AKA Why Vibram FiveFinger Shoes Couldn’t Win!
I was in school earning my Doctor of Chiropractic when the Vibram FiveFinger craze hit. In fact, it had such an impact that my classmates had the code for clinic attire changed to make them acceptable. If you came in to our clinic as a patient, your student-intern may have been wearing them. Myself, I never believed the hype. Whether on campus, visiting home and walking either Siesta Key Beach or Sarasota Square Mall, I was amazed every time I witnessed a pair. This didn’t stem from me not believing walking barefoot was better for you, but because I believe from infancy most Americans today practice a form of foot binding, not un-like the Japanese in centuries past. So, my view was our Western feet are not fully, naturally developed. And as such, we cannot reap the benefits of this type of foot apparel. In fact, I predicted all sorts of aches and pains moving up along the entire leg and hip as modern supports were removed and weaknesses were exposed.
I came across a fantastic article, Children’s Footwear: Launching Site for Adult Foot Ills, by Dr. William A. Rossi, DPM that conveys this. It was published by Podiatry Management in October 2002 and they are kind enough to grant me permission to use the article. I thank them for that.
6 Myths about Children’s Footwear
- Room for Foot Growth: One idea today is to put your child in a shoe that is at least ½ inch larger than his or her foot. What this does is it places conflict between the foot and the shoe at the hallux crease. This is the crease across the width of the shoe. It should match the base of the big toe. Also, the heel winds up misaligned. This places unnatural stress at these points.
- Support for the Arch: The common myth here is that the foot needs support because we walk on hard surfaces in today’s world. While we do this, there are also many people in 3rd world cities with the same roads and surfaces. They develop natural arches, all without the support.
- Snug Fit rule: Many people endorse a snug fit. While this may keep the shoe on, it does, in fact, restrict the movement of one’s toes. This restriction results in a lack of full development of toes and musculature.
- Ankle support: This is the idea that a baby or child needs support around its ankle because they are weak. In fact, as with the snug fit rule, this results in the contrary state. The lack of development of the region’s tissues and muscles result in a continuation of this weakness. It is self-perpetuating.
- Heel support: There is an idea that a child’s heel should be keep in place and it’s mobility reduced so as to instill stability. However, the stability of the heel comes from the Achilles Tendon and the surrounding musculature. As with the rest of the body, increased usage of the tendon and these muscles results in increased strength. And by extension, this results in increased stability.
- Pronation support: While no one wants a child to develop hyper-pronation, there is no standard for normal. And without a normal, we can’t define abnormal, other than by opinion. Moreover, as with other aspects of a child’s foot, when one adds these anti-pronation supports, one weakens the body’s natural ability to adapt and strengthen itself. Which, again, leads to a self-perpetuating cycle of continued problem.
The common theme presented by Dr. Rossi meshes well with the Chiropractic philosophy. Dr. Rossi consistently decries the restriction of movement by the foot and ankle, of modern day foot binding. He repeatedly expresses that proper stimulation and movement is required for proper tissue, muscle, and tendon growth which result in a true, natural foot. I would add that not only must these specific external limits be removed, but the body’s internal subluxations which hinder the proper stimulation and neurological response.