12

votes

Why do I need arch support?

Commented on September 02, 2015
Created June 29, 2011 at 5:14 PM

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a pair of Merrell Pace Gloves and I love them. I used to have a lot of shin pain when I walked and ran, but I have no pain when I wear them. I'm also recovering from a hip injury, which is painful when I wear traditional walking shoes, but not in my new shoes, even when I do all-out sprints.

Today I went to a local shoe store to buy a pair of Merrell Pure Gloves for more casual wear. I got talked into a foot evaluation and was told that I need a lot more arch support. When I explained that shoes with arch support exacerbate my problems, the sales lady informed me that I needed very supportive shoes AND inserts. I stuck to my guns and bought the Pure Gloves, much to her dismay!

It seems to me that "sturdy shoes" and "arch support" are neolithic concepts, but I want to make sure I'm not missing something. What has your experience been with minimal shoes or trying to buy them?

18bcefd4921b096ae448ae57737f844d

(0)

on September 02, 2015
at 06:13 PM

My feet started to ache over 10 years ago after about 3-5 miles of running. Morton’s neuroma symptoms. I figured I needed arch support since I was flat footed and as far as I remembered have always been. Grew up wearing Chuck Taylor All-stars(Think old school Vans) playing every sport there was. For the last 10 years I have spent $K on every shoe insert there was. Finally, went to an Orthopedist and got custom orthodontics. Tried those for several months with physical therapy. The orthodontics were the worst of all. I tried 5 Fingers just on a whim. I noticed my feet felt better after wearing the 5 fingers. While I did try running in the 5 Fingers I did too much too fast. I tried several other zero drop shoes while trying to increase my mileage. Not much luck even though my feet felt better with the zero drop rather that traditional raised heel running shoe. Then I came across LEMS. Not a running shoe but, zero drop, very flexible, no arch support, and a wider toe box. I think it is the no arch support and the wider toe box that makes the biggest difference for me. I think my flat feet have splayed out as I’ve gotten older. I also tried the Altra running shoe which has no arch support and a wider toe box. Bottom line is I still have symptoms of Morton’s Neuroma but, I do feel I can manage it now without surgery because my feet do feel better without arch supports and with the wider toe box. I jog 10-15 miles a week which is perfect for me.

B525b3e4b1d6f1cdceec943cdec6eb7d

(1680)

on February 02, 2012
at 01:21 AM

Wow. I went to the same kind of experts, I think. They took molds of my feet, had me walk across the special mat, and measured the height of my arches when weighted and unweighted. And what a waste of money it all was!

2fd93e91bb14e641a2bac9c6033e84e2

(1614)

on February 01, 2012
at 09:10 PM

Keep it up and give it some time. Minimalist shoes and barefooting are definitely something that need to be gradually eased into. We've been torturing and contorting our feet for a long time, it's going to take a long time to get back the natural strength that can support your heavy frame moving quickly :)

Bdf98e5a57befa6f0877f978ba09871c

on February 01, 2012
at 08:26 PM

great answer. barefooting is great, but it is definitely better in short spurts as your body gets stronger and responds to the changes. I only wear VFF now, and my natural arches are back, but it took a few years to safely get to that point, from where I was.

8508fec4bae4a580d1e1b807058fee8e

(6244)

on November 02, 2011
at 07:57 PM

Was this a podiatrist? Or other specialties -just curious? I've never been to one.

02736efa3fda31740e8890eed0cb663d

(1813)

on June 30, 2011
at 03:39 AM

WordVixen, if you're being serious, your husband is being an a***ole.

02736efa3fda31740e8890eed0cb663d

(1813)

on June 30, 2011
at 03:38 AM

I used to have "flat feet" and heard the same recommendations. Been using minimal shoes for over a year, my arch is way stronger, I can run for 45 minutes barefoot with zero problems, and I haven't looked back. Stick to your guns.

D30ff86ad2c1f3b43b99aed213bcf461

on June 29, 2011
at 11:17 PM

My mom is obsessed with arch supports, her podiatrist, and her $$$$$ custom orthotics. She is convinced that I'm ruining my feet (I usually wear Merrell Paces, low flipflops, ballet flats, or go barefoot.)

