Ever wondered what are the healthiest shoes to wear? Using the recent findings from scientists, we reveal what types of shoes you should go for on a day-to-day basis.
Knowing what shoes are the healthiest for your feet and why can make all of the difference in the long-run. It can prevent common foot problems like bunions, flat feet, blisters, overpronation, plantar fasciitis and other serious aches which cause you pain. (If you struggle with these conditions please download our FREE foot care guides now)
It’s an area that many scientists and podiatrists have studied for years. The only issue is, there are so many conflicting opinions that it can be hard to know what to believe.
However, in a recent interview with Time Magazine, scientists have revealed some conclusive research which should put the argument to bed.
Ever find your feet ache after a long walk on a beach? According to Daniel Lieberman, chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, “Your feet are tired because every time you press down on the sand, it moves away from you, so your foot muscles have to work harder than on stiff surfaces.”
Well, the same principle of moving sand and stiff surfaces applies when you’re looking for the healthiest shoes to wear.
“When you walk in shoes, your feet are pressing against a stiff substitute for the ground that makes the muscles in the feet have to work less than if you were barefoot,” he says.
Granted, doing less work may sound like a positive, but it can actually make your feet more susceptible to injury.
Lieberman and other researchers believe that people who walk or run in “minimal” shoes that mimic your bare feet are best. This includes shoes like the New Balance Minimus or ballet flats.
You have to take into consideration that the function of a barefoot relates to how we as animals were supposed to live, our feet and how our bodies move to relate best to the natural environment, not the concrete jungle we have gone on to create over time. Walking barefoot in our current environment will do no good to the structure and well being of your spinal and foot health for this very reason. You only need to observe our current posture of hunching due to mobile phones and office working to see how we have changed and adapted to this unnatural environment.
You can’t exactly wear sneakers or ballet flats at work or other formal occasions! Luckily, scientists do also believe there is some traditional footwear like dress shoes that are good for your feet too. We need more stability in our footwear now, to maintain a healthy pelvic alignment and posture. By wearing unsupported footwear it allows our body to compensate in other ways, much like if you stub a toe or sprain an ankle, you go on to put more weight on your other foot to reduce discomfort; but doing this regularly in unsupported footwear can contribute to really bad alignment issues in the future.
Lieberman says, “Determining the “healthiest” shoe for a given person has to take into account their age, health status, walking and running habits, and other factors”.
For instance, some people might have been born with flat feet and need extra arch support, while others need wider-fitting shoes as they have wide feet.
Whether you suffer from a particular foot or spinal aliment you should be selecting footwear that properly supports you in your day to day life.
The secret to finding the healthiest shoe for you
According to a podiatrist and professor of biomechanics at La Trobe University in Australia, Hylton Menz, “The two main issues with people’s footwear are poor fit and heel elevation”.
His research shows that too-short or too-narrow shoes can lead to foot deformities and an increased risk of weaknesses and falls. This includes bunions, corns and calluses.
For best results, ditch flip flops and unsupportive UGGs. Instead, go for well-made shoes with a lace or strap and a low, broad heel.
- Benefits of laces - a lace for a shoe works very much like a corset. Laces allow the wear variable comfort to support their instep (the front arch of the foot, leading up to the ankle) but not only do laced shoes have hosts of benefits for those with a higher instep (find out more about what a high step is and how to cater for it with our Free High Instep Guide), but they also encase the foot allowing it to maintain its shape within the shoe and give added support to that structure for long periods of time
- Broad heels - having a wider or broader heel on a shoe allows for better weight distribution and more shock absorption. If you think, with every step you take the entirety of your body weight is channelling down through your foot and hitting the ground - having a solid base, stretching a wider area makes that strike less violent and protects your foot from damage.
- Low heels - Lower heels on any shoe are going to be better for your foot health; referring back to the weight of a heel strike the higher the heel, the more weight is moving down through to the mid metatarsals (or the front paddy bit)
As you’d expect, high-heels cause problems – especially for anyone overweight. However, this shouldn’t impact most men.
Lieberman recommends switching up your shoe styles frequently. This will mix-up the demands placed on your feet muscles, bones and joints – which can help strengthen them in the long-run.
However, when you do need a reliable shoe, always go for properly fitted footwear from a trusted shoe company.
What to look for
When selecting footwear there are some important factors to look out for to make sure you are getting the best quality (no one likes to be ripped off!)
- Toe cap - Press on the top of the shoe to see if there is a toe cap. If a toe cap is present, you should feel a hard support and not be able to press the leather or other material down to the insole. A toe cap is a protection placed between the leather upper and the lining to maintain the shape, provide protection from stubs/falling objects and also from any unpleasant (peeping-toe wear) - note a toe cap does not provide the level of protection as a steel toe-cap!
- Wood or metal shank - A shank is placed along the length of the thinnest part of the shoe (waist) and travels upward. It's not always particularly big but you can tell it's there by bending the shoe slightly inwards or outwards. It provides structural support of the shoe and arch. A proper quality shoe is not supposed to bend in half!
- Heel stiffener - A heel stiffener is very much like a toe cap, except is wrapped around the back of the shoe, you can tell if one is present by again, pressing into the back of the shoe.
Invest in quality fitted footwear
Here at Percy Stride, we care about your foot health as well as style. That’s why we’ve specifically designed our men’s Oxford shoes to accommodate wide feet, support your arch and withstand long usage.
Thanks to the Goodyear welt process, you can also replace your sole and get them fixed before they get uncomfortable. This is also a more cost-effective solution to buying cheaper pairs on a regular basis too.
If you suffer from a foot condition which affects footwear selection please see our FREE foot care guides available here. We have looked at conditions such as wide/narrow feet as well as diabetes, arthritis and plantar fasciitis; what shoes and services are available for your needs and how to manage your condition.
If you have any questions about finding the right size for you, get in touch with us today.
Enjoyed reading this? Then check out some of our previous content on foot health: