West Point, NY. September 2015.

Sports medicine specialists from around the world convened at West Point Military Academy to discuss best practices and what is new in the field of sports medicine.

While some things stayed the same, such as attempting to help our athletes recover without surgery, other things changed substantially when compared to our previous approach to athletic injuries.

A significant example of one such recent change is that we will no longer suggest that pronation is a primary cause of athletic injuries. Rather, pronation is a normal physiological movement that varies from athlete to athlete and should not be treated as a dysfunctional movement. Further, the idea that athletic shoes favorably alter pronation, and thus reduce injury, has been abandoned. This is a huge paradigm shift in the world of sports medicine, and fortunately this shift is supported by the available medical literature that was reviewed.

Another powerful step forward (this pun is intended) is the realization that teaching an athlete how to run better can alter their body mechanics in such a way as to reduce certain types of injuries. Heel striking as the favored method of running has been replaced with the need to get the athlete’s foot under their body, by teaching and focusing on a midfoot strike. Again, thankfully, the medical literature supports this as an injury reducer.

Dr. Mark Cucuzzella gave a great talk on how we all need to play, and that movement is medicine for all of us, for our entire lives.  Unfortunately, he had to condense what he ordinarily teaches in a 2-day course into a 30-minute talk. Nevertheless, his wisdom was appreciated.

Golden Harper, designer of Altra footwear, was present and tirelessly taught many sports medicine doctors the merits of natural foot positioning, and the importance of allowing the athlete’s feet to function as nature intended with the least amount of interference coming from the footwear.

Jonathon Beverly, editor of Running Times and Runner’s World magazines, was there to capture it all.

Many relationships were formed, and a renewed passion for helping our athletes was deeply palpable.

Perhaps the highlight, of many high points for me personally, was the invitation to speak to the group next year regarding the natural foot health program we offer at NWFA/Correct Toes. Could it get any better? Yes! Next year’s meeting will be held in Portland, Oregon, and I have been asked to help organize and lead the meeting.

If you are a sport medicine provider, we hope to see you in Portland next year.

Until then, have fun, be well, and don’t forget to play each day, no matter your age!

– Dr. Ray McClanahan, DPM

In Top Photo: Dr. Ana, Dr. Ray McClanahan, Dr. Mark Cucuzzella

In Bottom Photo: Golden Harper (Altra Running Shoes), Dr. Ray McClanahan, Dr. Mark Cucuzzella

Natural Strides Keeps Georgia’s Runners Feeling Peachy

Natural StridesNatural Strides is a progressive running store in Woodstock, Georgia, devoted to healthy and natural running. We recently interviewed Owner and Founder, Greg Scott. Here’s our discussion:

CT: Please tell us a bit about yourself and your store.

GS: I am a 38 year-old father of 2 and my life revolves around 3 main things: my wife Erin (who is an elite runner), my kids Troy and Belle (elementary aged and active), and our store (Running and Natural Movement Specialty). As such, my life is made up of all things running, movement, and health. Natural Strides opened 3 years ago in September 2011 as the first Natural Running Store in the Southeastern United States. That year I quit my job as a Special Education Teacher, which I loved, for something that I knew I would love much more. As a runner who had rewired my gait patterns and was transitioning into minimalist and natural footwear, I found that there were no Atlanta-area running stores who could cater to my needs. Online shopping was time-consuming and frustrating, leading to many ill-fitting shoes and returns. I knew there was a need for a brick & mortar location that could not just give footwear options to natural runners, but actually cater to them specifically, while providing traditional runners with education and another viewpoint to consider. So I took the plunge and it has been awesome.

Our focus as a store is to provide humans of all shapes, sizes, and goals with footwear and education on natural foot health. Ironically, as the owner of a shoe store I make it a point to encourage customers NOT to wear shoes whenever possible. When they need protection or style, we have options that provide that while still allowing for natural foot function. I am very proud to say that we do not and will not put customers in footwear that does not match their inherent foot shape: traditional, pointed-toe shoes have no place here and we are spreading the word about just how much damage can be done to the body by pointed and heel-lifted footwear. All of our shoes are level to the ground, wide in the toe box, light, and flexible. We offer a non-traditional gait analysis, which we do not use to fit people in shoes (that always seemed backward to me), but more to provide insight and our opinion on how they might move more efficiently. Both Erin and I are certified ChiRunning Instructors, and I am also a Certified Personal Trainer with ACSM. Erin is a part of the Altra Endurance Elite team, and is currently in training for the JFK 50 mile this fall. She manages our finances and her accomplishments as a natural and minimalist runner are a huge asset to our store. We also have excellent employees who walk the walk by running and living in natural, minimalist footwear.

CT: What are the most common foot complaints you hear from your customers?

GS: Plantar Fasciitis/Plantar Fasciosis is by far the number one complaint, and I estimate that 30 to 40 percent of people who come into our store for the first time are suffering from it. It is reaching epidemic proportions. With Dr. Ray’s help we have spread the word to thousands that this condition is preventable and treatable by natural means. Many of our customers, young and old alike, suffer from bunions and hammertoes as well. It is fun to work with these people by exposing them to some strengthening exercises and educating them on the natural shape of their foot as it should be. Correct Toes are the perfect complement to that process. We also have had many customers come in with neuromas, and have had several of them return to proudly say that their neuroma has completely disappeared and that they are pain free as a result of their foot-shaped shoes (imagine that), toe socks, and Correct Toes.

