a variety of unique surfaces – a folded up towel or blanket, a yoga block, a half round, a boot tray of rocks, your yard…Hold for up to one minute and repeat several times throughout your day.

Exploratory feet

Move your feet in exploratory, weird, random, bizarre, strange, silly, varied ways. This can be done sitting in Dandasana (with your legs extended in front of you) or lying down. This is a great way to mobilize your feet before you get out of bed in the morning. Repeat throughout your day.

Top of foot stretch

Extend a leg behind you, pressing the top of your foot into the mat. It is important to keep your pelvis back and stacked vertically over the knee & ankle of your front or support leg as the tendency is for it to drift forward. If balance is a challenge, please use a chair so that you can concentrate on the stretch without worrying about the balance.Hold for up to one minute. Repeat several times throughout your day.

Top of foot stretch

Top of foot stretch

Calf Elevator

Lift the heels of both feet, coming up onto your tippy toes. Try to avoid letting your ankles blow out to the sides. If they do, then only raise your heels as high as you can keep your ankles stable. Hold for several seconds. Once you are skilled at balancing on both feet, start working towards one foot at a time. You can do this either by lifting the heels of both feet, but letting the work happen mainly in one foot; or you could do this balancing on one foot! Whichever variation you choose, make sure your hips are back. Hold for up to one minute. Repeat several times throughout your day.

Calf stretch

A half round (or half moon as one of students sweetly miscalled it) is best for this stretch, but you could roll up a couple of yoga mats or blanket or use a book. Place the ball of your foot on the top of the half round with your heel on the ground. Keep your other foot even to and pelvic-width apart from the stretching calf. You can advance in this pose by slowly stepping the non-stretching foot forward. If your pelvis moves forward with you or you lose balance or get rigid, bring the forward stepping foot back and don’t progress until you can do so in a relaxed and balanced stance with your hips back. Hold for up to one minute. Repeat several times throughout your day.

I purchased a SPRI Half Round Foam Roller, 36 x 6-Inch that I cut down to one 18″ length and three 6″ lengths that I use for various purposes as yoga props.

Calf Stretch/Elevator Combination

Stand with one foot on the half-round and elevate both heels to a slow count of three. Hold for 3 counts. Lower for a slow count of three. The lowering is where you train eccentrically, generating force while you are lengthening your muscle tendon units. This is how you get stronger at greater ranges and with more control. At the place that you want to give up and drop your heel is the opportunity to exercise muscle control.

Hamstring stretch

I’ll be posting later this week on hamstring stretching, but for now, start from tadasana, place your hands on your thighs and hinge forward at your hip joints, allowing your hands to slide down your legs, keeping your spine in neutral. As soon as your spine starts to deform ie round, stop, come up a few inches and work instead on lifting your tailbone, which will move the proximal muscle attachments for your hamstrings that are located on your sitting bones away from the distal attachments that are located on your lower legs, thus stretching these muscles. Hold for up to one minute. Repeat several times throughout your day.

Ball rolling massage

Place a new, firm tennis ball on a yoga mat or carpet. Keep your heel down as you drape only your toes over the ball, weighting it as much as you can tolerate. Very, very slowly, roll the ball under your toes, from side to side, allowing your toes to spread as you go. After a while move your foot forward so that the ball of your foot drapes across the ball. Again, move very slowly side to side. Continue to move your foot forward in small sections using a side to side motion. When you are deep into the arch of your foot, you might explore some front to back motions, or invert/evert your foot to get into the lateral and medial arches. The benefit from this massage comes when you slow down, take your time, move forward in tiny increments, hang out in sore spots, and remember to breathe. This can and should be done daily as a meditation practice.

staticball3

Floor Exercises

Plantar Fascia Stretch – kneeling/squatting

In this exercise, you kneel with your knees pelvis-width apart on a mat or padded surface. Extend (curl) your toes forward. If you can, reach around and separate your toes from each other and make sure they are all extending forward. You may be able to lower your hips, shifting more of your weight onto your feet, but do this slowly and with ease as the thick band of fascia and four layers of intrinsic muscles on the soles of your feet may never have experienced this type of stretch. Images and detailed instructions are linked above.

Barbie foot

This is the exercise where you press your balls forward (of your feet, people!), all toes forward, all toes back, foot back. You know the one. In the balls forward, toes back position, your feet look like Barbie’s. You can use your arms to support you in an upright seated position, but I suggest you place your hands in your lap from time to time and hold yourself up using your own trunk musculature. Images and detailed instructions are linked above.

