When someone says something mean to you, it’s very easy to get defensive and quickly jump to getting angry. But what if you listened to that comment for a second and sat with it, maybe even asked yourself WHY it made you defensive. Doing this has helped me many times over in my life, especially since I have a presence on social media where I have had many mean and angry comments sent my way over the years. But some have been quite helpful. Like when someone left a comment on my blog 10+ years ago that said, “Where did your eyebrows go?” Of course, my 24 year old self immediately jumped on the defense and couldn’t believe that a person would leave a comment like that. But then, I sat with it and I thought to myself…but where did my eyebrows go?! This led me to no longer plucking my eyebrows like it was 2001 and now on a road to eyebrow recovery. The mean spirited comment actually helped me find my brows again and I’m quite thankful for that.

Well fast forward to 9 months ago, when I was posting photos in Cabo during our babymoon and someone made a comment about my feet and how nasty they are. The only difference now that I’m almost 35 instead of 24 is I didn’t jump to the defense. I simply made the comment back that they were the only feet I have to work with. But it did get me thinking…I DO need to do something about my feet. I’ve struggled with my feet for as long as I can remember. My toes have never been straight, they’ve always hugged a little too tightly together, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that they are beginning to move slightly, like they are creating a bunion. But not only are they not great in the looks department, they don’t FEEL good. They constantly hurt when I wear shoes, three of my middle toes often go numb, and I don’t have great mobility. And the more I began to see different information online about how feet should look and move for optimal functionality, the more I became interested in making a change.

But like…where TF do you turn to for information about your feet? A podiatrist? That’s where I thought I would start, but I also didn’t want to be prescribed anything that may include foot inserts or even surgery. With my not-so-great past experiences with modern medicine, I didn’t feel like that was the right path for me. In my experience, the body can heal itself with the right tools in place and those tools can often be much simpler and less invasive than modern medicine. So I decided it was time to make a change. And something I love about the universe is that when we make a decision about a change in our lives, the universe often gives us exactly what we need to help put that plan into action. And since I was pregnant and going to a birth center group every 2 weeks, getting to know the women in the group, I met a chiropractor in my group that specializes in gait analysis and who even teaches courses about gait treatment strategies!! Boom. Plan in place.

I met with Jen from Kinetic Chiropractic a little over a month ago to start coming up with a plan to improving my feet. Jen is insanely intelligent and knowledgeable, and I felt at ease as soon as she began her assessment. She looked at my stride while I walked, tested my mobility in my hips, knees, and feet, and she also looked at how my bare feet were hitting the ground as I walked. Then she came up with a plan based on what she found. This was her initial findings from our first visit:

First, my midfoot is not moving like it should which is causing me to get all the motion from my forefoot and causing my toes to twist.

And since my midfoot can’t unlock, having the bones move as they should, this is causing my foot to swing outwards since my ankle doesn’t have full range of motion. This is also why I struggle with squatting.

Surprisingly enough, my hips had good range of motion, other than needing to increase some strength in the frontal plane.

From these findings, Jen came up with a plan to help improve mobility in the toes, midfoot, and ankle. She prescribed 5 mobility movements to do at home at least 5x/week. These mobility movements ranged from pushing my fingers between my toes to spread them out to working on spreading my toes out as far as I can to begin strengthening the muscles of my feet. I pretty much started a workout program for my feet.

But the biggest change I had to make was, alas, changing up my footwear. The shoes that I like to wear, like Nike or Adidas or Dolce Vita or Sam Edelman, are TERRIBLE for our feet. They have a narrow toe bed which pushes our toes together, decreasing mobility and functionality. Something Jen taught me was to take out the insert of the shoe you like to wear, put your foot on it on the ground, close your eyes and spread your toes – now look down. If your toes are wider than the insert, then that means your toes are being brought in and towards each other while you’re wearing those shoes, causing more and more issues with time. So I had to stop wearing the shoes I love the most, the shoes that had the most personality, and replace them with less cute looks. Major bummer.

