I have always encouraged patients to wear shoes that are wide and shaped like your foot. Narrow and pointy shoes prevent the foot from working properly and I feel contribute to local foot problems (like Bunions, and Norton’s Neuroma). Narrow shoes also have an impact further up the body on knees, hips, lower back and beyond. This is in part because muscular chains that would normally support the structures above are prevented from working by a constricted foot.
My normal go to recommendations have always been brands like Birkenstock and Finn Comfort, who do a wide range of good quality foot shaped shoes. I have however always been interested in what is commonly known as Barefoot Shoes; these are shoes with absolutely no heel at all, wide foot shaped designs, very thin minimalist soles, and the entire shoe is so flexible and pliable that the foot is able to function as if you were barefoot.
As an osteopath I immediately identified with the barefoot model because from a mechanical point of view I feel it makes allot of sense. However when I looked into buying a pair of Vivo Barefoot shoes some time ago, I was disappointed- they did not feel as comfortable and perfectly shaped to my feet as my Birkenstock shoes did; possibly because I have relatively wide feet? However more recently I bought a pair or Freet shoes. This is a small British company whose slogan is “Freedom for your feet”. I found their shoes reasonably prices (compared to other barefoot shoes), and they fitted my foot perfectly right out of the box (although you definitely need to get one size up from what you normally do, as the company recommend). I bought a pair of their waterproof walking boots and was very impressed with how grippy they were on flat/smooth surfaces, how waterproof they were in wet conditions and most of all how lovely it felt to walk through a field wearing my new barefoot shoes- unlike any other pair of walking boots I have ever owned. The only two drawbacks were the synthetic material used was not as breathable as a leather pair of shoes (although I understand they are working on a leather model), and the sole is not very grippy of wet muddy hills (but then neither were my chunky Birkenstock walking boots).
The reason I am writing about Barefoot Shoes is that I found in the first few weeks of wearing them, I could feel the discomfort of muscles in my feet that felt like they had never had a chance to work like they were then. That means muscles that were previously not being recruited to stabilise and support my feet, and then further up the body my knees, hips, lower back and beyond. I feel like there is a role for Barefoot Shoes in helping people with mechanical problems and pain in these areas, and I wanted to share that with you.
Update June 2021; I have just bought myself a pair of the new Freet Tanga and love them. The recycled coffee ground upper material is very breathable and offers a good balance between elasticity and support. Also I now have a working relationship with Freet, so I can offer you a 10% discount on Freet shoes! Just use code Nunobento at checkout https://freetbarefoot.com/