Bridge with marble

I know you all remember this bit of love from the workshop – a yoga bridge pose holding a marble with your toes and extending your leg. Yes, that one.  Remember, cramping is good…a good reminder, that it, that you should be moving your feet more. Again, images and detailed instructions are linked above.

Ankle circles, point/flex, invert, evert

This can be done seated with legs extended or on your back. My preference is supine with legs extended 90 degrees and soles of your feet facing the ceiling. Try to keep your legs straight and pelvis-width apart and don’t be in such a hurry. Slow, sweeping circles will assure full range of motion. If you fatigue, bend your knees, but keep moving your ankles & feet.

Exploratory feet

Exploratory feet can be done standing in Tadasana with your feet squirming around on the mat; seated in a chair with them wiggling about on a bolster; seated on the floor with them playing mischievously out in front of you; or lying supine, my favorite, with your feet in the air spazzing all over. The object is to make as many movements as you can. According to my teacher Katy Bowman, a biomechanist and math dork, if you apply a mathematical concept called a factorial, a foot with 33 joints can deform into 8,600,000,000,000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 unique ways – or thereabouts. Whatever.

Toe spreaders

These exercises will help to undo the harm that shoes with small toe boxes cause to the muscles between your toes that have so little range of motion or strength that you may not even be able to generate enough of your own force to spread your toes. The third exercise, Toe Lifts, was not included in the workshop because a) I forgot; or b) We ran out of time. Whatever.

Namaste, Michele

To all the shoes I’ve loved before

It’s time. It’s past time. We are moving to a smaller house in an act of intentional minimalist rebellion. I’ve been adding minimalist shoes to my closet over the last year, but have not reduced the total number of shoes residing there. To ease the ache of knowing that most of my pre-FootLove Yoga shoes will have to go, I revisit Katy Bowman’s Four Factor Shoe Evaluation (see chart below) to remind me why I make these tough decisions. When evaluating shoes, consider the four main features of a shoe and how and why they can be severely damaging. A feature that I did not systematically evaluate, but is present on over half of my shoes, is toe spring, that perky little incline at the toe end of a shoe. A toe spring bends the toes upward and over time deforms the foot, leading to foot problems, gait abnormalities, and musculoskeletal compensations.

If you decide to transition to more minimal shoes, a must read is Whole Body Barefoot by renowned biomechanist Katy Bowman. You can find it in Katy’s Healthy Foot Kit.

 

Healthy_Foot_Kit-1

Heel – A positive heel is any degree of elevation above the height of the toe box. A traditional high heel is just one style of positive heel. I can’t say it any better than Katy when she describes positive heels as “bone density decreasing, nerve damaging, and arthritis causing” at any height. Not only do they cause whole-body deformation as they force you to change the geometry of all your joints to keep you balanced and upright, but they also increase the load on the front of your foot, exacerbating foot maladies like bunions, plantar fasciitis, and metatarsalgia, among others. At my last Foot Love workshop, I held up two shoes – a sparkly, silver stiletto and an athletic shoe. I asked which one is worse. All but one person said the stiletto. One gal said the running shoe. Everyone was right. The stiletto, being 4 inches high, would cause considerably more damage when worn, but chances are it is only being worn on special occasions for short periods of time. The athletic shoe, however, is probably being worn all day, every day. It’s a case of acute damage vs. chronic.

Toe Box – Chronic toe squeezing weakens the muscles of the toes and loads the bones while they are positioned incorrectly, increasing the occurrence of joint stress, bone stress, and other soft tissue deformation. What is utterly baffling  is that shoe creators continue to design shoes that taper at the toe, when in fact, the ends of the toes are the widest part of the foot and therefore requires that area to be the widest part of the shoe! Dr. Ray McClanahan details this phenomenon in the context of bunions and the brannock device, that foot measuring tool that shoe fitters use to measure your foot. A whole industry uses this device to measure your foot at the ball rather than at the weight-bearing, toes-spreading, widest area of your foot.

Brannock device

Brannock device

Upper – Flip flops and slides require a gripping action from the toes. This gripping motion is the same muscle pattern that deforms toe joints. As the upper gets smaller, your foot has to constantly grip to keep the shoe on. Its Hammertime Hammertoes!

