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As stated in the title, I'm interested in the claim that flat feet, fallen arches, or other weaknesses of the feet can be corrected through the use of minimalist footware.

A visit to my local shoe shop tells me this is not a widely accepted claim. Nonetheless, the claim is notable, and appears on many lifestyle blogs. The linked site offers some evidence that flat feet are caused by or related to the wearing of shoes, but no evidence that wearing minimalist shoes or going barefoot will fix the problem.

It is not obvious to me which answer is more plausible:

  1. Wearing shoes with lots of support means some of the muscles or tendons in your feet don't get regularly exercised (the shoe does the work). This systematic weakness leaves you with injury prone feet. Switching to shoes without support causes these muscles or tendons to be used again, strengthening your feet.

  2. Foot structure is determined by factors that are difficult to change (like bone lengths), and will not be changed significantly by your choice of footware.

There seems to be some indication that wearing minimalist shoes does not produce a change in leg strength, but does increase the rate of bone injuries to one's feet. However, as mentioned in this Skeptics.SE question, there doesn't seem to be evidence that regular running shoes provide benefits at all.

What I'd like to find is a proper study assessing changes in the strength or shape of feet following the adoption of minimalist shoes.

  • What might be helpful would be if the term "Flat feet" had a quantifiable accepted definition, come to that, "minimalist shoes" means little to me but I see the reference to shoes with separate toes. It strikes me that metalled roads and pavement as distinct from savanah would need to be taken into account. I keep asking myself - is this question on topic? - and despite being interested in the answer personally, I tend towards the negative. – Bitter dreggs. Sep 27 '18 at 7:07
  • @Duckisaduckisaduck I added some links. Flat feet is a condition where the arches of your feet don't properly support themselves. Minimalist footware is footware that provides no or minimal support for any part of the foot. The theory seems to be that minimalist footware will provide an opportunity to "work out" your arches, and thus strengthen them, while regular padded shoes don't, so the condition never resolves. – John Doucette Sep 27 '18 at 12:18
  • Flat feet probably encompass such a wide range of conditions its hard to imagine that minimalist footware would have an effect in every case, particularly the cases with foot structure as you pointed out. Also, I wonder what the acceptable definition of "corrected" is. For what it's worth, I've had flat feet all my life due to unusual bone growth in the wrong places and my podiatrist has always remarked over the years that footware in general, including orthopedic inserts, are just not enough. To fix the whole problem he would ideally like to put me in a leg brace. – syntonicC Sep 27 '18 at 14:18

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