Negative Heels and Totally Flat Shoes for Women
A description of my favorite Earth brand negative heel shoes and various brands of completely flat shoes with zero incline for comfort, joint relief, and back health.
You may have heard of a shoe brand called Earth, also known as Kalso Negative Heel Technology. Their shoes have heels that are lower than the ball of the foot by a 3.7 degree angle in order to avoid inappropriate pressure on the knees and back as typical shoes exert.
At first, the concept seemed gimmicky to me but, as usual, that didn't deter me from personal experimentation. I started with the Earth Sizzle style, finding them quite comfortable if a little narrow. Some warn that the heel requires time for adjustment, but I found it instantly comfortable and relieving. Even shoes with a small heel tend to give me slight knee pain, which I discovered before knowing anything like Earth shoes existed. I'm blessed with the ability to detect imbalances easily, for better or worse. So I was pleasantly surprised, keeping in mind that not everyone may have a similar reaction.
By trying several of their other styles (Vanessa, Inhale, Ipanema, Razor, Yosemite) in the following months at discounted prices, I noticed that different styles have distinctive feels to them. My favorite Earth shoes are the Float style, since they have the comfort of slippers with the gel-like cushioning of sneakers. They also don't run too narrow like many of the other styles.
Other shoe brands also employ the atypical heel idea, such as MBT (Masai Barefoot Technology) and Spring Boost, but I've shied away from these brands after reading unappealing reviews.
Alternatively, completely flat shoes do the trick because they mimic natural barefoot walking, especially in the absence of support and structure that exempt your foot and ankle muscles from strength-building. For an educated rationale behind this notion, please see the article "You Walk Wrong" by Adam Sternbergh, creator of Vivo Barefoot shoes (look on eBay for more reasonable pricing).
And I'm certain you've heard of those hippie shoes Birkenstocks, which also evenly distribute pressure across the foot in an anatomically correct way. I avoid these for the above association, but they have some newer styles that look less granola-munching. I ended up buying an all-black pair of their sister brand Newalk's shoe called the Oz3, which are slightly platformed flip flops made from molded EVA that cradle your feet and distribute weight evenly. They come in numerous fun colors, and I was only able to find them for sale on two web sites - shoepeddlers.com and eBay. I'm not normally a fan of flip flops, since they usually don't look too nice and feel uncomfortable due to the toe-splitting fabric and the need to clench the toes and destructively alter one's gait in order to keep them on the foot. But these are the first flip flops I'm willing to wear either at home or outside for extended periods of time (although, I still can't bear to wear any style of flip flop to work). The side"straps" (stiff but movable EVA) cross over the feet far enough to keep them secure. And the toe piece is easy to adapt to over a week because the foam compresses.
Other favorite completely flat shoes of mine are my Simple brand Teetoe style shoes, which are fantastic gladiator style sandals that look good with anything, in my opinion. The straps are black eyelet fabric, and the ankle strap makes for a secure fit. The cushioning is medium firm, which feels a lot like walking on a mountain dirt path barefoot. The bottom is about half an inch thick, partially made from recycled car tires, with zero incline. I'm very pleased with this purchase.
Next are my black Sanuk's, which are soft, unstructured fabric loafers with a cushy foam sandal-like bottom. I could live in these, although I'm picky about how they look with particular outfits. They're best suited for wearing pants or long skirts, since they aren't very impressive to look at.
Any style of shoe you can find out there with a totally flat heel should do, but they're hard to find. Somebody a long time ago decided that shoes must always have at least a slight heel, and I wish this weren't the case. This heel may give women arthritis in the knees later on in life. (And maybe men too, I'm guessing.) If you insist on wearing high heels, I'd warn against wearing them for long hours at a time. Give your knees and back a break, and allow your calves to stretch out again in between wears. Don't be "high-heeltarded."