Bunions

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Bunion Workshop

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Sunday 10 March 10-1

My next workshop is dedicated to bunions and will be held at Inner Power Pilates at Sunday 10 March 2019 from 10-1.  If you can’t make the workshop book in for an individual session with me instead.

Bunions, and their little toe sisters (bunionettes), whether you have them already, are developing them or wish to avoid them, this Fit Feet Bunion Workshop is for you.

Bunions are a painful and unsightly foot condition that affects a large majority of the population, both young (I’ve seen teenagers with them), and old. Unfortunately we are led to believe that they’re genetic or a normal part of ageing, but this is not the case. Bunions are entirely preventable if you put the work in.

Common foot complaints like over pronation, fallen arches, weak foot, hip and lower leg muscles, muscular imbalances and certain shoes will compromise the alignment of the foot causing various problems including bunions.

In this workshop you will learn how to strengthen the feet, align the foot, leg and hip appropriately and techniques to help improve or prevent bunions and the associated pain.

Come away from this workshop with:

  • A clear understanding of what a bunion is and how it is formed.
  • Lots of easy exercises to strengthen the feet and the toes to prevent a bunion or stop it worsening.
  • A better understanding of how shoes affect the functioning of your feet, legs and hips.
  • How to align your feet and legs to better distribute weight across your feet and prevent pressure on the big toe joint.
  • Added bonus: by strengthening your feet and aligning your feet, legs and hips, you’ll potentially reduce knee, hip, back and neck pain too!

Not sure whether you have a bunion developing?  Take a look at your feet, especially the big toe.  If the big toe follows the angle of its corresponding bone in the foot, then your toes are aligned.  If the toe veers off towards the other toes and/or you have a bony prominence on the joint, then you are potentially developing a bunion.

Below is a YouTube Playlist I’ve put together dedicated to healthy feet and bunions.  Click the top right button on the video to see the full list or visit my YouTube Channel for more.

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Correct Toes

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Correct Toes are a wonderful innovation by Dr Ray McClanahan of North-West Foot and Ankle.  By spreading the toes, when active, Correct Toes can relieve foot pain from bunions, plantar fasciosis & crooked toes.  They’ve been an integral part of my foot health programme over the last several years.  The video below describes how the foot should work, the posture deforming attributes of modern footwear, and how this product can help many different foot problems.

Orthotics have their place, particularly when the body is in pain and the foot has been identified as a potential contributor.  In certain situations where foot problems have gone beyond any hope of conservative correction, then orthotics might be something that are needed for life.  For most people, however, strengthening the feet, aligning the foot, ankle, knee, hip and pelvis etc. can eventually mean that you can wean yourself off an orthotic.

Correct Toes, however, are not like an orthotic.  They’re not there to support the foot.  In fact, quite the reverse, they’re more like a brace for the teeth, over time the Correct Toes will reposition the bony structures of the foot, aligning the toes, spacing them appropriately and as a result improving the function of the foot.  They even come with slits in the silicon between the big and little toes so that you can add some spacing material to create even more space between the toes over time.

Like anything else, transitioning to more minimal shoes and to wearing Correct Toes takes time and effort.  They’re not the ONLY thing you need to do – it’s not a magic bullet.  You still need to do the work, be active whilst wearing them and address an imbalances and weaknesses present in the foot and lower leg.

If you are suffering from foot and lower limb problems then Correct Toes might be the answer, but they’re not right for everyone.  You can test them out with me at the studio or in clinic and you can by Correct Toes direct from me, either at the studio or clinic for a small discount.

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Foot Exercises

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Rather than reinvent the wheel, below are a couple of videos from GMB Fitness (a great resource for all things strength related).  Increasing the strength and mobility of the feet can have a huge knock-on effect for your knees, hips and lower back – basically everything above the feet, which are the base of support for your body.  These three videos show some great foot exercises and a self-massage technique which will leave your feet stronger, more resilient, more mobile and feeling zingy – I’m not sure what zingy means, but that’s how many feet felt after I massaged them.  Adding coconut oil to this experience helps with getting your fingers between your toes too! (check out the awesome Sponge Bob pj bottoms courtesy of BBE in the pic above).