CT: What are customer’s initial reaction when they see or experience Correct Toes?

GS: Every customer that is fit for shoes here will see and experience Correct Toes, so we have seen every reaction possible. Most people are at first confused as to what it is, being that it is not something they are accustomed to seeing in running or shoe stores. But with a quick explanation, most get it and are intrigued. Once they wear the product and try on shoes with it on their foot, I would say that 75% of folks are pleased to have learned what their foot should look like and love the feeling of realignment. There are a few (usually women with a fashion mindset) who are not into it and not willing to give it a try at all, but we are happy to at least have “planted the seed” in their mind about natural foot health.  We have had people say “No way will I wear that,” and then decide later that they will buy a pair. Most often the reaction is very positive.

CT: What results have you seen in your customers by using a natural foot health approach?

GS: This is what makes our job very satisfying. In our 3 years doing this we have seen so many people come back and report life-changing benefits. It is really cool. Most often people are thrilled that their PF went away or are happy that their neuroma pain is gone, but we also have had a large number of folks see and feel the full body effects of setting their foundation right. Knee pain, hip pain, back pain, postural difficulties—all work their way out of their life when their feet become strong and aligned.

CT: Please feel free to share a customer or personal testimonial about recovery from a foot problem, using Correct Toes.

GS: Here are a couple of testimonials from our customers:

“Want healthy feet? Go talk to these guys; they know their stuff. My wife and I bought 4 pair of Lems minimalist shoes and Correct Toes. After 1 week I had no more plantar pain and started regaining feeling in my toes. This was a problem I have had for some time. My wife also noticed she had no more hip pain and could move her big toe. I am now a believer in the flat zero drop shoe with a big toe box. There isn’t any other shoe I would wear after being in these. I haven’t ran in 10 years but now feel like starting after walking in these shoes. Looking forward to new dress designs in this style in the future.”

“Greg, I recently bought a pair of Lems and a set of toe orthotics (Correct Toes) from your store in Woodstock. I also bought a pair of shoes for my 3 year-old grandson at the same time. He loves them! I just wanted you to know my “hammertoe” condition has improved significantly and my shoes feel wonderful, as do my feet and legs!! I am a very satisfied customer and have already been showing my shoes to all my friends here in Orlando. I am trying to steer them your way […] I will be up at the end of the year to purchase at least one more pair for me and I am bringing my wife to get fitted too!”

Thank you, Greg and Natural Strides, for your commitment to healthy running and optimal foot health!

Meet Running Wild

Running Wild
Running Wild
is a fantastic shoe store in Pensacola, FL that carries Correct Toes. We recently reached out to our friends at Running Wild to see how their customers are responding to Correct Toes. What follows is our Q&A with Running Wild:

CT: What are some of the most common foot complaints you hear from customers?

RW: Plantar Fasciitis is definitely #1. But most often customers just complain of heel and/or arch pain rather than identifying their condition as PF. Others tend to be: pain in their big toe area from a bunion or burning/pain in one of several of their metatarsals.

CT: What are customers’ reactions to Correct Toes once they see a visual demonstration of how it works?

RW: We have yet to have someone not buy them once we put them on a customers feet. It’s amazing when they try on the Correct Toes they say: “Wow I’ve never had anything on feet feel this good.”

CT: What are some of the most common questions you receive about Correct Toes from your customers?

RW: Usually before a customer tries them on, they ask about comfort, but as soon as they try them on they ask if they can buy them.

CT: What are the advantages of offering a product to your customers that addresses so many foot and toe ailments?

RW: Well the advantage is that the Correct Toes are seemingly so simple and non-invasive. The response that we’ve had is overwhelming. We started carrying them just a few weeks ago and we’re ready to place our third re-order.

CT: Can you share with us your personal experience with Correct Toes and how this device has helped you or people you know?

RW: As soon as we received our first order I snagged a pair and have not taken them off. OK, maybe a few times. They have definitely made my feet feel more stable and running more comfortable. I wanted a pair for my 11 year old daughter because she has a slight bunion on one foot, but we sold out of her size the second day after we received our order. I finally got her size in and once I put the Correct Toes on her feet, she had instant relief. She’d previously complained of her toes cramping and arch pain, but not any longer.

Thanks, Running Wild, for sharing your experience and for helping Pensacola’s runners to… run wild!

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!

Transitioning From Conventional to Minimalist Shoes

It's important to transition to minimalist shoes slowly, over time.Many people are aware that a transition period is required when switching from conventional, PECH-style (Pronation control Elevated Cushioned Heel) shoes to minimalist shoes. In fact, this is one of the most common topics we hear about from patients and customers. Most people want to know the proper protocol for transitioning to foot-healthy footwear—shoes, boots, or sandals that are widest at the ends of the toes, have flexible soles, and possess no heel elevation or toe spring. Though every individual is different and has unique factors or circumstances to consider, we’ve come up with eight general suggestions to heed that are important for everyone making this transition. And here they are:

1. Take a Slow, Progressive Approach

It’s perfectly normal to be excited about this new approach to foot health and function. After all, countless people have already benefited from true minimalist shoes and natural foot health approaches. But it is possible to be overzealous in the adoption of this new footwear, and failing to transition slowly from conventional-style shoes to minimalist shoes might lead to problems.

