I'm No Imelda Marcos

You know all about Imelda Marcos, right? And by "all about," I mean, you know about her shoe collection?

Imelda Marcos was the First Lady of the Philippines in the 1960s and '70s and '80s. It's totally worth a read about her scandalous life, but the tidbit about Ms. Marco's life that remotely intersects with the kind of conversations happening at this blog, is the QUANTITY and QUALITY of shoes this woman owned. Over a thousand pairs, my friends.

To quote the well-shod lady herself:

"I was born ostentatious. They will list my name in the dictionary someday. They will use Imeldific to mean ostentatious extravagance."

So Imelda Marcos' shoe collection was large. But it was also a few other things. It was heeled, it was full of pointy toe boxes, and many times the shoe wasn't well attached to the foot.

It was not the shoe collection of a minimalist-believing, naturalist-behaving human.

I have never been what one would call ostentatiously extravagant when it comes to shoes. At a young age, I wore orthodics that limited my choices. Later, when I came of shoe-buying age, I was a big believer in investing in high-quality shoes, but footwear wasn't a place I wanted to drop a pile of money, so I tended toward a small collection of shoes I really wanted to wear and would wear all the time.

This included a handful of beautiful heels, a perfect pair of black leather knee-high "flat" boots, flip flops and running sneakers.

Almost all of which I've gotten rid of.

The more I learned about the body, the more impressed I became with the feet. They are these amazing, foundational structures that have one quarter of the body's bones housed in them, 33 joints and more than 100 muscles (quick Q: how many of those muscles do you think you've activated today?). I also began to learn how the health of the feet creates a ripple effect rolling upward. That migraine you get? Could possibly be eliminated if you fixed your feet.

But your feet aren't healthy. (No judgment here. Neither are my feet, although they are WAY healthier today than they were a year or two ago).

This doesn't mean you need to be having some sort of diagnosable foot disorder with pain or numbness. If you can't make use of all of the joints in your foot, the tissues in your feet are dying. Probably faster than the rest of you is. You can see how this might create a bit of a problem. If your feet go first, you can't move around much. It's a pretty slippery slope downhill from there.

Clearly the feet need lots of love. So what do we do? We buy them shoes! Imelda bought her feet lots of shoes. Unfortunately, the foot is best served by freedom. The less shoe, generally the better.

But you're probably not about to ditch shoe wearing entirely. I'm certainly not. Since I've spent over 30 years wearing such beautiful casts on my feet and thus have atrophied feet and since most of my environment is not conducive to being barefoot (think: asphalt and dog poop), you'll find me unshod as I feel appropriate and minimally shod the rest of the time.

For the last 12 months, even through the world's longest winter, I have almost exclusively worn these two pairs of shoes:

Soft Star Merry Jane Metros on the left; Vibram FiveFinger Treksports on the right.

Soft Star Merry Jane Metros on the left; Vibram FiveFinger Treksports on the right.

These meet my requirements for:

  • totally flat (or "zero drop")
  • thin, flexible sole
  • roomy toe box
  • well-attached upper

I do also happen to own a pair of these New Balance, which meet the above requirements, too, but check out the way the shoe curls up in the front.

New Balance Minimus

New Balance Minimus

That curl is called "toe spring" and it's not only less ideal in general (do your toes naturally curl up like that?!?), but it actually causes pain in my toes. I only wear these in emergencies, like when I needed to clean out the sewage that backed up into the garage. Not a task for the FiveFinger shoes, imho.

Now I do keep a pair of flip flops on the back deck for when I need to run the trash out in the snow and a pair of Crocs at the foot of the basement stairs for when I clean out the litter box (used litter on my feet totally skeeves me), but since neither of these fit my requirements for an overall healthy shoe, they don't make the cut for everyday wear. Five minutes tops is about my tolerance for either of them.

I've recently added a second pair of Vibram FiveFinger shoes to my two-shoe "collection" and if I could get around to tracing my foot, I'd go ahead and order a pair of Unshoes. Thinking ahead to next winter, I'd be well-served by saving my pennies for this pair of super warm boots.

If you're looking to change what goes on your feet in order to improve your health, you'll probably have some work cut out for you in the lengthening and strengthening department. I'll get to some of those foot exercises in the next post, and you can also check out this book that will help take your feet where they need to go.

In the meantime, if you want to start shopping, feel free to peruse these two crowd-sourced lists for more ideas:

Your whole body will thank you.