Common Foot Pains, Men’s Health Response

Aside

Men's Health ImageDr. Ray McClanahan was recently interviewed for an online Men’s Health article. He and the rest of the Correct Toes team are grateful for the opportunity to pass on natural foot health knowledge to Men’s Health readers.

Unfortunately, the final version of the article did not accurately depict the interview with Dr. Ray or NWFA/Correct Toes’ message. We are dedicated to providing the best possible information on foot health, and so in this post we’d like to correct some errors in the article and provide clarification.

Please find below the original article and Dr. Ray’s follow-up comments. We hope this response will eliminate any confusion and provide you with the most helpful information. Dr. Ray’s principle goal, after all, is optimal foot health for all people.

Common Foot Pains for Men — 5 Ways to Keep Your Feet Happy

Don’t let foot pain stop your life. Stop your dogs from barking with these quick tips

By Brian Dalek, March 15, 2014

Your feet allow you to do amazing things: run a marathon, jump for the rim, carry you anywhere and everywhere. So it’s a shame that you don’t pay more attention to the 26 bones and 100-plus muscles, ligaments, and tendons in each one. Nearly 75 percent of people report at least one foot ailment a year—and that’s whether you’re an athlete or not, reports research from the American Podiatric Medical Association.

To get to the bottom of guys’ most common foot problems, we turned to Ray McClanahan, D.P.M., a podiatrist based in Portland, Oregon. He breaks down the 5 top foot ailments, and the best ways to relieve the pain. 

Pain: bottom of your heel 

This sharp, shooting pain is typically plantar fasciitis. It comes from inflammation of a band of connective tissue—called the fascia—that extends along the bottom of your heel to the ball of your foot. Studies show that more than 40 percent of people who see podiatrists deal with heel pain like plantar, says McClanahan. 

Dr. Ray: “Fascia” should say “plantar fascia,” and “plantar” should say “plantar fasciosis.”

A chronic case of fasciitis could turn into plantar fasciosis—where the tissues aren’t inflamed but actually degenerate due to repeated stress. You’ll feel the pain most after waking up or prolonged sitting.

Dr. Ray: The following statement from above is inaccurate: “A chronic case of fasciitis could turn into fasciosis.” For more information on this topic, please see our detailed description of plantar fasciosis and our video discussion.

It is true, however, that heel pain typically results from degeneration, and not inflammation.

Causes: Runners and athletes often get plantar fasciitis because of excessive training, especially if they pronate—a rolling in of the foot and ankle with each stride. But your shoes may also be a cause. Footwear with a tapered toe box forces your big toe in an extended position. This causes the muscle that controls your big toe—the hallucis—to pull your foot unnaturally, which restricts blood flow to the bottom of your foot, says McClanahan. Over time, this can lead to plantar fasciosis.

Dr. Ray: There are a several problems with the first sentence above. First, “fasciitis” is an inaccurate term. The “-itis” implies inflammation, which typically is not present in this condition. “Fasciosis” is the correct term. Second, pronation is not a cause of plantar fasciosis. Inappropriate footwear (i.e., footwear with heel elevation, toe spring, and toe box taper) is the main culprit. And third, excessive training is not, in and of itself, a principle cause of plantar fasciosis, but weight-bearing in footwear that holds your feet and toes in a deformed position is.

“The hallucis” should say “the abductor hallucis.” This is the muscle that moves the big toe away from the rest of the toes.

Pain relievers: Give yourself a massage by rolling a golf ball or frozen water bottle under your foot. This relieves the inflammation. You can also insert a metatarsal pad into your shoe, shortening the plantar fascia ligament and re-distributing pressure away from the troubled area. If your shoe has a tapered toe box, switch it for one that allows your feet to splay naturally, like the Altras.

Dr. Ray: Regarding the sentence: “This relieves the inflammation,” again, plantar fasciosis is not a condition of inflammation. The massage techniques described do indeed relieve pain, and they most likely do so by mobilizing the accumulated dead tissue in the plantar fascia, so that it can be removed by the bloodstream.

