The argument over barefoot running continues

We started this shoe journey by looking at the argument for barefoot living. Many people are choosing to abandon their shoes in favour of healthy feet, even in cities such as New York. Others opt for barefoot shoes, which provide feet with a measure of protection while also providing the illusion of bare-footedness. The arguments for and against living barefoot focus primarily on the benefits that each has to offer for your feet. Pro-bare-footers feel that shoes hamper the natural action of feet and actually cause damage, while those who are pro-shoes (largely of a scientific mien) argue that shoes are designed with specific protective purposes.

Rick Rober is a bare-footer (bare-footist?) who has been running barefoot for the last five odd years, and that includes 40 marathons. He started running barefoot when his knees starting giving him trouble. Knees are often the first things to go among professional and amateur runners and Rober thinks that this is because people run “stupid”. Worried that some form of surgery was on the horizon, Rober read about another barefoot marathon runner and decided to give it a go. And it stuck.

In an NY Times article, Rober said, “Running shoes give you this false sense of security. They have so much padding you think you can run as hard as you want, and then they start breaking down. But smaller, quicker steps are better for your legs.” He believes that running shoes encourage over-striding, which increases the impact to your heels and causes “blunt-force trauma up the shin and calf” up to the knee. Shorter strides, adopted by barefoot runners, displace the impact around the foot and limit the damage that travels up your legs.

His argument is counted by Dr Lewis Maharam, a sports medicine specialist and medical director of the NY City Marathon. Dr Maharam says that running without shoes does more harm than good because barefoot runners don’t have any control over their foot strike. He allows that running barefoot a couple of times a week for short distances only can have some beneficial effect by strengthening foot muscles, but that you need good running shoes in order to address biomechanical issues.

But Rober isn’t having any of it. He’s found a method that works for him and that he believes has eased his knee problems. And with 558 consecutives days of running barefoot, one would be hard pressed to convince him, and many others, otherwise. According to Rober, conditioning the soles is the most important thing to keep in mind when discarding your shoes. He recommends that beginners start off on grass and gradually move to harder, more abrasive surfaces. His feet are not pretty much perfectly conditioned, and Rober says that they resemble “moccasin leather”, but aren’t unsightly.

An article on seems to support Rober and his theories barefoot running. After some research it was found that running in shoes has the potential to increase the risk of ankle sprains, as well as injuries to the lower leg. Running barefoot, however, reduced oxygen consumption and improved energy efficiency.

In Gordon Pirie is quoted as saying:

“There is no point in running large distances until the athlete has learned to run correctly. I cannot emphasize this point enough. An athlete who runs correctly can train hard for years without any time lost to stress-related injuries. I have trained very hard for 45 years and have suffered only two or three injuries which have stopped me from training. My longevity is a direct result of paying close attention to the way I run, and what I put on my feet”

Whether you choose to run shod or barefoot, the most important thing to do is ensure that you learn to run properly. Most of us run perfectly well when we are children, largely because we run barefoot and our feet haven’t been conditioned to shoes. As we grow up we start to wear shoes more often than not and our feet adapt to their semi-permanent casings, which can teach us bad habits, such running heel first. Runtheplant argues that the basic design of our feet dictates that we land on the ball of the foot when running and that this propels forward movement, while land on our heels actually break the natural running movement and slows us down. Landing heel first also unnecessarily increases the impact to joints, tendons and muscles.

The bottom line is, get up from your couch, leave your screen (be it computer or television) behind and get active.

(additional barefoot running blogs:

Running barefoot

Run Barefoot)

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Soles4Souls: saving the world one pair of shoes at a time

Soles4Souls is a nonprofit organisation that collects “gently” used shoes for people who have been affected by natural disasters – hurricanes, floods – as well as people beset by poverty all over the world. It was officially founded in 2006, but was borne out of the great need that resulted after the 2004 tsunami in Malaysia. Wayne Elsey and brothers, Nick and Paul Wilson, of Old Hickory joined forces to collect 250,000 pairs of shoes for those affected by the tsunami. They reunited to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina and Soles4Souls came into being.

To date, Soles4Souls have donated more than 4 million pairs of shoes to people around the world and is supported by a number of A-list celebrities, sports federations and chain stores in the US. Scarlett Johansson, Angela Basset and Denzel Washington are just a few of the world-class celebs who have thrown their weight behind the organisation.

