Tips for Flat Feet, High Arches, & Running Barefoot – Xero Shoes

Yes, You Can Wear Barefoot Shoes with Flat Feet or High Arches. Here’s Why.

Not infrequently, when someone takes a look at my Xero Shoes, whomever I’m speaking with will say:

“I wish I could wear barefoot shoes, but I can’t do that. I need support.”

“Oh?” I’ll respond. “Why do you need support?”

Then something happens that I love. I get one of two seemingly contradictory answers. Either:

  1. “I have flat feet!”
  2. “I have high arches!”

They usually like to add to their proclamation some form of external validation, like, “I’ve seen one of the best podiatrists in the world and he agrees that I need orthotics.”

Oh? He agrees that you need to spend an additional $300-1,000 with him? What a shock.

Contrary to what many people believe, high arches and flat feet are not necessarily a problem.

To understand why not, you first need to know a little bit about arches and what can go wrong with them. Then we’ll talk about what the problem really is and why there is usually a better solution than orthotics.

Finally, even if you are going to wear orthotics, barefoot-inspired shoes are a great choice. Keep reading to find out why.

A Quick Look at the Anatomy of Your Feet

Why do our feet have arches, anyway?

If you look carefully at an average foot, you’ll actually see it has an arched shape in both directions – from front to back and side to side. Getting a bit technical, the arch we have in mind when talking about high or low arches is the medial longitudinal arch. It’s the one that runs lengthwise on the inside of each foot.

This flexible arch does two important things. When allowed to function naturally, it can easily handle the impact forces generated each time your foot lands on the ground. Second, it acts as a spring, which helps to absorb energy on impact and return some of it when you lift your foot again.

Why Do Flat Feet or High Arches Matter?

Frankly, they don’t for the vast majority of people. In fact, a study found that arch height made no difference in pain or function of the foot. Many people who have a low or high arch will never really notice it.

Obviously, if something is wrong with your arches, there is the potential that they won’t adequately perform those two functions of handling impact and providing spring-like rebound. For a very small number of people, very low or high arches can interfere with the function of the foot. If you’re in this group, you’re probably already well aware of it.

For most people, again, arches that are higher or lower than average aren’t a problem. We all fall along a continuum of arch height and the shape of our particular feet is mostly a matter of genetics.

The Real Problem and What to Do about It

But maybe you have noticed something about your arches and wondered if there is anything you should do.

Here we return to the conversation above. Most people have heard that they need some support, ranging from specially-designed running shoes to custom-made orthotics. All of these options are expensive; do they provide any benefit?

The evidence suggests they do not.

One study, for instance, looked at groups of children with flat feet for a few weeks and found that adding orthotics made no statistically significant difference.

Here’s the really interesting part. We do have research that flat feet can be improved by exercising the muscles of the foot. (The linked study, by the way, also found that orthotics didn’t help.)

To me, this makes perfect sense. Our feet are a complex combination of muscles, tendons, bones, and ligaments. Strengthening the muscles helps everything to function the way it should.

I’m not a scientist or a podiatrist. But when I look at the research, it seems like the problem for many cases of flat foot isn’t that the foot needs support. That is, the “cure” for the problem is not putting your foot in a cast (which is essentially what an orthotic is), it’s using it— which strengthens it.

Science writer Gina Kolata reports the conclusion reached by Dr. Benno M. Nigg, who is a scientist who studies orthotics: “The idea that [orthotics] are supposed to correct mechanical-alignment problems does not hold up.”

Are Barefoot Shoes Good for Flat Feet?

This is good news for those interested in barefoot-inspired (or “minimalist”) shoes, or even trying barefoot running.


One of the things about walking or running naturally, the way our ancestors did, with a bit of protection (like you get from barefoot shoes), or even in bare feet, is that you engage the muscles of your foot in a way you don’t in “traditional” shoes. That’s because “normal” shoes have thick soles with lots of support that limits the movements of your feet. Stiff arch support inserts limit motion even further.

What happens to muscles that don’t move? They get weaker, as a study of the effects of orthotics on foot muscles demonstrated.

The idea that going barefoot or wearing barefoot shoes helps develop foot strength isn’t just my speculation. A study by Dr. Sarah Ridge in 2019 found that merely walking in minimalist shoes strengthens foot muscles as much as doing a foot strengthening exercise program. (By the way, Dr. Ridge says you should get the same benefits wearing Xero Shoes as the shoes used in that study.)

Another study confirmed muscle gains with minimalist shoes and also noted increased arch stiffness.

(Just in case some of these terms are new to you: barefoot or minimalist shoes are designed to let your feet move as naturally as possible. Unlike a “traditional” shoe, they have thin soles that are flexible and let you safely feel the ground. They also have “zero drop” — that is, they don’t slope downhill from heel to toe. Finally, a barefoot shoe will have a roomy toe box to give your toes plenty of room to move.)