Pain: big toe

Blame the redness, soreness, and swelling on a bunion, a bony bump that forms at the base of your big toe. You’ll often notice a “bump” on the outside edge of the foot because of swelling. 

Causes: Heredity can play a factor. Chances are if your father has bunions, you’ll inherit his odd foot shape and get them, too. Wearing shoes with tight toe boxes can exacerbate the problem.

Dr. Ray: It’s a common (and understandable) misconception that bunions are inherited. However, I do not believe heredity plays a direct role in bunion formation. The main cause of bunions is footwear that forces your big toe toward your second toe. Unfortunately, this applies to any shoe that has a tapering toe box. Everyone has a unique foot shape and connective tissue integrity, and certain foot shapes are more likely to be negatively impacted by tapering toe boxes than others. But the biggest problem remains the footwear, not the foot shape. For more information, please see our detailed Bunion Information article and our video discussion.

Walking, running, or exercising with poorly-fitting shoes applies pressure to the joint. 

Pain relievers: Acute pain can be handled with ice and anti-inflammatories. If it’s a progressive problem, wear shoes with a wide toe box and try a toe-spacer device like Correct Toes that helps to re-align your toes. 

Dr. Ray: I do not generally recommend either ice or anti-inflammatories for this condition. Wide toe box shoes in combination with Correct Toes is indeed helpful for many longstanding and progressive foot and toe problems.

You can also try a bunion stretch. Here’s how to do it: With one hand, pull your big toe away from your other toes. With your other hand, apply a deep tissue massage with your thumb on the tissues between your first and second metatarsals.

Dr. Ray: Please check out our video demonstration of this stretch.

Pain: between your toes or on the ball of your foot

If you have a stinging sensation on the bottom of your foot, as if you’re stepping on a pebble, you may have a neuroma—an enlarged growth of nerves. This is essentially a pinched nerve in your foot, and usually occurs between the third and fourth metatarsal. This spot represents the confluence of two plantar nerves joining together, and with a larger volume it’s more likely to be pinched/squeezed.

The cause: Neuromas occur from ill-fitting shoes, repeated stress, or trauma to the feet.

Pain relievers: Go with a well-cushioned shoe that has a lower heel and level platform. A metatarsal pad can help relieve pressure on the nerve, as well. “If that doesn’t work, you can ask your doctor about cortisone,” says McClanahan. This destroys the scar tissue around the affected nerve.

A simple toe extensor stretch may help, too. Do this: While seated in a chair, keep one foot flat on the floor and bring the other foot underneath the chair. Your heel should be off the floor. Now curl your toes toward the ball of your foot, and push the top side of your toes into the floor. Hold this for 20 to 30 seconds. You should feel a stretch of the extensor muscles on top of the foot. (Click here to watch McClanahan demonstrate the toe extensor stretch.)
 
Pain: ankle top

When walking or running, the quick pinch you feel just below where your shoelaces are tied could be your peroneal nerve—a nerve that runs down your leg and through your foot.

The cause: You may aggravate your peroneal if you tie your shoelaces wrong or your shoe’s tongue hits your ankle.

Pain reliever: Release the pressure from the nerve. “Skip the last two or three shoelace eyelets or cut off the top inch of the tongue,” says McClanahan. If this doesn’t help or it’s more than a fleeting shock of pain, see a podiatrist.

Pain: Achilles

This shooting pain above the heel and below the calf muscle is commonly tendonitis. Over time, your ankle feels less flexible.

The cause: Overuse can cause inflammation and swelling of the Achilles tendon, a strong tendon that connects your calf muscles to your heels. If you’re new to more minimal shoes, research shows that transitioning too quickly to a lower profile shoe can put strain on calf muscles. In turn, this puts a larger burden on the Achilles with each step.

Pain relievers: First and foremost, you need to rest. Ice your Achilles for 15 to 20 minutes throughout the day, and take anti-inflammatory medication like Ibuprofen. You can also use a heel lift—a shoe insert that helps absorb shock—to take pressure off your Achilles. 

