Saturday, January 21, 2012

Free at Last

A few months ago, my husband got a new pair of shoes. I thought he looked funny.

Well, at least he looked unusual. But as I thought more and more about it, I realized that I was the funny looking one! My, what my great great great great grandmothers would have thought about what I was wearing to work every day!
(Note: These photos all came from Google Images and are not my actual work shoes -- which are at least slightly more practical. I am just trying to make a *point*)

For weeks and weeks he tried to persuade me that I should get myself a pair just like his. He was happy, he told me. His feet were happy. He was free. He was getting stronger. I believed him, but wasn't ready to look funny. (Even though, as previously discussed, I already looked funny). I knew he was right --- after all, I'm of the opinion that we should eat whole and natural foods, that we can birth naturally as easily as any other primate, and that in general we should stay as close to the earth as possible. So what on earth am I doing in high heels?!

Then Melissa introduced me to Katy Bowman's blog. After spending literally hours, day after day, devouring everything I could about proper alignment, pelvic floor strength, natural mothering, etc. etc. etc., it was confirmed that my husband was not alone in his shoe madness. Not only that --- I understood (finally, scientifically) that heels are not just uncomfortable and impractical, they are really really bad for us. They can lead to weak pelvic floor muscles, organ prolapse, misaligned bones and muscles, and completely underused (and potentially useless) feet. Katy spends a lot of time talking about how our foot muscles and bones are meant to be as agile as our hands --- and can be --- if we don't stuff them into tight shoe boxes from day one.

So this is me now!

These are Vibram Five Finger shoes. They allow your toes to spread and flex like they were always meant to do, and offer a minimal sole that allows you to rest your weight over your heels --- exactly where it is meant to be. (They can be expensive brand new! Around $100. But my husband and I found deals online for brand new pairs with free shipping --- closer to $35, $40 dollars. If you are interested in some sites, read my comment below this post.)

Okay, okay, I still wear heels to work and church. (Never uncomfortable ones, though! I've been *above* that for a while now). But I am going to wean myself off of them by finding attractive alternatives. Well, it's a goal. I confess that being short I really like the way I look with a couple extra inches, and this is making it hard for me. But seriously, "If ye believe all these things, see that ye do them."

9/2012 Update:  I now never wear heels, even to church and especially not to work.

Read this entry from Katy for a general overview. Here is a particularly good *point* from that post: "Podiatric journals have recently become riddled with articles illustrating that for every positive degree of heel (for a point of reference, the one inch found on a man’s dress shoe creates an average angle of twelve degrees) there is a resulting angle of deformation in the lumbar spine, pelvis, knees and/or ankle. There is no footwear characteristic that jars one out of whole-body alignment faster than the positive heel. If a dress shoe creates twelve positive degrees, just think about what a stiletto can do to deform the rest of the body." Of course, barefoot is best.

A word of warning: you have been wearing normal shoes your whole life. Unless you have been spending the majority of your time barefoot already, you need to work up to running in these shoes. I have no trouble wearing them for hours at a time doing normal activities like shopping and hiking, but Katy warns that you need to be training on a variety of surfaces, particularly natural surfaces with elevation changes and rocky obstacles, before you use them for running. My husband is already running a few miles at a time in his though, and feels great.

I am happy. My body feels so much more aligned and agile already. My feet are stronger and more flexible, and free at last.


  1. Here are a few sites where Vibram Five Fingers often go on sale (sometimes with free shipping!) Whether or not they have anything in your size/style/color right now on sale, if you keep an eye on these something should pop up. Just do a product search on the web pages for "Vibram Five Finger" (I just searched today and saw they still have some Women's Sprint for $40) (Some Women's Classic for $50) (They have some KSOs for $46 --- these are the ones I have and I love them) (Some Women's Sprint for $65 --- though Cameron found his here for $35 and free shipping a few weeks ago)

    If you can, stop in at REI to try on the size and style that you want before you order anything. Different styles fit differently.

  2. :) One more comment on my own post. Katy also likes Soft Star Shoes (, which have a wide toe box and thin sole, and Earth Shoes (, which I'm not totally sold on because they have a negative heel, which seems unnatural -- but would help to center your weight where it is supposed to be again.

  3. My husband and I have been wearing Vibrams for almost two years now and LOVE it! And I can't believe he and I ran marathons before with big heavy heal striking shoes before. We'd never think of going back now.

  4. I have been saving my money to get some Vibrams ever since my brother and his wife started wearing theirs. I will check out the sale sites you mentioned. Thanks!

  5. Awesome post! I recently got some Vibrams as well, I got the classic, I cannot tell you how wonderful they are! I got mine on an REI outlet website for $46. You really use different muscles in your legs when you wear them :) Thanks for the detailed post!

  6. As someone obsessed with nutrition and the effects of food on health, I have generally thought to avoid many of life's ailments by how I eat. Thanks for opening another door to health! It sounds to me that wearing the proper footwear will spare a person much pain later in life (and maybe sooner than later). I had to visit the chiropractor fairly often during my last pregnancy because of serious pelvic discomfort. He helped me a lot, and I was so grateful. But he (and I'm sure most) seems to believe that people should come regularly to the chiropractor for commonplace "adjustments." How did people ever survive without chiropractors? Maybe they wore the right footwear and didn't stand ill-balanced, as I often find myself doing.

    I will look further into this. Thanks, Meredith.