Posture basics for women #2: Birkenstock is the new black!

Yes, Birkenstock. Lest you don't think I understand the deeply satisfying relationship between a woman and her shoe collection, take a look at this photo, taken by my husband the physical therapist, who planned on using this as a "don't do this" example for his patients - he's a funny man. 


Black and White photo of Renata trying on shoes

(First, the very important point: I am not a licensed healthcare provider. 

If you have unique problems with your feet, legs, or any part of your body, please talk with your physical therapist, chiropractor, or other qualified healthcare provider. Your certified Pilates instructor can work with that provider to follow exercise guidelines that are customized for you and support the efforts of your entire healthcare team.)


In the spirit of true confession, I'll admit that these shoes are no where near as high as some I own. So you see? I too have a thing for high heels...

I know what you're thinking "If I have strong ankles and the ability to stand up tall when I walk in them, what's so terribly wrong with high heels?" 

Okay, let's try a little cost/benefit comparison shall we?

On the benefit side, many would say:

  1. they make legs look great
  2. a woman looks taller and leaner in high heels
  3. women tend to arch their low backs when wearing them, which in turn creates the "Victoria's Secret Model" posture of the butt sticking out - I'm not sure why this is viewed as a asset (pardon the pun)  but apparently many find it such.

Now, on the negative costs side we have:

  1. feet develop various deformaties over time
  2. low backs wear down, get tight, and generally suffer over the years
  3. knees develop a variety of difficulties and joint strain
  4. poor, compensating posture results in bad postural alignment all the way from the feet up to the neck
  5. ankles sprain easily and with that, ligaments stretch out to increase the chances of yet more and more ankle sprains and general instability... balance gets worse... 
  6. you are much more prone to neuromas, bunions...

Eventually, high heels worn for long periods of time don't leave anyone feeling much like that glam super model.


You tell me, is it worth it?

For those so deeply in love with their shoe collection, I propose a compromise:

Change your thinking about high heels - consider them the "going out and sitting down shoes" as in: just wear them getting out of the car and into the restaurant wherein you promptly just sit down and gaze lovingly at that darling shoe without the pain/damage of prolonged standing in them.


Okay, seriously, try my healthy-shoe challenge:

Go for 2 weeks, yep, 2 whole weeks in ONLY shoes built along the lines of a Birkenstock classic footbed. Not a crock or UGG or other options with next to no arch support - just squishy... Get something on your feet with genuine arch support. You'll know it when you get it right, your feet will feel cupped and held into a place that immediately gets your knees, hips, and back in better positioning. Give it a try for 2 whole weeks, without cheating, and notice what changes in how your body feels or moves, and let me know what you think. Most clients end up loving it so much they do make those high heels special occasion shoes instead of daily attire, and report it was easier to switch once they noticed how good they felt. 

NOTE: you may find your calf muscles and/or the arches of your feet feel a bit uncomfortable at first... they aren't used to being engaged properly. If you develop discomfort, back-off and ease your way into a neutral alignment. As always, if something doesn't feel right, please see your physical therapist or other licensed healthcare professional to effectively evaluate your unique needs.

Think of it this way, just another excuse to go shoe shopping. :-)


Your healthy shoe shopping list:

(No, I don't work for Birkenstock, and I get absolutely nothing from them for mentioning that brand. I recommend them as a great starting point for learning about what healthy support should feel like. They aren't for everyone, but they are an ideal reference point. I also like many other brands, but it helps to start with the Birk reference to know what healthy is - and it isn't a zero support flat.)



1. Go feel what a Birkenstock classic footbed feels like for the soles of your feet - notice all the bumps and valleys of the footbed, and once you get that idea of how a foot can be supported and yet the shoe still have a flexible sole, then check out other brands and compare the differences.

2. Choose a brand/style that gives arch support all the way up to just back of the ball of your foot. Notice when you stand in the Birkenstock, that support behind the ball of your foot actually spreads your toes just a bit. People with neuromas may find this is a comfortable shoe for that reason.

3. Try to focus on shoes that are flexible. You should be able to take that shoe in your hands and bend the sole as it would bend when you are walking. In contrast, many clog or platform-styled shoes have completely ridged soles. They may be comforable to stand it, but they don't let your foot experience dynamic movement. If you already have some of these, just try to rotate wearing them with far more flexible soles. Another idea is a sandal design like the onces pictured below. When you walk, not only does the sole flex somewhat, but the design allows the heel and back part of the foot to lift with strides, so more of your foot gets needed flexibility and exercise.

4. Explore more brands and styles... Birkenstocks are just the first role model in your healthy footwear quest -  make it your shopping mission to find shoes you really love to wear that are also lovely for your health. Personally, I love to wear fitflops, Birkenstocks, some Joan&David flats and... the list goes on. What brands have you found that are healthy and stylish?


Now, let's review:

So far we've considered the essential posture basics of Bras and Birkenstocks. What's the next "B" on my list? 

Birkenstock's Gizeh sandal
Gizeh, by the Birkenstock



Business card information footer that reads: Renata Marsal, Comprehensive Rehabilitative Pilates Certification. Bespoke Pilates, by appointment. Located in Newberg, Oregon. 503-550-0804