Back in the seventies, during that period when I was playing suburban housewife, I took a lot of aerobic classes - those dealies where you'd learn a heart-pumping dance routine. The classes all insisted that you had to wear big, stiff, clunky running shoes, claiming that barefoot or in soft shoes you'd slip on sweat on the floor and injure yourself.
I hated that requirement, for two reasons:
1.) Balance. In a soft dance slipper I can feel what my feet are doing in relation to the floor, so I can feel a slip beginning and recover quickly. Maybe I'd slip less often in stiff shoes, but if and when I did, it's likely to be much worse. Since the likelihood of a slip in running shoes is not zero, I prefer having more control over my feet.
I was later proven right on this - a slip in running shoes is more likely to result in much more severe ankle injury than multiple slips in soft shoes.
2.) Heel function. Humans are not meant to come down hard on our heels. We are meant to come down on the ball of the foot, and the heel is meant to be a shock absorber and stabilizer. I walk on the balls of my feet. My heels touch the ground slightly later and lightly. Running shoes force you to come down on your heel first, and that just isn't natural. I objected to wearing stiff shoes for aerobics exercises because it's high impact, and my hips and lower back just couldn't take that much pounding.
It's one of the reasons I don't like high heels - it's difficult to walk naturally because the heel is going to hit first unless you take tiny steps.
Well, after 35 years, I have finally been proven right on the heel-vs-ball issue, too. See the article at http://harvardscience.harvard.edu/foundations/articles/barefoot-running-easier-feet-running-shoes.
It's the custom in this country to put hard-soled shoes on a toddler as soon as he learns to walk, "so the foot will develop properly". Huh? Like, walking naturally on your foot will cause it to develop unnaturally? That makes no sense.
I was kind of lucky. I didn't get my first hard-soled shoes until I was in first grade in the north and the school insisted on them, because my feet were too small, and my mother couldn't find shoes that weren't so long they tripped me. So my legs, feet, and gait developed naturally.
According to the article above, walking ball first requires different muscle development in the calf and foot (so maybe that's why I have an unusually high instep and, uh, well-developed calves, to put it nicely). That makes it difficult for a heel-first walker to convert to ball-first.
Many hiking clubs require hiking boots that "support the ankle". I object to them for the same reasons as listed above. Plus, I can't walk in the damn things. I keep trying to point my toes, and the stiff ankle won't let me. They force a stiff heel-first flat foot. Very hard on my back.
And, again, a misstep in high ankle hiking boots might save the ankle, but is more likely to cause a more devastating injury to the knee.
I used to get into arguments with people who seemed to think they know better. I don't argue any more. It useless. People don't want to hear it. They already know what (the marketeers have told them) is true.
And don't even ask about those stupid "earth shoes" with "negative heel technology". Here's their theory: "When you look at footprints in beach sand, you see that the heel imprint is deeper, therefore the natural way to walk is with the heel down, so the best walking shoe brings the heel down first and lower than the ball."
Save me from their distorted logic.
Like, it hadn't occurred to anyone that 1) the beach walkers' gait had already been distorted by wearing rigid soles all their lives, and 2) the heel, being narrower than the ball, sinks deeper in the sand even when the weight distribution is equal.
That's like saying that since most people prefer a Big Mac to brown rice with vegetables, the Big Mac must therefore be healthier and more natural.
A bit of foot trivia - there's a reality show on PSB right now, a bunch of people who want to be vintners going through a bunch of exercises to avoid elimination and win an internship. They dumped grapes into a vat, whence they'd be fed into a crusher, and one over-enthusiastic woman threw a high-booted leg over the side of the vat and gave the grapes a stomp.
I'd have pitched her out right then and there.
Yeah, it's village tradition to stomp grapes with feet. Bare feet. Bare, not booted. Feet as opposed to any other tool because it's the yeast that grows naturally on bare feet that gives the wine a start on fermenting and a particular flavor.
I'd have thrown that woman out because although she knew of the tradition, she didn't know the why of the tradition, and that's basic.