Fe33d1321dad116f6fedd60266d0498b

on June 29, 2011
at 11:08 PM

I actually came to bare-feet tech when I had quite nasty plantar fasciitis. I'd had orthotic arch supports from 2nd grade to... college or so, when I just quit using them, so went back to the podiatrist and got new ones fitted when the plantar fasciitis flared up. Orthotics didn't help. Cortisone shots didn't help. Doing a complete 180 and wearing minimal shoes/flip-flops/vibrams? worked. Took some getting used to, for sure, and had to ease into it (just as you would proper orthotics), but definitely a better and more sustainable solution for me.

E2b9c679315c7c9c7265783dde89f350

(1303)

on June 29, 2011
at 07:42 PM

I have very high arches and any shoe with arch support (except my well broken in Birkenstocks) absolutely kill my feet. Crocs and my old Birkie's are the only shoes that I've been able to wear for long periods of time without a major breakdown from the pain. Laurie's explanation below makes so much sense! I finally got a chance to try on VFFs this weekend and I love them. Can't quite get over the appearance hurdle yet, though. And my husband refuses to be seen with me if I wear them. :-/ Tried Merrells too, but the women's are too narrow. Didn't try the men's.

A2fe5bbd09c7804fd321e9e9a9f9d199

(1614)

on June 29, 2011
at 07:16 PM

"You're making a great start with the Merrells but do be careful - plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, and other foot ailments are common among those who jump into the minimalist shoe thing too quickly." I guess that's what's happened to me. I've had VFF since Christmas and in the past few days I've had some terrible top of foot pain on my right foot (throbbing more in the morning). I've been doing sprints in them, regrettably many of the sprints on hard packed dirt and similar surfaces. I suppose I need to lay off for a while. Didn't run correct at first but then fixed it. oh well

27e79ef3308bb5f2d7bd04ee7eea7b79

(2038)

on June 29, 2011
at 06:35 PM

Right. You'll see so many stories in the birthdayshoes.com forums about salespeople who pontificate about arch support and try to steer customers away from VFFs.

786f000633dc20975d0e176da2e28aef

(50)

on June 29, 2011
at 06:33 PM

Thank you Laurie, how interesting, i did not know that! But makes perfect sense to me :D

3f5bbb444498a24f1a9720d75fa7c903

(2369)

on June 29, 2011
at 06:24 PM

I read an article in Parade magazine (of all places) one time about different kinds of feet. Most people have thicker more inflexible feet that have weak arches, thus most shoes are made for them. A few of us have more flexible feet with more flexible arches (which some people think are flat, but there is a difference). We need less support and more room for our feet to flex.

3f5bbb444498a24f1a9720d75fa7c903

(2369)

on June 29, 2011
at 06:22 PM

Just like doctors who prescribe statins. Someone told them this is so and so they believe this is so.

Aeec781cc234fcae119d4a71532058f5

(2047)

on June 29, 2011
at 05:56 PM

congrats on your weight loss...that's awesome! I generally avoid running cause I hate it, but I'm finding that I enjoy doing sprint intervals when I walk.

Aeec781cc234fcae119d4a71532058f5

(2047)

on June 29, 2011
at 05:51 PM

and they're pricier than the Keens she was trying to talk me into.

Aeec781cc234fcae119d4a71532058f5

(2047)

on June 29, 2011
at 05:51 PM

I didn't understand her resistance to me buying them, as it's a small business and they choose to stock them.

Aeec781cc234fcae119d4a71532058f5

(2047)

on June 29, 2011
at 05:49 PM

lucky for me, I have no desire to kick my own ass, but I'll remember that as my energy continues to increase and I feel like moving more!

Aeec781cc234fcae119d4a71532058f5

(2047)

on June 29, 2011
at 05:45 PM

I can't believe how much quieter I walk/run now that I'm not slamming my heels into the ground. I have grotesquely huge shin muscles from walking wrong for so long! So far, I love the Pure Gloves. I still can believe I've spent that kind of money on 2 pairs of shoes, but I don't regret it.

Aeec781cc234fcae119d4a71532058f5

(2047)

on June 29, 2011
at 05:34 PM

Thanks barefeet, that's great info! I've been trying to take it slow, but it's been hard to hold back since I've never run without pain before. My feet feel a little crampy today after yesterday's workout, so I'll make sure I keep going slowly.

9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

(15833)

on June 29, 2011
at 05:18 PM

Thank you for the question, I have always wondered this myself.

