Stilettos and cowboy boots both bad for feet

Stilettos and cowboy boots might seem like opposites, but they’re both bad for your feet. Save them for special occasions.

For daily life, I recommend going barefoot or wearing minimalist shoes to the extent possible. This allows the feet to sense the world, stimulate the brain and improve balance and agility.

My credential to speak on this subject is not my medical degree, but my experience. I’m neither a cowboy nor a stripper, but I know what I’m talking about.

First, I own my share of high heels, and like to wear them occasionally when they are appreciated. Moreover, I have competed in dance contests wearing stiletto heels taller than Trump Tower.

Second, I have ridden horses all my life, was graduated from Texas A&M and have shoveled my share of manure.

High heels
High heels are for show, not for go.

The problem with Manolo Blanik or Jimmy Chu stiletto heels is that they have a pointed toe and no support. They distort a woman’s posture and destabilize her balance. She must always use other muscles to say on top of her shoes.

When you perform a two minute dance routine in front of three judges and 200 people, staying on top of your heels is important. As the old saying goes, “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards in high heels.”

I once had a lesson with a British dance master who said all dancing started at the feet. The feet move the body and the feet move the shoes.  Most people wear shoes to protect their feet from the ground. They wear out their shoes from the outside in. They also delegate the job of controlling foot pressure and weight distribution to the shoe.

In contrast, dancers wear out their shoes from the inside out. Runners who go barefoot or in minimalist footgear develop smart feet that are able to run over rocks and branches without pain or injury.

This is the key point. For most of us, our feet are trained by our shoes. Instead, our shoes should be trained by our feet. Michael Jordan makes his shoes. His shoes don’t make him.

Cowboy boots
On the other end of the spectrum, cowboy boots also interfere with stability in both men and women.

Many people buy cowboy boots for style. They tend to have a pointy toe box that scrunches together the toes and reduces their role in stability. Contemporary cowboy boots also tend to have rigid construction up the calf. So the ankles are immobilized and desensitized, which forces the knees to do excessive duty as shock absorbers.

Real boots used to be made with rounder toes, and from material that required extended breaking in. When I was 17 years old, I got a pair of custom-made riding boots for my birthday. They were very hard and uncomfortable. It took years of riding for them to become part of my foot and leg. I’ve had them resoled four or five times, and I still have the same pair of boots decades later.

Now these boots are stretched, supple and part of my body. My toes, feet and ankles have some play within the boot. But even these boots are less healthy than the bare feet I was born with.

Further info
Move and play with the barefoot brothers

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