Foot Rolling

These exercises to maintain foot flexibility feel great and are easy to do. Relaxing tension in the feet can affect the legs and hips because the muscles of the calves run all the way down into the feet and connect via fascia to the muscles of the upper leg and hip.  As you incorporate these exercises into your daily life, you will be able to maintain proper foot alignment which brings marked improvement in muscle recruitment in the rotators of the hips, pelvic floor, and abdominals and improves your walking patterns.

  1. Wake up your foot with the spiky ball – roll your feet vigorously. The spiky ball should have some give to it.

Lacrosse Ball Exercises

Use slow, controlled movements to release tension as you roll the ball along your feet.  Don’t roll the ball over any injured areas. You may feel some soreness over tight areas, but there should not be sharp pain. You can do the exercises seated in a chair or standing (hold something for balance if required).  If the lacrosse ball is too firm, try sitting down or use the spiky ball instead.  If you can get your hands on one get a Yoga Tune Up ball instead.

  • Flex and Point – Place the ball beneath the toes with the heel on the ground. Wrap your toes around the ball and press down, pointing your foot. Depress the ball and flex the toes, while maintaining the heel on the ground. Repeat.
  • Heel Press – Place your heel on the ball and the ball of your foot on the ground. Press your heel down into the ball, then lift your heel, pointing your foot and maintaining contact of the ball of the foot to the floor. Repeat.
  • Side to side 1 – Because much of our activity is done in the sagittal plane, our feet lose flexibility and strength in side-to-side movement necessary for moving over uneven or unstable terrain. Stand with the ball of your foot on the ball and your heel on the ground. Move the front of your foot from side to side over the ball, trying to touch the inside of your foot to the floor, then the outside of your foot to the floor, while keeping your heel on the ground.
  • Side to side 2 – Stand with your heel on the ball and the ball of your foot on the ground. Move your heel from side to side, trying to move the inside of foot to the floor, then the outside of your foot to the floor, while keeping the ball of your foot on the ground.
  • 5 lines – roll the bell from the heel to little toe, heel to fourth toe… etc.

Foot and Ankle Exercises

  • Foot circles with toes curled. Start seated, progress to standing.
  • Point and flex foot, toes and ankle with toes extended as you flex and pointed as you point, then reverse, toes extended as you extend and flexed as you flex. Start seated, progress to standing.
  • Trace an ‘X’ with the foot, with the foot moving down and in and then up and out and vice versa. Start seated, progress to standing.
  • Standing ankle circles with the ball of the foot down and heel raised.
  • Standing ankle circles with the heel down and the ball raised.

Toe Exercises

  • Standing or seated spread your toes as wide as they will go (the end of your toes from outer big toe to outer little toe should be wider than the ball of the foot).
  • Standing or seated see if you can move just your big toe out (i.e. spreading just the big toes away from the others).
  • Standing or seated lift just your big toe, then try to lift each toe in turn. When you’ve mastered that try putting them down in turn as well.

 

Band Exercises

  • With a band around the foot, take foot through full range of movement, i.e. inversion/eversion/flexion/extension/add/abd. Use band to add resistance.
  • Place band around individual toes and flex/extend.

Stretches

  • Calf
  • Soleus
  • Top of foot

Strength

  • Calf raises – start with both and progress to single leg.
  • Soleus raises – start with both and progress to single leg.