Soles – The thicker and stiffer the sole, the less the intrinsic foot musculature is able to do, the less communication happens between the brain & feet, the less circulation (nutrition & waste removal) and the more compensatory movement at the ankle and other joints. I elaborate on the importance of intrinsic foot musculature in an earlier post.

fourfactorshoe0001

So, here are all the shoes I’ve loved before…at least all that are still in my closet or sitting in Salvation Army (since yesterday.) I’ve devised a rating system. The lower the number, the better the shoe. The rating system goes from 4 – 16. A shoe with a rating of four has all boxes checked in the Best column – one point per feature. A shoe with a 16 has all four boxes checked in the Severely Damaging column – four points per feature. If a shoe gets over 6 pts, its got to go. Got it?

Shimmery pink converse

Shimmery pink converse

This is not the actual image of my shoe, because the real pair sadly lives at the Salvation Army.

  • heel – 1 pt
  • toe box – 3 pt
  • Upper – 1 pt
  • Sole – 4 pt
  • Total – 9 pt; status – donated
Clarks clog

Clarks clog

Another stand in; not the same model I had, but close.

  • heel – 4 pt
  • toe box – 3 pt
  • upper – 3 pt
  • sole – 4 pt
  • Total – 14 pt; status – donated
Clarks mule

Clarks mule

Another stand in.

  • heel – 3 pt
  • toe box – 2 pt
  • upper – 3 pt
  • sole – 4 pt
  • Total – 12 pt; status – donated
Crocs slippers

Crocs slippers

  • heel – 2.5 pt
  • toe box – 1 pt
  • upper –  1 pt
  • sole – 2 pt
  • total – 6.5 pt; status – retired for several months as I am now barefoot full-time in the house
Crocs mules

Crocs mules

  • heel – 2 pt
  • toe box – 2 pt
  • upper – 1 pt
  • sole – 1 pt
  • Total – 6 pt; Status – keep – these are my garden/dog poop detail shoes
ASICS athletic shoes

ASICS athletic shoes

  • heel – 3
  • toe box – 3
  • upper – 1
  • sole – 1.5
  • Total – 8.5 pts; Status – retired to heavier garden duty like digging/mowing
New Balance athletic shoes

New Balance athletic shoes

  • heel – 2.5
  • toe box – 3
  • upper – 1
  • sole 1.5
  • Total – 8 pts; status – keep for now but wear only when walking primarily on asphalt; replace with minimal shoes that can be safely worn on asphalt
Naturalizer

Naturalizer

  • heel – 2
  • toe box – 3
  • upper – 1
  • sole – 2
  • Total – 8 pts; status – keep and wear only on rare, special occasions
Pikolinos sandle

Pikolinos sandal

  • heel – 2.5
  • toe box – 2
  • upper – 2
  • sole – 3
  • Total – 9.5 pts; status – keep, wearing only on rare, special occasions
Vasque hiking boots

Vasque hiking boots

  • heel – 3
  • toe box – 3
  • upper – 1
  • sole – 4
  • Total – 12 pts; status – cry. actively seek minimalist hiking boots. cry some more
004

UGG boots

  • heel – 2
  • toe box – 1
  • upper – 1
  • sole – 4
  • Total – 8 pts; status – keep and wear whenever I damn well please; these are my one pair of fashion over foot-health shoes
White Mountain sandals

White Mountain sandals

  • heel – 1.5
  • toe box – 1
  • upper – 4
  • sole – 1.5
  • Total – 8 pts; status – donate
Sorel snow boots

Sorel snow boots

  • heel – 3
  • toe box – 3
  • upper – 1
  • sole – 4
  • Total – 11 pts; status – uh, it didn’t snow this year…actively seek a minimal pair of snow boots in case it snows next year
Joesef Seibel metrosexuals

Joesef Seibel metrosexuals

  • heel – 1
  • toe box – 3
  • upper – 1
  • sole – 1
  • Total – 5 pts; status – keep and wear occasionally
Crocs sandals

Crocs sandals

  • heel – 2
  • toe box – 3
  • upper – 3
  • sole – 2
  • Total – 10 pts; status – donate

And the winners, coming in at a mere four points each, are:

Vibram Five Finger and Merrel Vapor Glove

Vibram Five Finger and Merrell Vapor Glove and Jolie.

How does your closet add up?

Namaste, Michele

May All Feet be Happy. May All Feet be Safe. May All Feet Everywhere be Free.