PaleOMG Wide Toe Bed Sneakers

PaleOMG Wide Toe Bed Sneakers

Jen has a super helpful page here to check out all the best wide toe bed sneakers and shoes. I looked through all of them, hated 97% of them, but found this black pair of sneakers and this white pair of sneakers by Altra that I actually like and that look cute with leggings. I also found these black and white vegan leather sneakers for every day wear, but I didn’t get the right size since I found the sizing chart a little difficult, and I think they will rub on my heel a bit too much, causing a blister. I also found these and these, which are both pretty cute for every day sneakers, but I haven’t tried them out yet. Restocking your shoe closet is expeeeeensive…but ugly feet that don’t work properly is worse, right? Right. BeLenka has been my personal favorite site the “cutest” looking wide toe shoes, but I still need to try a few more before I can do a full review (which I will definitely share soon). I’ve also been recommended Flux by a few followers on IG, but I checked with Jen and she wasn’t a fan of their toe box size and said their sizing is terrible. All and all, it’s tough out there for cute shoes. Jen made a really helpful comment that normal shoes should be thought of as “junk food” and just like junk food, you’ll have it sometimes, but not on a regular basis. So now I only wear my junk food shoes out to dinner or to an event, but never as everyday wear.

The other major game changer is wearing toe spreaders/separators. Toe spreaders can help combat the effects of years of wearing narrow toe box shoes. And if you’re wearing a wide toe box shoe, you can even wear the toe spreaders with the shoes, which is what I have been doing every day since meeting with Jen for the first time. And after I take them off after wearing them all day, I can FEEL the difference and SEE the difference in movement and mobility! Toe spreaders are serious game changers. I also like to wear yoga toes at night. They spread your toes farther than toe separators and they are gel so they aren’t comfortable to wear in shoes or while walking around, but they are great for wearing on the couch and getting extra movement between the toes.

I’ve now seen Jen twice, with a follow-up assessment just last week, and she is excited about the progress I’ve made so far! Even though the progress is very minimal, small progress is huge when it comes to the feet. When I do my mobility exercises, which she changes up slightly every time I see her, I can FEEL the muscles and nerves waking up. And since changing up my footwear and wearing toe spreaders daily, my feet no longer hurt. Changing my shoes has been a COMPLETE game changer, as much as I hate it and miss my cute Adidas. Again, I’ll still wear those from time to time, but I’m making sure to wear them as little as possible.

Feet don’t get as much attention as they should. And I think here in the US, they are really ignored since we care more about vanity than functionality (hi, it me!).  I remember going to Bali and seeing Balinese people who were often barefoot and I was in awe of how spread out their feet and toes looked. I would see people sitting in a squat position instead of a chair, barefoot, playing cards with a friend. They looked incredibly comfortable and their toes were spread like we spread our fingers. Unlike here in the US, their toes hadn’t been pushed together since early on in life. It was the first time I understood how much our footwear really screwed us over. But luckily now I have the tools to help me (literally) step in the right direction. AND I have the tools and understanding to help set Avery up for success with her own feet, and that’s really exciting to me! Anya from Anya’s Reviews has such great resources for adults, but she also has posts for children, including this one that’s all about barefoot minimalist shoes!

I hope this post helps YOU with figuring out your own footwear and how to care for your feet on a daily basis so you can run into issues or MORE issues in the future! Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll answer them the best I can!!

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  1. Michelle K says:

    Thank you for sharing! I have Morton’s Neuroma and at first my podiatrist just told me to wear metatarsal pads and that was it. Well, fast forward two years and no improvements. It wasn’t until I joined a MN facebook support group and people were talking about toe spacers and strengthening the muscles. It was hard at first and I could only wear toe spacers for a short duration, but now I wear them all the time around the house, when I sleep, and when I’m out and about! I do the fingers between toes exercise, practice spreading them wide, lifting only the big toe, reaching the pinky out to the side. I roll out my arches at night. I step on acupressure mats to increase circulation. It’s gotten so much better. I also do ballroom dancing so by doing all of this work, I can now tolerate 1-2 hours/day in tight ballroom heels. I figure if I’m doing good foot health for 22 hours/day, the other 1-2 can be in ballroom heels! Please keep sharing because I love feeling validated that others my age are doing this (I always joke to my friends that I have old lady feet, but I guess we’re just preventing foot problems early on!) and I also think more people need to learn about how important foot health is!