A89f9751a97c3082802dc0bcbe4e9208

(13978)

on June 29, 2011
at 05:17 PM

P.S. Way to stick to your guns! That said, can't wait to read some answers. Both of my moms (my own and my mom-in-law) wear orthotics and think I'm insane when it comes to foot health.

A89f9751a97c3082802dc0bcbe4e9208

(13978)

on June 29, 2011
at 05:15 PM

I love those shoes! Can't wait to get some!

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11 Answers

best answer

15
27e79ef3308bb5f2d7bd04ee7eea7b79

(2038)

on June 29, 2011
at 05:29 PM

You DO need arch support, which is what your natural arches provide if you walk without shoes that let your real arches sit back and go out of business. If you've been wearing shoes with arches forever, your foot muscles in the arch area have probably atrophied and you need to build them back up.

You're making a great start with the Merrells but do be careful - plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, and other foot ailments are common among those who jump into the minimalist shoe thing too quickly.

For information on transitioning into those kinds of shoes at a pace that allows you to build up your arches properly. This page focuses on running barefoot but the go-slow concept is clear here - http://www.barefootted.com/index.php?q=/2010/04/so-you-wanna-start-running-barefoot.html

You'll also enjoy the discussion forums at http://birthdayshoes.com/ - you'll get any question you want answered about minimalist shoes, answered here.

A2fe5bbd09c7804fd321e9e9a9f9d199

(1614)

on June 29, 2011
at 07:16 PM

"You're making a great start with the Merrells but do be careful - plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, and other foot ailments are common among those who jump into the minimalist shoe thing too quickly." I guess that's what's happened to me. I've had VFF since Christmas and in the past few days I've had some terrible top of foot pain on my right foot (throbbing more in the morning). I've been doing sprints in them, regrettably many of the sprints on hard packed dirt and similar surfaces. I suppose I need to lay off for a while. Didn't run correct at first but then fixed it. oh well

Aeec781cc234fcae119d4a71532058f5

(2047)

on June 29, 2011
at 05:34 PM

Thanks barefeet, that's great info! I've been trying to take it slow, but it's been hard to hold back since I've never run without pain before. My feet feel a little crampy today after yesterday's workout, so I'll make sure I keep going slowly.

Fe33d1321dad116f6fedd60266d0498b

on June 29, 2011
at 11:08 PM

I actually came to bare-feet tech when I had quite nasty plantar fasciitis. I'd had orthotic arch supports from 2nd grade to... college or so, when I just quit using them, so went back to the podiatrist and got new ones fitted when the plantar fasciitis flared up. Orthotics didn't help. Cortisone shots didn't help. Doing a complete 180 and wearing minimal shoes/flip-flops/vibrams? worked. Took some getting used to, for sure, and had to ease into it (just as you would proper orthotics), but definitely a better and more sustainable solution for me.

Bdf98e5a57befa6f0877f978ba09871c

on February 01, 2012
at 08:26 PM

great answer. barefooting is great, but it is definitely better in short spurts as your body gets stronger and responds to the changes. I only wear VFF now, and my natural arches are back, but it took a few years to safely get to that point, from where I was.

4
786f000633dc20975d0e176da2e28aef

on June 29, 2011
at 06:20 PM

I am a very flat footed person... my whole life i have struggled with shoes! When i would try to wear any kind of sport shoes with arch support they would always make my feet hurt so bad. Many years ago i settled on skate shoes(vans, DC's), they had minimal arch support and had flat bottoms.

Then someone showed me the Merrell shoes, and its all i have worn since, within a day, my foot pain went away, within a week my back and knee pain went away... it has been a revolutionary experience for me! I will definitely be buying another pair soon!

3f5bbb444498a24f1a9720d75fa7c903

(2369)

on June 29, 2011
at 06:24 PM

I read an article in Parade magazine (of all places) one time about different kinds of feet. Most people have thicker more inflexible feet that have weak arches, thus most shoes are made for them. A few of us have more flexible feet with more flexible arches (which some people think are flat, but there is a difference). We need less support and more room for our feet to flex.