Consider wearing your new minimalist shoes for a very short period at first, such as 30 minutes per day, and then gradually increasing wear time by 30 minutes per day as your feet and body adapt to the changes. If you’re a runner, consider wearing your conventional shoes for the first part of your run, then switching to your minimalist shoes toward the end. As your feet and toes get stronger, you can begin wearing your minimalist shoes for longer periods during your run, eventually phasing out entirely your conventional running shoes.

2. Proceed in a Stepwise Fashion

Many people benefit from a stepwise approach to minimalist shoes that involves a gradual transition from a built-up conventional shoe to a transitional type of shoe to a true minimalist shoe. There are two main considerations as it concerns this stepwise approach: the sole of the foot and the Achilles tendon.

The sole of the foot is extremely sensitive (which is great for sensing the ground and making appropriate micro-adjustments during gait). But after a lifetime of wearing thick-soled shoes, the sole of the foot (skin, muscles, nerves) is not properly adapted to the ground, and being barefoot or using thin-soled shoes can be uncomfortable. The best way to build up your foot’s sole is to start with thicker-soled footwear, such as Altras and Lunas, and then move to thinner-soled options over time. Note that your thicker-soled footwear selection should still possess all the other foot-healthy characteristics that we recommend, specifically, a flat platform (no heel elevation, no toe spring, no arch-propping inserts), a wide toe box (widest at the ends of the toes), flexibility, and light weight.

Having worn conventional shoes with heel elevation for years (decades, in many cases), the Achilles tendon often becomes contracted, or shortened (sometimes up to three-quarters of an inch!). A shortened Achilles tendon will return to its normal length after conventional footwear is abandoned, but this process takes time. Heat, ice, physical therapy modalities, and warming or cooling gels can help with this transition and rehabilitation. Shifting from a shoe with heel elevation to a “zero drop” shoe can place a tremendous amount of strain on your Achilles tendon, and overdoing it, especially at first, can cause damage and pain in this structure. Again, a slow, stepwise shift to transitional footwear (e.g., Altra shoes, Luna sandals, etc.) can make the leap to ultra-minimalist shoes (e.g., Lems Primal 2 shoes, Vibram FiveFingers shoes, Xero Shoes, etc.) a much lower risk.

3. Allow Time for Adjustments to Occur

The changes and deformities that happen in feet and toes exposed to conventional footwear take many years to occur. It’s no surprise, then, that positive, healthy changes and true foot and toe rehabilitation will also take some time to occur. Some people who transition to minimalist shoes do not allow enough time for the soles and muscles (in the feet and the rest of the lower body) to strengthen. Transitioning to minimalist shoes will, in most cases, work your foot and lower body in a very new and unique way, leading to initial soreness and fatigue in many before the longer-term strength gains and other favorable adaptations occur. Be patient, monitor your body’s response to this transition, and take it slowly! Changes are afoot.

4. Address Gait Changes

It’s extremely common for gait changes to occur when switching from conventional shoes to minimalist models. Most people who wear conventional shoes are heel-strikers (thick, elevated heels make it almost impossible to be anything else). People who wear minimalist shoes, on the other hand, often first contact the ground with the mid-foot or forefoot—a very different gait pattern that has wide-ranging effects throughout the body. This change in gait pattern tends to happen naturally upon moving to footwear with a completely flat (and thin) support platform. But sometimes there is a lag in gait changes that occurs during this transition, such that some individuals still continue to heel strike even after shifting to minimalist footwear.

Heel striking in minimalist shoes may cause some heel discomfort, as there is no longer the same level of cushioning in place to absorb the shock. Using heel cups (please see the next section for further details about heel cups) can be helpful in reducing or preventing this discomfort. Another helpful approach is to pay a lot of attention to how your feet and body feel during the transition phase. Consider paying extra attention to your feet during this time, and walk in a way that feels right to you (avoid “pushing through the pain” or limping in order to avoid pain). Forcing a forefoot strike is not ideal either. Basically, just feel and listen to your body and avoid distractions (chatting with friends, listening to music, etc.) while you’re walking or running during this transition period.

5. Use Met Pads and Heel Cups, if Necessary

Metatarsal pads are a fairly unobtrusive way to restore muscle or tendon balance in your feet and restore the position of your forefoot fat pad to a place that supports your metatarsal heads in the ball of your foot (a common pain point in many people with foot problems). Metatarsal pads, if placed properly, can also help spread your transverse foot arch, which helps take pressure off the structures that run through the ball of your foot, such as nerves and blood vessels.

Heel cups are another helpful (and unobtrusive) natural foot product that alleviates point tenderness in the heel that may develop in minimalist shoe adopters. This point tenderness can happen early in the transition phase or later on, after you’ve been wearing minimalist shoes for a period of time. Point tenderness in the heel is relatively rare in minimalist shoe adopters, but it can be uncomfortable and, in some cases, lead to abandonment of natural foot health approaches. A simple heel cup is often enough to address this discomfort and keep a person in footwear that lets his or her foot function the way nature intended. Setbacks may happen from time to time, but in most cases, there is a simple solution or tweak possible that can help you stay on the path to natural foot health.