Dr. Ray: This treatment information for Achilles tendinitis is inaccurate. Our Achilles Tendinitis article contains our best recommendations for addressing this condition.

If you want to prevent this pain from starting in the first place, increase Achilles and calf flexibility, says McClanahan. That includes a slow transition into minimal shoes if you’re a runner, and stretching the Achilles.

Do this: Stand on the balls of your feet on a stair or a curb. Keeping your legs straight and the balls of your feet on the stair, release your heels toward the floor. Pause for 10 deep breaths. To increase the intensity of the stretch, keep one foot flat and lower the other heel. Then switch legs.  Do this a couple times a week or more if you’re noticing tightness.

Dr. Ray: Please visit our website – NWFootAnkle.com – for extensive information on foot problems and natural foot health!

Meet Golden Harper, Co-Founder of Altra Footwear

Golden Harper, Founder of Altra

We’d like to introduce you to Golden Harper, the founder of Altra Footwear—foot-shaped athletic shoes that encourage foot and toe health. We recently interviewed Golden about his company, his journey as a entrepreneur, and his experience with Correct Toes. Here is our discussion:

Q1. It’s no secret. We’re big fans of Altra footwear, and we feel very fortunate to work with you. For our readers, please tell us a bit about yourself and Altra.

A1. I grew up running and ran my first marathon at age 10, and was lucky enough to set a World Best for the marathon for 12 years old—2 hours and 45 minutes. I also broke the national record for the 5k in cross country in high school and had a successful collegiate running career. After college, I got hooked on fastpacking, peak bagging, and running ultra distances. I grew up working in my family running store, Runner’s Corner, and majored in exercise science where I did all my research papers on running technique and running injuries.

Altra makes shoes that are built to put the foot and body in their natural position. The company was started with the sole purpose of helping runners to fix their running injuries and run with better form. There might have been a little personal motivation too…we wanted to go out and run ultra distances without our feet and our joints killing us afterwards!

Q2. Prior to the inception of Altra, we implored several shoe companies, both small and large, to design a shoe that’s completely flat, widest at the ends of the toes, lightweight, and flexible — in other words, a shoe that respects natural foot anatomy. We wanted such a shoe to be available for the sake of our patients (and ourselves!). While many individuals within these companies understood the merits of our request, their companies didn’t believe in the marketability of such a shoe. In light of these circumstances, we’re curious about what inspired you to start a footwear company, especially one as unique and unconventional as Altra?

A2. Altra was started because I was managing Runner’s Corner and found that the shoes we were selling to everyone made them run far differently—worse—than when they ran in spikes, flats, or barefoot. I figured out the only real difference was that the traditional running shoes had an elevated heel that also made the back of the shoe heavier. At first, I was heating shoes up in my toaster oven and then peeling off the midsole and outsole and putting in a flat piece of foam and then gluing the outsole back on. Our high-speed video analysis confirmed that people ran so much better—like they did without shoes on.

Eventually, we started working with a local shoe maker to modify existing popular running shoes. We pretty much sold them to customers that we couldn’t fix any other way as kind of a last ditch effort to fix their problems. It worked way more effectively than we could have ever imagined and we sold around 1,000 pairs that first year, much of them off of word-of-mouth from people who had been healed by them. My cousin, Jeremy, is one of those who had been healed by the natural shoes and better form, and he made the connections that ended up hooking us up with some of the best biomechanists and shoe engineers and developers in the world. Icon Health & Fitness eventually came on board and gave us the backing and resources to take our Healthy Running philosophy to the world. 

ImageQ3. What feedback have you received from your customers about wearing Altra shoes and Correct Toes, and about the general natural foot health approach?

A3. That it works! For years at Runner’s Corner, we had been making people size up and wide-lace their shoes to try and get some of the benefits, but things like Correct Toes and shoes like Altra took that to a whole new level of effectiveness. About the only time I don’t see the natural foot health approach work is when people aren’t willing to put in the work. Aside from that, it’s almost like magic. People’s problems start to melt away when they can get their feet in to a natural position and retrain their body how to work as it was originally intended to work.

