Can We Wear Yoga-Inspired Shoes?

JR writes: “I was on QVC looking for a comfortable pair of ballet flats.  Wouldn’t ya’ know?  I landed on what appeared to be a very cute, comfortable shoe that was being featured on air.  Oh – it was soooo cute – sooo comfortable.  It was a new design by Kalso also known for the “Earth Shoe.”  The Kalso Rep spoke about how Kelso was a “yogi” and designed one of the “poses” right into the shoe; the body would be in alignment. Is it okay to buy these?”

Kalso shoeYes. Doing yoga and wearing something that has a connection to yoga are two different things. All winter long, I live in what some people call yoga pants but let’s face it, they’re nothing more than black stretch pants with a band around the waist/hips that the yoga industry has latched onto. When the yoga fad dies, yoga pants will go back to being what they were before – black stretch pants.

As for the Kalso Earth shoes you mention, they really weren’t inspired by yoga at all. According to the website, they were designed by a Danish woman named Anne Kalso. She was studying yoga in Brazil when she observed the superb posture of indigenous Brazilians and the impressions left in the sand by their bare footprints. She noticed that the heels of their feet seemed to sink deeper in the sand than their toes, indicating what is known as a “negative heel” position. It reminded her of a yoga pose known as Tadasana or the “mountain pose”. When she imitated the posture of the Brazilians, she noticed that her own posture improved significantly.

Kalso went on to design a shoe that mimicked the Brazilian gait and they quickly caught on during the post-hippie “natural comfort” craze of the 1970s. The original shoes were clunky looking, but the company now has a large line of very attractive shoes, all sporting the signature “negative heel” of the original.

kalso shoe 2But does the shoe have any real therapeutic benefit?

One study, conducted by Katy Santiago, the fitness advisor to Earth footwear (bias alert!), found that women who wore Earth footwear during exercise in a 4-week clinical study experienced an average body mass decrease of .41% and a higher rate of body fat percentage decrease than women who were not wearing the shoe.

The study concludes: “When used as part of an overall healthy regimen that includes proper diet and exercise, Earth footwear could help to burn more calories with every step.”

kalso shoe 3Podiatrists don’t agree, however. In this article appearing in The Telegraph, podiatric surgeon Trevor Prior was not at all impressed by the shoes and said they made him lean forward to compensate for the negative heel. “I feel like I’m walking permanently uphill,” he said. At the end of a half-hour stroll, his calf muscles were screaming and his legs were buckling.

“I wouldn’t recommend a negative heel,” he opined. “Many people have tight calf muscles and these will cause them to strain and ache. After a lot of use, they may stretch the muscle, but there is no scientific study to prove this. We normally suggest the opposite – a small heel rather than a completely flat shoe.”

It’s okay to wear these yoga-inspired shoes, but they don’t come cheap and it would be a shame to pay so much for a pair of shoes that make you feel like you’re walking permanently uphill.

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