6. Use Correct Toes Toe Spacers

Using Correct Toes is one of the most powerful ways to support the transition from conventional footwear to minimalist shoes. Correct Toes naturally curbs overpronation and enables proper weight distribution. This extremely helpful product also encourages a natural strengthening of the muscles and tendons that act on your feet and toes. Correct Toes toe spacers work well in minimalist shoes with anatomically appropriate toe boxes (i.e., toe boxes that are widest at the ends of the toes, not the ball of the foot as in conventional—and many minimalist—shoes).

7. Add Barefoot Time to Your Regimen

Adding some barefoot time to your foot health and minimalist shoe transition regimen can be extremely helpful in ensuring a smooth (and injury-free) shift. Spending at least some time barefoot, even if only around the house, can help condition the soles of your feet and strengthen your foot and toe muscles, accelerating the foot adaptations that occur with minimalist shoe wearing in a safe and constructive manner. If appropriate, you may also consider walking outdoors in your bare feet, weather permitting, starting with as little as one block.

8. Perform Key Home Care Exercises

Performing certain exercises at home (or work) can help with your transition from conventional to minimalist shoes. The most helpful exercises you can perform include the Toe Extensor Stretch, the Bunion Stretch, and the Ball Rolling Exercise. These exercises, when performed in series, help relax tight muscles and tendons and build foot strength. For the best possible outcome, perform these exercises at least several times each day.


Using true minimalist shoes—shoes that are widest at the ends of the toes, have a flexible sole, and possess a completely flat support platform—offers the possibility of profound and enduring foot health benefits. Like most aspects of health, it’s always best to exercise caution and restraint in transitioning to a new and natural approach. Your feet and body are amazingly adaptable and will indeed strengthen if treated appropriately. But this remarkable adaptation process only works well with time, patience, diligence, and a progressive approach. It is an investment well worth making, as it will pay foot health dividends for an entire lifetime. If you have any questions about any aspect of transitioning from conventional shoes to minimalist footwear, please consider meeting with your natural healthcare provider. And now: onward, to excellent foot health!

About the Authors:

Dr. Robyn Hughes is a naturopathic physician; the Director of Medical Education for Correct Toes; a foot health educator in Asheville, North Carolina; and the co-founder of NaturalFootgear.com. She is an avid cyclist, trail runner, and yoga student.

Dr. Ray McClanahan is a sports podiatrist; the founder and physician of Northwest Foot & Ankle in Portland, Oregon; and inventor of Correct Toes. He’s a former elite cross-country racer and regular participant in various running events throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Meet “The Emperor’s New Shoes”

ImageThe Emperor’s New Shoes is a UK-based natural running store that sells shoes and accessories (including Correct Toes) and offers advice and coaching to enable people to run as nature intended.

We recently had the chance to interview the owners of The Emperor’s New Shoes, Sam Murphy and Jeff Pyrah. Here’s our conversation:

Please tell us a bit about yourselves and The Emperor’s New Shoes.
We have both been avid runners for decades – we fell in love with barefoot running and minimalist shoes a few years back, but quickly realised that they were very hard to come by outside of London. People had heard of them, but not seen them or tried them. So we set up the Emperor’s New Shoes as an online and mobile store. We go to races and events to talk to runners about the benefits of natural footwear, and give them an opportunity to actually feel these shoes on their feet. All the shoes we sell fulfill certain criteria – a wide toe box, lightweight, flexible, and low or no heel-toe drop. We only sell shoes that we have personally wear-tested and liked, along with a select range of accessories that help people maximize their performance, such as nutritional products and, of course, Correct Toes!

How were you introduced to Correct Toes?
Sam found Correct Toes whilst researching plantar fasciitis, which she was suffering from for over a year. They immediately struck a chord – ‘it was as if I’d found a product that I’d already invented in my mind!’ she says. She ordered a pair and had such good results from using them that when we set the shop up, approaching NW Foot & Ankle to stock them was an obvious step.

What results have you seen in your clients and customers using Correct Toes? Which types of people have benefited the most?
The majority of our clients have been barefoot runners and other ‘barefoot living’ enthusiasts – mostly those with injuries or foot problems which are hampering their progress. Often, they’ve tried all the usual channels – they’ve had cortisone injections, or tried orthotics, for example – without success so they’ve been searching for an alternative solution and have become interested in natural foot health. Many customers who have purchased a pair have come back to us to buy a second pair for a partner or friend. We’ve also had pilates instructors, personal trainers and yoga teachers receive the product really well and recommend it to their clients. Here is some customer feedback:

‘Correct Toes have made a real difference to the health of my feet. I wear them every day for pretty much everything. I’m especially impressed by how comfortable they are for running.  I recently completed the annual Man versus Horse marathon wearing a pair.  Despite poor conditions – high water and deep mud – I hardly noticed them.  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them.’  

‘I bought Correct Toes because of bilateral plantar fasciitis. It’s been a couple of months since buying them, and my condition has improved. I am not in pain anymore, and can walk about as much as I want. I have not yet returned to running – I will give it a couple more months and then start running barefoot.’

