On Feet and Sensitivity

Our feet and hands are very sensitive gatherers of information about the world around us. This article takes the position that most shoes limit the foot’s ability to gather information. Though the article is focused on selling 5-toed footwear, its arguments support exercising the feet and walking barefooted.

from Birthday Shoes

(a) the more freely our joints move, the better the information, and (b) the more joints that are sending back these signals, the richer the picture of how we’re moving, let’s consider the foot. All those joints!. Twenty-five percent of the body’s joints are in the feet: per foot, there are 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, 19 muscles and tendons. We are designed to send 25% of our physical orientation from our feet!

And yet in a conventional shoe — especially a “supportive” trainer, the arch is blocked from flexing, the ankle is restricted, we heel strike with abandon, and the squishiness of the soles deadens any true sense of the state of the surface to which we might otherwise be adapting by our highly flexibily designed foot. Modern shoes are like sensory deprivation tanks for the feet. And this is only the latest in a series of outrages against our feet going back at least 300 years in the west; longer in parts of the east.

Aside: A Moment in Western Footwear History

Henry VIII has no heels on his slippers/shoesOver the past three centuries we’ve designed footwear to nullify the nerual map of the foot with shoes that elevate the heel or squish the toes or in the most innocent of flip flops cause them to flex incessantly, or keep them on fixed think flat surfaces that never let the foot flex. All very anti-foot, if pro-fashion, of whatever stripe.

It wasn’t always like this. Take a look at full length portraits in the national gallery in London from the elizabethan era, and you’ll see all these really rich people have no-heeled slippers on, whether it’s Henry VIII or Philip II of Spain or Edward VI. Amazing. These folks, whether they knew it our not, knew how to let their feet be feet.

It’s not till the late 17th century that fashion introduces that now inescapable evil, the multi-gendered heel.

What’s been lost in the current heel is the Sedan Chair that went with it. The heel was a class statement: the rich, including men, were the “well heeled.” And they could wear heals, unlike “the mob” (or the mobile) because they did not have to walk themselves. Those sedan chairs carried the elite feet from door to door. At leaset they knew it was rediculous to attempt to walk in them. Only the poor, who could not afford the carriage or the chair, had to wear sensible shoes. It didn’t hurt that heels also made the Nobility taller than the peons (Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle novels has wonderful descriptions of such culture clashing contrasts}.

The heel, alas, eventually made its way to the rest of society who did not have the sedan chairs to go with them, and generations of foot, hip and back problems have ensued.

18thC Men’s Shoe; 21st C men’s trainer. Differences?

for the complete article go to Birthday Shoes


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