Q4. Nowadays, there are many running footwear models that label themselves as ‘foot-healthy’, ‘foot-strengthening’, and ‘joint-healthy’. And yet their shoes have heel elevation and excessive cushioning, and the toe box is still narrow and tapered, which as we well know, does not allow for natural toe splay. Why do you suppose these footwear companies are so resistant to a zero-drop platform and anatomically-shaped toe box?

A4. Shareholders? Different is scary? The designers at one major shoe company told me they were making “more marketable versions” of our shoes, and the guys at another said that in five years they would be where we are now, but they needed time to transition their customer base. Aside from that, they’ve all spent 30 years marketing the benefits of heel cushioning, etc.

ImageQ5. Please feel free to share a customer or personal testimonial about Altras and Correct Toes, or a customer’s story about a recovery from a foot problem.

A5. One of my favorites is my buddy, Brian, went on a month-long road trip selling Altras around the country and wore Correct Toes while driving the whole time…when he came home his foot looked way better! It was a huge testament to me, and I was already a believer! Aside from that, I’ve known tons of people who have used the Altra and Correct Toes combination to fix bunions, neuromas, plantar fasciosis, and more.

Q6. Will you offer us a sneak-peak of what’s coming from Altra?

A6. Our goal has always been to be approachable without compromising natural foot positioning. Our shoes will always be Zero Drop and Foot-Shaped. Currently, we’re working on how to get our message out to a younger population, so creating products for them is one thing we’re working on. Another is we’re trying to figure out how to make a super-minimal foot-strengthening shoe and market it in a way that it can be used a couple times a week for every runner, whether they like minimalism or not.

However, we also want to be approachable and make shoes for people that would never be interested in a “minimal” shoe. This is why we make what I call “gateway drugs”—shoes that have cushioning and support that are for those that don’t understand or want anything to do with minimal shoes. With these shoes, we will be capturing a customer base that never would have tried the natural foot health philosophy. We get them to wear one of our more cushioned, supportive shoes and then help them to understand that they likely don’t need that stuff. I’ve always had the philosophy that someone is much better off in a highly cushioned shoe that is Zero Drop and with a foot-shaped toe box than they are with a really cushioned shoe that has an elevated heel and a tapered toe box. At least they’ll get the benefits of natural toe splay, foot positioning, and better running form than they would get otherwise.

Q7. Please feel free to share anything else you’d like our readers to know about.

A7. I’d just like to share that Dr. Ray and the Correct Toes team are the real deal, and this stuff really works. Most everyone reading this already knows that, but it’s up to them to get this information out there. So if you’re reading this, share it with people you care about so they can benefit too! Also, please don’t feel like Altra is abandoning you just because we are making shoes that have cushioning—we are all believers in the body and its natural ability. We just want to share that with as many people as possible, and not discriminate against those that happen to like cushion or want to run 100 miles on rocky terrain without their feet hurting.

Thank you, Golden, for sharing your experience, and for your invaluable role in helping people to enjoy their favorite athletic activities — with strength and health, and without pain!

Meet Dr. Camella Potter, Naturopathic Physician at Northwest Foot & Ankle

ImageWe’d like to introduce you to Dr. Camella (Mia) Potter, one of Northwest Foot & Ankle‘s naturopathic doctors. We recently had the opportunity to interview Dr. Potter. Below is our conversation. If you’re in Portland area and would like to schedule a visit with Dr. Potter, please schedule online or contact the clinic!

Dr. Potter, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Please tell us a bit about yourself. 

I was always interested in health and studied nutrition in my undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, but I do have an area of weakness. My first job ever was at Baskin-Robbins. As much as I love broccoli, kale, other vegetables and good fats, I have a weakness for ice cream. Growing up I wanted to be a professional ice cream taster, critiquing new flavors of ice cream before they were on the market during the day hours and a professional lyrical dancer performing in shows in the evening. I ended up becoming a naturopathic doctor, which is a great fit for who I am, how I view people and desire to serve people.

Check out Dr. Potter’s full professional bio.

How did you become interested in foot care?