786f000633dc20975d0e176da2e28aef

(50)

on June 29, 2011
at 06:33 PM

Thank you Laurie, how interesting, i did not know that! But makes perfect sense to me :D

3
C1c86f42410cd4788bd9c5cf801dcd8f

(2246)

on June 29, 2011
at 11:30 PM

I used to have pain on the bottom of my feet, that got worse the longer I stood on my feet. Getting up in the morning was painful because it was a pins and needles feeling over the whole part of both of my feet.

Went to the doctor and was told I needed orthotics, had a specialist come to my house take a mold of my food and create a custom pair of orthotics for the low cost of around 400 dollars.

Several years later I wore them out and I needed a new pair, this time the same specialist showed up and had some kind of pad I walked over to show how much pressure was exerted on each part of my foot.

Took another mold of my foot and my second pair of orthotics for another 400 dollars or so. This time she concluded that I needed a extra support in the front center of my foot.

The third time I went to a different specialist, this time another 400 or more. Those pair last me 4 years.

By this time I was not living at home, my mother was not covering the costs and I bought a pair of Vibrams for 95 bucks. After 2 months I removed my orthotics out of my shoes and tossed them in the garbage, that was well over a year ago.

All the bloody technology we have and all these scans of my feet and not one of those "specialists" said hey, maybe you should build up the muscles in your feet and let your foot do what it was designed to do. That was never even questioned, I "needed" to use extra support because I have over extended arches. If I wasn't so cheap chances are I would still be wearing them.

The first 2 months were horrid, it was like over training for my feet, and I only wore them around the gym not even during a workout. Just when I was training people and walking.

8508fec4bae4a580d1e1b807058fee8e

(6244)

on November 02, 2011
at 07:57 PM

Was this a podiatrist? Or other specialties -just curious? I've never been to one.

B525b3e4b1d6f1cdceec943cdec6eb7d

(1680)

on February 02, 2012
at 01:21 AM

Wow. I went to the same kind of experts, I think. They took molds of my feet, had me walk across the special mat, and measured the height of my arches when weighted and unweighted. And what a waste of money it all was!

3
25329057c9d5f6364a74787c8c2302e7

on June 29, 2011
at 05:37 PM

It is tempting to blow off the slow progress people recommend to avoid injury when going barefoot or near bare. I ignored it. I nuked my calves by running wrong (long strides) and limped for a weak. Fixed that, ran 6 miles and limped for a weak because my hip tendons weren't ready. Now I can run 10 and not limp. But I bet I would have progressed faster if I didn't insist on kicking my own ass.

Aeec781cc234fcae119d4a71532058f5

(2047)

on June 29, 2011
at 05:49 PM

lucky for me, I have no desire to kick my own ass, but I'll remember that as my energy continues to increase and I feel like moving more!

3
7d0c3ea9bf8be00b93e6433d8f125ac3

(7540)

on June 29, 2011
at 05:30 PM

All my nagging little aches and injuries (in particular I used to have iliotibial band syndrome and would get shin splints often when I upped my running mileage) completely went away when I stopped running and walking in sturdy shoes with a lot of support that forced me to heel-strike when I'm a natural forefoot/midfoot runner. And I'm only in Nike Frees, not VFFs or anything. Seriously amazing, in my opinion. I don't get why people think human feet are so special and delicate that we need to wear huge clunky gait-altering blocks on our feet to be safe and comfortable. How ridiculous. Good for you standing up the saleslady. By the way how are the Pure Gloves? I've been thinking about trying a more minimalist shoe but want to know if they're worth the money.

Aeec781cc234fcae119d4a71532058f5

(2047)

on June 29, 2011
at 05:45 PM

I can't believe how much quieter I walk/run now that I'm not slamming my heels into the ground. I have grotesquely huge shin muscles from walking wrong for so long! So far, I love the Pure Gloves. I still can believe I've spent that kind of money on 2 pairs of shoes, but I don't regret it.

2
3f5bbb444498a24f1a9720d75fa7c903

on June 29, 2011
at 05:37 PM

I get the same thing from the shoe salespeople. I actually have very flexible feet and traditional athletic shoes kill my feet, even Nike Frees. I have hiked the Rockies for miles in the VFFs with no problems at all. I even strength train in them and get lots of questions from anyone who hasn't seen them before. The first question is almost always about arch support. I have always walked barefoot in the summer months and in my house, so the transition to VFFs was not a problem for me - my arches have always been flexible and strong.

