My Happy Feet
“The Human Foot is a Masterpiece of Engineering and a Work of Art”
Leonardo da Vinci
It’s been a long journey.
My sisters and I grew up running around the farm barefoot and we prided ourselves in being tough enough to run on gravel by the end of the summer. But when school began, on went the shoes…at least until we arrived back home and the shoes were off as soon as we were in the door.
Scott, on the other hand, grew up utterly shod and up until eight years ago would not even walk around the house without shoes or sandals. In the 1990’s he received a toe injury followed by a botched surgery resulting in decades of living with a relatively dead big toe (hallux rigidus, for all you science geeks) and all the weird body adjustments that happen when you cannot walk properly. Fast forward to 2011 when he stumbled upon the path of minimalist running and began working to rehabilitate his toe, and by default heal the rest of his body. There is more to the story which includes his transition to barefoot living, creative rehabilitation, research and patient daily exercises that worked miracles not just in strengthening his feet and reclaiming use of his toe, but observing effects all the way up his skeleton.
My very own Sherlock, over the years he has searched for flat and minimalist shoes (including trying to make his own before finally ordering custom made shoes), this eventually led me to try them as well.
Never. Going. Back.
It’s really a no-brainer for me having spent so much time barefoot, but I didn’t understand that the relief I felt taking off my shoes had to do with the unnatural heel lift and crazy arch support. We evolved to be perfectly healthy, if we can re-strengthen the dormant foot muscles there is no reason we cannot again be perfectly healthy. Read much more about this by people who know this topic—here are a few sites that will keep you occupied for quite a while if you’re considering the slow transition:
The Sock Doc with some Barefoot Basics.
The Natural Running Center
The book that changed everything:
Born to Run
Why write about this on a food blog? It’s also a Life and Art blog, but mostly because I work on my feet and have to take particular care in choosing how I deal with that. And because these shoes make me really happy,
Sorry Dansko and Rocky, I truly am, but I’m now ruined and even your sensible-Danish and Postal-Worker-approved designs have too much of a heel lift. Fortunately….there are some AWESOME shoe companies out there with ever-cuter designs.
So there’s my preach….and now, my collection!
Over the years I’ve acquired an amazing number of these ‘zero-drop’ and flat shoes, I thought you might enjoy glimpses and reviews of those that I love. There are quite a few companies making great shoes, these are ones that fit me particularly well. They occasionally alter their shoe designs to evolve as needed so what I have here is a snapshot in time of what was offered.
Formely known as Invisible Shoes, this company began with their huarache design to very much feel like barefoot. Wide toebox, lightweight, super duper comfy.
Prio on the left, Terraflex on the right
So far it’s a toss up which is more comfortable. Prio is a lightweight runner, and Terraflex has a beefier sole (though still flexible) suited for trail running. Some (but not all) of the Xero shoes run small so just throw out any preconceptions about what you ‘should’ wear, and just keep trying them until they fit, it’s worth it. Both of these are a Mens 8.5 which is 1 or 1.5 sizes larger than what I normally wear. Don’t fret about the size numbers and thinking there is no way your feet are that big, just find out what fits and wear it with a smile.
Hana on the left
Hana was the first Xero for me. Scott ordered them in hopes they would fit his incredibly-wide-but-not-long feet. They didn’t fit him so I inherited them. Never would I have thought to order a Men’s 8.5 which is 1.5 sizes larger than normal for me, but they fit and I loved the feel of wiggling toes in the toe box. They are extremely lightweight with Xero’s thin huarache soles under a canvas upper shoe. The first one’s free…
Jessie on the right
For me sandals have been an achilles heel in the flat shoe world, they’re made for barefoot runners but, in my humble opinion, weren’t quite cute enough for going out. But the Jessie’s are both—-minimalist so you barely feel like anything is there, but with a clean, not-bulky look. I wore these quite a bit in the warmer months. I normally wear size 8.5 or 9 in Women’s, and knowing that Xero tends to run small I ordered a 9. I think either 8.5 could have worked—the sandals seem to be true to size.
