Natural Movement - Nourish your body from the ground up
Your feet are your most frequent point of contact with the earth, this means that whatever is happening at ground level will affect EVERYTHING higher up, pelvic floor included.
Your feet are pretty gosh darn amazing. Each foot is made up of 26 bones for a total of 33 joints which are able to adapt to an almost infinite number of positions and shapes. Add to this an intricate system of muscles, nerves, and blood vessels, and you have an incredible piece of complex machinery that is an integral part of our whole-body and pelvic floor health. However, when we encase our feet in rigid-soled, toe compressing, and spine altering footwear, we effectively render all of that mobility and sensitivity useless.
Over the last several years, may have noticed a trend lately toward more barefoot and minimalist footwear (such as Vibram five-finger shoes) thanks to research showing that competitive runners often perform better when barefoot as opposed to wearing thickly cushioned shoes (1).
I’ve always loved being barefoot since I was a kid and still do (to the point where I would simply forget to put shoes on when driving places like the grocery store or to friends’ houses - much to the embarrassment of my parents and husband). So for me, transitioning from my regular shoes to a more minimal/barefoot style of shoes wasn’t a very big ask. However, because it isn’t always socially acceptable to be shoe-less, and since a layer of protection between your foot and sharp objects (or when walking man-made surfaces like concrete) is often necessary, I’m a bit picky when it comes to buying new shoes.
When evaluating footwear, there are a few main things that I look for:
Zero-drop - meaning there is no elevation in the heel of the shoe. A raised heel can contribute to tight calf muscles, an altered gait pattern and standing alignment, pelvic floor tension, and even conditions like bunions and plantar fasciitis.
Wide toe box - allowing your toes to move and participate freely, without being forced into each other (no more bunions!).
Thin and flexible sole - this allows your foot to adapt to different surfaces and sense different textures, mobilizing the joints of the foot and stimulating the nerves.
Must be well attached to the foot or have a heel-strap - this means your toes don’t have to grip and work overtime (cue hammer toes) but does rule out thongs (or flip-flops for the non-Australians).
Can your shoes do this?
“But what about the SUPPORT!” I hear you say? (I do get that question a lot).
Believe it or not, you weren’t born with shoes on, and a foot that has been required to develop its OWN strength and arch support over a lifetime (via the intrinsic muscles of the feet, the lower leg and deep hip muscles) actually has no need for external support from a shoe. However, if you have been wearing more ‘supportive’ and raised-heeled shoes for most of your life, you will definitely need to gradually transition to a more minimal or flat shoe. You can learn how to do this at our upcoming weekly Restorative Exercise Classes (Our next free one is coming up on Jan 24) or you can read Katy Bowman’s book Whole Body Barefoot (2) for guided exercises and a ton of information on restore the health and function to your feet.
If you follow me on Instagram, you will probably have noticed my favourite new shoes feature often in my posts, and I get a lot of questions about why I wear them and where I got them from.
Unshoes’ Keotas meet all of my above requirements and are incredibly light, perfect for travel. They are designed to allow your foot to adapt to natural terrain when trail running or walking, which I love, but I also wear them with almost any outfit because I think they are pretty cute, and perfectly cool for Queensland temperatures.
Rocking my Keotas
I also have a pair of the Wokova Feathers (pic below) but find that my foot can slide forward on the shoe. I had also opted for the thinnest possible sole (4mm) when I purchased it which I LOVE when walking on natural terrain, however found it less comfortable when walking on concrete and pavement.
Unshoes Wokova Feathers
For myself, I find that the Keotas are better able to prevent my foot from sliding forward and this time I did get order a slightly thicker footbed as a lot of my walking to and from my home and work in the middle of a concrete jungle involves mostly man-made surfaces. They have adjustable straps for tightening and tanks to the elastic loop, they are very easy to slip on and off. Recently I spent a week in Sydney and only took one pair of shoes - my Keotas of course! - which were great for exploring all around the city.
Each pair of Unshoes are handmade in the US, and customized for you based on your choice of template for foot shape and toe strap placement. The owner, Terral, was really nice and helpful when I had any questions. You can check out their website and story here www.unshoesusa.com.
You can check out Christopher MacDougall's book Born to Run here http://www.chrismcdougall.com or the first chunk of the free Ted Radio Hour Podcast on "Adaption"
Whole Body Barefoot by Katy Bowman available for sale soon at the B&B studio or right now via the Nutritious Movement website as an e-book or paperback)