I need to say it again: I’m not giving you medical advice and you should consult with your doctor about any problems you’re experiencing with your arches, preferably one who understands the research and the value of natural movement rather than one who makes money by putting most of his or her patients in orthotics.

But I am encouraging you to at least consider the possibility that you can enjoy the freedom and fun of wearing barefoot shoes — even if you’ve assumed you would always need the support found in wearing traditional shoes.

The Best Running Shoes for Orthotics?

But let me just add one more thing. Suppose you are someone who uses orthotics and plans to continue to do so.

I think you are still best off choosing barefoot shoes. Why?

Look inside all the shoes you have now and note what you see. Each pair will have a different shape; some with more arch support, some with less; some with more slope from front to back, some with less, etc. Your orthotics are designed to fit your foot while resting upon a level base, but the inside of most shoes is anything but level.

What this means is that you’ll get a different fit for every pair of shoes you’re wearing and probably none of them provides a level platform on which your orthotics can rest.

More, as the foam midsole in those shoes breaks down (which it starts doing the moment you begin wearing them), the geometry of the shoe and orthotic will change which could cause structural problems in your feet and legs.

Barefoot shoes have a flat, zero-drop sole that provides the perfect base for your orthotics and no foam midsole that wears out.

So with or without orthotics, barefoot running shoes are a great choice.

My own story

Personally, I had flat feet my whole life. If I stepped out of a pool, my footprint looked like an oval.

After a few months of running and walking barefoot, I noticed I started developing arches!

I ruined all the family jokes about the flippers I had at the end of my legs.

Now, I get out of the water, step on the ground, and you see the outline of a FOOT.

Granted, I don’t have drive-a-bus-under-them arches but, again, that’s genes. All I know is that I haven’t used my expensive shoe inserts in years and my feet haven’t had a problem in all that time.

Ready to try your own pair of barefoot shoes?

Take this quiz to find your perfect pair here.

91 thoughts on “Tips for Flat Feet, High Arches, & Running Barefoot – Xero Shoes

  1. You guys are awesome. I have flat feet, I’m eager to see the results from running.

  2. Hi Tammy… you’re talking to someone who had life-long flat feet and who has had a broken spine for 30 years… check this out: and also: (I know that says “running” but it’s just as true for walking)

  3. Could this help people with shin splints? I have extremly bad shin splints but I dont have enough money to buy custom shoes. I think these would be a great fit and I really am intrested in buying from you but I need to really know the honest truth if they will help me with my shin splints. By the way I saw you on shark tank and I really loved your presentation. 🙂

    1. Engineered running shoes and improper conditioning increasingly catch the blame for shin splints, new research suggests that running barefoot (Lieberman) — if done correctly — assists a runner in moving form away from the gait that is in effect the injury mechanism.
      If you got to WebMD and such, you will see that shin splints are separated into four distinct categories. Medial tibial stress syndrome, the most common form, results from pain along the posterior tibial muscle along the inner part of the lower leg. Tibial periostitis occurs when the front of the shin bone, the periosteum, is injured. Anterior compartment syndrome occurs when the muscles along the front of the lower leg swell and build pressure against the membranous walls that cover them. Finally, stress fractures result from small cracks in the lower leg bone. All of these injuries result from excessive and repeated impact on hard surfaces.
      Shin splints result from the way your feet make contact with the ground. The support from running shoes tends to force runners to land on the heels of their feet. Over time, this type of impact can lead to shin splints and other injuries. Barefoot running, however, more likely results in a runner landing on the balls of his feet. This shifts stress away from the shins and to the Achilles tendon and calf muscle. The key is take it slowly, though, since over-worked Achilles and calf muscles fail just as easily (although can heal much quicker) as tibial stress. In short, if done right, barefoot form can not only help people with shin splints, it can eliminate them altogether (that’s what happened with me).

      1. Yeah. I dont run anymore. I dont really like running yet I STILL have terrible shin splints. So I am really looking forward to ordering my pair and learning if they help.

        1. Barefoot running alone won’t fix the problem, and could potentially make it worse if you do too much too quickly. Tight calves are responsible for foot instability and need to be addressed. With self myofascial releases techniques (check YouTube), proper stretching, and barefoot training (walk and workout barefoot, don’t just run) shin splints will resolve permanently.

    2. I ran on the cross country team in college for two years and had shin splints on several times a year. I switched to vibram five fingers and aqua shocks. In the last two years i have had no injuries and a lot stronger / healthier feet.

      1. I live in Indiana….FLAT land…I walk daily but it did not prepare me to climbing and hiking in Hawaii. The second day my shins were so sore that I could not wear flip flops or shoes. I put on my vibram five finger shoes and spent the rest of the week pain free. I was leaping over fissures on volcanic shores. I am 59.. I am going back in January. I won’t go with out my Virbrams and I ordered the Xero shoes to wear when I am not wearing the five fingers. I can hardly wait.