‘I purchased Correct Toes for a possible hallux valgus and have found them to be very successful in treating my ailment.  I have also been using Vibram Fivefingers, massage and exercises.’

An increasing number healthcare professionals, fitness educators, and coaches/trainers throughout the world are incorporating Correct Toes into their practices. Do you see a role for Correct Toes and and its associated natural foot health principles in running, athletics, and coaching?
We definitely believe they have a role to play in helping athletes improve their foot health – especially mobility and strength, which is often lacking in those who wear ‘traditional trainers’ all the time. They can also mark the end of foot pain/problems for runners – including neuromas and plantar fasciitis – allowing them to train more consistently and subsequently achieve better results. People are always interested when Sam takes off her trainers and has Correct Toes on! We think there is scope for so many more runners to benefit – the challenge is getting them to switch into better footwear, that will enable them to accommodate CTs.

Thank you, Sam & Jeff, for sharing your experience, and for helping keep our friends ‘over the pond’ running strong and pain-free!

Are You Ready to Train?

Are_You_Ready_to_Train_Here’s a common scenario some of you may find yourself in this spring: It’s been a few months since you last pulled on your athletic shoes and you’ve been wearing cold weather footwear that, though it keeps your feet and toes warm, is kind of constricting. There is a big annual walking or running event coming up in the not-too-distant future that you always participate in, or you’ve found a new event or long hike that you’re just dying to try. But you’ve got a nagging foot problem that started over the winter and you’re wondering if you can begin your training. If this is the situation you find yourself in, this article is for you!

The question at the heart of this discussion is this: “When is it appropriate for me to begin training in earnest for a race, walking event, or multi-day hike if I have a foot problem that is causing me pain or discomfort?” As fellow runners and walkers, we understand the urgency that comes with preparing for a big race or event, and we also understand how frustrating it is to wait out a foot problem before ramping up our training volume and intensity (or even to miss an event due to a foot injury). We’ve been there, and we sympathize with your situation. But trying to train with an existing foot problem is not an appropriate course of action, as it usually ends up compounding your problem and leading to a more deeply entrenched foot issue.

The pain or discomfort associated with plantar fasciosis (commonly mislabeled ‘plantar fasciitis’), interdigital neuromas, bunions, and other foot problems is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong and needs to be corrected. Perhaps it’s an impediment to natural foot health that needs to be removed (think conventional footwear) or a longstanding foot or lower extremity issue that was never properly addressed. Whatever the issue, it’s important that it gets resolved before you start any serious weight-bearing exercise routine. We know this may sound unappealing, but don’t despair, as there is every reason to believe that your foot issue can be helped in a timely manner, if you allow your foot to function the way nature intended.

The answer to most common foot problems, including the ones that keep you from participating in the activities you love, is elegantly simple and universally applicable. The first step in restoring natural foot health is understanding what shoe features deform your true foot shape and alter the dynamics of your feet and toes. Heel elevation, toe spring, toe box taper, and rigid soles are all injurious design features found in most conventional footwear. Using shoes that are flat from heel to toe, flexible in the sole, and widest at the ends of your toes allows your feet and toes the freedom to act as nature planned. Many people also benefit from using our toe-spacing device, Correct Toes, to realign their toes to the splayed position commonly seen in the healthiest feet in the world—the feet of barefoot or unshod populations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Many patients find that their foot pain or problem dissipates once the barriers to natural foot health are removed and proper toe alignment is restored. How quickly this occurs depends on numerous factors, however, including the tissue types involved (e.g., nerve, muscle, tendon, ligament, etc), the mobility of the involved tissues or structures, and how long you’ve been experiencing the problem. Most people will experience at least some immediate relief from performing these simple actions, with additional beneficial results occurring over several weeks, with good compliance.

Some light training may be appropriate during this initial recovery phase, as long as your foot pain or discomfort is not made worse with weight-bearing activity or does not alter your gait. Compensating for a foot injury by changing your gait can lead to problems in other parts of your body and further downtime away from your passion. If you are limping, have severe pain, or your pain increases as you walk or run, you should avoid walking, running, and hiking. Consider getting on your bike or into the pool for your workout instead.

So, are you ready to train? Regardless of your current situation (free of foot pain or currently experiencing foot problems) we encourage you to carefully consider your footwear and how it can help or hinder natural foot health. For more information about how you can restore foot health and anatomy to treat and prevent common foot health problems, we encourage you to meet with a naturally minded podiatrist or other foot care expert. You can also visit the Northwest Foot & Ankle and Correct Toes websites, which contain plenty of helpful information about how best to achieve lasting foot and toe health.

Enjoy the spring, and happy training!

Robyn Hughes, N.D. & Ray McClanahan, D.P.M.

About the Authors:

Dr. Robyn Hughes is naturopathic physician; the Director of Medical Education for Correct Toes; a foot health educator in Asheville, North Carolina; and the co-founder of NaturalFootgear.com. She is an avid cyclist, trail runner, and yoga student.

