No More Arch Supports · 11 September 2012

I thought that sandals might be as close to barefoot as my newest shoes, but my feet proved me wrong at church yesterday. After standing for only four songs, my feet, especially my arches, were sore. I was tempted to sit down and take off my shoes, they were so distracting, but then we were finally seated.

I had decided to wear an older pair of sandals to church yesterday as another experiment. My wife warned me that these shoes have arch supports, but I figured it would be okay for an hour or so, especially since we would be sitting most of the time. I did not expect that my feet would reject those shoes so quickly.

The reason my feet screamed at me to take off the sandals was because my weight was resting on the wrong part of my feet. The arch supports in the shoes made it feel like every ounce of my body was resting on my arches. After wearing my new supportless shoes for a couple months, I realize what a disservice I have been giving my feet all these years. Those arch supports in all my old shoes had basically turned my feet into hurting flesh and bones instead of the sensitive feedback mechanisms they are supposed to be.

I have already mentioned the book, Born to Run, but I did not mention that I found the book at the store with the same name. The store, Born to Run, is a footwear store with minimalist shoes for everybody. We went to the physical store in Bellevue, Washington to get my Merrells and a pair of training shoes for our cross-country running middle son. After wearing my shoes for a month or so, I decided I needed to get some “barefoot” shoes for work too. I found a shoe called Ra made by Vivobarefoot.

I already knew about the service we received from Born to Run so I ordered a pair of Ras from them. When I got the shoes a couple days later, they were too big. It ended up being no big deal. All I had to do was email the store and they sent me a return prepaid packing slip and I was set. I had a new pair of shoes in about a week. And they have been great. My feet are happy even when I walk or stand all day long. Which made the excruciating pain of standing at church for 10 or 15 minutes a memorable object lesson.

When I think about my experience at church yesterday, I cannot help but think about a comment my mom used to make at the end of the summer when we were kids. She would say that our new shoes were too tight because we had spent the whole summer running around without any. She was right of course, but now I know it does not make any sense to cram those feet into “normal” shoes. It makes much more sense to get shoes that let our feet do what they are supposed to do. And that is to give us feedback of what the ground is like. We ought to let our feet be free even when they are in shoes.

I have been standing and walking and running with my minimalist shoes for only a couple months now, but I am convinced they are the way to go. And even if all the minimalist manufacturers went out of business tomorrow for some odd reason, I would buy the cheapest shoes I could find. All that support and padding and heel lift in most modern shoes were killing my feet and knees and I did not even know it.

The experience of standing at church with all the weight on my arches helped me to realize something completely opposite of what I always thought. My feet can take the beating I give them as long as I am barefoot or wearing shoes that let me feel like I am.

© 2012 Michael T. Miyoshi

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