Negative heel shoes are shoes that have the heel lower than the forefoot so that when standing or walking in them, the plane of the forefoot is higher off the ground than the heel.
The original brand to introduce the negative heel was the Earth Shoe in the 70’s where they were widely adopted at the time. There are several brands of negative heel footwear on the market today. Most of the promotional and marketing material for this type of footwear resort to the natural fallacy and unsubstantiated claims to justify why the heel should be lower. Those claims do not stack up to scrutiny and analysis.
Many health claims get made for these types of shoes such as being helpful for chronic postural problems, stretching the calf muscles and “boosting the metabolism” as more energy is needed to walk in the shoes. There is no evidence for any of the claims that have been made. To make such health claims for this type of footwear would get the attention of the regulatory authorities in most countries.
Anecdotally some people do claim in testimonials that walking in shoes with a negative heel did help their posture and related problems. Anecdotally, others claim it made them worse. Yet others state that they made no difference. Hence the need for research to determine exactly what these negative heel shoes do change and who they would benefit.
Research on Negative Heel Shoes:
Very little research has been done on walking in negative heel footwear.
|Mannet al (1976)||No changes in the gait pattern of those walking in bare feet, tennis shoes, and Earth Shoes.|
|Benz et al (1998)||Walking speed was reduced with negative heel footwear due to shorter stride length combined and increased cadence. Changes mostly noted at the ankle joint with no differences at the knee and hip joints.|
|Li (2003)||"In the metabolic study, heart rate and oxygen consumption were monitored during treadmill walking. The results showed that there was a significant difference between walking on a treadmill with negative heel shoes and walking with normal shoes, in terms of stride cycle time, cadence, stride length, and angles of the ankle, knee, and hip joints. Differences also were found with the maximum and minimum ground reaction forces and their occurrence times. Metabolically, heart rate and oxygen consumption showed a significant difference"|
There are biomechanical and metabolic differences in walking with and without negative heel footwear, but no outcome studies to show if those differences are beneficial or not and who would benefit from using such shoes.
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