Dr. Ray McClanahan is a sports podiatrist; the founder and physician of Northwest Foot & Ankle in Portland, Oregon; and inventor of Correct Toes. He’s a former elite cross-country racer and regular participant in various running events throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Misconceptions about Minimal Shoes and Natural Running

Picture from computerhowtoguide.com

The following article was written by Jim Hixson of Feet for Life Motion Center in Chesterfield, MO.  This piece recently appeared in a slightly different form on the Natural Running Center website.

1. Humans were not meant to run.

Locomotion is arguably the most important characteristic that determines the survival of a species.  Unless predators can be avoided and food obtained, life will be short-lived.  Both of the two basic forms of bipedal human locomotion, walking and running, are essential, although they are used for different purposes.  We think of our sport as a form of exercise or recreation, but our ancestors had different needs and running was a necessity.

2. Everyone should be running because this activity is natural.

Unfortunately this is not true.  What is true for the species is not necessarily true for the individual.  There are individuals who should not be running, such as those with severe physical handicaps or significant weaknesses, the morbidly obese, and the very elderly.

3. There is no correct way to run.

There is no perfect way to hit a forehand in tennis, or to drive a golf ball, or to kick a soccer ball, but the degree of divergence from the accepted norm in each of these activities is relatively small.  When you look at runners who have excellent form, the similarities are more numerous than the differences.  There is a model that should be followed.

4. Running form is not important.

Good biomechanical form leads to less initial shock, shorter ground contact time, increased stride frequency, greater power output, and quicker recovery.  Fortunately it is not necessary to be a top runner to have excellent biomechanics, although the converse is not true.  In short, proper movement in all sports increases the enjoyment of the activity, improves performance, and reduces injury rates.

5. Running form should not be changed as it is based on individual characteristics.

All athletes benefit from removing inefficient movements from their form.  Behind every impressive athletic performance are thousands of hours of diligent practice and athletes in all other sports spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year for instruction to learn proper biomechanical movements, from the most basic to the most advanced.  It would be unusual if running was the only sport where changing poor form was purposely avoided.

6.  The long the stride the faster the speed.

A long stride with a high cadence and proper biomechanics will result in faster speed, but a long stride that is the result of improper form will reduce speed and efficiency. When your foot touches the ground too far in front of your body, that is, when you over-stride, you land heavily on your heel, increasing the braking effect of your foot contacting the ground. When running properly your foot should make initial contact with the ground under your center of gravity. Concentrate on running with a quick and light stride.  Running hill repeats is a good way to develop this ability.

7.  Humans did not evolve to run on very hard surfaces.

In fact, humans did not evolve running on soft surfaces, and certainly not on golf courses!  Take a trip out west, maybe to Colorado or New Mexico and run barefoot on a trail.  The surface under your feet will be just as “soft” as the ground in Tanzania, the location of the Rift Valley, and the cradle of human evolution.  In fact, it is much easier to run barefoot on a smooth asphalt road than on a natural trail because the surface of the road is extremely predictable.  On the other hand, if you have the luxury of living in a temperate climate, try to run barefoot on the grass whenever possible!

8.  Humans were meant to run heel-to-toe.

Watch an adult who has grown up without shoes run barefoot.  He or she will make initial contact on the ground with the forefoot/midfoot, not the heel.  Even when an adult who is accustomed to running heel-to-toe in conventional running shoes runs barefoot on a hard surface, they usually switch to forefoot/midfoot striking immediately.  Running heel first is just not an efficient way to absorb shock or store elastic energy.  Your body’s ideal initial contact with the ground is actually slightly toward the outside edge of your foot, just behind your fourth and fifth metatarsals. The foot then naturally rolls slightly inward along the transverse arch as the heel descends to touch the ground under the control of the medial and lateral arches of the foot (plantar fascia) and the posterior muscles of the lower leg (gastrocnemius, soleus, and Achilles tendon).

9.  Anecdotal reports indicate that most people do heel strike first when running.

That’s true, but almost all of the reports have focused on runners wearing “traditional” running shoes.  The first major study that considered runners wearing traditional shoes, minimal shoes, and going barefoot, was done by Daniel Lieberman and his team at Harvard’s Skeletal Biology Lab.  As reported in Nature magazine (“Biomechanics of Foot Strike”, January 28, 2010), the study showed that running with a forefoot/midfoot strike diffuses the shock of initial contact and appears to be a more natural way to run.  Two years later, Adam Daoud, along with Daniel Lieberman and four other authors from the same lab, published an article in Medicine and Science in Sports Exercise that gave the results of a longitudinal study of runners and injuries.  The study clearly showed a significantly higher incidence in the frequency and severity of injuries associated with heel striking, as opposed to forefoot/midfoot striking (“Foot Strikes and Injury Rates in Runners:  a Retrospective Study”, July 2012)

10.  Major shoes companies have spent millions of dollars developing shoes that improve human biomechanics.

The modern running shoe didn’t exist until the early to mid-1970s.  Before that time running shoes were light and flexible and had a much lower profile than today’s shoes.  The change in the shape of these shoes can be traced to Bill Bowerman, the founder of Nike, who believed that a more cushioned heel would allow a runner to run faster by lengthening his/her natural stride and contacting the ground heel first, rather than forefoot/midfoot.  Unfortunately, lengthening your stride in this way alters a natural pattern of movement and reduces your speed and running efficiency. In addition to slowing a runner down, contacting the ground heel first also excessively stresses the bones, joints, muscles and tendons from the toes through the spine. While running with a proper stride, you should land quickly and lightly on your forefoot/midfoot closer under your center of gravity. Unfortunately all major shoe companies eventually copied Bowerman’s design and, until very recently, improvements to running shoes have been limited to attempts to alter a defective original design.