    3. Don’t heel strike, tape up your arch, shin splints should disappear.

  4. Just saw the Shark Tank episode. A few questions: I’ve been running in Bareform shoes. I can run up to 3 miles, but since I’m training for a half marathon, it’s hard to fit in short runs like these and keep up my mileage. Thoughts about this? Also, thoughts about whether barefoot running will help my plantar fasciitis? What do you do when it’s cold out? I live on the east coast, it’s been 20 degrees?

  5. I’ve always been told that I had flat feet. I’ve worn shoes with a “Thomas heel” for years as a kid to help ‘correct’ the problem. I’ve been wearing minimal sandals (Lunas) and walking barefoot part time for about nine months now (shoes come off as soon as I get home from work and I don’t wear any over the weekend). Now when I examine my feet carefully I can see that I actually do have archs in my feet. Quite noticable actually.

    1. I had flat feet my whole life until I took off my shoes and started running/walking barefoot and in Xero Shoes (which, BTW, are closer to barefoot than any other sandal).

      1. This was my concern as well. Flat Feet, Plantar Fasciaitis and the addition of significant bone spurs on one heel. Have you run across anyone who has added some padding on the inside heel of your shoes? I was thinking about actually gluing some small gel inserts, like you would buy for ball of foot, onto the heel for my bone spurs.

        1. I haven’t heard of anyone doing that, Tracy.

          The whole idea behind barefoot running and walking is that if you DON’T have padding, you’ll quickly adapt to walking/running with less force… and that by ADDING padding, we tend to land in a way that puts more stress on our bones and joints.

          Similarly, PF is often caused by that same kind of heel-first (and hard) landing (because it puts the PF in a weak position when your foot plants.

          Flat feet… well, I *had* them my whole life… until I started going barefoot/Xero and strengthened my arches.

          1. Hmm, I’ll have to see what happens. The strengthening probably wouldn’t help the bone spurs. I lost all of the natural cushioning on my heel so I’m just walking on those points.
            Do you do yoga by any chance? I’ve raised my arches a little through that but haven’t been disciplined enough to make significant changes.
            Anyway, foot trace in your email, and I’m looking forward to the finished product!

          2. I’ve done yoga in the past, but don’t do it now. Our customer service manager (and resident ultramarathoner), Bill, is a yoga person.

  6. I have found that if I wear anything other than birk’s or hafflinger’s I develope plantar’s faciaitis. any thoughts about this?

    1. How are you barefoot?

    2. How are you barefoot?

    3. Gastrocnemius is tight.

  7. Brian mackenzie from crossfit endurance gives an excellent instructional video on rebuilding the feet for anyone looking to strengthen their feet. Simply go to youtube, type his name and rebuilding the feet. He is a huge expert on barefoot/posed running.

  8. I hv high arches. I wear customised insoles cos my knees hurt possibly fr the high arches. In fact my recent pair of commercial insoles actually injured my knee. Will gg bsrefoot help. Fee insecurr without my insoles.

    1. Take off your shoes, go for a short walk, and find out.

  9. It is so refreshing to hear people advocate barefoot for high arches! All my life I was told they needed “support” and to put my shoes back on. 🙂 Free the feet!

  10. I love to be barefoot. I spend as much time barefoot as possible which is what doctors is saying is the problem with the pain in my arches and heels. I have spent most of my life wearing flip flops or nothing on my feet unless absolutely necessary but I have to admit my feet hurt a lot. I just don’t understand how it can get better for me if I continue to do what I’ve always done and not wear shoes?

    1. Flip flops are horrible for your feet and are very much NOT like barefoot, let alone Xero Shoes (see

      I’m not a doctor and couldn’t diagnose you from a blog message even if I were… but I find it unlikely that being genuinely barefoot (or as close as you can be, in Xeros) would cause the problems you’re describing.

      The premise behind being barefoot is that you can USE your feet the way they’re supposed to be used, and feel things you’re supposed to feel.

  11. Steven, I just found your website and shoe. I am amazed what a great information you have here. I plan to order mine, but have a question about progressing into the shoes. I am a tennis player and my feet are beat up from playing on the concrete all the time. I overpronate, and many years ago I developed a huge bump on the back of my heel. The last few years I have been keeping my feet in semi-ok shape by training the intrinsic muscles, tibialis posterior and all. Lately, I have been cheating on my foot training, and boom, developed a serious weakness in my right foot and the bump got swollen and painful. When I am trying to walk with front/mid foot strike (no heal strike), the foot is so weak that it cannot hold the weight of my body when I need to push off for the next step. I have been off the tennis court for a week, searching what my next approach should be. I have the Vibrams (haven’t used them much lately), and I think your shoes are much better. I think I need them (besides wanting them 🙂 ), only I wonder how my transition to the shoes should progress with my weak foot and painful heel. Thanks for all the great articles, videos and comments. Very impressive!

