Toe shoes are quite the rage at the moment, but are they any good? I bought a pair recently thought I might share some information about why they might be worth trying out and what I have observed in my body as the result of wearing some pretty funny looking shoes.
The idea behind these shoes was originally to provide protection from glass and other spiky things to the sole of the foot of the barefoot runner. Other running shoe manufacturers are following Vibrams lead and producing much lighter shoes with less support and cushioning. I am a walker not a runner, so I won’t talk about these shoes in the context of running. I will however talk a little about why I think it good for us to be spending more time barefoot, or at least something very close to it.
Our feet are the part of us that touches the ground the most and are full of nerve endings that transmit information about the ground back to our brains. Our brains have quite a large portion dedicated to receiving and processing that information. For example; if the ground you are walking on is slippery or uneven we react to those conditions with little or no conscious thought in order to ensure that our feet stay in contact with the ground rather than our backsides. Being heavily shod means that we are not able to take as much of information about the surfaces we are walking on which means that we have to rely overly on our eyes to do the same job.
These shoes aid in the strengthening and flexibility of your feet. Flexibility of the foot is enhanced as your foot is able to mould around small changes in the ground much more freely than when wearing conventional shoes, this means that it is the foot muscles that have to respond not just the ankle. When wearing rigid shoes the sole of the foot stays flat inside the shoe when you walk on uneven ground and the ankle has to do all the moving to keep you upright. The small muscles in our feet don’t respond as much as they should and this means they get weak when wearing heavy shoes constantly. However with these shoes, the muscles of the foot and lower leg get stronger as the toes are now working the way they are meant to.
Over the past 3 months that I have been wearing these shoes I have noticed that my balance has improved enough that I can now balance on the front of my foot a lot better. This movement had been compromised from a serious ankle injury 10 years ago and has never really been 100% since. Now my toes are having to work more with each step and the muscles that weren’t working well are now beginning to function properly once again.
If you do decide to give these shoes a try it is important to build up the time you spend in them very slowly, it is a big change for your feet. It took about 10 weeks before I was confident to go for long walks in them. If you are going to try them out always remember that if your feet hurt, back off a little and be patient as you get used to them. It really can take a few months for your feet to be strong and flexible enough for them to be comfortable.
All in all I am happy with my choice of unconventional footwear but would stress to you that they are not for everyone and it is important to gradually increase the length of time you wear them and how far you travel in them.
by Helen Richards