Massage

  • Sit on the floor and using oil (optional) massage the whole foot.
  • Hold hands with your foot, putting the fingers of your opposite hand through the
  • Squeeze your fingers with your toes and then pull your fingers out which helps to build the transverse arch.
  • With your fingers between your toes hold the heel with the opposite hand and rotate the forefoot, twist and almost like you’re wringing out a cloth.
  • Pull the big toe out so that it lines up with the metatarsal (the big toe bone along the top of your foot). Massage between the first and second metatarsals.
  • Pull the big toes out and then bend it down and massage in between the first and second metatarsals.
  • Massage the calf.
  • Massage the muscles on the front of the leg down the inside edge of the shin bone.
  • Massage the muscles on the front of the leg down the outside edge from below the knee to the ankle.

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Wrinkly Tootsies

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I have been working on my body for about two years now.  Not in an effort to lose weight, get toned or look better, but in a huge effort to move better, be naturally stronger and with the end goal of maintaining my health and mobility well into my old age.  It is no secret that I am a massive fan of Katy Bowman’s work.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that Katy should be a little afraid given that Wilson and I will hopefully be going to the States to certify as Restorative Exercise Specialists next year. We are Katy’s two biggest stalkers.  BUT having said that, I don’t swallow everything that comes off the internet or from a podcast (or even from the mouth of the guru, Katy, herself) without giving it a bit of thought.

So I’ve been sat on this one for a while – if wet foot skin is supposed to wrinkle to provide bettter traction on wet ground (much like a tyre), why then does it take a while to happen, make my skin really soft and, presumably, less durable, and, when i get out of the bath, do I go arse over tit (Yorkshireism for falling over spectacularly, often with a backflip involved), sliding all over the bloody place?  I haven’t voiced these questions before because, well, frankly, I’m pretty sure anyone I asked would’ve thought I was a little deranged, so I just let it percolate in the back of my brain, as things do, and it wasn’t until last night when I had my epiphany .

I’ve only just moved house and I now have a bath.  Up until then I was living in a flat with no bath for two years.  I have been working on my feet for about two years, no heels, minimal shoes, barefoot on the beach, in puddles, in the sea, on different terrain, rocks etc. I have been mobilising, massaging, spreading and generally trying to bring my poor dead feet back to life after a lifetime in shit shoes.  I had noticed some improvement.  My toes now point in the direction they’re supposed to (more or less), I have less pain in my right big toe which has hallux limitus (basically it doesn’t move very well), I no longer get cold frozen feet for no reason, and I no longer get cramp either.

I got in the bath last night and after about ten minutes or so I noticed my feet tingling.  I thought a bit of a massage might be in order as they were pretty tired and I had DOMS in them too, which is really cool…. tangent – DOMS stands for delayed onset muscle soreness.  When you go to the gym and work a set of muscles really hard about 8-48 hours later your muscles feel stiff and sore (most people like the feeling as they know they’ve worked hard)… so what’s cool is that my feet now get DOMS after being out and about without being covered up.  I like it because it means the muscles in my feet are working hard, which means they’re getting stronger, which in turn will hopefully lead to better movement and alignment up my legs.

Right, so I’m bathing, I’m tingling, back to the story – I pick up a foot to massage it and nearly splash most of the water out of the bath in excitement, then try to drop my iPad in the bath desperate to get a picture.  My feet were wrinkly – and when I say wrinkly I mean WRINKLY McWRINKLYFACE.  I dashed downstairs, piss wet through (Yorkshireism for being very damp), to share this miracle with BBE, who when confronted with a very wet and very naked girlfriend had to try very hard to focus on what I was saying.

Why the excitement – so your feet got wrinkly, so what?”  Well, you’ll be able to see from the picture, my feet are WAAAAAY more wrinkly than my fingers after being in the water the same amount of time.  My finger skin is a bit wrinkly, but it’s soft.  My feet wrinkles were HARD, very hard, in fact they felt and looked like a Pirelli. I of course needed to test the whole ‘better traction in wet weather’ theory – it had just rained, brilliant, off outside I go into the garden (yep, still naked, still wet), and I stick to everything.  I come back in and I’m sticking to the wooden floor and tiles too, no more slippy-slidey.  I am beside myself with excitement, and BBE is now more than a little amused.  And then, even more miraculously I look at my feet and the wrinkles are going after only five or six minutes of being dry (finger skin, still pathetic).  FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK.  Prior to this it would take a while in the bath for my feet and hands to reach maximum wrinkliness, the skin would be soft and pathetic, and it would take quite a while for the wrinkles to go after getting out of the bath.  In fact, the skin was that soft that when I used to do ultra marathon running I had to be very careful that my foot skin didn’t slough off when running with wet feet for extended periods.  Basically my skin might have wrinkled appropriately in the wet, but it was about as much good to me as a chocolate fireguard.

