Lems’s design philosophy is built around the natural foot. All of our efforts are put toward making feet feel like they’re walking barefoot—even when cloaked in shoes.
When you walk barefoot, your toes naturally want to spread apart. The more you walk without constricting shoes, the more your digits want to divide to create a wider, stronger base from which to move.
It turns out Lems is not alone in its goal to help humans walk they way they were made to move. There are many brands, doctors and experts who subscribe to this minimalist way of life. One is runner and podiatric physician Dr. Ray McClanahan, of Portland’s Northwest Foot & Ankle, who ran Hood to Coast in an original pair of Lems.
He also invented a toe-spacing device called Correct Toes that helps feet reset to a more normal, functional pattern. We caught up with Dr. Ray to learn a little more about why toes are a good place to focus attention when you want to start walking and even running more naturally.
FEET ARE SOMETHING PEOPLE IGNORE UNTIL THEY HURT. WHY DO WE HAVE SUCH A TENDENCY TO OVERLOOK THE MOST IMPORTANT HUMAN PLATFORM?
A deeply entrenched cultural norm is to pay attention to how our shoes look, with no awareness of what our shoes are doing to our feet. Most footwear, including athletic shoes, is designed with fashion and appearance as top priorities.
It is surprising how many people assume that their foot pain is normal, and just put up with it, or medicate daily to endure suffering. Because of the compensatory nature of our feet, which are our primary sensory organs, we are able to do many harmful things to our feet, and they will still function well for a long time.
WHAT DOES A NATURAL SHOE LIKE LEMS ALLOW YOUR FEET TO DO?
Experience engagement with your feet again. Fully flexible footwear allows for engaging the muscles in the feet and lower legs, and enjoying a full range of available motions throughout all of the foot and leg joints.
A quarter of joints in the human body are in the feet, and we function best when we make full use of them all. Lems allows an individual to engage their natural arch mechanics through purposeful, healthful absence of heel elevation, rigid toe spring and toe box taper.
WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR BODY WHEN YOU COMMIT TO A SHOE THAT ALLOWS YOUR TOES TO SPREAD NATURALLY?
When feet function on a level plane, as they would barefoot, and have the ability to use the full capacity of their available motion, with toes spread, new levels of awareness become apparent. Once this new information reaches the brain, so many positive outcomes are possible.
Postural awareness increases for most individuals who have not learned how to access their own best natural foot position. Many joints above the feet often begin to feel and function better. Pretty much any common foot or leg issue can be improved or cured if its root causes are linked to abnormal foot and ankle positions.
HOW DO CORRECT TOES FIT RIGHT IN WITH LEMS’ INTENTION TO HELP PEOPLE MOVE IN THE WAYS IN WHICH THEY WERE ORIGINALLY INTENDED?
Lems and Correct Toes work synergistically. Lems natural shoe allows an active individual to have ample toe box space at the ends of the toes, whereas most shoe companies’ toe boxes get narrower from the ball to the ends of the toes.
Correct Toes allows an active individual the ability to augment and advance the acceleration of their rehabilitation back to their natural foot alignment, with toes spread wider than the balls of their feet. Many people have feet that are shaped like the pointed shoes that they are used to wearing, and consequently their toes will not spread out to fill up the natural toe box that Lems has wisely incorporated into their footwear. Correct Toes helps them spread their toes out and make use of the entire natural toe box.
WHAT TRANSITION TIPS WOULD YOU SUGGEST FOR PEOPLE WHO’VE NEVER WORN A MINIMALIST SHOE TO WALK, LET ALONE RUN?
I would recommend readers to reference this article, Transitioning from Conventional to Minimalist Shoes, that Dr. Robyn Hughes and I co-wrote to address this question.
WHAT STRENGTH AND FLEXIBILITY EXERCISES ARE MOST IMPORTANT WHEN STARTING TO RUN IN A BAREFOOT-LIKE SHOE?
Helpful stretches you can perform include the toe extensor stretch and the bunion stretch, which help relax tight muscles and tendons. Also check out these five foot strengthening exercises to help strengthen the arch intrinsic muscles and facilitate the process of aligning and restoring your feet. For the best possible outcome, perform these exercises at least several times each day.