There were three main influences: my own personal experience; my husband’s plantar fasciosis and bunion pain that were alleviated by the use of Correct Toes; and interning with Dr. McClanahan during medical school. Being a gymnast and dancer, I was always barefoot and never had any physical ailments until I began wearing running shoes. I was diagnosed with a leg length discrepancy, was given a heel lift and wore Nike Air Shox type shoes when exercising. I started to develop knee and back pain, which have all been alleviated since implementing the Correct Toes and natural foot philosophy. My husband and I both now wear zero-drop shoes and Correct Toes and finished the Warrior Dash in minimalist Lems and Merrel’s on our 9th wedding anniversary this past year with no post-race ailments.

Describe a typical visit with you.

After listening to and learning more about a patient’s particular problem(s), I educate the patient on anatomy, particular exercises and the impact of certain types of shoes on foot alignment. The physical exam includes assessing range of motion, muscle testing and soft tissue work that brings relaxation and ease to patient’s feet. By supporting natural foot alignment, many foot problems are alleviated and prevented.

What results have you seen in your patients using a natural foot health approach?

I have witnessed great results with all different types of patients. I have seen patients who were unable to walk, run or hike because of their pain, return with increased mobility and pain resolution. There have also been patients scheduled for foot surgery that no longer had to undergo surgery because their symptoms were alleviated with our treatment plan. Patients who still have pain post-surgery of a bunion, neuroma or other foot issue have come to the clinic and also experienced improvement in their symptoms. There are a few more complex cases where pain does not improve as desired, but overall, I see patients reach their personal goals of mobility and activity with the implementation of the philosophy.

Which types of people have benefited the most?

The people who have implemented the treatment recommendations on a regular basis are the one’s that have benefitted the most. Age, type of activity and athletic ability do not have as much influence as doing the treatment regimen on a daily basis. The children we see will also benefit the most in the long-term, because if we can support natural foot alignment as they grow, many ailments which take years for us to change will have been prevented in them.

What feedback have you received from your patients about the natural foot health approach? Please feel free to share a patient or personal testimonial, or a patient’s story about recovery from a foot problem.

Some people respond very enthusiastically and some are skeptical about the philosophy, which makes sense when someone has dealt with a condition for some time, or adjusted their lives to accommodate to pain. It is great to see them gain understanding of the approach through the office visit.  When I place patients’ feet in their natural anatomic position, they experience the difference in ankle stability or range of motion of certain joints, and this seems to be their “Aha” moment. I had a patient who enjoyed walking but was not able to walk, because her foot pain was so severe. At her follow-up visit she was pain-free and had changed all of her shoes to zero- drop shoes, because this, along with other treatment recommendations, had solved her problems.

As a naturopathic doctor, you’re trained as a primary care physician and can address a broad range of health concerns. In addition to foot care, what are your other areas of interest and expertise?

Other areas of interest and involvement are serving an underprivileged population as their primary care provider, weight management, and nutrition and recovery support in sports medicine. The later two areas are areas that will eventually come to fruition in the future. Working as a nutritionist prior to becoming a naturopathic doctor, I saw the various dimensions involving weight loss, body image, and lifestyle habits. I hope to educate and empower patients in these various dimensions of weight management so that they can live mentally and physically healthier lives. Being a competitive athlete, my background in nutrition and medical school training as a naturopathic doctor, have sparked a passion to educate athletes and the active population. Gaining an understanding of the physiology of exercise and how to optimize function and recovery through nutrition and other treatments can benefit health and performance.

Thank you, Dr. Potter, for sharing your experience, and for helping keep Portlanders pain-free and active!

Boots, Anyone?

We are looking for foot-healthy and fashionable boot options for women.The NWFA/Correct Toes team is seeking input from our readers about BOOTS! Specifically, women’s “fashion” boots (i.e., boots that are suitable for casual-to-semi-formal occasions). We would love to know if anyone has found a fashionable boot that meets our foot health criteria? If so, we would love to hear from you. Please leave your comment below so that we can follow up on your recommendation. Thank you!