So, there’s this big difference between my foot and finger wrinkles.  Here’s my theory… I have been working on my feet for two years and without really knowing it I’ve also been working on my foot skin.  It’s been getting natural loads of outdoor movement on natural terrain (mainly the beach, but some trail, grass etc.) and it has quite obviously (as the bath experiment shows) changed massively.  On the other hand, I haven’t been working on my hands at all really, I stretch them and I use them to grip, hold and carry, but I haven’t really used them in a natural setting, like scrambling over rocks, hanging from trees etc. where the skin would have to adapt to that environment.  Where previously my hand and foot skin were the same, the ENORMOUS difference between them now can only be down to the amount of effort I’ve put in over the last couple of years.

This is a really big breakthrough for me. I’ve been working hard on improving my health and increasing my natural movement, but the rewards are often slow to come and quite small (or even unnoticeable) when they arrive*.  It’s hard to be ‘out there’ with your thoughts and opinions, the only one without any sitting furniture probably on the whole Fylde Coast, the one who gets the funny looks when I don’t wear shoes, and the one who has to smile and accept the resulting piss taking with good grace.  I know that for most people this post will be utterly uninspiring, but for me, the difference this has made is humbling and life-changing.  I had already made a lot lifestyle changes (most of which are included in this blog), but I did have doubts and a little voice in my head saying that sitting on that comfy sofa for an hour won’t kill you and not doing that five mile walk today will be fine etc. Now that I’m starting to see results in the form of ADAPTATION, I am IN!  Bring it on. I now have proof that bodies can adapt back to what they’re supposed to be like instead of how our culture has moulded them.

*A note on my comment about slow, small and unnoticeable. I actually think that I’ve probably adapted/changed more than I think, it’s just that slow to happen it is the slowness that makes it unnoticeable.  I could probably pay a lot more attention as well which might help.  I am also not looking for a quick fix.  I know that just like a quick fix diet, or exercise programme, that the results although sometimes very impressive and very quick are often fleeting, the body reverting back to the status quo extremely fast. Adaptation is going to take time, A LOT of time, but I for one think it’s worth it.

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Minimal Shoe List

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Current shoe collection (as of 2016 – I now only have the Docs as my final pair of ‘crap’ shoes (as of March18))

Several months ago now I threw out all my heeled shoes apart from the ones pictured above (I don’t wear them, I just look at them and wonder how I ever managed to get my bloody foot in them).  I’ve been experimenting with footwear since I decided to go minimal.

Throughout this blog there’s a particular emphasis on feet, given that that’s where I start in most of my movement assessments. I almost always try and persuade people to start transitioning (safely) to a more minimal shoe (there’s a post somewhere that I wrote on how NOT to do this), and I often get asked, “What shoe should I buy?”

There’s plenty of info about the why, so I’m just going to focus here on what and where.  This list is not exhaustive and I’ve excluded a lot of shoes that have to be shipped in from the States, mainly those that have a ridiculous shipping fee on an almost mortgage requiring purchase price.  Where I’ve owned the shoe in question I’ve added a bit of blurb, but this is mainly a list for you to use to introduce to the companies that provide minimal shoes.

In alphabetical order:

Altra

I own a pair of Altra Torin Zero Drop shoes.  They’re quite bulky underfoot, which I did on purpose so I could walk distances on concrete.  So no ground feel unfortunately, and also not a particularly wide toebox, and also quite a big toe spring.  In fact, having just typed that sentence, I’m gonna bin ‘em and get something better.

