It's Gotta Be the Shoes!

10 January 2017, 12:00 am Written by 
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"It's gotta be the shoes!" -- Mars Blackmon

Does anyone remember the old Nike commercial where Mars Blackmon (a.k.a. Spike Lee) was asking basketball legend Michael Jordon about how and why he is so good? Blackmon was asking Jordon about everything--from his dunks to his haircut to his long shorts--before finally being convinced that it was his shoes that made all the difference.

While Jordon denied that any of those things actually made a difference, there was no changing Blackmon's mind, and Nike's next great marketing slogan was born. For me personally, Nike (and more specifically, Jordan) created a desire within me to get a pair of Jordan shoes for basketball season. And, guess what? I GOT THEM!

Well...let me rephrase that.

I guess I should say that I had them.

I had a pair of Air Jordan high-tops...until my three older sisters found out. They threw such a fit that their little brother got a pair of $125 shoes just for the basketball season that my parents returned them to the store! If I'm being honest, I believe their frustration stemmed from the fact that I was the only one in the family to get a Big Wheel (a Dukes of Hazzard one, at that) despite their incessant requests for one, so there was no way that I was getting Air Jordan sneakers as well. Truth be told, they are actually still angry (seriously...STILL angry) about that Big Wheel...but I digress...

Yes, at the eleventh hour, my Air Jordans where snatched from my hands. So close...yet so far!

That brings me to today's post about shoes. While I obviously don't believe that Michael Jordan's shoes made him the player that he was, I do believe that shoes make a huge difference in our overall function and ability to move.

When it comes to what you put on your feet, the Egoscue philosophy is simple: less is best. Ideally, we want you (and your foot) to be able to move as functionally as possible, as much as possible. Obviously, we recommend taking movement breaks throughout your day as much as you can. In addition, we are huge fans of getting your body functional before you go and do your regular workouts. But we also want you to stay as functional as possible throughout your workouts (and as you go throughout your day).

How can we accomplish that? There are different ways to do it, including doing your Egoscue menu, but one simple change you can make is to start wearing a shoe that allows as much functional movement as possible at the feet--the functional base of support for the rest of your body.

Your foot is designed to move, and shoes should allow that movement to happen. Shoes that take away from that ability aren't doing you or your body any favors. Sure, there may be a time and a place to wear shoes that don't allow a lot of movement (yes, it's ok to wear high-heels from time to time, ladies), but generally speaking, the less shoe, the better.

As your foot is allowed to move as it's designed, you are creating a functional "domino-effect" of improved and increased movement up the rest of the bodily chain. Basically, if your foot is moving better, so will your ankle, knee, hip, spine, etc. The improved function and mobility doesn't simply stop at the foot. It continues the path up the body, impacting you from toe to head.

"Barefoot shoes"--a term given to shoes that allow for the foot to move as designed--have been around for years now. Dating back to the early 2000s, we have had a plethora of minimalist shoes from which to choose. Nike, New Balance, Fila, Adidas, Merrell, the list goes on an on, have all had minimalist options. There are so many choices now, that the job of finding the "right" one for you can feel like a daunting task.

That's exactly why I wanted to weigh in on this issue. I actually talked about minimalist shoes on a Facebook Live broadcast, and the response was great. Clearly, several of you who tuned in to that video were in the market for minimalist shoes! The feedback and responses I have received from that talk has been incredible. I'm glad I covered this topic!

When you watch the Facebook video (if you haven't already), you'll hear that I mention the Vibram FiveFingers as being the best barefoot shoe on the market. The VFF shoe is, hands down, the most "barefoot" of all the minimalist shoes that I have worn. However, some folks don't like the way they look, and they won't wear them for that reason alone. If you don't care how you look, then get a pair of the VFFs, however, if you are looking for something a little more fashionably acceptable, take a look at the following list. Keep in mind, that Egoscue has no ongoing relationship with any of these folks, and I don't get a dime from them (Although I would never turn down free shoes if any of these companies would like to send them to me to wear and review on the blog! Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!):

1. VivoBarefoot -- Choose any style they offer. You can't go wrong with the VivoBarefoot shoes.

2. Lems Shoes -- Again, choose any style. I have a pair of the Primal shoes. They are incredibly light and flexible. It feels like I am wearing slippers.

3. New Balance Minimus -- These are my favorite running/race shoes. Some of the newer versions are a bit stiffer than the originals, but they are still great shoes.

4. Nike Free -- This is a good introductory shoe for those who are trying to transition to barefoot shoes. I have a pair that I wear currently.

5. Merrell Trail Glove -- Personally, this is my least favorite of the minimalist shoes I have used but some folks rave about them.

So, there you go! Those are my Top-5 Barefoot Shoes that I have personally worn. Do you have a favorite pair that isn't on the list? If so, don't keep it a secret! Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and I'll check them out!

QUESTION: What is YOUR favorite pair of barefoot shoes?

As always, thanks for sharing these posts with your friends and family (it's easy, just click below)! Don't forget to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. You can follow Pete on Twitter, and you can follow me there as well. You can now follow me on Instagram, too! Let's connect!

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John Elder

John Elder is the Vice President of Corporate Operations for Egoscue, Inc. and former Clinic Owner of Egoscue Nashville.

