What shoes should I wear to the gym? Part II

How shoewear actively deforms our feet

There are a few reasons how our current shoewear deforms our feet:

  1. Narrow Toebox
  2. Toe Spring
  3. Elevated Heel

Narrow Toe Box

For hundreds of years, shoes with a narrower toe box (the part of the shoe housing the toes) have been on store shelves. This is not for function, but for fashion. These shoes were traditionally a sign of wealth and higher socioeconomic status. This style of shoe can cause foot deformities and issues such as bunions.


Toe Spring

When we walk or run, the foot is designed to grasp the ground with the toes and bend around it. Shoes with a high toe spring, such as running shoes, do the opposite by keeping the toes in an upward and fixed position. The negatives of this are weakened and atrophied toe muscles and tendons which can lead to deformities such as hammer and mallet toe.

Elevated Heel

Most shoes today have an elevated heel, better known as “heel to toe drop”. Wearing dress shoes, women’s heels, or most running shoes day after day actively shortens the Achilles tendons which, after prolonged use, can lead to tendinopathies including Achilles tendinitis, tears, and plantar fasciitis.

What is a realistic approach to these issues with shoewear?

I understand that walking around barefoot or wearing “minimalist” shoes is probably not realistic (I don’t do it myself!). These shoes are widely available from such companies as Vivobarefoot, XeroShoes,

and Feelgrounds, if you are interested.

A realistic strategy would be to:

  1. Limit shoewear as much as possible — in the house, outdoors in nice weather, working out at the gym (when possible).
  2. Wear toe spacers when you are not wearing shoes.
  3. Limit the use of extremely narrow toe box shoes with elevated heels such as:
  • Dress shoes and dress casual shoes
  • High heels
  • Vans (narrow toe box)
  • Air Max running shoes
  • ADIDAS Ultra Boost shoes