Yep, been back and had another look.  About the only thing going for these is the zero drop.  However, they might be a good option for transitioning, concrete walking etc.

(March 18 update: I got shut of these give my comments above)

http://www.altrafootwear.co.uk/

Altra Torin Zero Drop

Be Real

Look like a naff VFF rip-off, but you never know, they might take off.  Limited range as of this blog post.  Toes aren’t separated like VFF, so might be preferable to those weirdos that don’t like something in between their toes.  Can’t work out from website if they ship to the UK.

www.berealshoes.com

Birkenstock

This company do a steel toed clog where this might be required, the A640.  Nice wide toebox and zero drop although I’m not sure about the toe grips, arch support and heel cup, but they’re apparently durable, waterproof and lightweight.  And if your job does necessitate steel toes, then this might be an option.

Crocs

If you can bear to watch your dignity drain out through the holes in these horrific looking items of footwear, then good for you.  Personally I’d rather poke my own eyeballs out.  For those of you who are inclined towards a more undignified existence, check out the flatter, wider options.

http://www.crocs.co.uk/

Drifter Leather

Very high on my ‘to try’ list.  This company hand makes their shoe after you send in a scanned image of your footprint.  Custom fit.  You pay for it, but I think it’s worth it given some of the designs they have.  Zero drop, no problem.  Flat, wide etc.  Spread your toes when you draw round your foot and you’re laughing.  Nice going out option for ladies and gents.

http://www.thedrifterleather.com/

Luna Sandals

Remind me of Xero sandals, but I like these too.  Not owned a pair yet.  You can choose your Luna based on terrain, which is a nice touch if you need a thicker sole for walking on concrete for instance.  Definitely on my ‘to try’ list.

https://en.lunasandals.de/

The Primal Professional / Chronology

Although I nearly lost the will to live with their website, I like the idea behind these shoes.  A dressy office shoe that looks narrow and heeled, but secretly is flat and wide. Crafty!  They ship to the UK at a price.

http://chronology-lg.com/

Soft Star

One of my favourite brands despite not having even purchased any yet.  They’re only available in the States, but they will ship to the UK.  Family handmade minimal shoes from soft, flexible, breathable materials.  Got lots of kids’ shoes too.

http://www.softstarshoes.com/

Skora

In my opinion look too tapered in the toebox and elevated in the forefoot.  They’re available to ship to the UK though.

www.skorarunning.com

SOM Footwear (sense of motion)

US but ship to UK.  Funky, wide, flexible, but not too feminine.  Mind you I wear VFFs when I’m out in a frock, so who am I to talk about feminine.

http://www.somfootwear.com/

True Linkswear

This is specialist golf shoe company.  Worth keeping an eye on if you ever get to the States as they don’t ship to the UK.  There’s supposed to be a supplier in the Netherlands but I can’t find the shoes on their site.

http://www.truelinkswear.com/

Vibram Five Fingers

From the ridiculous to the sublime (Crocs to VFF)… I expect there will be disagreement here.  Anyway, my preferred minimal shoes.  I love them and have several pairs.  They’re not for everyone, both in terms of what they look like and also that they’re pretty much as barefoot as you can get (there’s some others on this list that can claim the same).  They therefore take quite a bit of transitioning to.  I’m just about to write a post about how not to do that, and also include some info on what you should do instead.

As much as I love these shoes they are a tad expensive… I usually luck out on eBay or just Google and see what comes up.  Beware cheap options, they’re really dreadful fake copies, of which I’ve fallen prey several times.  They’re not even wearable!  Be warned.

https://vibramfivefingers.uk.com/vibram-five-fingers.html?SID=p86muet8rhml946ossmm0nimd4

https://www.vibrams.co.uk/

http://www.feetus.co.uk/

Vibram Five Fingers Classic Sparkly – these are my ‘night out’ options.