    1. For you, the transition into Xero Shoes should be thought of like the transition to barefoot. That is, if you’re fine barefoot, great. If not, and you’re using being barefoot as a strengthening program, then you can do that same thing in Xeros… but you can be on more surfaces and in more places.

      Make sense?

      1. Thanks, Steven. Yes, I am going to use the shoes for strengthening my feet (as walking barefoot). I have been now walking on my front-foot only in my regular shoes (one hour walk with my dog) to see how it is going to feel. I definitely feel different muscles working. Heading to order my Xeros now 🙂

  12. Rachel,

    Again, I had crazily flat feet my whole life, but don’t any longer. I have no doubt that you can strengthen the muscles in your feet and ankles just as you can any other muscles in your body… by USING them.

    If you progress with your distance slowly, and use your feelings/experience as a guide (if it hurts, back off, e.g. — see, I don’t know of anything intrinsically dangerous about running barefoot.

    Regarding VFFs, though…

    One of the important aspects of transitioning to barefoot style running is FEEDBACK. You need to feel the ground, and feel how your feet are contacting the ground.

    In my experience, and what a number of studies show, is that most VFF wearers don’t naturally change to a mid-foot or forefoot landing. I’ve been on the track and seen hundreds of VFF wearers who heel strike like they’re in traditional running shoes. And my thought about why they do that is: VFFs diminish the sensations you feel too much.

    Regarding the cold… see

    Regarding your leg pain — I’m not a doctor and I can’t make promises, of course. And without seeing you run, I can’t even provide adequate coaching. I can, though, say that from my experience, most calf issues are related to:

    a) Form
    b) Simply using your calves too much — either by overstriding and using them to decelerate every time you land, or by pushing off too much rather than lifting your foot off the ground by flexing the hip.

    I hope that helps.

    1. Thanks Steven, I think I might try out a pair of Xero’s and transition into running with them while switching off with my regular running shoes. They’re way cheaper than VFFs anyway. Thanks for all of your help! It’s good to hear that if you could strengthen your arches that I might be able to as well.

  13. Hmm….hope this is the case!!!

  14. Hey i have flat foot and when the point where my foot is supposed to arch swells up, dont know how to start running barefoot, could u help?

    1. Sorry, I’m not understanding the question. Starting running barefoot is the same whether you have flat feet or not:

  15. What about those of us with high arches & very little fat pads. I literally feel like I am walking on the bones of my feet. Orthotics are not helping….very desperate for some relief.

    1. The height of your arch isn’t the problem. The STRENGTH and flexibility of your arch is the critical piece of the puzzle. The question isn’t “How are you in orthotics?” it’s “How are you when you’re barefoot?”

      Let’s start there.

  16. Hey! I’m hoping that I can get some advice or wisdom here from somebody who has been where I am in the barefoot transition.

    A little background: I’ve been running BF for about 2 months, with lots of shorter (less that 1/2 mile) runs and 5 or six 1 mile runs. My first few one mile runs felt great! I’ve been limited to a mile because I always stop as soon as I feel my form failing (reaching forward with feet, cadence dropping, pushing off) However, one day, After a barefoot run I started to have a weird painful sensation on my inside ankle below and to the side of the bony protrusion on the inside of the ankle. I waited a week for it to feel better and went out for another run. About 5 minutes into the run, I felt the pain again, but tried to play with my form to make the pain go away. It didn’t work. Since then my plantar fascia has started to have pain also. I have found some trigger points in my calves that seem to refer pain to the plantar fascia, so I’m trying to work out those knots.

    My left leg/foot/ankle NEVER hurts. I’m getting so frustrated with my right leg and foot because I’ve tried to do with my right foot exactly what I do with my left foot, but I’m not succeeding because the pain is still here. I’ve read through the “how to run barefoot” and “getting started” points, practiced the cues and form guideline, but my right leg and foot is still acting up, getting worse everyday without having even run in over a week

    I’m beginning to wonder if I should even make a BF transition. Any ideas?

    1. Hi Becca,

      Sadly, just reporting symptoms doesn’t give me the information I would need to make a truly meaningful suggestion. For that, I’d need to see you run.

      That said, here are some ideas:

      If you’re getting PF pain that seems to be calf-related, that suggests you’re overusing your calf, either by reaching out with your foot to land, trying to stay on your forefoot (vs. letting your heel drop naturally), or pushing off with your foot (rather than LIFTING your foot off the ground by flexing at the hip.

      The “good news” is that your left side is fine. I’d suggest going back to SHORT runs where things don’t hurt, and don’t try to add distance for a while.

      But if you’re not running and it’s getting worse, that’s a whole other story. You may need medical attention, because things shouldn’t get worse if you’re not doing anything.

