How to find the best minimalist shoes (for adults and kids) wellness mama gas bloating

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I’ve been all about the barefoot shoes (or just being barefoot) for years. But there are some times and some places where barefoot shoes just won’t cut it. Thankfully, there are now many wonderful options for minimalist shoes that look like “regular shoes.” These shoes don’t offer quite as much foot freedom as true barefoot shoes do, but they can be socially acceptable in almost any instance while still supporting natural foot movement. The Problem With (Most) Shoes

There are entire books that talk about the problems associated with long-term use of positive heel and overly supportive shoes. As we spend (or should spend) at least half of our day on our feet, our footwear options can affect us more than we realize! Why Are We All Wearing Heels?

It’s easy to think that only women’s high heeled shoes are “heels,” but almost all shoes are these days! A shoe with a heel is technically when the heel is higher than the toe of the shoe. Even “flats” and athletic shoes often have 1/4 to 1/2 inch heels! All About the Angles… of the Ankles

Pretend a person is standing with flat feet on the ground. The ankle joint is at a 90 degree angle. Now imagine that this person is temporarily frozen so no joints can move. Now imagine we put heels on that person (or even just put a wedge under that person’s foot). Since the ankle can’t bend, what happens to the rest of the person?

And the higher the wedge/heel added, the more forward the person leans. But since we don’t like to (and can’t) walk around like that, what does a person do? Unfreeze the person and he or she adjusts and stands up straight. But not without changing angles of the ankle and thus the pressure on the knees, hips and even pelvic floor.

Kids are short, but they also have short feet, which is why it drives me crazy to see a child’s shoe with a heel the same height as their parents’. The short foot of a child “magnifies” a heel’s effect—even a heel of seemingly inconsequential height. Which means that… the angle between the standing surface and the foot would be much greater in the child than in the adult. Walking on Sunshine (or Padding)

Supportive and cushioned shoes encourage the wearer to land on the heel of the foot when walking or running, since the shoe absorbs the impact. This changes the natural step and posture (watch babies who have just learned how to walk to see the difference!) and creates a different walking pattern.

Lieberman and colleagues analyzed the running styles, or gaits, of five groups of people — U.S. adult athletes who had always worn shoes, Kenyan adult runners who grew up barefoot but now wear cushioned running shoes, U.S. adult runners who grew up wearing shoes but now run barefoot or with minimal footwear, Kenyan adolescents who have never worn shoes, and Kenyan adolescents who have worn shoes for most of their lives.

Most shoed runners, which would encompass 75% or more of Americans, strike their heels when they run, experiencing a large and sudden collision force an average of 960 times for every mile they run, “making runners prone to repetitive stress injuries.” The Foot Isn’t a Vacuum

Even things like arch supports, which seem like a good idea, are controversial in the foot world. Some experts recommend them routinely. Others claim they can actually cause the problem they are meant to fix by over-supporting the arch and causing the muscles in the foot to get weaker from lack of use. The Benefits of Wearing Minimal Shoes

This post details the benefits of being barefoot (or as close as possible), along with barefoot style shoes examples. In recent years, many minimalist shoes have emerged as great alternatives. These aren’t quite as good as barefoot shoes, but they are close. And they are typically much more socially acceptable! A shoe qualifies as a minimalist shoe if it:

• Doesn’t Squish Toes– When we walk barefoot, our toes spread out to improve balance and stability. Shoes that squish the toes restrict this natural movement. Minimalist shoes have what is called a wide toe box to allow toes to move, even in the shoe.

• Stays on the Foot– It isn’t natural to have to hold a shoe on the foot with our muscles while we walk. As much as I love regular flip flops, they aren’t minimal shoes! It takes some foot gymnastics to hold them on the feet while simultaneously trying to flex the foot while walking. A good minimalist shoe should attach to the foot without slipping or requiring the foot to hold it. (Thankfully, many flip flops have backs that accomplish this!)

For those of us used to wearing cushioned, protective and heeled shoes, switching to barefoot and barefoot alternatives requires a careful adjustment period to make sure that the muscles of the feet and legs have time to adjust. This book explains how to do it safely.

This company makes a wide variety of minimalist shoe options for all ages. All of their shoes satisfy the criteria above. They carry the only great option for mens dress shoes I’ve seen. I also love their kids dress shoes, sneakers, and women’s flats. For littles, their Ultra kids shoes are great.

These are specifically recommended by Katy Bowman as a really budget-friendly minimalist option. They are really inexpensive (around $10) and great for growing feet. We often get these during the summer, especially for younger kids who outgrow shoes quickly. Kids love these colorful water shoes and there are some really cute adult ones as well.

Though not specifically designed as a minimalist shoe, Toms classic shoes are actually a decent option for those wanting a “normal” looking shoe that doesn’t offer too much cushion or have a positive heel. They are also incredibly comfortable, and apparently pretty popular right now. I like that they also donate shoes to those in need around the world. Toms certainly aren’t the best option, but they offer most of the benefits without being too weird.

Thanks to researchers like Katy Bowman and Dr. Lieberman at Harvard, we are starting to understand how modern footwear is negatively affecting how we move. As more companies create minimalist shoe options, it will get easier to find alternatives to traditional heeled shoes. When possible our family chooses minimalist alternatives and also makes sure to spend time barefoot!