I am going to try to keep this brief, letting a few pictures be worth my usual thousand words.

xray of normal foot

x-ray of normal foot

This is an x-ray, taken from above, of a normal bare foot. Notice the space between the metatarsals and phalanges aka long foot bones and toes. The bones are nice and straight and the toes are extended to their full lengths. This is a good looking foot. And it seems to be happy too. And free.

xray of foot in 3 inch heel

xray of foot in 3 inch heel

These are images of a foot in a three-inch heel with a very narrow toe box, viewed from the top and the side. There is no longer space between foot bones at the proximal end. The great toe is deviating in towards the others and a bunion is forming before your very eyes. All of the toes are smashed together and none of them are extending to their full lengths, but are shoved up against an unforgiving toe box. I see Morton’s neuroma, which is a thickening of tissue around the nerve between the third and fourth toes that causes pain and numbness, in this gal’s future. A narrow toe box, like this one, pushes the smaller toes into a bent position at the middle joint and eventually their muscles become unable to straighten. Can you say hammertime hammertoes?

And oh that heel. That glorious goriest heel. The bones of your feet are small and frail, like bird wings. Luckily, your foot is a biomechanical genius, madly engineered so that it can support and locomote you even with its small bird parts. But, those bones were designed to lie flat, not inclined to nearly 90 degrees. That changes everything. The list of conditions and degenerations caused by alignment-altering positive heels is so long, I can’t bear to type it, so I will hit some highlights: excess forces on the inner knee (as much as 26% higher for high heels) causing osteoarthritis; misaligned pelvis, hips and spine; increased pressure on the forefoot, which is a main ingredient for creating bunions, plantar fasciitis, and metatarsalgia; shortened calf muscles; Morton’s neuroma; achilles tendon and heel pain; pump bump; calluses, corns, and greater risk for sprained or broken ankles.

Understand that this x-ray is showing only bones and not flesh, so this crammed foot is an even hotter mess than the imaging shows.  This is a foot in danger of lifelong pain and perfectly positioned to wreak havoc on the rest of the body, particularly the positioning and viability of the pelvic floor. The wearer of this shoe better have some adult diapers on hand, cause she’s gonna need em.

If you think this post does not apply to you because you do not wear high heels, I guarantee that unless you intentionally chose a zero drop or negative heel that your “flat shoes” have a positive heel. The average athletic shoe has a minimum 1 inch heel. And as the function fashion pendulum is beginning to swing away from “barefoot” shoes, the trend is for even higher heeled athletic shoes. And speaking of fashion? Who designs shoes with toe boxes more narrow than most toe sets? Who? Who?? Uh, almost every shoe maker on the planet. Shoes that don’t fit the width of our feet abound. While your resulting conditions and issues may not end up as as severe as the wearer of a 3 inch heel, chronic wearing of any heel higher than your bare foot will eventually lead to foot problems. It’s been proven by the largest, unplanned, completely natural study ever conducted. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, the majority of Americans (77%) have experienced foot pain and half of all adults say that foot pain has restricted activities like walking, exercising, working, or playing.

This is a tale of two feet. Which do you choose?

xray comparison of feet

xray comparison of feet

I credit the xray images to Theresa Perales, DPM, from a recorded presentation.

Namaste, Michele

Party Games with Your Feet – January 7, 2015

How Big is Your Foot? How Big is Your Shoe?

To play this simple, but exciting game you will need:

  • a foot
  • a shoe – use the one you wear the most
  • paper
  • pen or marker

1. Trace an outline of your foot onto the paper. Be especially neat and precise around the toe box, tracing each individual toe.

2. Trace an outline of the toe box of the shoe over that of the outline of your foot. You have to be careful here to get the actual toe box size because many shoes, especially athletic shoes, have a flared edges on their soles that make the footprint seem bigger than it is. Try turning the shoe over and tracing only the outline of the actual toebox that contains your foot. Alternatively, you could lay your shoe on top of your drawing if your shoe does not have a flared edge.

You lose if your toe box is the same size or smaller than your foot outline, which means that your toes are cramped, the muscles between your toes are tight and weak, and you probably have a bunion in the making. Oh, and your feet smell too.

You win if your toe box is bigger than your foot outline, which means it allows your toes to spread inside your shoes.

Here’s how I made out.

Barefoot tracing

Barefoot tracing

Loser

Loser

Loser

Loser

Winning!

Winning!

Namaste, Michele