Paging Dr. Oz . . .

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The Thursday Dr. Oz Show had a segment entitled “How to Find the Best Shoe for You” that just didn’t quite get it. First, he mentioned the difference between flat, normal, and high arches. Then, he went on to discuss shoe wear patterns. While doing so, he then discussed the “right” kind of shoe for that pattern.

He called the wear patterns “normal,” “high roller,” and “low roller.” I suspect he was trying to dumb down what is called over- and under-pronation. For high rollers, the wear is on the inside at the toe and the outside at the heel, and he claimed that these sorts are particularly susceptible to plantar fasciitis and heel spurs. His solution was a very stiff sole. For low rollers, the wear is on the outside of the toe and the outside of the heel, and his solution was a very cushiony sole.

As usual, orthotics were presented as a general solution.

A few observations . . .

The whole wear bit seems to me to be an artifact of shoe-wearing. Take a look at your heel. Is it flat across the rear the way a shoe heel is? No. It is rounded. When you step on your heel while barefooted, your foot lands the way it wants to land, where it wants to land. When forced to wear the shoe, the shoe’s heel simply may not line up with the way your foot wants to land, hence the excess wear.

There is also something else going on at the toe. When Dr. Oz had the soles of the shoe flexed, did you notice that, regardless of whether it was a stiff sole or a cushiony sole, it only flexes along the long axis. There was no flexing in the other direction.

Yet, take your bare foot and see if you can flex it right and left along the ball (push one side down while pulling the other side up, and vice versa). Of course you can. That’s all the muscles and tendons working together (in fact, there is a second arch that runs left to right across the ball of your foot). In a shoe, there is none of that left-right flexibility, so it is no wonder that there is excess wear on one side or the other of the toe of the shoe. It’s there because the foot (along with the whole ankle/leg structure) is not being allowed to be used in its natural position.

And it is also no wonder that it can lead to all sorts of foot problems.

Dr. Oz also ended the segment by showing off some Vibram Five Fingers. He had some kind words to say about barefoot running—but then he doesn’t do it himself. He uses the Vibrams instead. No explanation as to why he thought he needed them instead of just going barefoot (though, we can guess). To get the proper sensory feedback about not slamming your foot onto the ground it really helps not to cover the bottom of your foot.

One good thing he did mention about barefoot (or, I guess, minimal footwear) running is that it allows the arch to do its job, so you get the “cushioning” of the arch, instead of the heel strikes that shoes lead to. But I guess he just couldn’t take that final step to actually do his running completely barefoot.

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