Vivobarefoot

I have a pair of JingJings from VB, but unfortunately they’re almost a U shape in design and absolutely cripple me just to put them on (this is due to my arthritic right big toe).  Don’t let that put you off though, most of the other shoes in their selection are completely flat, flexible and wide-toed. If I had my time again (and the £££) I would go for a flat shoe and probably a half or a full size up.

They do some nice men’s dress/office shoes, albeit they’re a little pricey.

http://www.vivobarefoot.com/uk

Vivobarefoot JingJings

Xero

Xeros are also high on my ‘to try’ list.  Another sandal type shoe with thickness of sole chosen by terrain.  Ladies can decorate their Xeros with beads etc. which is a nice touch.  They now do a trail version which apparently makes you ‘mountain goat’ like on wet terrain.

(March18 update: BGE (best girlfriend ever) has a pair and they’re like shovels – as you’re walking along they collect anything that’s in front of them and deposit it under your foot – I won’t be investing!)

http://xeroshoes.co.uk/

Favourite Super Light, Super Thin Soled VFFs.  (March18 update: I now have various pairs – they’re getting more feminine.  I think they’re cottoning onto the fact that there are some idiots like me that have decided this is the way to go and wear them whether they’re going out for the night or up a mountain – I even found a pair of VFF Soul in Nude that I’m contemplating remortgaging for).

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Your Shoes Your Choice

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Check out your feet, what shape are they?

Are they the same shape as your shoes?  This is not the shape your foot should be or would be if it wasn’t kept in the wrong shoes.

Here’s a foot and the shoe that it usually lives in

Check out the toe box on your shoes, is it narrow, pointy, etc.?

It’s not just ladies shoes that are pointy (left), men’s shoes are often narrow in the toe too

Check out your big toe and little toe, do they turn inwards or are they in line with their metatarsal bones?  See below.

Here you can see the big and little toes are out of alignment with the bone coming down the foot and into the toe, they both angle towards each other

Is the width of the very end of your foot (i.e. your toes) greater than the ball of the foot – which is how it should be!

Toes should be wide apart and wider than the ball of the foot (shown by the horizontal ß—–à above

Take the liner out of your trainers or shoes (if it will come out), and stand on it.  Is the liner bigger than your foot or is your foot bigger than the liner?  If your shoe liner won’t come out, stand on a bit of paper and draw round your foot with your full body weight on it and your toes spread.  Cut this out and check it against the sole or inside of your shoe (not quiet as good as sometimes there’s a lip on the sole of some shoes, which makes the outside look bigger than it actually is inside).  If your foot or the drawing is bigger then your shoes don’t fit.

Check out the toe spring – does the end of your shoe lift up?

Most shoes have a toe spring which means your toes are constantly being held in a lifted position and your foot cannot function properly when you walk.

How flexible is your shoe?  The more flexible the shoe the better your foot can function.

Does your shoe have a heel?  GET RID OF SHOES WITH A HEEL!

In summary preferably you want shoes that interfere with the natural movement of your foot as possible:

  1. Zero drop – no change in height from heel to toe.
  2. Flexible.
  3. No toe spring.
  4. Wide toe box.
  5. Fully attach to your foot.

Ideally you want minimal shoes and go barefoot more often wherever you can.

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Free Your Toes

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It’s about that time of year where it starts to get warm enough for my feet to come out of hibernation.  Granted, they’ve been in minimal shoes all winter and barefoot in the house, garage and garden etc. but they’ve still spent a lot more time shod than they would in warmer weather.  Given where I live there’s not an awful lot of natural terrain with hills, grass etc. But what we do have is a nice long beach with plenty of stones, undulations, soft bits, hard bits, shells and the usual glass, dog crap and other detritus to dodge which, in Blackpool, unfortunately, constitutes natural terrain.

There is, however another major problem I’ve encountered with beach walking.  Picture this, beautiful day, bit breezy, dry sand and me covered in my homemade body butter.  Wind + sand + sticky skin = human doughnut.  Oh well, the pros outweigh the cons.

The pros being a major breakthrough on my foot mobility – I can finally lift my big toes, followed by the second, third, fourth etc. like a really slow and arthritic toe Mexican wave, and then put them back down individually again as well.  I am ever so proud – 18 months ago, I couldn’t move them at all!

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Shoe Amnesty

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I very much doubt that I am the only woman ever to declare an endless love affair with SHOES.  Shoes, boots, sandals… pointy toed, skyscraper heel, the sort of thing that BBE describes as ‘car to bar’ shoes – only able to get me the short distance from the taxi inside the nearest bar and absolutely no further.

I remember being about 12 years old, choosing my own shoes for school.  I was in charity shop mode at that point and found the perfect pair. Heeled, of course, very very pointy, lace up – like something Victorian I suppose, with the little holes in a pattern on the toes – almost witch-like (think Wizard of Oz).  Anyway, I fell in love with them, and it really didn’t matter that they were a size too small, the pain was worth the pleasure of seeing my feet transformed into dainty, pointy beautiful appendages, with slim ankles and never-ending legs.

So I definitely fell prey to the NEEDING of high-heeled, pointy shoes to look a certain way, to give me longer legs and a slimmer silhouette.  They also looked really good with the type of clothing I wanted to wear, which tended then to be tighter and more fitted.  As I got older I moved towards more comfortable clothing, but could still be found in heeled shoes.  As a side note we are all (men included) absolutely convinced that we NEED trainers of a certain type for our feet and we’ve certainly been bamboozled by the marketing on that front, but for ladies and their daily shoes, we’ve been fed a stereotypical image of women in a very specific type of shoe.  This is not a feminist blog though, it’s a movement blog, and wearing positive heeled shoes is a recipe for movement disaster.

Which is why I finally took the heart stopping, jaw dropping, gut wrenching step of throwing out all of my positively heeled shoes….

Ahem!… all except one pair of New Rock boots, which I keep simply to look at as I physically cannot get my foot in them anymore.

Why, would I do such a thing?  I promised myself that if I managed to go a whole year without wearing a positively heeled shoe, then I would (as the minimalist I am) turf the lot out.  I did it. A whole year with people looking at me strangely when I was in bare feet wandering about, and even more strangely when I was in my Vibrams.  I spent a year working on my feet, improving their strength and flexibility (an ongoing battle), spreading my toes and stretching the muscles in and around the foot.  When I tried a pair of previously slightly large boots on at the end of that year, I found that I couldn’t get my foot in – it had spread, widened and would no longer conform to what wasn’t even a particularly narrow toebox.  Most people would probably want to cry at such a widening of their forefoot, I however saw it as a victory, a sign that my exercises, diligence and the occasional stubbed toe and stone in my heel were absolutely worth it.

So here’s a tiny fraction of what I threw out (left/top) and here’s my current shoe collection (right/bottom).

My personal journey from heels to minimal shoes has been a bit of a disaster if I’m honest.  When I started (approximately five years ago) I hadn’t a clue about transitioning from a ‘normal’ shoe to a minimal/barefoot lifestyle.  I just cracked on with it and gave myself shin splints and other issues.  It then took me another couple of years to really get properly clued up and start to work on the mobility and strength of my feet as well as reducing the structure of my shoes.  So now all my shoes are zero drop (no difference in height from heel to toe), minimally soled (approx 3mm, less if I can find it), with a wide toebox (or toes like my Vibrams) which allow the toes to move, spread and flex like they’re supposed to.  I have a pair of Altra zero drop cushioned shoes which I use for all my concrete (non-natural terrain) walking in an effort to reduce the impact.