The Definition of a Healthy Shoe

A truly foot-healthy shoe incorporates several key design features.We all spend a lot of time on our feet, in shoes, so understanding what constitutes healthy footwear is absolutely crucial for building and maintaining optimal foot, toe, and joint health. Indeed, the health of our feet has profound implications on our entire bodies and lives. But what are the key differences between a truly foot-healthy shoe and the industry standard? Quite a bit, as it turns out.

A typical “conventional” shoe possesses a quartet of injurious design features, including heel elevation, toe spring, toe taper, and sole stiffness. These design features are usually incorporated (to varying degrees) into almost every type of footwear, from fashion shoes to boots to casual shoes to athletic shoes.

The athletic shoe category can be the particularly deceiving because people tend to think of athletic shoes as comfortable and healthy; but by and large, they are neither of these things. When one looks closely at most athletic footwear, the negative design features present in other shoe categories are still evident and still cause foot and toe problems.

So, what does a foot-healthy shoe look like? A truly foot-healthy shoe is completely flat from heel to toe to provide real stability for your foot and enable natural arch support. A foot-healthy shoe possesses a sole that can easily be bent or twisted, allowing your foot to become strong on its own. And (perhaps most importantly) a foot-healthy toe has a toe box that is widest at the ends of the toes, not at the ball of the foot. A toe box that is widest at the ends of the toes allows for natural toe splay (enabled, ideally, by Correct Toes in individuals with toe deformities caused by a lifetime of tapering toe box footwear).

A foot-healthy shoe is also devoid of “motion control technology,” or anything that attempts to “improve upon” or “control” the already inherently brilliant design of the human foot. Da Vinci said it best: “The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.” The job of footwear is simply to respect the foot and stay out of its way as much as possible.

Because we all spend enormous amounts of time on our feet in a weight-bearing situation (as well as enormous amounts of time in our shoes), the shape and orientation of our feet and toes within our shoes is crucial. Bad shoes (i.e., shoes with the negative design features already mentioned above) can lead to toe deformities and pain, discomfort, and frustration. It’s impossible to rehabilitate the foot to the way nature intended while wearing conventional footwear, as conventional footwear itself is the underlying cause of most foot problems and deformities.

Good shoes (i.e., shoes with the positive design features already mentioned above) allow our feet and body to function as nature intended. These shoes help reduce our likelihood of foot and ankle injuries, eliminate pain in our lower extremities, and allow us to get the most out of our years (especially our later years).

Our feet and toes were naturally designed to enable optimal balance, gait, comfort, and longevity. Unfortunately, the vast majority of footwear on the market includes problematic design features, so we all need to be extra diligent when shopping for footwear. Seek out shoes that respect nature’s brilliant design instead of dominating it.

Examples of foot-healthy shoes can be found in the Northwest Foot & Ankle Shoe List. You’ll notice two seals of approval next to many of these footwear options. One of these seals is our “Natural Foot Approved” seal, which means that the product does not possess heel elevation, toe spring, or a rigid sole, and allows for natural toe splay. The other seal is our “Correct Toes Approved” seal, which means that the product conforms to the above criteria and also works well with Correct Toes toe spacers.

Authors: Dr. Robyn Hughes & Dr. Ray McClanahan

Meet Andrew Rademacher, Founder of Lems Shoes

ImageWe’d like to introduce you to Andrew Rademacher, the creator of Lems Shoes—foot-shaped shoes that support natural foot and toe health. We recently interviewed Andrew about his company, his journey as a entrepreneur, and his experience with Correct Toes. Here is what we learned:

Q1. It’s no secret: We LOVE Lems shoes, and we feel very fortunate to work with you. For our readers, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and Lems.
A1. I founded Lems Shoes two years ago in Charlotte, North Carolina, while working as a clerk in a shoe store. Despite studying Landscape Design in college, my passion for shoes and the human foot urged me to take the leap into footwear and start my own company. Getting back to my roots, I decided to build the company and the brand in the town I grew up: Hermitage, Pennsylvania. Although Lems Shoes is currently just a two-man show, we have become a well-oiled machine in which I handle the manufacturing and design, while my colleague, Steve Perna, handles customer service and sales. I have discovered that building a company from scratch can have its ups and downs, yet as the years progress and the sales increase, it is exciting to be able to measure our progress and look forward to what the future has to offer.