11.  But don’t most athletic shoes have a elevated heels to avoid the shock of landing?

The extra cushioning under the heel of a traditional running shoe is actually evidence that contacting the heel first in the running gait cycle is unnatural.  Basketball, volleyball and tennis shoes do not have this feature; and neither do football or baseball cleats.  Try running heel first while playing basketball or soccer.  Running as a sport is not qualitatively different from running in a sport.

Another form of running shoe is the track spike.  Running heel first in a spike feels awkward, but running with a forefoot/midfoot strike in the same shoe feels natural.  Supposedly spikes “make you faster”,  but in reality, these shoes simply allow you to run more naturally because they’re light, flexible and have a low pitch (drop) from heel to forefoot.  These features in a running shoe will always allow you to move more freely and freedom of movement enables you to run faster and more efficiently.

12.  The foot and lower leg are not designed for the impact of running.

The multiple joints of the foot along with strong flexible arches, a powerful Achilles tendon and calf muscles, and strong muscles and ligaments supporting the knee are perfect for both suspension and propulsion.  Running has been an important component of human evolution, allowing us to escape immediate danger and pursue prey over long distances.  Along with walking, running is a natural form of locomotion.

13.  The foot needs extra during running.

Supporting the arch leads to weakness and imbalance of the surrounding musculature.  The muscles, ligaments, tendons, and fascia of the foot are no different from the same types of tissue in other parts of the body.  Think of a supportive shoe as you would a splint or cast.  If you remove a cast from an arm after a broken bone has healed, the muscles will be weaker and there will be a diminished range of motion in the area of the nearest joint.  A stable/stiff shoe will have a similar effect on the muscles of the foot.  Feet that are supported by shoes will be weaker, muscularly imbalanced and less responsive than the feet of people who are barefoot or wear minimal shoes.

14.  Pronation is harmful.

Pronation is the natural inward roll of the foot as some of the impact associated with contacting the ground when you run is absorbed.  Excessive pronation, which can originate from a heel-strike is harmful, but running heel first is not natural.  Many so-called stability and motion control shoes have a dual density midsole, with the higher density portion on the medial side designed to prevent “over-pronation”.  This feature makes the shoe more rigid than it already is and, as a result, further reduces the range of motion of the foot.  Stability of shoes also leads to weakness of the muscles in the foot and ankle, creating a situation where excessive pronation is more likely.

15.  Cushioned shoes are needed in order to run without injury.

There are no studies that show that running in cushioned shoes reduces the incidence of injury.  In fact, extra cushioning prevents the body from receiving essential information about the ground from the tens of thousands of sense receptors on the sole of the foot. This afferent feedback is necessary to move correctly.  The information that is received arrives slower and less completely, reducing responsiveness and proprioception.  Excessively padded shoes also prevent the body from experiencing the discomfort caused by bad biomechanics that would naturally encourage the body to automatically correct its movements.  In addition, studies clearly show that runners who wear cushioned shoes strike the ground much harder than when they run barefoot because the cushioning prevents the body from accurately anticipating the impact of the landing.  There is a direct correlation between the amount of cushioning in shoes and your ability to moderate shock.  Finally, cushioning is inherently unstable, a characteristic that further reduces the amount of accurate information the body would normally receive.

16.  Although shoes are supportive and cushioned, they still allow the foot to move naturally.

This statement is self-contradictory.  Imagine trying to work with your hands while wearing a stiff, thick oven mitt.  You would protect yourself from cuts and bruises, although these could probably have been avoided by being more attentive, but you would have less responsiveness, stability, flexibility, and strength in your hands and the movements or your entire arm would be affected.

17.  Shoes should be avoided.

As a rule extremist arguments are weak.  Some say shoes are always bad and others say runners should always wear shoes.  The minimalist argument would be:  when the opportunity is present, run barefoot to move most naturally, otherwise wear minimal shoes so your feet are allowed to receive as much information as possible and move without restriction while being protected from sharp objects and inclement weather.

18.  Since running in minimalist shoes is natural, no transition from traditional shoes to minimal shoes is necessary.

As a result of wearing traditional running shoes many of us have de-conditioned feet:  weak fascia, muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones.  Also the strength and range of motion of the Achilles tendon and calf muscles will be reduced.  Changing from wearing traditional shoes to minimal shoes is similar to an office worker suddenly switching to manual labor.  A transition is necessary to improve strength, flexibility and range of motion or an early injury is likely.  Wear minimal shoes as often as possible for a couple weeks and eventually a complete transition to minimal shoes will be possible.  Once the body has made this adaptation, the next stage involves running for short periods of time, beginning on soft surfaces.

19.  Only shoes for running should be minimalist.

Much of the attention by the press has been on minimal shoes for running, but it is always advantageous to restrict the movement of the foot as little as possible.  It makes no more sense to have a rigid, padded shoe with a higher heel for walking or work than it does for running and other sports.