Why did I bother?  I used to have shin splints, knee pain, heel pain, collapsed arches, a right big toe joint that’s damaged and doesn’t move well and was incredibly painful, constantly cold feet, cramp in my feet and calves, immobile toes, toes that were hooked over each other, with my big toes starting to point towards the little toes, and intense pain on walking barefoot on non-smooth surfaces.

The benefits.  Now my feet are no longer cold (even when it is fairly cold temperature wise my feet don’t feel like blocks of ice), I no longer get cramp, my big toe joint is still damaged but it doesn’t cause me as much pain and I’m hoping to avoid surgery now.  My toes actually move, spread, and I’ve reversed the trend of the big toe pointing across which ultimately would have been a bunion.  My feet are still fairly flat, but I’m working on it, and they’re still a bit sensitive when they’re out and about naked on stones and stuff, but they’re a lot tougher than they were.  The major benefit however is being able to dance – and when I mean dance I mean DAAAAAAAAANCE, flinging myself around like an idiot and making a complete tit of myself on the dance floor.  Not just that I can dance without pain in my feet, but I can do so for hours and hours and hours.  It’s like a whole new lease of life.  No longer am I mincing about trying to hide my grimace of agony, or trying to dodge vomit, glass and the bouncer who’s trying to chuck me out for refusing to put my ‘foot coffins’ back on.

My feet as I started to transition… notice how my toes are still quite close together and my big toes have a definite lean towards the others.

Here’s my feet now… Notice the better spread of the toes and my big toes are a lot straighter.  Still some work to do, but a definite improvement.  There’s even the suggestion of an arch in the shadow and hollow between the feet.

I have forgiven myself for the years of abuse.  I’ve learned to embrace my feet, to love them for the amazing structures and feats of engineering that they are, and with that love comes respect and a desire to look after them as they’re the base of support that I’m going to need if I want to keep the rest of my body moving well into old age.

Barefoot Walking on Natural Terrain

  

Whilst doing some work researching shoes and especially women’s attachment to them, I found an interesting blog post on the subject of forgiveness and acceptance in relation to feminism and shoes.  I include this slightly more feminist, serious viewpoint here because I have felt this way about shoes, clothing and my place in the world in the past and I’ve had to search for my own internal forgiveness and find the courage to step outside the norm and be brave for the sake of my movement despite the resistance of others (see the sofa post).

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to programme myself as a good consumer.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to create a belief within and as me that I need to have certain items of clothing and shoes to fit in and be desired or attractive in this reality.

I forgive myself that I have allowed myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to become excited within and as me when I was given my very first pair of heels, or dressing up at around 6. 

I forgive myself that I accepted and allowed myself to cripple my feet, to the point that I am in absolute agony and can’t walk any longer for the sake of fashion and sexy footwear.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to get a kind of ‘kick’ out of high heels in that they accentuate my legs and make me taller.  Thus I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to create a belief within and as me that I will be taken more seriously and if I am taller than others and within this I see that I have some authority over them because I am towering above them, or am the same height as most men.

Thus I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to become a ‘power dresser’ because I am wearing heels and I am almost six foot.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to derive pleasure from owning a pair of high heels and then trying to find a nice outfit to wear with them and within this place so much attention on what I was going to look like that I have missed the point of the occasion and spent so much time in my mind planning my outfit, so that I will attract attention and ‘feel’ good about myself.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to pile tissues and plasters into my shoes to stop them rubbing my feet, and to continue to wear the shoes all along knowing that they are going to hurt me.  Thus within this I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to literally fear wearing a certain pair of shoes because I have known that after an hour I will be in pain and wish I hadn’t worn them, but yet I allow myself to tell myself that it doesn’t matter because they will look great.

I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to put fashion first – over and above my own welfare and human physical body.  I forgive myself that I have accepted and allowed myself to judge myself as stupid for falling hook, line and sinker into the pre-programmed design of womanhood, and within this I have told myself off and felt regretful that I didn’t consider my feet first…

http://7yearjourneytolifekims.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/day-357-all-girls-love-shoes-dont-they.html

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