Aren’t shoes designed to be foot shaped?

 In back pain, barefoot walking, hands and feet, natural movement, Uncategorised

I have running shoes that have a small label on them that says “foot shaped”. Isn’t the purpose of shoes to fit your feet? So, if these shoes need to highlight that they are foot shaped, does that mean that our other shoes aren’t?

What does Foot Shaped mean?

So, what do these shoe manufacturers mean when they say “foot shaped”? Well, my foot shaped running shoes are wider at the toes than at the heels. Unless your feet have been shaped by tight shoes over a number of years (which I accept is common), the toes should be wider than the heels. However, on many pairs of shoes, including running shoes, the toes are often narrower than the heels. I guess that running and other shoe manufacturers concluded that we are more likely to buy their shoes if they are narrower at the toes, even if that means it impedes our natural balance.

Improving your Balance and Movement Efficiency

So, what is the point of having toes wider than heels? We have 4 balance points on our feet, the inside edge of the heel, the outside edge of the heel, the big toe side of the front of the foot and the little toe side of the front of the foot. So, by narrowing the toes from their natural position, you impede your ability to balance well.

Moreover, the feet are designed to allow a lot of flexibility. Each foot has 25 bones. That’s 50 bones out of the 206 in your body in your feet. Just to emphasise, that’s almost 25% of the bones in your body. Bones mean movement. The sheer quantity of bones means that the foot has a lot of gliding and sliding joints. By putting feet in shoes that impede movement, we limit the natural role of the feet to provide responsiveness, movement and elasticity. This will limit your movement efficiency, but may also cause problems in the foot, knee, hip, back and all the way up the body.

Exercises to help your Feet

So, what can you do about this? Well, of course look for shoes that actually fit your feet rather than those that narrow unduly at the toes. And, do more work with your feet.  Play around with your feet when you don’t have your shoes on – this might be threading your fingers between your toes and, gently, moving your feet around or it might be lifting various toes independently and even doing a mexican wave with your toes. Here’s a video with some ideas for you to play around with. I promise you that your balance will improve and you’ll notice a difference.



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Showing 2 comments
  • Veronica Gallagher

    Hi Maureen – this blog has come at right time for me. I am cycling more and the cycling shoes seem to make my feet really stiff. I am going to use these exercise post ride and will let you know how it goes.

    • Maureen

      That’s wonderful Veronica. Do let me know how you get one. Warm wishes, Maureen

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