20.  Are there companies known for their minimalist shoes?

Yes.  The most prominent are Vibram FiveFingers, Merrell, Vivo Barefoot, Altra, and Skora.

[Note from the Correct Toes team: We additionally find Leming shoes to be a great minimalist option. We encourage our patients and customers to seek minimalist footwear with a wide toe box, that is, widest at the ends of the toes!]


“Dathan [Ritzenhein] and I both believe that you can’t afford to look and run much differently from the top runners. Sure, you can point to great runners who seem to be an anomaly form-wise. But I believe the best runners with the longest careers are those who have the best form.

The Kenyans all look different, and many of them don’t last long. But when you look at the top Ethiopians, they have impeccable form and they also have long careers.

There has to be one best way of running. It’s got to be like a law of physics. And if you deviate too much from that–the way I did in my career–it can be a big handicap. Dathan can’t be a  heel striker and expect to run as good as the best forefoot runners. You can be efficient for a while with bad form–maybe with a low shuffle stride – but eventually that’s not good for your body. It’s going to produce tightness and muscular imbalances and structural problems. Then you get injuries, and if you’re not careful – if you don’t take care of the muscular and structural issues  – the injuries can put you into a downward spiral.

You show me someone with bad form, and I’ll show you someone who’s going to have a lot of injuries and a short career”.

—Alberto Salazar, Racing News interview with Amby Burfoot

“One surprising advantage the Tarahumara seem to have over the rest of the world is their lack of technology. They essentially run barefoot or in sandals and experience very little in the way of injury. Over the years, running shoes have become more and more cushioned with more and more high-tech gadgetry attached. Rather than improving our runs, these developments seem to have worsened them. The latest gotta-have running shoe in the stores is causing the average runner to land in a continuous unnatural position, causing more harm over the long haul than good. I can say, as someone who’s run many a marathon in little more than canvas and rubber, that there is some truth to this. Like the rest of our bodies, the foot is designed to run. Simplicity is key. A shoe shouldn’t be a La-Z-Boy recliner.”
— Bill Rodgers, marathon great and running specialty store owner, reviewing Born to Run for the San Francisco Chronicle

“We found pockets of people all over the globe who are still running barefoot, and what you find is that during propulsion and landing, they have far more range of motion in the foot and engage more of the toe. Their feet flex, spread, splay and grip the surface, meaning you have less pronation and more distribution of pressure.”
—Jeff Pisciotta, Senior Researcher, Nike’s Sports Research Lab

Running Times Magazine Loves Correct Toes

Running Times Magazine Loves Correct Toes!

Check out the new November/December Running Times feature “Weird Stuff That Works.”

Please visit http://www.CorrectToes.com to learn more about the benefits of Correct Toes through our resources, articles and videos.

Running Times Correction: Lisa Uhl is a believer in our product however Sanya Richards-Ross has not endorsed or provided a statement on Correct Toes.

Barefoot Running – The Movie

We are so excited to share that Barefoot Running – The Movie, made by our friends and barefoot enthusiasts Michael Sandler and Jessica Lee, is now available for purchase!  This DVD is packed full of stories, helpful tips, great music, and beautiful scenery.  Please watch,enjoy, and share the barefoot running love!Description

Barefoot Running – The Movie, is an inspiring, entertaining, and educational look at barefoot running and how to get started. It was created by the husband and wife duo of Michael Sandler, and Jessica Lee, founders of RunBare and authors of BarefootRunning: How to Run Light and Free by Getting in Touch with the Earth and the upcoming book, Barefoot Walking: Free Your Feet, due out in March 2013.

Filmed in Maui, it’s unlike any instructional video out there, featuring breathtaking vistas and inspirational music, as you’re carried along on a journey toward running light and free, and discovering the pure joy of connecting with the earth.

Whether you’re in the heart of the city, or out in the middle of nature, whether a life-long barefooter, or a complete tenderfoot, you’ll find something in it for you.

To make this DVD, the authors sampled countless instructional videos and weren’t too inspired. They then challenged themselves to create a video that would surpass all other how-to videos and stand the test of time, viewed over and over again. So, they melded personal stories with stunning running montages and instructional pieces. It took 9 months of filming and editing on one of the most beautiful places on earth, to make the most gorgeous DVD they could.

It’s 76 minutes, 17 chapters, filled with amazing running, scenery, and entertaining lessons broken down into easy to understand, bite-sized pieces. It’s also filled with great music to get you pumped up and motivated for your own run. Consider it a cross between a Warren Miller ski movie and a Chi Running DVD.

Topics include everything from the basics, to warming up, pad-development, proper form, drills, stretching, recovery, road & trail techniques, plus connecting with nature, reawakening your senses, and even a barefoot running section for women. It also includes subtitles for the hearing impaired and ESL audiences, along with outtakes and beautiful photography.

By the end, you too will discover the pure joy and freedom of connecting with the earth, running stronger and lighter than you ever have before. As the authors say, Run Free & Run Bare!



For a little more background and info about Barefoot Running – The Movie check out this post from Barefoot Runners Society.

You can purchase Barefoot Running – The Movie on Amazon!