Foot Health and Orthotics

 We get a lot of questions from potential customers about the use of custom orthotics with our shoes.  Dave shared this response with someone the other day and because of the frequency of the question, I thought it was worth repeating here. 

Question 
 Do you recommend using custom orthotics with your shoes?

Dave's answer  
The question about Orthotics is a tricky one, but I will do my best to answer.  The short answer is: no, we do not recommend adding any orthopedic devices to our shoes.  The long answer begins with, "It depends...".

Our shoes are designed to mimic barefoot walking, which is ultimately the healthiest choice for your feet. In order to understand what an orthopedic device is intended to do, it is helpful to understand a little about footwear design.



Soldier's Goodbye circa 1940 via flickr

There are two basic schools of thought on arch support & foot health.

1) The traditional shoe industry approach is to build a shoe with a stiff bottom sole, that does not allow your foot to flex, and then add an arch support or in some cases a custom orthopedic device to support your arch. In this method your arch is not just supported, your whole foot is held in one position as if it were in a cast. It is important to find the correct arch support height and shape for your foot to find comfort in this style of shoe. Birkenstock, Clarks, & Dansko offer many products that are examples of this type of construction.

*The problem with this type of shoe is related to the so-called “benefit”. Since your foot is held stiff, it weakens. You will start to find that nothing else feels comfortable anymore without the same level of support. You may find that you have to continue adding more support, or buy expensive orthopedic inserts to feel comfortable. This is a good business model for Birkenstock, Clarks, & Dansko because it keeps their customers coming back. But, it is not healthy for your feet.


2) The more progressive view of foot health is to build a shoe that mimics barefoot walking. Walking barefoot allows your feet to flex at your arches & grip at your toes. This motion helps to strengthen your feet & keeps them healthy. In order to achieve this benefit a shoe must be built with a flexible sole, little or no lift in the heel, a wider toe box, and a relatively flat insole. This is the approach that we take to making our footwear. Healthy feet means better body alignment, and less back problems as well. You will find that most chiropractors, and whole body health practitioners ascribe to this philosophy of footwear construction.

*The only potential downfall with the progressive approach to shoe construction is if you have been wearing the other style of footwear for so many years that your feet are too week to support barefoot walking. If your feet get sore walking barefoot on the beach, then they might find some slight discomfort when you start wearing our shoes. If this is the case, we still recommend switching to the more progressive style, but easing your way into them. You can wear a flexible soled shoe for a couple hours at a time, and then work your way up to wearing them more and more as your feet re-gain their strength. Once you switch your feet will be happy they did!

If you are still reading after this lengthy explanation, then I will tell you that we do have a few customers who do wear custom orthotics in our shoes and are happy with the results.

photo via Erin Wallace


Do you pair your Aurora Shoes with orthotics?  Or do you go without like we do?  

What works best for you?

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Photography by Erin Little , Ginny Sheller , Katherine Huysman .

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