  17. I need to say, that I have high arches and a wide foot. I have a hard time wearing shoes. I live in the midwest. All summer I stand up paddle board and surf. I walk, lift weights and have a very active lifestyle. I wore running shoes in Hawaii 2 years ago and hiked up to the top of a mountain to see the view. (8 miles). The hike down began to become very painful. My shins swelled. I could not walk wearing shoes. Flip flops were worse. I had brought my Vibram 5 fingers. I put them an and wore them the rest of the week pain free. In dresses and everything. I did not care what they looked like. We climbed around black hard volcanic shore lines where we had to jump from place to place. I was super sure footed in the Vibrams. The barefoot sandles are also going with me this time. (January) I will wear one of the other the whole time I am gone. The Vibrams saved my trip. I was amazed.

  18. I forgot to say…I am a 59 year old grandmother

  19. Yep the arch supports kill my feet and also shoes that aren’t flat bottomed thats why I’m looking into these shoes
    I didnt do it because of barefoot running style books but rather because my feet didnt hurt in non athletics flats felt better and barefoot is the best too bad I have to have closed toe shoes at work wish yall had a style for the times I am not allowed to wear sandals or go barefoot like flats with roomy toes please consider making them or custom flats

    1. Let’s just say “stay tuned” for now 😉

      1. Excited to hear more about this! Love all 4 of my pairs of Xero Shoes and was actually researching and playing with the idea of trying to turn a pair into closed toed for the same reason.

  20. All through out school i wore orthodics but still had pain, then when i started wearing ‘less’ supportive, flat shoes it went. Ill never go back from xero shoes!

    1. You’re preaching to the choir! 😉 I wore orthotics for 30 years, and never found a pair that “worked.”

      Since ditching them 5 years ago, I haven’t had a problem.

  21. I have been running BF and Minimal for 4 years now. I have loved it and would never go back to clunky chunky shoes. My problem is that I do feel like my peroneal (specifically the peroneus brevis) muscles and ankles take a beating sometimes. I feel like this is due to my extremely high arches. I do have strong feet and I believe I do not over stride ( I probably need to watch a video of myself). Some runs I feel great and have no problems and than others I am tight! Any suggestions or ideas on what I may be doing wrong? Thanks for your help!

    1. Watching a video could be a BIG help (it often is).

      And, without seeing you, it’s hard for me to say anything specific… so here are a few thoughts that may or may not help 😉

      1) Do less. When the pain starts, you stop. You may need time to build up your strength.

      2) Read … it’s not about your situation, but the way I handled my big barefoot blister may be useful/relevant

      3) RELAX. Many muscular issues come from using more force than necessary. Ask, “How can I alter my gait to use less effort and relax more?”

      4) Work ’em out — sometimes people with high arches need to stretch, roll, massage and otherwise loosen up their feet a bit.

      5) Pay attention to the good runs — when it feels good, notice what you’re doing and see if you can feel the difference when you’re having a less-good run (this is related to #2, above)

      Keep me posted.

  22. So you have arches now then

    1. I do, actually. They’re not huge (because that’s genetically determined), but they’re there and they’re strong.

  23. Great recommendations for running.We recently published a very similar article.

  24. The time frame and approach is entirely dependant on where the fracture etc is, and what other structures are involved. pilnapadystes pozymiai

  25. I heard of the product during a review by the First 40 Miles Podcast and was intrigued. So from that I found this discussion.

    I’m neither flat footed nor do I have a normal to high arch. My ligaments in my foot a over “stretchy” similar to the double jointed affect you see in elbows, fingers, etc. So we I put pressure on my foot sure it looks flat but not really because there is a slight arch. I lift it up and it looks like there is an arch there.

    I’ve tried Nike Free and other such minimalist shoes to find that yes they feel good for about 5 minutes then the foot just says no to the point that I ended up with a heal spur and plantar fasciitis. What fixed that? An orthotic, not from the Doc but a store bought don’t remember the name but it cost about 60 bucks.

    I don’t post this for myself but my son suffers the same issue just not the plantar fasciitis yet, he’s only 12.

    What do you think about this? Do you feel that your idea that the muscles need to be worked answers these issues?

    Docs say I need good support on shoes. Feet agree. Here’s another bit of info. The doc says that running for us is equivalent to a normal foot running in sand all day. There’s no snap just all stretch.

    Not trying to discount your post just wondering if you have run into this before.

    1. The Nike Free is about as minimalist as a pair of stilts. MOST minimalist shoes are problematic, actually, because they don’t give you enough feedback from the ground and don’t encourage the form changes that can strengthen your feet.

      The only time I’ve seen flexibility — in any joint — be a problem is if it’s not matched by strength.

      The idea that you “have no snap” is complete nonsense. Were it true you wouldn’t be able to walk at all.

      “Support” is always preventing movement which leads to weakness that gets progressively worse over time.

      I’ve never seen a situation where improving strength isn’t beneficial.

      I hope that’s, in some way, helpful.

      1. Yes it makes complete sense that strength and flexibility should go together.

        Just got majorly discouraged when the heal spur and plantar faciities should up and we’re only corrected with an orthotic and heavy support shoes.

