For decades, it was commonly believed that adding more cushioning and rigid “motion control technology” to shoes made them safer, healthier and kept foot pain at bay. In recent years, however, many doctors have spoken up to disagree with this view. New studies continually emerge that suggest less cushioning and more flexibility in shoes may not only be healthier, but may also relieve foot pain and treat or even cure foot ailments that were previously thought to require orthotics or surgery (scroll down for a list of these studies).
The idea is simple: shoes that force your feet into tight spaces and fixed positions can cause pain and gradually deform the shape of your feet and toes. Adding a plush pad of orthotic cushioning under your feet may feel great at first, but it may also prevent you from using and exercising all of your foot muscles as nature intended. Over time, this may cause those muscles to weaken and possibly atrophy. The result? More foot pain, which is often treated with thicker orthotics, which leads to more pain, which leads to thicker orthotics, and so on and so on.
It’s time to stop the cycle! Countless Softstar customers have told us they were able to throw away their orthotics completely and walk pain free after a careful transition to minimal shoes… or even better, going barefoot.
We believe that going barefoot is often the best path to strong and healthy feet. Unfortunately, we live in a world where shoes are usually required, and that’s where Softstar comes in. Our shoes are designed to mimic barefoot movement as closely as possible while keeping your feet protected from the elements. Unlike conventional footwear, which often uses thick and rigid designs that force your foot into the shape of a shoe, all Softstar shoes are designed to be thin and flexible with leather that stretches naturally. The more you wear our shoes, the more they take the shape of your feet.
By allowing feet to move freely we believe we allow them to develop and strengthen naturally. And since your feet are the foundation of your whole body, healthy feet are the first steps to an active and healthy lifestyle... strong from the ground up!
Need more evidence of the benefits of minimalist shoes? Check out the articles and studies below, or read the customer reviews and testimonials on our product pages—they speak for themselves!
A word of caution: if you are new to minimalist shoes then we strongly recommend a slow and careful transition from your old shoes. Since our shoes activate foot muscles, tendons and ligaments that may have grown weak after years of wearing conventional shoes, it is often necessary to gradually build up their strength to avoid injury. For more info, read our tips for safe transition:
Features of Minimalist Shoes
All Softstar shoes are designed with the following features. Expand these topics for more information:
Heel-to-Toe drop is the difference between the thickness of a shoe’s sole at the heel and the thickness at the toe. Most modern shoes add thick cushioning under the heels of shoes, which encourages people to strike the ground with their heels first when running. This creates a harsher, more jarring impact than striking midfoot or forefoot first—the way people run when barefoot.
"Don't I need support for my weak arches?" We hear this a lot, but many of our new customers learn quickly that their arch supports may actually be weakening the arches in their feet. As any engineer will tell you, arches become stronger when weight comes down on them from above, but lose their structural integrity when pushed up from below. This is why many podiatrists now believe arch supports act as a crutch that causes arches to weaken and flatten over time. On the other hand, a gradual and careful transition to shoes without arch supports may result in strong, well-rounded arches (as shown in the study below).
The toe box is the space in the front of a shoe that surrounds the toes. Many conventional shoes have tapered/pointy toe boxes because they make feet look smaller and more fashionable. If the toe box constricts the foot and does not allow toes to splay as they would when barefoot, then the shoe may be inhibiting natural movement. The shape of your feet can actually become deformed over many years of tapered toe boxes, which may lead to problems like bunions, neuromas and hammertoes. All Softstar shoes feature wide toe boxes of varying sizes, and our Primal RunAmoc has been ranked as the widest natural toe box in the shoe industry!
Shoes that force toes to stay in an upward position, called a toe spring, may deform the shape of your metatarsal arch and lead to neuromas, hammertoes or other foot disorders. A shoe that allows natural movement will have a sole that lies flat when standing and bend freely during activity to follow the natural shape of your foot. Soles that are thin and flexible also allow more groundfeel. Your feet relay information to your brain about what they sense when you walk and run, and your body reacts accordingly.
This one should be obvious. Heavier shoes not only require more energy to move, but may also slow down your response time. Thinner, lighter shoes allow walkers and runners to respond quicker to changing ground surfaces. Most Softstar shoes consist of little more than a thin piece of leather draped over your foot and stitched to a flexible sole.
Just a reminder: we're shoemakers, not doctors, and we cannot prescribe medical advice. We do, however, have access to many articles on foot health written by doctors who believe it is best to treat foot problems by restoring natural function, rather than resorting to orthotics or surgery. We have posted many of these articles on our blog and are happy to share the most popular posts below, though any treatment plan you undertake is done at your own risk and we make no promises about results.
One of our favorite tools for treating foot pain naturally is Correct Toes. Invented by podiatrist Dr. Ray McClanahan DPM, these simple silicon toe spacers have proven to be effective in helping many people treat foot problems such as bunions, plantar fasciitis, hammertoes, neuromas, capsulitis, knee pain and more. We are proud to sell Correct Toes on our website, as they are mentioned often in the articles below.
Not finding the information you need? The Correct Toes website has a comprehensive directory of foot ailments with suggestions for natural, non-invasive treatment:
Need a Professional Opinion?
Of course, we always recommend seeking the opinion of a trained medical professional. Unfortunately, it may be difficult to find a doctor in your area who supports the idea of treating foot pain by restoring natural foot function, instead of simply prescribing orthotics or surgery. If you have trouble finding a pro-barefoot doctor in your town then you may benefit from a remote online consultation with Dr. Ray McClanahan's clinic in Portland, Oregon. Click here for more info.
We are always on the lookout for articles and studies on the benefits of minimalist shoes. Here are some that we've found to be very informative: