This post was recently updated September 26, 2023
I know that when I say “There is no support for arch support,” some people respond, “Yeah, but you sell minimalist shoes with no support, so of course you would say that.”
To those people I say, “You have the order backwards. I discovered the lack of support for arch support long before starting Xero Shoes.”
In fact, it was that discovery – and how getting out of shoes with arch support – changed my life. And now with over 1.5 million people who’ve switched to Xero Shoes, they’ve discovered the same.
But, there’s no need to take my word for it.
“For years, I thought I needed to buy shoes that were cushioned and had arch support. Foolish me, I found Xero shoes and my life changed. I walk better, I feel better and I feel confident with my balance. Thank you!”
Keep reading why you don’t need arch support in shoes.
Why You Don’t Need Arch Support – Even if You Think You Do
While you may think extra support helps, and it may even feel good, it actually may be causing problems that you didn’t anticipate. Problems that may not be affecting you now, but could in the future.
Let me explain by starting with some simple questions. So simple, in fact, you may think I’m joking by even asking them.
Here we go:
1. Is weaker better than stronger?
I’m betting you said No.
Okay, so if stronger is better, then think about your biceps and here’s the next question:
2. How do you make your biceps stronger?
You’re probably thinking about doing curls, or some other sort of exercise, right?
In short, USING your arm can make it stronger.
Which brings us to the next question:
3. How do you make your arm weaker?
This is basic “use it or lose it.” Don’t use your arm and it gets weaker.
Put your arm in a cast, and 8 weeks later it comes out weak and atrophied.
Now let’s apply all of that to your feet.
Think about shoes with stiff soles and arch support, or adding orthotics or other inserts.
They don’t let your feet move.
It’s like putting them in a cast.
And while your feet may feel good because your muscles, ligaments and tendons are relaxing… your feet are getting weaker.
Research from Katrina Protopapas and others showed that when healthy people added arch support to their shoes, their feet got up to 17% weaker in just 12 weeks.
Imagine what that does over time.
Here’s a question that’s not simple sounding, and the implications are HUGE for your health and wellbeing:
- What kind of problems could weak feet lead to?
At the very least, it could keep your feet from feeling as good at the end of the day as they did at the beginning.
Maybe you can’t do something as simple as walking across your floor in bare feet. Does that really sound “normal”?
Or maybe, over time, when you get older, something even worse could happen when you have weak feet that can’t balance. I’m sure you can imagine.
How to Solve the Weak Feet Problem
You already know.
Back to our arm analogy – Do you think that, once you get out of the cast, it’s worth spending a couple months doing exercises so you can then use your arm for the rest of your life… or would you rather keep it in a sling and never use it?
Of course you do the exercises.
You go back to the gym, but use a light weight for maybe one set of 10 reps of a biceps curl.
Then, as you get stronger, you SLOWLY add more weight, or more reps, or more sets, based on the feedback from your body.
Well, it’s the same thing to make your feet stronger.
You could do an exercise program specifically designed to build foot strength.
But, even if the program only took minutes a day, and you could do it while watching TV, you might not do it.
That’s okay, because there’s a better way.
Research from Dr. Sarah Ridge showed that just walking in a “barefoot shoe” builds foot and arch strength as much as doing a foot exercise program.
Frankly, walking in bare feet might be best, but that’s not practical for most people, most of the time.
Xero Shoes makes casual and performance shoes, boots, and sandals that are all designed to be as close to barefoot as possible, plus the protection you might need, and style you’ll want.
You could start slowly, by wearing a pair for 30-60 minutes. And, like going to the gym, add more time when your body tells you you’re ready.
There’s no rush.
Even if it takes a couple months to build up enough arch strength – so your arches are supporting you – that strength can serve you for the rest of your life.
That strength can help you do the things you love – walk, run, hike, play sports, work out, you name it. Or maybe even help you do things you’ve never done before!
By the way, Dr. Ridge says that Xero Shoes should give the same benefits of the shoes she used in her study.
Here are some Xero Shoes best-sellers.
Not sure which shoe is right for you. Take the Shoe Finder Quiz.
Want More Proof? More Research about Arch Support?
In case you’re still not sure, here’s more RESEARCH that backs up the idea that arch support — whether it’s built into the shoe, or added with an insole or orthotic, isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.
And the independent shoe review site, RunRepeat.com, has just posted an article asking the question “Truth or Hype?” when it comes to supporting the arch.
The synopsis is in the infographic from their site, below:
I take issue with the recommendation that you should only use arch support if a podiatrist recommends it, given that most podiatrists don’t know about this research and think, incorrectly, that you DO need arch support.
So, I’d rewrite the recommendation to “recommended by a podiatrist who understands natural movement and knows that arch support is a temporary treatment for healing in most cases.”
By the way, my favorite part of the article on RunRepeat.com is actually the list of Best Rated Running Shoes on the right hand side.
As of this writing, here’s what that list shows… notice that THREE of the top 5 are Xero Shoes! (and I expect that the Speed Force will crack the Top 5, too):
Closing Out: Why You Don’t Need Arch Support
Shoes with no arch support allow your feet to move freely and naturally. Instead of relying on external support of shoes with arch, your feet strengthen naturally and become their own support system.
Switching to a shoe that does not have arch support can take a bit of time, but your feet will thank you in the long run.