Q2. Prior to the inception of Lems, we implored several shoe companies, both small and large, to design a shoe that’s completely flat, widest at the ends of the toes, lightweight, and flexible — in other words, a shoe that respects natural foot anatomy. While many individuals within these companies understood the merits of our request, their companies didn’t believe in the marketability of such a shoe. In light of these circumstances, we’re curious about what inspired you to start a footwear company, especially one as unique and unconventional as Lems?
A2. The idea to start Lems Shoes came to me four years ago while studying at Purdue University. While on the track team, I consistently laced up footwear the was not only uncomfortable, but looked nothing like the shape of my foot. Ideally, I wanted a shoe that had three characteristics: flat, flexible, and most importantly mirror the shape of my foot. My search led me to countless dead ends, including a custom-made moccasin that met most of my requirements, but which did not appeal to my tastes. After hours of research and inquiry, I came across The Barefoot Running Trend, which was full of many dissatisfied customers that were also searching for a flat, flexible, foot-shaped shoe. Although I found several companies that designed flat and flexible footwear, all of the options I found were much narrower than my foot appeared to be. It was evident that most companies disregarded the true shape of the foot and focused on a narrow toe box, squeezing the toes together inside of the shoe. A foot’s widest point is at the toe, therefore, a shoe’s widest point, should be at the toe as well. I felt it was time something needed to be done, and the shoe I was looking for needed to be created, therefore I took it upon myself to start my very own shoe company and Lems Shoes was born.

Q3. How were you introduced to Correct Toes?
A3. I discovered Correct Toes online as well as Correct Toes’ founder Dr. Ray McClanahan‘s recommended shoe list. All of the shoes Dr. McClanahan recommended were flat, flexible and had an acceptable but not ideal design. It was clear that Dr. McClanahan and I shared the dissatisfaction with the design of a tapered toe box and believed that shoes should be widest at the toes. Although the shoes on his recommended list were the best he could find, he still felt they needed significant improvements. After informing Dr. McClanahan of my ideas and interest to design my own shoes, he exclaimed, and I quote, “Andrew if you can make this shoe that you’re talking about, it will heal tens of thousands of feet and be the first solution to improperly fitting footwear.”

ImageQ4. What feedback have you received from your customers about wearing Lems and Correct Toes, and about the general natural foot health approach?
A4. Some of our biggest fans have been referrals from Correct Toes and patients from Dr. McClanahan’s practice, Northwest Foot & Ankle. These customers understand the importance of spreading the toes and therefore appreciate the unique design of Lems Shoes. We have dozens of success stories from patients that, after switching to Correct Toes and Lems have been able to alleviate a lot of pain that stems from incorrect footwear. After making the switch, one particular customer even called the partnership between Correct Toes and Lems Shoes, a “match made in heaven”. We are humbled and honored to be able to collaborate with Correct Toes in order to cure the chronic foot problems for hundreds of patients that have all but given up hope.

ImageQ5. Nowadays, there are several footwear models on the market that label themselves ‘minimalist’ or ‘barefoot-like’, and yet the toe box is still narrow and tapered, which as we well know, does not allow for natural toe splay. Why do you suppose these footwear companies are so resistant to an anatomically-shaped toe box?
A5. Shoe companies stick to traditional design standards or fashion trends.  Large shoe companies believe, “if it is not broke, why fix it”; therefore they continue to make what has been selling. Unfortunately, narrow, tapered shoe lasts and toe boxes have sold in the past therefore they continue putting them on the market. A shoe with a natural-shaped last is seen as a risky experiment to these companies. It has not been done before, which means there is no proof that it will sell. With that being said, as research continues and foot pain spreads, companies are beginning to experiment by gradually making wider and more anatomical lasts. Although they are beginning to see the advantages of a wide toe box, their developments are extremely gradual and no company has gone to the extremes that Lems Shoes has. A natural, foot-shaped last was the only thing we knew so it only made sense that the shoe we designed had this distinct characteristic. Although risky, we designed our last from scratch, modeling it directly after the human foot instead of modeling it after another shoe company’s design. The risk paid off, our customers have fallen in love with the fit of their Lems, admitting that they have “never worn anything quite like it”.