        So by my assessment at a licensed store I’m neutral which does not align with flat-footed people.

        It’s maddening.

        1. Immobilizing a joint can help eliminate pain… in the short term. But at some point, after wearing a cast on your arm (for example), you’ve got to take the cast off and work out. Otherwise it’s a vicious cycle to continued weakness.

          BTW, PF is also often treated by USING your feet, especially on uneven and slightly uncomfortable surfaces (it forces you to land mid-foot and use your foot’s intrinsic muscles). PF is also often calf tightness that’s misdiagnosed.

          1. Steven! Thanks for for the common sense approach. I was thinking the same thing.

            Last brain picker, I love my chacos because they put pressure on my lack of arch place and it feels good. So your thought is built up foot strength would help this?

            Thanks for theverything replies!

          2. Massage can always feel good 😉

            Strength always helps (especially when balanced by flexibility).

            That help?

    2. I’ve been reading up on this – heel pain and plantar fasciitis are due to overstriding. Barefoot sandal running is different in that you have to modify your stride to land midfoot or even forefoot to cushion. I also found that even wide running shoes pinched my toes. Like I said in my other comment, I am getting rid of any shoes that pinch my toes – including several pairs of running shoes which I thought were actually better for me. Nope.

      1. I’m in the same camp, Diana! Now shoe shopping is a different kind of homework.

    3. Does “no snap…all stretch” /”Ligaments in my foot are over “stretchy”” mean you have Ehlors- Danlos syndrome?
      If that is the case, that is a medically complex situation.

      Barefoot shoes are, in general, great for strengthening your intrinsic foot muscles, but if your ligaments are disintegrating due to a medical condition, that may change everything.

  26. So I have had pain in my forefoot, on the top for the past two years, slowly worsening despite attempts at changing footwear, not running, etc. There is no true structural cause they can find (no ligament/tendon tear etc on MRIs). I’ve been recommended to be put in a cast, nonweightbearing for 6 weeks to allow a period of complete rest. Then 6 weeks in a walking boot, PT etc. I’m new to learning about minimalist and the importance of strengthening these muscles instead of just orthotics and more supportive shoes. Any ideas to the validity of a cast before trying the PT route? Or formal PT first? Just looking for unbiased opinions from people who have more insight in this area! TIA 🙂

    1. There’s really no way to give a meaningful diagnosis or even suggestion based on a short message and without seeing you (and seeing how you move).

      If, though, it’s a unilateral problem (only on one side), then there’s a hint that you may have a form issue that can be at cause. But if you have actual damage, then rest is always required.

      The only other thing I can think of is to look at this, from our friend Barefoot Ken Bob:

    2. I hope you are feeling better. I have found that ditching all of my shoes in favor of ones that allow my toes to completely spread out has made a lot of difference. Barefoot is certainly better than most of the shoes out there. Some brands advertised as comfort or health shoes still don’t give toes enough room. I remember being raised to think that going barefoot was bad for you because then you wouldn’t be used to shoes anymore. Why is it that no one thought there might be something wrong with the shoes?

  27. Hi I am not a runner but I am on my feet most of the day and walking around. I’m only 24 and have a moderate bunion only on the left foot. I had been wearing pretty flat shoes, and never heels. My dr told me to put off the surgery for as long as I can I need to start wearing supportive shoes like Sauconys. I don’t want to have surgery in the future. Do I really need special shoes? What else can I do for a bunion? I just want it to go away.

    1. Not surprisingly, I can’t give medical advice… and even if I could, I wouldn’t do it in a situation like this from just an email.

      What I can tell you is that just because a shoe is flat doesn’t mean it’s good for you. It also needs to be wide enough to let your toes spread, relax, and move naturally… and flexible enough to let your feed bend and flex… and thin enough to give you actual feedback from the ground.

      You may want to look at CorrectToes or look up other non-surgical methods of addressing bunions.

      Best of luck!

      1. Niki, check out Katy Bowman, a biomechanist. One of her books is “Whole Body Barefoot,” wherein she discusses bunions, how one gets them, and how one can eliminate them.

    2. Check out Yoga Toes got mine at amazon AMAZING!!!!

  28. I was always a barefoot kind of person, but I developed peripheral neuropathy from medical treatment in my teens, so with minimalist shoes I feel searing pain at contact with rocks under my feet… I’m like the princess and the pea.
    Do these provide an adequate buffer to rocky terrain? I could see me using these on a track, but I often run in residential areas where there are inevitably occasional rocks.

