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Before structural integration, I was your typical woman in terms of my footwear. From flip flops to work boots, from sneakers to stilettos—my closet was a potpourri of shoes. I had shoes that squished my toes, gave me blisters, and rendered me barely able to take a step without being in agony. I even managed to sprain an ankle or two simply by walking. Oddly, none of this seemed strange to me. I never considered the ill effects my shoes were having on my body until I started receiving SI work. But then I started thinking—hmm … are these weird SI people going to suck me into their barefoot cult?
Yes, yes I did join the barefoot cult
When people consider structural integration, they usually think of how it can improve their posture or help their back pain. They don’t consider the changes that happen in their feet and legs, let alone the effect shoes have on their body. When I went through the process, it became clear to me why barefoot is better. Barefoot shoes I recommend for first-time barefoot wearers.
My legs and feet began to feel open and light. My hips, knees, and ankles became aligned—like they were under me more and could support my body. But they weren’t just aligned; there was an open channel between them that allowed each joint to ‘talk’ to each other and allowed me to move with ease and grace. My feet became grounded and stable, something I’d never felt before.
I could feel all those things when I walked barefoot, but my regular shoes dulled my perception of those sensations. My center of gravity shifted. There was a little less flexibility in my joints and a little more rigidity in my back. I also seemed to lose the peaceful, clear-minded feeling in my head, which coincided with losing the grounded feeling in my heels.
After SI, many people don’t realize being barefoot feels better. They just notice something feels ‘off’ when they wear their normal shoes. And sometimes the feeling isn’t enough to put two and two together; you must understand things intellectually. So here it is: In a balanced body, your feet need protection from injury, they don’t need help from shoes to do their job.
When your real arches work, you don’t need arch support
Arch support is recommended for almost everyone, from flat feet to high arches, and they can seem helpful when your real arches aren’t working adequately. Since imbalance is usually perceived as joint weakness, artificial supports keep you from feeling that instability. But they don’t remove the cause of the weakness, which is an underlying imbalance.
Your joints and arches aren’t weak in the sense that they need muscular strengthening—that type of strengthening just adds additional tension. They become weak in that they are rigid and immobile. Your natural arches become even more inadequate from being ‘helped’ by arch support. They need strength, but the strength that comes from balance.
With each SI series you go through, your body gains more balance. Your feet act more like feet and your arches act more like arches. In other words, they become more naturally supportive.
What’s wrong with orthotics
Orthotic inserts are a common corrective device often used for chronic back pain and imbalance. They are customized to produce legs that measure the same length, hip points that appear level, and neutral arches (high arches need support, low arches need building up). If one leg is shorter, it will be lifted more so the pelvis measures equally from hip point to hip point.
However, orthotics don’t account for the cause of imbalance—only ways to make the measurements equal. In other words, they don’t take imbalance away, they just add a perceived balance on top of an already imbalanced structure. Changing a few data points doesn’t fix the underlying problem even if it keeps you from feeling the effects for a while. When the orthotics are removed, the imbalances will still be fully intact.
The SI process unwinds imbalanced patterns. Since orthotics are fixed, wearing them forces not only your feet but your whole body back into its old pattern. They keep you from attaining greater true balance through SI.
PSA: Say no to high heels
Some shoes keep your body from working well, and some actually hurt you. High heels do the latter. In fact, I’ll venture to say high heels are the most structurally damaging shoes ever invented. High heels change your center of gravity. Your weight no longer goes through the middle of your ankles, it goes through the balls of your feet and into your toes. Imagine how your whole body must compensate for that instability. It has to maintain tension everywhere just so you don’t fall over.
High heels easily sabotage any gains in balance developed through SI work. So, PSA: say no to high heels. That means wedges too, ladies!
Out with the old, in with the new shoes
To be clear, I’m not saying you should throw all your shoes away; I realize change is a process. But I am saying, if you go through structural integration, the shoes you wore before might not be the shoes you should wear after. Give your feet a chance to breathe and let them do the job they were meant to do. See what it’s like removing your orthotics. Seriously, I mean … very seriously, consider not wearing high heels. Try shoes with flat soles. Or best of all, try barefoot shoes because come to find out, the type of shoes you wear matters.