Hob-nobbing with such big names has done little to change Elsey, however, largely because he remains clueless as to whom his supporters are. According to Kevin Goughary, chief financial officer of Soles4Souls, Elsey is extremely good at what he does but when it comes to sports and pop culture he doesn’t have a clue. Before a benefit concert by Billy Joel, Elsey had to go out and buy a CD just so that he knew who Joel was. His opinion was that Billy Joel is “pretty good”.

Denzel Washington was luckier, however, and even has the honour of being able to call Elsey on his personal cell phone. With all of the attention his organisation is getting, Elsey is getting better at recognising celebrities. Two stints at the Sundance Film Festival will do that for you.

On an international level, Soles4Souls aims to address the needs of those who make their living scrounging around the garbage in landfills, orphans in Central and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia who have often never owned a pair of shoes in their entire lives and village women in rural Africa, America and Asia who have to several miles per day just to get water.

Within the US, they work towards alleviating the needs of those affected by natural disasters (a primary focus), addressing the needs of the poor in the Appalachia Mountains and providing shoes for abused and neglected children who attend special summer camps. They also focus on the needs of Navajo and Hopi Indian reservations, domestic abuse shelters, homeless shelters and inner city hospitals.

For all his famous connections, Elsey remains firmly grounded in the good work that his organisation does and says, “I’m just this guy who was running a company and started collecting shoes.” And unlike many people who proudly display their brushes with celebrity in photographs on their walls, Elsey chooses to display pictures of all the people he’s helped instead. Their smiles remind Elsey of the importance of his work and are reward enough for him.

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Shoes go nude

The new trend in shoes, it seems, is nude, which basically means beige-ish and they are supposed to make your legs look as though they go on forever.

Nude shoes from LAMB

Nude shoes from LAMB

Celebrities have been seen sporting nude shoes on red carpets everywhere and they are being touted as the number one shoe obsession by fashion magazines the world over. But one woman is not so keen on nude shoes. Dodai ( writes that naming products, such as shoes, nude or flesh-coloured automatically alienates a rather important demographic – namely black people, or anyone who isn’t Caucasian. She mentions crayons that were “flesh” coloured until some bright spark changed the name to “peach”, as well as flesh-coloured plasters (band aids) that simply didn’t blend with her skin as it did with her rosy friends.

Times may have changed and Dodai may have grown up, but she’s never forgotten the hurt of realising that she didn’t conform to the archaic standards of long ago. The new nude shoes trend, she says will not make her legs look long because they don’t blend into her skin tone. It’s not the colour that she finds offensive – beige is never an offensive colour, not really – but the naming of the colour. Surely marketers ought to be more sensitive to the feelings of people who were not born pasty.

United Nude, however, has nothing whatsoever to do with beige, in fact you won’t find anything quite as run-of-the-mill as beige at United Nude at all. United Nude is a British shoe company that was co-founded by Dutch architect Rem D. Koolhaas. According to Yahoo!’s shopping site, the shoes “combine architecture and abstraction to elevate footwear to the level of art”, and they certainly are interesting.

I love these from the “Fold” line, which apparently is all about the “fluent movement of a single strip”.

These are cobalt and magenta.


From the “Sharpei” line we have magnificent green flame boots. Named after sharpei doges, the inside layer of the boot is independent of the outer layer, which is intentionally oversized.


Mono Janes are Mary Janes with a quirky difference, and I love them.


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The shoe-throwing phenomenon

When Muntadhar al-Zaidi threw his size-10 shoes at outgoing US President George Bush he could have had no idea that his rather courageous demonstration would have such an international impact, and that he would be elevated to hero status – near god-like even. Nor could he know that his actions would inspire emulation by thousands across the world.

Demonstrators in the UK, who were protesting against the Israeli bombing in Gaze and Britain’s apparent lack of action against it, threw shoes at the gates of Downing Street. Protestors threw more than 1000 pairs of shoes while chanting the catchy slogan, “Shame on you, have my shoe”.

Protestors throw shoes at Downing Street

Protestors throw shoes at Downing Street

Shoes litter Downing Street

Shoes litter Downing Street

In Beirut, Lebanese and Palestinian youths threw shoes at the fences surrounding the Egyptian embassy, also in protest against the Israeli attacks on Gaza. And in Iran, around 70 protestors threw their shoes at caricatures of George Bush in support of al-Zaidi. The event was sponsored by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, and attracted passers by who were on their way to Friday prayers.

