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Footwear or Not to Wear? That is the Question

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Hey guys, what do you know about shoes for aerobics and Zumba? A lot of people are wearing really lightweight, even Mary Jane kind of shoes. Is that enough support? My friend Jan was wearing the new flexible shoes and she got a tendon problem and the doctor said wear higher topped shoes.

Debbie Goleta, CA

flexible shoes

Do These Make My Toes Look Fat?

Alexandra: Well Debbie, you have hit (or kicked) upon a topic that is getting lots of attention lately, mostly because of the 5-finger shoes! (And I don’t get why they’re called 5 “fingers” when they go on your toes. Unless they think calling them “5-toe shoes” makes us comparable to sloths)

3 toed sloth

For a 3-Toed Sloth, this IS Exercise

When I first started teaching aerobics, we all wore running shoes (and leg warmers) because that’s all there was. And we all got shinsplints (and bad 80s hair). So naturally we blamed them on the running shoes, never realizing that the cement floors might have been part of the problem.

Now, after many years espousing cardio shoes for cardio, and cross-trainers for cross training, biomechanists and podiatrists are saying it’s more important to match the shoes to your foot style than to the exercise. Some of them also say that our feet have gotten lazy from shoes that do too much for us! Better our feet should be happy:

Kymberly: The current thought is that most exercise shoes are over-engineered and that people are relying too much on the shoe and not allowing their feet and sensory receptors to do what they are designed to do. Sometimes injuries come when we finally ask our feet to do their own work. If the movement patterns or biomechanics are off, a different, better, worse, or no shoe can throw the body into pain. Personally I’d look first at Jan’s movement patterns and see if her biomechanics are exacerbating the tendon problem. Then I’d get the footwear and nagging in place to address that.

And, I still suggest a workout shoe for workouts, though with as few bells and whistles as possible. Alexandra wrote an extensive article about choosing the right (or no) shoe, which you’ll find helpful (if you like research and all that).

A: When Jan is all healed up and ready once again to kick it up a notch , have her read this 10-step program for suggestions about easing into her new lightweight shoes. Get it? Ten steps? That’s just how we roll! Or run. Okay, walk slowly…more like a mosey or meander really.

Dear readers: What has been your experience with lightweight, flexible or “barefoot” shoes? And do you have an urge to put on some toe socks?

Colorful toe socks

Toe Socks - Sucky or Sexy?



Photo Credits: Creative Commons – Chris Happel, Morag Casey, Le Melody


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6 Responses to Footwear or Not to Wear? That is the Question

  1. John Poole July 11, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    This comment might not be completely on-topic, but I really miss the running shoes we used back in the 1970s, like the Tiger Jayhawk, Adidas SL-72s, and the original Nike waffe-tread shoes (like the Nike Elite).

    Running shoes back then were minimalistic and rarely over-engineered (a suede upper would’ve been an example of extreme over-engineering). As I recall, I had no difficulty using a well broken-in pair of those shoes for other activities, as well, with no complaints.

    I’ve got it…I think I’m going to start an athletic blog called “The Running Curmudgeon”, where all I do is complain about how much I miss those old running shoes! :-)
    John Poole recently posted..Keyword Search Frequencies for Energy Efficiency and Old HousesMy Profile

    • Alexandra July 11, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

      We always hope the comments are as “off” as we are, so thanks! The only running shoes we ever had were soccer cleats, so I guess it’s obvious we never did do running as a sport! Your blog idea is wonderful! I will submit a guest post about missing that old runner!

  2. July 11, 2011 at 11:42 pm #

    Is that so? You got me reconsidering my lists on buying shoes. I have seen these 5-finger on a blogger I follow, I think it is better to use on trekking cause you can bend your fit as is so may avoid getting stuck on stones. But for running and other trainings I agree that it’ll still be best to use appropriate shoes. :) recently posted..Local Carpet CleaningMy Profile

  3. Rachael May 29, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    I guess I am 2 years too late for this blog, but let me ask a question. I love your comment “I still suggest a workout shoe for workouts” as I am having such a problem deciding on what to wear to Zumba. I see sites highlighting shoe options. However, you find a lot of people recommending essentially dancing barefoot with minimal protection.

    Ok long-winded (whew), but It seems a couple of years have passed and I wonder, what is your view on barefoot or barefoot like type shoes?
    Rachael recently posted..My New Favorite SongMy Profile

  4. Debbie June 5, 2013 at 8:14 am #

    My 2 cents: I love working out barefoot. I had to work into it, but now, it’s the only way I’ll go. My primary workouts have been Insanity, Asylum and P90X 1& 2. I’ve done some jogging in my Vibrams, and it feels fine, but I don’t log a lot of miles.
    Debbie recently posted..Where It All Started, Part 3 (A Gym Rat Goes Home)My Profile

  5. Greedy Girl Zumba November 11, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    I’ve been doing Zumba a while I usually just wear my cross trainer sneakers. but I think i’m getting a pair of zumba sneakers soon
    Greedy Girl Zumba recently posted..5 Juicing Recipes for Weight lossMy Profile

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