They have many cute new styles of shoes these days, check out more Xero Shoes here.
Owner and designer Dr. Casey Kerrigan developed this line of shoes for women. Oesh is my go-to catering shoe because they have thicker soles which helps when standing on concrete for 12 hours, I don’t go anywhere without my Elites when I’m catering. They are not as ‘minimalist-huarache’ inspired as Xero, but they are definitely flat—zero heel drop, no toe curve, no stiff arch support. I feel grateful to be alive when such shoes are being made!
Artemis on the left
These are, without a doubt, the most comfortable sandal I’ve ever worn, I’m not even sure how to describe it. Their new sole is flexible even though it looks thick, and the straps just work without being too bulky. I just got them so have not had a chance to hike in them, but so far I love love love these sandals.
I’m not even sure of the name on the right (we called them the Ugly Shoes ;-))—but it’s no longer available. It was an early sole design that attempted to mimic the give of a wooden floor. I wear them on long-standing days, but they’re a bit clunky and not nearly as cute as their later designs.
Dream Flats on the left, Elite on the right
The new Flats are like wearing slippers that are classy enough to wear uptown. The flats run slightly narrower and smaller than their other shoes—in other Oesh styles I wear size 8.5 in Women’s, but I needed a size 10 in the flats.
Elite on the right
These run true in size to other shoes. I have both a size 8.5 (for thin socks) and 9 (for thicker sockes) in Elites. I wear these shoes for catering, all day every day.
Both sets are older versions of their La Vida running shoes—recent designs called Lea and La Vida use the thicker sole. Check out their blog and online shop for more.
Slipper-like shoes on left
Like wearing socks! Great for traveling because they pack so flat, and cute enough to wear both in and out. They also have one called the Crossover that looks cute.
Nine2Five on the right
Another comfy dress shoe with a wide toe box. I got these at Two Rivers Treads in West Virginia, one of the few stores at the time that carried flat and minimalist shoes in stock so you could try them on. It’s also the love-child store of Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, a an amazing educator-running-doctor and community oriented all-around good guy. He’s been a proponent of natural running for many years, not to mention a kick-butt marathoner.
Zero drop (flat) options:
Belleville Mini-Mil Boot
A final note—keep your feet awake with plantar proprioceptive insoles.
“Naboso” means “barefoot” in Czech, and Naboso Technology has created inserts to stimulate the nerves in the bottom of the feet to help with balance and motor control. They live in my shoes, especially when catering. I love them!
Disclaimer: I’m writing about these products because I love them, no one is paying me or sending me free products. I did invest a little in Xero Shoes because I believe in them but no one asked me to write about them nor am I receiving any compensation.
8 thoughts on “My Happy Feet”
My interest is piqued! Training for a marathon and got shin splints, which I fixed with an insert. It works. But everything else hurts (when I run far). Maybe it’s supposed to, maybe not??
Hmm…you should talk with Scott. It shouldn’t hurt to run.
Christopher McDougall researched and wrote “Born to Run” because he wondered why he kept getting hurt. Dr. Mark Cucuzzella got into natural running because he couldn’t heal his injuries and wanted to run without pain (he’s also a prolific writer, recently wrote “Run for Your Life”). It can be a slow transition into natural running, and if you’re already a runner it may seem frustrating because you just want to immediately run as much as you’re used to. Read “Born to Run” and/or “Run for Your Life”, they may speak to you!
Sock doc video: http://sock-doc.com/foot_strength-foot_rehabilitation/
Xero Shoes articles:
You may want to check out Nutritious Movement – they look at how the whole body is moving and I have found their stretches to be extremely beneficial. I was getting shin splints until I started taking their classes (they have online option, too). I recommend looking at their website and newsletter/blog.
The third mention of Born to Run this week! I am going to check it out. I love my Xero shoes and can also no longer wear anything with heels!
Ha—you have to read it! I’m so happy the Pacificas worked out, I’m really curious about them, they look so comfortable The new Cassie looks cute too.