  2. Irina says:

    Follow this woman on Instagram and site. https://anyasreviews.com/10-best-stylish-barefoot-sandals-for-women/
    She KNOWS all about barefoot shoes. It’s not just about wide toe box. It’s about zero drop as well and many other things. Good luck on your journey. I transitioned to bare foot shoes 2 years ago and cannot be happier.

    My go to gym shoes are Inov8 brand. My casual day to day is Splay. Love Xero winter boots. So many brands are out there. Most are in Europe tho. US is not catching up fast enough.

    1. juli says:

      i follow her!! she has such great information and insanely helpful info! the only thing i don’t agree with is saying that the shoes are stylish lol. she just looks good in everything haha!

      1. Irina says:

        Ha! I agree on the stylish part. However, after certain point, you start seeing those shoes as normal and somewhat stylish hehe. At first I felt like a clown in them. Once, I needed black casual sneakers to go with my outfit and I didn’t own a bare foot pair in black at that point. I had to put my Michael Kors shoes on and omg, it looks so weird. So narrow. 🙂

  3. Ally says:

    Have been following your foot journey – got the toe spacers and can’t wait to start. But this is the first of your blogs I’ve actually read… really well written and so informative! Thank you.

  4. Amanda says:

    Hot damn. I feel you, Juli. I discovered this world a few years ago (via Katy Bowman, a biomechanist up in Washington state) and it has bee so challenging to find cute shoes that aren’t horrible for my feet. I’m thrilled that you’ll hopefully scope some out for us and share them on the blog! From what I “know” of you on the internet, I’d guess you be super into Katy Bowman’s work, especially as it relates to normal baby/toddler/child movement and how we can help our babes grow strong, functional bodies throughout their childhood. Her books are fantastic, as is her podcast, Move Your DNA. She’s got several older podcast about natural pregnancy movement, natural breastfeeding movement, etc., but, honestly, all of her work is just so damn spot on.

  5. Cori says:

    I’ve had 4 foot surgeries. Looking back I likely could have fixed 3 of the 4 issues without surgery but I was young and didn’t know better. I now struggle with my feet A LOT. After my surgeries I had horrible plantar fasciitis for years which disappeared when I got pregnant 3 years ago. I’ve been using the Altras for a few years now, and toe spreaders on and off since 2014. I’ve become a lot more focused on using the spreaders more often and with shoes when I can. I have a pair of Be Lenka boots but thats all I can afford for now (geeezzzz). My biggest payoff has been working out barefoot when lifting or at home. I still haven’t found great running shoes that dont’ hurt after 3 or more miles or spinning shoes, but I’ll get there!

  6. Jessica Romrell says:

    Does Jen have any advice on how to find a gait specialist near me?! 😂 I’d love to meet with someone who knows their stuff

    1. Tiffany Carlson says:

      Same question!

  7. Heather says:

    I’ve been wearing Xero brand shoes for lifting and love them. They have cute casual styles too, but I haven’t tried those yet.

  8. Natalie says:

    Try oofos for slides in the summer or around the house shoes! I wear them as my slippers with big socks and I love the way they make my feet/legs feel!

  9. Vyshoes says:

    Here are a few last pieces of advice:
    – Avoid big-box and department stores in favor of a running specialty store. After analyzing your stride, the sales associate will present you with a few shoe options they think would work for you. They’ll let you try out all of your options before settling on the best one for you.
    – Obtain a foot measurement. You may believe you know your size, but feet swell and contract over time, and the fit from one model to the next can vary greatly.
    – Bring your current footwear, socks, and inserts with you to the store. To better evaluate a new pair of shoes, you can draw on your own personal knowledge and experience.
    – Depending on the make and model, shoes need to be replaced every 300-500 miles. Make a note in your training log of when they begin to feel worn and the date you purchased them.

  10. Casey Poe says:

    I visited Jen today for my initial appointment, mind blown! Thank you SO much for sharing!!