    1. The Z-Trail ( ) offers the most protection, but whether it’s enough for you, given your situation, I can’t tell.

    2. Hi there I have or had I should say the same issue. I have diabetic neuropathy, planter fasciitis, flat feet, bunions, and crooked toes/bunions. My feet were exactly the same I often used the princess and pea reference. I started with Converse Chucks and it was sensitive at first (mind you my feet were in constant pain at this point, hard to walk) the chucks were still too narrow in the toe but having little heel to toe rise. To my point- Although I wouldn’t call the chucks really comfortable, I found my feet to start feeling stronger. Rocks no longer bother me and I can even kick a ball again. Just put on my Hanas and my feet are in HEAVEN, Happy toes can wiggle! lol Excited for my first walk, they are more sensitive but not at all painful, i am felling parts of my feet that getting stretched and properly worked! hope this helps. and yes I can even walk barefoot on pavement now!

  29. I recently started jogging and as I’m mostly a barefoot person it was natural for me to do it in minimalist footwear (z-trek) or barefoot. About 2 months from starting I developed tendinitis on my flexors and mild shin pain. I wonder if it was from going too fast or bad form. Or both. Have you heard of a similar case?

    1. Hello Diego,
      I have similar problem over here (just on left foot), I realized it is coming from my bad running form, I was running on my fingers and front forefoot, not even realizing it, I was bending my feet to maximum hurting it and putting my calves under pressure.
      Pain would start after 20-25 minutes and it would be so strong that I needed to make break and walk just.
      Now, after I started thinking about my form and practicing it, I’m using more mid-foot and forefoot, there is pain(sometimes) but I can control it. I will give my muscles time to develop and adapt, because I’m still new in this as my legs, too.

    2. It may be form. I am totally flat footed and have horror stories of dr. made inserts and bad “running store” shoe fits. Training for a half marathon ….years ago….I was wearing the “correct” shoes and ended up with a stress fracture. No fun.

      Over the last 3 years I have tried every brand I could and I always had some type of pain, usually knee or hip. I’d find myself 3 miles from home not being able to run back from the pain. So I started taking my shoes off so I could jog home. I decided it wasn’t bad.

      BUT I did have sore calves after. There are videos that teach you how to run barefoot. I highly recommend the videos because it makes a huge difference. They focus on making your feet and ankles stronger, how to adjust your stride, and how to land properly.

      I have run about 7 half marathons essentially barefoot and haven’t had any pain in my knees, hips, or back. I’ll never go back to traditional running shoes.

  30. A little nit pick if I may. I agree with the sentiment expressed in “When does immobilizing something make it stronger? Never!”, but the phrasing is too general. Immobilizing a broken limb in a cast makes it stronger in a rigid sense, but will invariably lead to muscular weakness upon removal several months later. Thus, it would be more accurate to say that immobilization of the human body is only appropriate when it allows for healing which has greater value than the strengthening allowed by mobility.

    Perhaps rephrase to: “When does immobilization make muscles stronger? Never!”

  31. I should have known.. Anyone else get scammed as well?? My Ortho Doc tried to warn me, that too good to be true… For obvious reasons, flat feet require support.. Instead, these fools are telling us to toss aside our supportive insoles and give them money for a pair of flat sandals. How is that going to be an improvement…

    1. I’m not sure what you mean. There are no “obvious reasons” that flat feet need support. Arch height is a combination of genetics and strength of the plantar fascia. You can have flat feet and be completely healthy, assuming your feet are strong. And if you have weak, flat feet, then strengthening them can improve your arch height. The key to strengthening is USING your feet, and you can’t do that with support. There are many doctors who support this idea, and research from Harvard’s Irene Davis shows that using your feet, walking and running in non-supportive shoes, will strengthen them. The doctors who disagree with this are the ones selling expensive “support” with no evidence that they provide long-term results in a majority of patients.

      1. Is there also research material that barefoot walking is beneficial?

        1. There is, actually. Research from Sarah Ridge at BYU, and Isabel Sacco in Brazil, and a few others have shown barefoot walking improves foot muscle strength.

    2. This feels like an attempt at trolling.

      Here’s my anecdote:

      I, like the author of this blog post, had very flat (and narrow) feet. After I switched to barefooting as much as possible some time ago (first started about 20 years ago) my feet got noticeably wider and my arch got noticeably stronger & higher.

      1. I have an anecdote, as well. Obviously my personal experience isn’t the same as actual research, but here it is: My whole life I’ve been an avid hiker. My dad was taking me on long, rugged hikes since I could barely walk. And, my whole life, I’ve dealt with my feet getting sore. It was my major gripe about hiking/backpacking. Also very irritating was that my dad’s feet never got sore. For nearly thirty years I kept looking for good shoes, always going with more and more expensive boots, trying to ‘support’ my way out of the problem. I guess I figured I just had wimpy feet and would need the ‘best,’ burlyest boots out there. Then a friend of mine started telling me about the minimalist approach. I first bought a pair of Altra running shoes (zero drop, wide toe box, little padding, etc.). Amazingly, after a break-in period, I found myself going further and further (and with a heavy backpack!) with half the foot pain. Got a DIY huarache kit and started using those for long walks around town–feet got sore in a different way, but after keeping it up, that went away entirely. Just bought a pair of Daylite Hikers, and they’re EVEN BETTER. They’re totally flat, very little padding, and even so, feet are less sore. Again, it did take a little while to strengthen my feet, but now it’s so much better!

