The Earth Shoe was the original negative heel shoe, first developed in Denmark in the late 50′ by Anna Kalsø. The shoe was released in the USA in 1970, becoming a popular countercultural symbol of the 70’s.
Anna Kalsø was a yoga instructor who on a 1957 trip to Brazil noticed that the indigenous Brazilians left footprints in the sand with the heel lower in the sand (which is the opposite to the way that shoes were made) and equated this with what she thought was their excellent posture. Over the subsequent 10 years she worked with shoemakers to create different prototypes of a negative heel shoe to mimic that lower heel she observed in Brazil. She opened the first store selling the shoes in Copenhagen in 1969. Anecdotes reported back to her was that the shoes were helping a lot chronic body and foot problems.
Distribution of the Kalso Earth Shoe begun on the USA on the first Earth Day, 1 April 1970 at a store in New York City. Demand for the shoe grew rapidly, especially following a feature in Time Magazine. This was then followed by an advertisement in a number of national publications asking customers to be patient as they were having trouble keeping up with demand:
The original Earth Shoes ceased production in 1986 as they could no longer keep up with demand.
The brand, now based in Waltham, Massachusetts was relaunched with a new model in 2001 by Michael Meynard who purchased the rights and named the company Earth Inc.
The company now make a range of negative heel shoes; eg:
- the basic premise of the shoes that the heel sinks lower in the sand is flawed. The heel sinks lower in the sand because there is more force there at heel strike and not because it is a natural way to walk.
- the original claims that the negative heel can have health benefits are no longer made by the company. Given the issues with litigation and the toning shoes, any health claims made for the product would not be sustainable.
- some people do report that the shoes do help with their chronic postural problems; others report that they make them worse.
- there has been some research done on how negative heel shoes can affect posture and biomechanics, but no research on clinical outcomes.
Earth Inc website
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