Healthy Feet Manifesto
by the Executive Membership Of the Healthy Feet Alliance
As the Healthy Feet Alliance, we recognize that feet are adeptly designed to support the human body without aid. Contrary to popular belief, the foot (equipped with 26 bones, 30 joints, 3 arches, over 100 muscles and tendons, and hundreds of thousands of nerve endings) is solely qualified to statically support and dynamically move the body.
We believe that in caring for one’s feet, the focus must be on increasing foot strength and restoring/maintaining the natural structural alignment of the foot. This is best accomplished by going barefoot as often as possible and by wearing natural footwear. Being barefoot bolsters nerve health and assists in coordinated movements of the body.
Shoes’ primary purpose is simply to protect the foot from the elements and sharp objects, while allowing the foot to move naturally and freely, as if barefoot. We deem these footwear elements necessary for longterm foot health:
- a natural, foot-shaped toe box
- a flexible sole
- a zero drop heel (meaning no elevated heels!)
- no arch support
- no toe spring
- securely fastened to the foot
These qualities in a shoe give the foot the freedom needed to reach its full capacity. Just like putting a cast on a broken arm leads to atrophy of the arm muscles, placing the foot in a rigid, supportive shoe leads to atrophy of the foot muscles. Contrarily, the more active the foot, the more robust it becomes.
Wearing natural footwear (also commonly known as barefoot shoes, minimalist shoes, and functional footwear) can help one avoid many common foot ailments, such as bunions, plantar fasciosis, hammertoes, Morton’s neuroma, and many others. Likewise, paired with exercising the foot, wearing natural footwear may also facilitate decreased pain and slow the progression of these same maladies.
If one is considering switching into natural footwear from conventional footwear, it is critical to properly transition. Just as it is essential to break slowly into new workouts to avoid injury, it is imperative to ease into natural footwear to avoid injury. Each individual’s foot health journey will look different from one another’s.
Medical interventions should primarily focus on strengthening the feet and restoring the natural structural alignment of the foot. Orthotics and other external supports should generally only be used in short-term treatment plans. Surgery should only be considered in the rare cases that are not remedied by the less-invasive means previously mentioned.
By bringing together top podiatrists, sports medicine professionals, natural footwear pioneers, and biomechanics experts we can provide the public with education and resources to help raise awareness of the root cause of chronic foot & joint conditions and how to treat and prevent them sustainably.