3f5bbb444498a24f1a9720d75fa7c903

(2369)

on June 29, 2011
at 06:22 PM

Just like doctors who prescribe statins. Someone told them this is so and so they believe this is so.

Aeec781cc234fcae119d4a71532058f5

(2047)

on June 29, 2011
at 05:51 PM

and they're pricier than the Keens she was trying to talk me into.

Aeec781cc234fcae119d4a71532058f5

(2047)

on June 29, 2011
at 05:51 PM

I didn't understand her resistance to me buying them, as it's a small business and they choose to stock them.

27e79ef3308bb5f2d7bd04ee7eea7b79

(2038)

on June 29, 2011
at 06:35 PM

Right. You'll see so many stories in the birthdayshoes.com forums about salespeople who pontificate about arch support and try to steer customers away from VFFs.

2
1d9af5db8833413037be3ac48964714f

on June 29, 2011
at 05:35 PM

I wear vibrams and Merrell barefoots almost all the time now (when not barefoot)--wearing the Tough Glove right now. No need for artificial "support" now that my feet have adjusted.

2
A088f10fe82d3e84f6a8fb8b2be9cc77

(60)

on June 29, 2011
at 05:34 PM

oh yea for you!!! i love my vibrams thats all i wear that or bare foot keep at it your feet will love you!

2
A31b063c5866c08aa9968a8f2f1e9949

(1721)

on June 29, 2011
at 05:30 PM

I have worn arch supports (orthopedic inserts) for about 4 years because of a diagnosis of plantar fasciitis. At the time I got them, I weighed around 380. My feet hurt from normal walking. Between cortisone shots, steroid packs, and those supports, my feet stopped hurting almost entirely.

I weigh 280 now and just bought a pair of Vibrams last week. I was very hesitant/worried to do so, but really wanted to try them out. I have only ran in them once (it started to rain while I was out walking), but suffered no ill effects. If I wear them all day, my feet hurt a little, but it is usually gone the next morning (which is typically the worst time for plantar fasciitis). I'm hoping that they will help my feet heal themselves, but I remain worried about it and have thus far (partially due to other issues) avoided running in them.

Aeec781cc234fcae119d4a71532058f5

(2047)

on June 29, 2011
at 05:56 PM

congrats on your weight loss...that's awesome! I generally avoid running cause I hate it, but I'm finding that I enjoy doing sprint intervals when I walk.

2fd93e91bb14e641a2bac9c6033e84e2

(1614)

on February 01, 2012
at 09:10 PM

Keep it up and give it some time. Minimalist shoes and barefooting are definitely something that need to be gradually eased into. We've been torturing and contorting our feet for a long time, it's going to take a long time to get back the natural strength that can support your heavy frame moving quickly :)

1
5b0f25610421dc54a8373e7d3e4a0f94

on February 01, 2012
at 08:11 PM

Much like someone wearing a cast on their leg has a weak leg, someone who wears arch supports has weak feet... It will take some time for you to (a) strengthen your feet to their natural state of srong and flexible (b) re- learn to walk and run without the "bouncing" that walking and running in shoes creates. (think of the smooth gait of an African woman carrying water on her head)

I encourage all humans who are interested in walking and running in minimal shoes (or none) to read "Barefoot Running Step By Step" by Ken Bob Saxton. He's a vegan, but don't hold that against him:)

0
B525b3e4b1d6f1cdceec943cdec6eb7d

(1680)

on February 02, 2012
at 01:17 AM

I had major knee pain for many years. At times I needed crutches or a cane just to walk. So much pain! Doctors and other health professionals told me I needed orthotics, and shoes with support. I went that route, but I still had major, major pain.

Due to an odd set of circumstances, I wound up wearing a pair of gardening shoes on my walk one day. My feet stayed dry in the rain and they were comfy, so I took to wearing those shoes on dog walks. That should have been terrible for me, as the gardening shoes have almost no support. But guess what? My knee pain stopped.

I thought it must have been a fluke, but I kept wearing the shoes. It's been a few years now, and my knees are great. I have occasional bits of pain now and then, but I can walk and sprint without pain. Wow.If I go back to the shoes with support I am in agony within a day or two.

I threw out my $400.00 orthotics.

I am so angry at the experts who told me to get more and more support. I can't believe I was gullible enough to listen to them for years, which clearly just caused me more pain.

So I'm less than impressed with the lady you met at the shoe store.

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