An Iran woman lets her feelings be known

An Iran woman lets her feelings be known

Canada has also been in on the action, with shoe throwing protests in Montreal and Toronto. Canadian journalist and activist, Stephan Christoff commented on the event, “Today is an act of humour in a sense but it’s also a profound situation and context. We’re talking about a situation where hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives in Iraq. It is George Bush who holds a direct responsibility for the devastating, horrific situation of occupation and imperialism in Iraq.”

Artists, who are generally pretty good at seizing on a good trend, have also adapted the phenomenon to suit their industries. Artist, Eric Navickas, opened an exhibit in Oregon with a “shoe throw” piece. He painted the soles of various shoes a bright red colour and invited guests to have a go at an 8-ft image of President Bush. The exhibition was a “statement of solidarity” with al-Zaidi. And on the 19th Jan 09, San Francisco will hold the first “Potrero Hill Shoe Throwing Carnival” in support of al Zaidi, to cleanse American souls of 8 years of “carnage and stupidity.

Maine activist, Jamilla El-Shafei, is on a shoe drive to collect shoes from all over the States to shoo Bush out of the White House, which will culminate in a massive shoe-toss near the white house closer to Barack Obama’s inauguration. The shoes will then be donated to homeless shelters in Washington D.C.

Meanwhile, al-Zaidi’s trial has been plagued with scandals and set backs. There have been allegations of torture and abuse at the hands of Iraqi authorities and it’s been alleged that he was initially denied legal representation. His brothers have also claimed that his apology to Iraqi the Prime Minister was written under duress, as al-Zaidi would never have apologised for his act. The trial, which was to have started on the 31st Dec 08, has been postponed while his lawyer tries to reduce the charges from assault against a foreign head of state – with a 15-year prison term – to insulting a visting head of state – which carries a maximum sentence of 2 years. The attorneys claim that the shoes didn’t place Bush in actual danger. Dhiaa al-Saadi, al-Zaidi’s lawyer, says, “Have you ever heard of anyone being killed by a shoe? In Europe, they throw eggs and rotten tomatoes to insult. In Iraq, throwing a shoe is a symbol of disrespect.”

As for the shoes themselves, a Turkish shoe firm has claimed credit for their creation and has had to hire an extra 100 people to cope with a surge in demand. The shoe has been renamed the Bush Shoe, or the Bye-Bye Bush Shoe and is achieving international notoriety as orders come in from all over the world. Once again, al-Zaidi’s brothers are not keeping their silence and claim that the shoes were actually made in Iraq. One of the brothers has lashed at out at all those who are flying on al-Zaidi’s famous coat tails.

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Accessories for accessories

I always thought that shoes were accessories, but it turns out that you can accessorise your accessories. Shoes don’t have to be just plain old shoes, and you don’t have to wear them as you bought them, they can be spruced up, decorated and adorned just as the rest of your wardrobe, and the results range from the chic and elegant to the downright weird.

Starting with the latter, we have “Lastic Laces”, which don’t get any more complicated than the name implies. They are indeed elastic shoelaces that coil to stay in place, so you don’t have to tie them. Other features, according to the website, include:

  • the convenience of a slip-on
  • never loses elasticity
  • lace ’em just once…and never again
  • no more struggles dressing those fiesty little kids
  • no more laces to drag or trip over

Lastic Laces™ also boast endorsement from the Arthritis Foundation, Special Olympics and Sports Illustrated and come in a range of colours, including magenta, raspberry/white/silver, purple, pink and black and white.

Shoe clips are something that I feel a little ambiguous about; I think that they carry an inherent tackiness risk. For instance, I’m not a fan of bows, I would never clip bows onto my shoes under any circumstances, and especially not for my wedding, but I could possibly accept some small, tasteful flowers, or even a classy brooch, but flowers start pushing red-alert buttons again.

Absolutely Audrey is pretty cool, they offer shoe clips in three categories: Vintage – where they convert vintage accessories (earrings, brooches, pendants, etc) into shoe clips


Vintage Collection: Olympia

Chic – includes custom designed shoe clips


Chic Collection: Hope

Bridal collection – with crystals, pearls and rhinestones.


Bridal Collection: Desire

All of which are just fine by me.