Q6. Please feel free to share a customer or personal testimonial about Lems and Correct Toes, or a customer’s story about a recovery from a foot problem.
A6. With the willingness to do anything and everything to heal an excruciating bunion, one particular customer decided to purchase a pair of Lems.  After several weeks of wearing Lems Shoes paired with Correct Toes she exclaimed that the pain had completely gone away.  She was relieved that the size of the bunion had diminished and she was finally able to wear shoes again.  After her pain had ceased and she became a convert to our shoe, she called us to personally “thank us for making the most comfortable shoes ever! I’ll never wear another shoe ever again! Please do not change a thing.”

Q7. Will you offer us a sneak-peak of what’s coming from Lems?
A7. At the end of October we will be releasing the Boulder Boot in two new colors, Black and Gravel.  The Black is a vegan-friendly option, with an upper that is 100% nylon consisting of no leather or animal by-products. We are proud of the look and feel of the Boulder Boot and think it is one of those signature designs that has a classic and timeless feel. The Boulder Boot is extremely versatile and can be worn throughout the year.  It is completely collapsible and perfect for traveling or wearing around town. In January we will be releasing the Men’s Nine2Five in black, arguably the first semi-dress shoe that has a wide toe-box and can be utilized in an office or business setting. Finally we are excited to announce that in the Fall 2014 a completely waterproof version of the Boulder Boot will be released.

Q8. Please feel free to share anything else you’d like our readers to know about.
A8. First and foremost, we would like acknowledge Correct Toes, the world’s first toe spacer that can fit inside a shoe and teach natural toe splay! Together, we have enabled hundreds of people to feel how the foot is supposed to naturally function, an opportunity that most people have never experienced in their lifetime. Finally thank you, for giving us the opportunity to share the story of our small but growing company, Lems Shoes.

Thank you, Andrew, for sharing your experience, and for your invaluable role in healing foot ailments, world-wide!

Natural Feet Unite!

Prepared by Sanatan Golden, DPT of Optimal Results Physical Therapy, about his professional partnership with Ray McClanahan, DPM of Northwest Foot & Ankle.

When I moved back to my hometown of Portland in 2010 with my wife and infant daughter, I did so to be closer to family. I did not expect to get any more traction in the medical community with my natural-foot treatment concepts than I did in Seattle, which was basically none. Yet again and again, I heard other practitioners saying: “you’ve got to meet this ‘barefoot-podiatrist-guy’, Dr. Ray McClanahan. You guys are speaking the same language.”

Soon after meeting, we realized that despite coming from two distinct disciplines [podiatry and physical therapy], we had reached many similar conclusions about the foot’s ability to support itself and the problems with most modern footwear. With a blueprint hashed out on the back of beer coasters, Dr. Ray and I decided to try to create Minimalist Mondays, a weekly community-education program designed to share some of these concepts with the public, and help those interested to become happier and healthier runners. 2+ years, 90 clinics, and thousands of miles run and walked barefoot by participants later, and the message continues to grow.

We have filmed the entire 12-week Minimalist Monday series in its entirety, from special guest speaker Michael Sandler in Week 1, to the cross-Portland relay Tabor2Crest in the Week 12 finale.  So even if you can’t make it down to the live sessions in Portland’s waterfront park, you can follow the program at home with weekly episodes released on Northwest Foot & Ankle’s YouTube channel.

Overall, I feel blessed to have connected to Dr. Ray and my patients have benefited greatly. From his ingenious Correct Toes, to introducing me to Dr. Rossi’s influential articles, Dr. Ray has been nothing short of a great influence to my practice, and gracious colleague. We have worked together successfully on many patients and I look forward continuing to grow for years to come.