Life Without Shoes: A Look at the Benefits of Shoes

January 6, 2017

This week you will be hearing from Derek Roach, the Co-Founder of Flow Feet, an organization that truly understands the importance of shoes. To show their support for our mission, they collected 50 pairs of shoes during a one-day shoe drive.

While there are many benefits to wearing shoes, there are people across the globe that are not able to enjoy these benefits because of the lack of adequate footwear accessible to them. Soles4Souls makes it possible for those most in need of adequate footwear to own a good pair of shoes. Knowing just how important proper footwear is and the success Soles4Souls has in reaching these affected areas, we hosted a local shoe drive to contribute to this matter.

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The shoe drive not only inspired those in our community to come out and support a worthy cause, it also reminded us of why proper footwear is so important in the first place.

From physical improvement to being able to participate in a society, shoes can improve quality of life, prevent injury of disease, help with healing for those with chronic foot conditions, offer support for inadequate arches or excess pronation, express one’s self, enable a person to work in hazardous conditions, or even help land that coveted job.

Physical Benefits of Shoes

In the early 1900s, there was an epidemic of hookworms in Mississippi and other rural American states. Improper sanitary facilities in combination with the lack of foot protection lead to the parasitic worm being able to bore itself into a foot in a corkscrew-like manner. Severe illness would ensue after a hookworm infection with anemia being the biggest health concern. However, an educational health campaign reinforcing the importance of wearing shoes and sanitary public facilities helped make hookworms virtually unheard of in the affected areas.

While the hookworm epidemic is no longer a concern in the U.S., today the need for proper footwear is still critical as a way of reducing the risk of certain parasitic diseases and foot infections in third world countries.

Diabetics can also be susceptible to foot infections in the form of ulcers and can lead to amputation. It is important to have proper footwear to minimize diabetic foot infections and to provide support to feet for comfort and proper healing. Other foot conditions, like bunions, Charcot foot, and corns can also be alleviated with proper foot wear.

Shoes not only help our feet to heal but can also aid in support and stability of our foot. Not all feet are perfect, so properly fitting shoes can help align your feet, ankles, knees, hips and back to correct your gait and improve posture.

Without supportive shoes, the biomechanics of the body are off causing unnecessary impact and stress on parts of your feet and knees that aren’t meant for shock absorption or pressure. This can eventually lead to back, knee and foot pain.

It is important to note that poorly fitted shoes can have a negative impact on your foot health. Accounting for the foot length and width can help prevent any foot development disorders. Keep in mind that growth spurts in children are rapid so a proper foot measurements on a regular basis is important. Replacement of shoes that no longer serve your feet as intended is necessary to maintain optimal foot conditions and protection for your feet.

The Cultural Importance of Shoes

The types of shoes worn differs from culture to culture, however, in most cultures, shoes are representative of social status or an extension of one’s self. Shoes can affect our perception of others as well as ourselves.

Certain shoes can be seen as an item of decoration for fashion and can have less to do with functionality. In the Western World, high heels or stilettos can be expressive of a women’s adulthood and sexuality. The shoes offer a sleek design while elongating their legs and changing their stance as a means for look and attraction.

However, not every culture uses shoes for fashion or a sign of wealth. There are many reasons for the use of shoes.

In South Africa, during the apartheid era, miners were not allowed to verbally talk underneath the surface in mine tunnels. For this matter, they developed a form of communication – also known as the “Gumboot Dance”- through foot taps and stamps, similar to Morse Code. The miners were forced to use Gumboots or Wellington boots as a means to obtain foot health while the miners were in the knee-high infected waters for hours daily. The Gumboots have become a cultural symbol for resistance for the South African miners.

Footwear is also used as a for ceremonies or religious devotions in various cultures. As part of the Indian culture, shoes are lavishly designed with embroidery, inlaid with precious stones and metals, and adorned with bells and tassels. The Indian culture praises the feet, so in ceremonious occasions, feet are clothed in beautiful garments for celebration and honor.

However, there are a wide range of cultural views of feet, while in America the idea of walking barefoot outside can symbolize freedom and attaching to one’s youthfulness, people in Japan perceive feet as a body part that must remain clean, so wearing shoes outdoors in necessary in their society.

The Psychological Importance of Shoes

 In the 1994 movie, The Sandlot, an autographed baseball signed by Babe Ruth is knocked into a neighboring backyard that is home to a perceived vicious dog. From there, a group of young boys develop intricate plans to stealthily obtain the highly-valued baseball. All of their attempts failed, except for one that included one of the boys who hopped the fence wearing a brand new pair of P.F. Flyers that were perceived by the group to make you run faster and jump higher.

Through the P.F. Flyers, the boy’s confidence to take the feat head on increased because of his perception of the superhuman-like abilities wearing the shoes provided him. This type of perception is quite common and can not only boost the performance of a skill but can also provide benefits to the personality development of adolescents.

There is this perceived magical transformation to turn someone from ordinary to a superstar or model.

Similarly, an aspiring athlete may obtain a new pair of basketball shoes worn by their idol in an attempt to jump high or improve their jump shot, while a dancer’s first Pointe shoes may symbolize an effort to explore more deeply the art of expression through ballet.

Through perception, shoes hold value that is unique to the wearer and their environment. For example, an expensive cowboy boot with quality leather and a rugged look can invoke a perception that the wearer has a strong personality type that is independent, callused, and alienated from civilization.While shoes have a basic functional purpose with many benefits, there are also beliefs and intrinsic values that accompany them. While the lack of shoes cannot strip one of individuality nor can the lack of shoes keep a person from traveling, life is a lot easier when shoes are present. Shoes allow us to travel farther, be more expressive, improve our performance and aid in overall health. From our soles to our souls, shoes contribute a great deal to our human experience.

While shoes have a basic functional purpose with many benefits, there are also beliefs and intrinsic values that accompany them. While the lack of shoes cannot strip one of individuality nor can the lack of shoes keep a person from traveling, life is a lot easier when shoes are present. Shoes allow us to travel farther, be more expressive, improve our performance and aid in overall health. From our soles to our souls, shoes contribute a great deal to our human experience.