John is the main content contributor for the Egoscue blog. A client since 1995, he was an instant believer in the Method and felt relief after his first visit at Egoscue Headquarters in Del Mar, California. It is because of Egoscue that John was able to realize his dream of playing Division I baseball while at Yale University. John has traveled internationally with Egoscue and handles many of the Midwest and East Coast speaking engagements for Egoscue, Inc. His clientele includes the young and old, working professionals, stay-at-home moms, professional athletes, weekend warriors, politicians, and the everyday “Joe.”

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# Brian Rossiter 2017-01-12 02:49
Hi, John. It's interesting to read your thoughts on shoes. I'd be a bigger fan of minimal footwear if they have negative heels, which, to me, promote sound posture. Our bodies are designed to walk on soft soil and sand, and when we do so, our heels sink slightly lower than our toes. I've not yet seen a barefoot shoe with a negative heel. Considering much or most of our walking and running is done on hard surfaces, I consider the negative heel to be a boon for posture.

I've worn Kalso Earth shoes since 2005, but the company stopped making them for men in 2011 (I still own a few pairs). Recently, I bought a pair of MBT Speed 16, which feature a negative heel plus a rocker sole (the rocker for this model is the least intensive in MBT's product line). It's an exceptional shoe, if slightly less comfortable than some Kalso Earth walking shoes. I thought I'd share my views and, please, chime in with your thoughts on negative heels, if you have experience with them. Thanks!
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# John 2017-01-17 21:17
Great comments, Brian. Good to hear from you!

I do like the thought of negative heel shoes but admittedly haven't tried them personally. I'm familiar with Earth Shoes, but I didn't realize they discontinued their men's models.

As for MBT I'm honestly not a huge fan of those. I don't believe they're the panacea they're made out to be. I think the rocker-style sole can actually INCREASE already present dysfunction, rather than eliminate it. I'm glad to hear that you're enjoying them. That tells me that you've been doing your Egoscue and are bringing a more balanced body to the shoes you're wearing!

Best,
John
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# Brian Rossiter 2017-01-19 00:27
Thanks for your feedback, John. I'm a PAS now and elevated my Method game in the past 10 months by fully committing to the tower weekly. It's made a big difference. It's very exciting and challenging to learn all the ins and outs of the Method. :)

The MBT Index of the Speed 16 model is "Activate," which is more along the lines of Earth shoes with a hint of the rocker feel. Another pair I have features the "Dynamic" rocker, which is too pronounced, in my opinion. You can explore more here: http://www.mbtshoeblog.com/mbt-indexes-what-does-this-mean-for-you/#sthash.dyYvHz5Q.dpbs.

Give negative-heel shoes a shot. I think you'll be impressed. My pre-Method body was extremely grateful for them to slightly improve my posture and dial down the pain.
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# Dana Horton 2017-01-12 11:17
I like the Vivobarefoot brand too! They even have golf shoes.
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# John 2017-01-17 21:18
Yes, they do! I've heard great things about them. Great to hear from you, Dana! Hope all is well on your end.

Thanks,
John
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# Steve Hauck 2017-01-12 17:29
Wear my Lems every day, even when it snows. Also, I tossed the orthotics so I have even more natural foot processes at work.
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# John 2017-01-17 21:18
Love it, Steve! The Lems are great...and yes...even in the snow!

Keep walkin' naturally!

John
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# Janet Winter 2017-01-18 22:15
Great article John, been considering Vivobarefoot for sometime, and you convinced me to take the plunge. Just bought some winter boots and I love them. May be hooked. Hiking boots next! Thanks.
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# John 2017-01-31 15:46
Love it, Janet! Let me know what you think of the hiking boots. I ALMOST bought them for my Iceland trip last year.

Thanks,
John
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# Elizabeth Crow 2017-01-25 20:33
I stick with Vivobarefoot! though the toe box isn't as wide as Lems. I live on an island and can't "try on" shoes, there are no minimal shoes here. I get my Vivobarfoot shoes from ebay or Amazon .I have a water pair which are the best ever!! Some sneakers and hiking shoes also. My one pair of lems wore out in a year so while they were, by far, the most comfortable and suitable for my wide feet, their endurance level has kept me from buying again. I highly recommend minimal shoes. It's even healthy to feel the rocks and such under you -as is the case with all the shoes I mentioned mentioned. Expect your feet and legs to go through some changes when first wearing them.
That's my two cents! Thanks John
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# John 2017-01-31 15:51
Love the info, Elizabeth! And, I agree, your feet and legs will definitely have a "learning curve!" I recommend easing into them by wearing them around the house first.

Thanks,
John
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# Steve Perna 2017-02-08 17:28
Hey John,

Saw your article in your newsletter and after reading it in its entirety, I came across our brand (Lems Shoes). With all of the competition in this market, it was cool to see our company, with only 8 employees, make the list! Thanks so much for the shout out and know, we love that you are digging the shoes. Thanks again for the support!

Cheers,
Steve
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# John 2017-02-10 20:52
Steve,
I'm happy to recommend them. They are incredibly comfortable and very well made! Your team of eight is performing above and beyond...and more than able to hang with the "big dogs."

If there's any other way I can help you all out, just let me know! Email is .

Thanks,
John
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# Patrick 2017-02-25 14:16
Hi John,
Today I've started wearing my skinners which are basically socks that act as shoes. They have a reinforced bottom that can even withstand sulphuric acid and is fully waterproof. You can run, hike, etc. with them. I'll be putting them to the test! Isn't it cool to be walking and running around on your socks?
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# John 2017-03-07 14:55
Those look really cool! I might have to add them to my list! :)

Thanks,
John
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