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Learning new things every day – diabetic shoes

One of the things that I love about this blog is that I learn something new virtually every time I write something. I’ve learnt about vegan shoes (which I really love), shoe art (which is weird and cool at the same time), shoes that help you lose weight, shoes that feel like you’re walking barefoot and now, shoes for diabetics. I had absolutely no idea that diabetics were prone to such nasty feet-related problems and that special shoes and socks are recommended to ensure that these problems are avoided and that feet aren’t amputated. All of which sounds very dire.

So, what are diabetic shoes and what do they do, exactly?

According to, diabetic shoes are designed to “enhance foot function and comfort for diabetic patients”, which is a bit vague, so we look to for a little more detail. Feet are greatly affected by diabetes, as diabetes damages nerves, causes poor circulation stiffens joints and increases the risk of infection. All of which is bad for diabetic feet because feet can be damaged but owing to nerve damage diabetics won’t know it, foot ulcers can result from bad circulation, which can cause infections that spread and could ultimately lead to amputation if not treated soon enough. Apparently diabetes is the main cause of all amputations.

Wikipedia, that venerable source of information, says that diabetic shoes are specially designed, often with inserts, which are supposed to reduce the chances of skin breaking down. They are also supposed to prevent a number of foot-related complications – strain, ulcers, calluses and amputations (a complication to be sure). Shoes are prescribed by doctors and fitted by certified pedorthist – a specialist in using footwear.

There are two types: custom moulded and depth shoes. Both are made from leather and have a form of shoe enclosure, and then they differ. Custom moulded shoes are based on a model of the wearer’s foot and have removable inserts, while depth shoes have a full length heel-to-toe liner and come in full and half sizes.

Diabetic shoes, which can look a little like “special shoes” but can also look quite fashionable, come in a number of styles, including, slippers, work shoes, walking shoes, dress shoes and boots and sandals. And then there are diabetic socks, which are “super soft, seamless and ultra-thin”. They are supportive, comfortable and provide much needed protection for diabetic feet. They reduce irritation and pressure, provide cushioning and wick away moisture to keep feet dry.

I love stuff like this. It’s so informative, and there’s nothing like finding out about the horrible things that other people have to live with to put your own nonsense in perspective. And coming from South Africa, where diabetic shoes and socks are not common knowledge, despite a large diabetic population, it’s also interesting to see exactly what is available in other countries in order to ease suffering.

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Shoe repair isn’t a load of cobblers in a recession

Right, so, we have a recession in full swing (which the US admits has actually been in full swing for a year now), Christmas spending is down, retailers are panicking and even the motor industry, which is one of the most powerful in the world, is in line for a bailout. Is there any good news? Yes there is, for some industries at any rate. Cobblers and shoe repair shops are thriving in the economic downturn, as people look to conserve what they already have.

Dan Forster, of the Cobbler Shop in Highland, Northwest Indiana says that if the economy keeps getting worse, his business will pick up even more than it has done recently. Although Forster has seen a rise in the repair of all types of shoes, he says that the biggest increase has been in work boots, which he attributes to spiralling costs.

Gino Mina, who owns Hakky Shoe Repair in Indianapolis, views shoe repair as a somewhat altruistic calling, as he says that shoe repair not only helps save people money, but it also contributes towards saving the environment (shoes are recycled) and boosts small local businesses.

And while Forster says that cobblers have always done well in economic downturns, Thomas Buck, owner of Buck’s Shoes in Valparaiso, attributes the sudden growth in business to the fact that cobbling shoes is a dying craft. Buck believes that many cobblers are of an older generation and have reached retirement age, and they’re not being replaced when they do exit the business, which results in less competition and more business for those that remain.

Ryan Embry, a third generation cobbler who manages the family business, Trio Shoe Service in Buckhead, Atlanta has noticed an increase in the number of designer shoes being brought in for repairs. The Trio Shoe Service has built a successful business repairing Jimmy Choos and Manolo Blahniks for Atlanta’s wealthy, but Embry has noticed an increase in designer repairs since the onset of the recession. He attributes this to the fact that even the wealthy are having second thoughts about spending money on surplus items when they can save by repairing what they own. It seems that it’s time $2000 shoes earned their keep.

The Shoe Service Institute of America (and why wouldn’t there be one?) has published a bunch of interesting stats on shoe repairs. For instance, did you know that shoe repair has risen by 20% in the US and is now at 45% or that New York and Chicago, which are traditionally walking intensive cities, have the most shoe repairs? The average number of shoe repairs a shop does per week is about 200 pairs. Fascinating, isn’t it?

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