    3. I’ve got pretty flat feet as well. A few years ago I developed plantar fasciitis and my feet hurt so bad I couldn’t stand to use a push mower to cut my lawn anymore. I did some research and discovered there were two schools of thought on how to live with this. One was support, support support. The other was going to a minimalist shoe with no support as all. I chose to go the minimalist shoe route and within a few weeks the pain was gone and I’ve been pain free ever since.! No more off the shelf shoes for me. These fools as you call them are absolutely correct.

    4. I am a chiropractor and I correct flat feet, bunions, hammer toes, and plantar fasciitis permanently and without surgery using the barefoot method. I cannot give direct advice on your condition since I have not examined you as a patient, but can offer advice from what I see in my practice. I do feel that the bodies best strongest position is the natural anatomical position. I use a product, Correct Toes, to stop the misalignment of the great toe and other toes often caused by some of America’s “best” shoes. If you would like a great video on flat feet check this out: . Most shoes available in the retail United States are unacceptable designs for proper anatomical function. There is heel elevation causing shortening of the posterior chain. Narrow toe boxes causing bunions to develop which compromises our natural arch and gives us flat feet. Rigid arches which do not allow natural forces to take effect on our feet and reducing the proprioceptive qualities of our feet.
      It takes time and exercise to strengthen the feet and resolve these issues permanently. Strengthening is not a quick fix, most quick fixes have side effects in the health care field:/ Supportive insoles side effect is weakening of the feet because they do not allow natural movement of the 33 joints in the foot. I correct the feet and the knee, hip, and low back pain resolves, I have even seen jaw issues resolve as the kinetic chain function returns.
      I know from experience as a flat footed person from childhood, once I studied it, implemented the exercises and footwear, I have strong tall arches. It took me 4 months to change my feet. Depending on your issues it can take up to 2 years for close to normal foot function. I love all my Xero shoes and wear them the majority of the time adjusting my patients and hiking the world.

  32. @stevensashen:disqus
    Hi my name is JC and I am very interested in purchasing a pair of Xero’s. My only dilemma is that I do not know which sandal is right for me. I would like to use the sandal for short runs (1-2 miles) and then as a casual shoe throughout the day. Not sure if I should go with the Venture, Z-trek, or Z-trail??? Really hope you can enlighten me before I make a purchase. Thanks!

    1. Actually, either of those products will do the job. We have people doing everything from taking a walk to running ultra marathons in the Z-Trek and Z-Trail.

      The Z-Trail is more about comfort/protection. The Z-Trek is more about a “barefoot” feeling. After I’ve worn my Z-Trails, when I put on my Z-Treks, I think, “Oh! Right…I can FEEL things again.” 😉

      I hope that helps.

  33. Wondering if I can split shoes??? As in my right is a 10-10.5. And left is 8.5-9. Very flat and tons of pain in my left foot/ ankle. I only know of one store that will split the pairs for me without charging extra. Is that possible?? Or should I just go with a diy kit??

    1. We don’t currently have a way to sell 2 shoes of different sizes. Sorry.

      Clearly, a DIY kit can handle a length discrepancy, since you can trim down the bigger sole to fit your smaller foot.

    2. If they can’t accommodate you, Nordstrom’s can. They sell mixed shoe sizes.

  34. Steven –

    One of my inner strap anchors completely ripped off mid hiking. It didn’t just rip, the entire loop section of the rubber anchor sliced off the sandal. [Stupid limestone].

    Anyway, I’d hate to purchase new ones for one sandal. Can you guys work with me on this?


  35. I work in a warehouse on concrete floors all day. I also work moving around steel and heavy items and I feel I should be using steel toed boots. But I want to go to barefoot walking and my friends are showing me their shoes and explaining why. Makes sense to me but I pronate, have flat feet, and plantar fascitis sp. and the only way to get over the constant pain was to have custom orthodics. I now have shoes with big heals and my feet feel like they are encapsulated all day. Protection for my toes is needed somehow but I want the freedom that barefoot shoes will give my feet. What can I do for 8 hours a day? Any suggestions?


    1. We have emails from thousands of people who spend all day on their feet in Xero Shoes. Many report it’s the first time they’ve been able to do that comfortably.

      I can’t make a specific recommendation for you since: a) I’m not a doctor, and; b) even if I were a doctor, it would be improper for me to give a diagnosis and prescription without seeing you.

      That said, pronation is not inherently a problem. It’s a natural part of the spring mechanism of the body. See — and check out what the American College of Sports Medicine says about pronation at

      Flat feet are also not an issue. Arch height is mostly genetic. Arch STRENGTH is what you want, and that comes from USING your arches. See

      I can’t help you with the steel-toe part unfortunately.

      I hope that helps.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *