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Alright, alright.  I’ve told you not to wear flip-flops, I’ve told you not to wear shoes with a heel…what can you wear on your feet, for those times when going barefoot just won’t work?  Let’s talk about how to find good shoes instead of just complaining about the bad ones, shall we?

Ultimately, when you’re shopping for shoes, the target you’re aiming for is that your foot can move as naturally as possible.  Meaning, if you took a stroll around the block barefoot, then put your shoes on and did another lap, not much would change.  Your stride and foot-strike and roll-through and push-off would all feel the same.  But to really make this easy, there are 4 main things to look for in a shoe: toe-box, heel, sole, and upper.  Or, front, back, top, and bottom.

 

Toe-Box: So this is the part of the shoe that is around your toes.  Ideally, your toes would have room to spread as wide as possible, as you roll from your heel to your toes with each step.  This not only provides you with a wider and more stable platform, but allows for the best push-off so you get the most bang for your buck with each stride.  If you were going to do a handstand, would you keep all your fingers smushed together, possibly overlapping?  If you were trying to walk on your hands, do you think you should keep your fingers together?  Then why would we think shoes like this would be in our feet’s best interest?  (Answer: They’re not.)  Look for a wide toe-box when shoe shopping.

Which pair do you think gets my vote?
 

Heel:  We’ve already been over this, but just in case.  Any rise in your shoe from where the toes are to where the heel rests is not great.  Look for zero-rise shoes.  As heel height becomes a popular thing for people to care about, more and more shoe companies are listing the ‘rise’ on their shoe descriptions.  If you can’t find zero rise, try to minimize it.  A 4-inch rise is obviously worse than a 1-2 millimeter rise.  Less is more, people.

Instead of this…

Try this.

 

Sole:  What we’re after here is a flexible sole.  Again, we want the foot to move as naturally as possible; the key word in this context is ‘move.’  Many shoes have such a rigid sole that your foot can’t really move, and the ankle joint has to do all the work.  There are 33 joints in the foot.  That’s a lot of potential movement, and if you’re asking your ankle to do all of it for you, you’re also asking for ankle injuries.   Your body’s ability to respond to different types of terrain (slippery, slanted, uneven, soft, etc.) depends on your foot’s ability to know what type of terrain it needs to respond to.  If your foot can’t tell because it’s got an inch of rigid rubber between it and the terrain, how can your body respond appropriately? (Answer: It can’t.)  Look for a flexible sole, the thinner the better.

Your choice.
 

Upper:  This is the part of the shoe that attaches it to your foot and the number one problem I have with flip-flops.  The upper of a shoe should securely attach the sole of the shoe to your foot, so that you don’t have to grip with your toes or adjust your stride in order to keep your shoe on.  Also, the upper of a shoe should not bite into or pinch your skin, since this will affect the way you walk, as you try to avoid that pain.  Any shoes that you can slip on probably don’t have a sufficient upper.  And any shoes that are too big or too small probably aren’t great either.

Instead of this…

Try this.

So that’s it.  The 4-point quick guide to buying shoes.  If you can hit all 4 in a single pair of shoes, you’re winning.  But if not, try to get at least 3 and work towards 4 with your next pair.

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